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There is quite a bit of advice out there encouraging parents to promote unstructured play for their children. Free time allows children to feel what it's like to be bored, gives them a chance to work out their differences with siblings and lets them solve their own problems without an adult. Free time also encourages independence, increases social skills and builds resilience.

While this is true for children who are ready to be independent, already have a solid understanding of their social world and can trust that they are not in danger when something goes wrong, free time can be challenging for children with less developed executive functioning and social skills or anxiety.

Two reasons children may have difficulty with unstructured play may be that they tend to be blissfully solo players, or never leave you alone players. Your child may not fall exclusively into one of these categories, but most children have moments that their parents can relate to these ideas.

The blissful solo player

Some children prefer to play alone. Perhaps this is just their temperament. Additionally, many children identified with an autism spectrum disorder or with a diagnosis of dyspraxia (trouble with movement), solo play often feels like the safest kind of play. No one enters their space, no one throws off their plan, and if allowed to, they never have to transition away from this blissful play to do such boring things as use the bathroom or eat a snack.

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Also, many children on the autism spectrum have superb memories of television shows they may act out in play as well as heightened interests and an ability to hyper-focus that allows them to enjoy their solo play.

While parents of the blissful solo player might be grateful for this time to make dinner or talk on the phone, at the same time they often have a gut feeling that too much of this play may limit their child's social opportunities and language development.

The never leaves you alone player

If your child falls into this category, you're already nodding your head. These are the children who are either too anxious to play alone, too distractible to settle into play or tell us they are too bored to play on their own. Therefore, they persistently seek attention from parents who feel they need to be in the same room or constantly entertain the child.

These play patterns come from several different reasons. Children experiencing anxiety may follow you around the house and need support to play away from you. Children who are developing their executive functioning often struggle to plan and begin their play and sustain their attention long enough to stick with their play. Experts state that executive functioning skills really start to develop between age three and five, but that it is a skill that children and adolescents are always working on.

This might look like a child who complains of being bored when you see lots of things for them to do or the child who loses interest quickly and doesn't have the skills to come up with a new idea. If forced not to bother their parents, these children may wander around and never settle into an activity. While it is a strength that these children often ask for help and engage with parents, relying on parents too much can limit their independent opportunities for problem-solving that can grow resilience.

Support your child's free time by making a routine when there is no routine

The most important strategy when teaching free time is to schedule it like you would any other activity. I often recommend framing free time as "free-choice" time rather than an open-ended free for all—this can prevent "the blissful solo player" from becoming withdrawn and "the never leaves you alone player" from clinging to you or wandering around aimlessly.

Having a general daily schedule can be helpful. Make sure the schedule is not too detailed—if too complicated, and something doesn't go as planned, this could lead to an additional problem of inflexibility when the plan changes.

Usually, something like the following, written on a whiteboard in your kitchen, does the trick:

  • Morning List (e.g., dressed, brush teeth, feed the cat)
  • Breakfast
  • Morning Activity
  • Snack
  • Free-Choice time
  • Lunch
  • Afternoon Activity
  • Snack
  • Free-Choice time
  • Dinner
  • Night time list (I.e. bath/shower, brush teeth, stories, etc.)

The trick is to make this routine consistent and then follow through with morning and afternoon activities—which are chosen by the parent—and free-choice time—which is selected by the child.

Sit down with your child and create a free-choice menu where they can practice brainstorming things they like to do alone knowing that they will be expected to play alone for a certain amount of time.

How this helps the blissful solo player

The blissful solo player will benefit from a written routine with a few tweaks. This child will love free-choice time, so this is where we must help them expand it by adding options to their list.

The goal for the blissful solo player is to transition away from free time play successfully. The trick here is to join them just before the transition. Engage with them, play with them and then help them transition by moving on together, being as encouraging as possible. This is where a visual STOP sign or PAUSE "button" is great to put on the play area so that kids know it's time to move on and they can come back to it later.

How this helps the never leaves you alone player

As the expert on your child, you will need to decide what an appropriate time and location will be for the free-choice time. Start with what you think your child can do and expand the time frame or distance from there.

Some children will need you to get them started on an activity or be reassured when something is a small problem they can solve on their own and when it's okay to come get you for help.

Use a timer to let them know when they are done with their play. Remember, you are teaching them how to be independent, so encourage and praise their successes. Let them know how helpful it was that you were able to call a friend, check your email or feed the baby.

Just remember, for many children more structure is better, visuals are helpful even when a child is highly verbal, and consistent schedules are often magical.

A word about activity time:

Activity time on the schedule may be something mandatory, like a doctor's appointment, or it could be an errand, like the grocery store. It could also be a playdate to encourage those who would not pick peer play for free-choice time, or it could be pretend play time for those who need practice in symbolic thinking.

Either way, setting up the expectation that the adult is in charge of that time can be a helpful way to set boundaries and create a balance of work and play within a summer day.

