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Montessori at home: 10 questions to help kids cooperate

8. Would you like me to sit with you or do you need space?

Montessori at home: 10 questions to help kids cooperate

Montessori is child-directed. Rather than hearing adults tell children what to do, you will hear lots and lots of questions. Asking children questions helps them make decisions for themselves and take ownership over their own experiences. You will also learn so much about how your little one thinks and feels by asking lots of questions!


Here are 10 questions to ask your child regularly:

1. What happens next?

Asking this simple question, rather than telling your child what to do next, helps him take ownership of his daily routine. We use this question all the time in the classroom.

If a child first comes in in the morning and looks a little lost, we ask, “What happens next?” and he responds that he needs to put his belongings away. If he is done eating lunch and starts to get silly, we ask, “What should you do next?” and he remembers that it’s time to pack up his lunch and wash his plate.

Hearing this leading question is often all a child needs to get back on track with what he should be doing, whether it’s cleaning up his toys, putting his shoes away, or putting on his coat in the morning.

2. What do you want to choose first?

In a Montessori classroom, each child chooses what he is going to work on each day, within limits. For some children, this independent choice comes quite naturally, but for others, it can be a challenge. Some children need practice making decisions for themselves.

If your child is clinging to you or looking unsure of what to do, whether at home or at a park or play date, ask her what she wants to play with first. If she still can’t decide, try giving her two or three suggestions, for example, “Would you like to start with the swings or the slide?”

3. What materials do we need?

Whether you’re baking cookies, starting an art project, or packing for a trip, helping your child think through the things he will need is a great way to practice logical thinking and problem solving skills. If he’s old enough, help him write out a list and check things off as you gather them.

4. How do you feel about that?

Young children can often be overwhelmed by their emotions, and may need help putting a label on how they’re feeling. Regularly asking your child how she feels can help her begin to recognize and become more comfortable with her emotions.

She may need help naming her emotions at first. You might say, “I would feel sad if someone kicked sand at me” or “Do you feel scared? That was a loud noise.” With practice, your child will become increasingly able to name her own emotions.

It is also helpful to talk about how other people might be feeling. You might say, “His mom left and he’s crying, how do you think he feels?” These simple questions are a great way to start building empathy.

5. How can I help?

When a child is upset or overwhelmed, it is so tempting to swoop in and fix everything for him. Try to pause though and ask how you can help instead. This prevents us from taking over a child’s process.

For example, if he’s building a tall tower and it falls over and he starts to cry, it may be tempting to quickly rebuild it for him. If you ask how you can help though, he may really just need you to sit with him while he rebuilds it himself.

6. Would you like to tell me your story?

When children have conflicts with each other, it can seem impossible to come up with a “fair” solution that makes everyone happy. Many times though, a child doesn’t need us to do anything but listen. Learning social skills is hard, and often a child just wants to tell someone her side of the story.

7. What would you like to read about?

In a Montessori school, children have a large degree of autonomy with their learning. One child may want to research dinosaurs while another wants to write an elaborate story about mermaids. Regardless of what type of school your child attends though, letting him choose some books for himself allows him to think about what he’s interested in, and learn more about it.

8. Would you like me to sit with you or do you need space?

We have had many parents at school tell us how funny it was when their little 2 or 3-year-old yelled “I need space!” after a disagreement. The truth is, it is funny to hear such a little person say this, but it is also a sign of emotional awareness.

Just like adults, sometimes children need a big hug and lots of cuddles when they’re upset, and sometimes they just need to be alone for a few minutes to reflect and collect themselves. Giving them the choice helps them begin to recognize and meet their emotional needs.

9. What could you do differently next time?

Montessori schools do not generally use punishment. Instead, we talk through issues that arise, discuss why certain actions are not okay, and talk about what a child could do differently in the future.

One very sweet little girl who was in my class once overheard her grandmother say something was “stupid.” She said to her grandmother, “We don’t say ‘stupid.’ What could you do differently next time?” I loved this so much because it showed that the little girl had really internalized the process of analyzing our actions and thinking through how to behave.

10. What could we do to help?

A big part of Montessori is building a peaceful community, within the classroom, but also in a broader sense with the outside world. One way to instill an attitude of helpfulness in your child is to ask them what they could do to help when you see someone in need.

This could be as simple as witnessing another child fall down at the park, or seeing a lost dog walking down the street. Asking your child, “What could we do to help?” shows them that everyone, big and small, can play a part in building a peaceful community.

Telling children what to do is often a necessary part of parenting. Make sure to ask your child lots of questions too, though, to allow him the opportunity think through situations on his own.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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