More than anything, have fun!

This article originally appeared on www.dremilyking.com.

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Sometimes it can feel like toys are a mama's frenemy. While we love the idea of entertaining our children and want to give them items that make them happy, toys can end up taking the joy out of our own motherhood experience. For every child begging for another plastic figurine, there's a mama who spends her post-bedtime hours digging toys out from under the couch, dining room table and probably her own bed.

Like so many other moms, I've often found myself between this rock and hard place in parenting. I want to encourage toys that help with developmental milestones, but struggle to control the mess. Is there a middle ground between clutter and creative play?

Enter: Lovevery.

lovevery toys

Lovevery Play Kits are like the care packages you wish your child's grandparent would send every month. Expertly curated by child development specialists, each kit is crafted to encourage your child's current developmental milestones with beautiful toys and insightful activity ideas for parents. A flip book of how-tos and recommendations accompanies each box, giving parents not only tips for making the most of each developmental stage, but also explaining how the games and activities benefit those growing brains.

Even better, the toys are legitimately beautiful. Made from eco-friendly, sustainable materials materials and artfully designed, I even find myself less bothered when my toddler leaves hers strewn across the living room floor.

What I really love, though, is that the kits are about so much more than toys. Each box is like a springboard of imaginative, open-ended play that starts with the included playthings and expands into daily activities we can do during breakfast or while driving to and from lessons. For the first time, I feel like a company isn't just trying to sell me more toys―they're providing expert guidance on how to engage in educational play with my child. And with baby kits that range from age 0 to 12 months and toddler kits for ages 13 to 24 months, the kits are there for me during every major step of development I'll encounter as a new mama.

So maybe I'll never love toys―but I will always love spending time with my children. And with Lovevery's unique products, mixing those worlds has become child's play.


This article was sponsored by Lovevery. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Breastfeeding is not easy. But neither is weaning. That's why this powerful photo from Brazilian mama Maya Vorderstrasse is going viral. Her husband captured the first time she ever breastfed their second daughter and next to it, almost two years later, the last time she fed their daughter from her breast.

And it's not just the photo that is powerful. In her caption Maya shares her emotional struggles with weaning and the tricks they used to make this transition easier for their youngest daughter. The caption reads:

"The first and last time my precious daughter ever nursed.

I didn't know that one person could feel so proud and so broken at the same time, right now I am a hormonal, emotional, and mental mess.

Raising my arm in this picture was very difficult for me as I had to fight through uncontrollable tears: this picture meant that I would never breastfeed my daughter ever again. I have been nursing for so long, that I don't know what it's like to not nurse anymore.



As I looked behind the camera, my husband is crying like I had never seen him cry before, like seriously, a deep gut cry. I was her comfort, her safe place, and I hope she still finds me that way. A month shy of 2 years old, she finally has a bed in a shared bedroom with her sister. We bought her her first bed, used any distraction we could come up with, snacks and new toys to keep her mind off of it.

My husband has taken over bedtime completely, including all nighttime wakings. We are on our third day, and every day gets a little bit easier. The guilt I feel for not putting her to bed is so intense and I can't wait to go back to it once she doesn't ask to nurse anymore. Closing a chapter is painful, but I am hopeful that this new season of our lives will also be special in its own way.

Through this maturation step she will not only grow more independent, but I will get a much needed break. She unlatched for the last time and sobbingly I said to my husband: "I did my best". He hugged me and responded with: "No. You did THE best, because you gave her your all". I love my family and am so thankful for such special and unforgettable moments like these. 💛

*my lazy boob has no clue about what's going on, but thoughts and prayers are accepted for my good one, I really think it might explode🤱🏻

**thank you to my husband, for insisting on filming this, I will treasure this forever.🤳🏼👩"

You've got this mama!

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If you're looking for basics for the kids for summer, you're in luck, mama. Primary clothes don't have logos or sparkles—they're classic prints and colors that can easily transition from one kid to the next. And this week, Primary is celebrating the new season with a major summer sale.

Items, like swimsuits, dresses, polos and more, are over 50% off. Most pieces are under $10 so you can stock up on an entire new wardrobe without breaking the budget.

Here's what we're adding to our carts—shop the entire sale here:

1. Baby rainbow stripe rash guard

With UPF 50, you can rest easy knowing baby has extra protection outdoors.

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2. The track short

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3. Rainbow stripe one-piece

Cute? Check. Will stay in place? Check. UPF 50? Check.

$18.00

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4. The short sleeve twirly dress

Made of 100% cotton jersey, this one will be a staple all summer long.

$10.00

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5. The polo babysuit

Perfect to dress up or down.

$8.00

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Being an adult is no joke. Beyond dressing ourselves and our kids and, ya know, feeding and bathing everyone, there are so many other things that life throws at us. And because we're adults, we have to take care of these myriad to-dos. Welcome to: Adulting!

I'm not just talking laundry, filling up your car's gas tank and stocking the fridge with groceries. Getting life insurance. Refinancing your loan debt. (Students loans? Us, too.) Marriage counseling. Yep—I'm talking about all the cringe-inducing to-dos that you've likely been putting off for a few months… or years.

But guess what? Because it's 2019 and a little something called technology exists, these seemingly heavy-lift tasks are now a whole lot easier and faster to tackle. Here's how to check off your most tedious adulting chores.

The life insurance

When you're a single with no descendants, life insurance doesn't seem like a top priority. But when you suddenly have a kid (or three), setting your family up for longterm financial success is a must. And thanks to Ladders, obtaining a policy isn't the taxing, cringe-inducing process it used to be! Modern and so easy to use—seriously, you can even get one from your phone or tablet—Ladders makes it possible to obtain a policy in under five minutes. Yes, really. See? No need to procrastinate!

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The student loan redux

You have the degree and the career—and you also have the debt. And like us, you're likely just paying your monthly minimums without a thought to ever refinancing your student loans. Because that sounds hard and complicated, right? Right. Not so with help from Laurel Road, however. On this straight-forward site you can check your rates in only a few minutes —fear not, doing so won't impact to your credit score!—and refinance your debt, saving yourself (and your family) thousands of dollars.

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The marriage counselor

Did you know that 66% of couples report a drop in marital satisfaction when new arrives? It's not surprising considering the stress an infant creates for mamas alone, but all that pressure affects your relationship, too. But taking the time to really invest in marriage counseling often falls to the bottom of the to-do lists because of the many hurdles—finding a therapist, traveling to appointments, the cost of copays or out-of-pocket fees, the stigma of need therapy. With Lasting, however, you and your partner pair your apps and can begin working on your relationship together on your own timeline.

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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A lot of women are literally walking around in fashion mogul Jessica Simpson's shoes, but there was no way she was going to be getting her feet into any of the footwear with her name on while she was pregnant.

A few months ago, back when she was still super pregnant with her third child, Simpson posted a photo of her left foot on Instagram and honestly, just looking at it was painful.

"Any remedies?! Help!!!!" she captioned the pic of her incredibly swollen ankle and foot. Thankfully, now that she's in her fourth trimester and no longer pregnant, Simpson's feet have chilled out. She posted a new pic with the caption: "I spy....my ankles!!!!

Before + after

The commenters on Instagram are now as happy for Jessica as they were were as shocked back when she posted the first foot photo.

"Omg Jessica call your Dr. Keep feet up lower salt intake and no heels," one wrote (although the last bit seems like it probably wouldn't be an option even if she wanted to wear them).

Calling the doctor is not a bad idea if your foot look's like Simpson's before photo, because swelling during pregnancy can be a sign of preeclampsia, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation, which notes that "a certain amount of swelling is normal during pregnancy," but suggests that moms-to-be watch out for "pitting edema" (which means that when you press on the skin an indentation stays for a bit) and leg discoloration.

"If you suspect this kind of edema, notify your healthcare provider. You should also put your feet up every day, but avoid sitting for extended periods of time," the foundation states on its website.

What mamas need to know about swollen feet

Simpson took her swelling with a sense of humor, posting a before and after pic of some super high wedges and her swollen pregnancy foot with the caption #tenyearchallenge, but swelling can be serious in pregnancy.

It can be related peripartum cardiomyopathy a rare kind of heart failure that can develop in the last month of pregnancy or in the first five months postpartum, but, according to the the American Heart Association, isn't easy to diagnose as the symptoms (like swollen ankles) are also symptoms of third trimester pregnancy.

So swelling is something to watch and definitely talk to a health care provider about—but it also happens in many uncomplicated pregnancies, as a lot of Jessica's IG followers pointed out. "That happened to me with my 1st pregnancy. Lots of elevation for my feet and fluids. Watch the sodium intake. Hang in there," one mama wrote, throwing in a 💞 emoji.

Jessica Simpson just launched a collection of flats 

Another commenter offered a funny story to put Jessica at ease: "My feet looked like this the last month of my pregnancy (if not worse) and I had normal BP and didn't have preeclampsia. I'm 5'0" and retained so much water. My OB-GYN at the time (a 65 year old man) told me that I had what he called "Fiona feet"....yep, the ogre from Shrek. Yep. 🤦🏼♀️ Needless to say, I switched doctors after my daughter was born."

Jessica Simpson's shoe collection currently includes a wedges, booties and a gorgeous stacked stiletto, and she recently launched a collection of flats, which should be helpful to all the mamas-to-be who have swollen feet (although not as swollen as hers were, she should design an extra-wide slipper for that season of life).

[A version of this post was originally published January 11, 2019. It has been updated.]

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