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In Montessori classrooms, self-care is considered just as important for young children as academics. Learning to identify their physical needs, and begin to take care of them, is a huge step for these little people—and we are sometimes the biggest thing standing in their way.


We’re so often in a hurry and it’s so much easier to do things for children, but slowing down and helping them do it for themselves, has huge benefits. It encourages independence and self-confidence as the children realize all of the things they can do on their own.

Here are some ways Montessori teachers help young children learn self-care, and how you can use them at home.

Make it accessible

For children to help take care of their own bodies, the necessary materials have to be within their reach. If the tissues are way up high in the bathroom, how can a child blow her runny nose? If the diapers are in the closet, how can she get one when she needs it?

Try putting the things she needs for her physical care down low where she can reach and include her in the process.

Take your time

One of the main reasons adults do things for children is it’s often a lot quicker. It can take a lot of time and patience to wait for a 2-year-old to put on his own shoes. It helps to think of this time as an investment. Yes, it takes longer right now, but with lots of support and practice, your child will be able to do so much on his own, making things a lot easier in the future.

It can also help to think about these daily self-care activities, like diaper changes and dressing, as a time to slow down and connect, rather than something to rush through to get to the fun stuff.

Alert your child of the need

Young children are still figuring out their bodies and they may really not notice that their nose is running down their face or that their hands are covered in dirt. Try telling them, in a neutral voice, and then inviting them to help fix it.

For example, “Susie, your nose is running. You need a tissue. Do you remember where they are?”

Give just a little help

Think about doing a task “with,” rather than “to” a young child. The key is to walk the line between doing everything for them and letting them get so frustrated they no longer want to try.

This can be tricky because it’s different for each child, and can even vary throughout the day—a child may be perfectly capable of putting his own shoes on in the morning, but need a little more help when he’s tired at the end of the day.

Watch your child and offer the minimum amount of help he needs to succeed. Sometimes it’s enough to just sit with him while he struggles.

If you’re ready to try these steps at home, these 10 self-care activities are a great place to start!

1. Nose blowing

Starting as young toddlers, children can help wipe their own nose. You can set up a little tissue station in your child’s room or in the bathroom. You’ll need a tissue box, mirror, and small waste basket.

If your child likes to pull all of the tissues out, try a little basket with just two or three tissues in it to start. Show your child how to blow and wipe her nose, checking in the mirror to see when her face is clean. Make sure to include hand washing after she’s done.

2. Helping with diapers

Even babies of six months can help with the diaper process by holding the clean diaper until you’re ready for it, or bringing the diaper once they’re mobile. Babies also enjoy helping to pull wipes out of the container. Older babies can help push their pants down and help pull the tabs to remove their diapers.

3. Hand washing

You can give babies a warm, wet washcloth and let them help wipe their hands before and after eating. For toddlers, you may provide a step stool so they can reach the bathroom sink, or a basin of water on a small table to wash their hands in.

Whatever setup you choose to use, show them all of the steps: wetting hands, using soap, rinsing, and drying. For older children, it can be fun to include a nail scrubbing brush or lotion as part of the process.

4. Dressing and undressing

Support your child’s growing independence by encouraging him to dress and undress himself. Pushing down his own pants and taking off his own socks can be good tasks to start with. Have a little laundry basket available for your child to put his clothes in.

Choose clothes that are easy to put on and take off—as cute as they are, steer clear of things like overalls and tricky belts while your child is learning to dress himself.

With practice, toddlers can master the entire dressing and undressing process, including shoes. With colder weather approaching, you may want to check out the Montessori coat flip process too, an easy way for children to put on their own coats.

5. Brushing hair

Provide a soft brush and a mirror within your child’s reach so she can practice whenever she wants. You may want to include a couple of barrettes or a headband for her to practice with as well.

6. Brushing teeth

Your baby can start helping with tooth brushing as early as six months, if he has teeth. At this age, you’ll want to brush first, but giving your baby a turn afterwards makes him feel like he’s part of the process. As he gets older, you can show him how to put just enough toothpaste.

7. Getting a drink

Try making water accessible to your child all of the time. You can set out a small pitcher and glass on a low shelf or table in the kitchen where she can access it. Alternatively, you could set out a water dispenser with an easy spout for her to use. Make sure to include a little sponge at your water station and show your child how to dry spills.

8. Preparing food

Children get so much satisfaction from helping to prepare their own food and it’s great for concentration and fine motor skills.

Some really simple activities to start with are peeling banana slices and spreading peanut butter on toast. Try setting up a small bowl with just enough peanut butter at first so he doesn’t use the whole jar.

9. First aid

While you would of course take care of your child in the case of a serious injury, there’s no reason she can’t help with little scrapes and cuts. Try preparing a little tray with a couple of band aids and alcohol swabs. Show your child how to unwrap the band aid and let her do it herself.

10. Lotion and sunscreen

Why not give your little one his own little bottle of lotion or sunscreen? Show him how to squeeze out just a little bit and how to rub it in until he doesn’t see any white. A mirror will be helpful for this activity. You might want to start with small, travel size bottles until he’s able (and willing) to use just a small amount.

Involving your child in these daily tasks will help him become more confident and independent over time. It will show him that you see him as a capable person who can participate in household activities and help take care of himself.

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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

BUY


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

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As any parent knows, newborns need to eat a lot to keep fuel in those tiny tummies. For breastfeeding mamas, that can translate to nursing sessions anywhere, any time of day—which can make it feel like a full-time job. So, what's a mama to do when she has other things on her to-do list?

Let's take a look at some celebrity mothers who are showing the world that mamas have legendary multitasking skills. 👊

Jessie James Decker is a backseat breastfeeder

By the time her third child was born, Jessie James Decker had a few tricks up her sleeve when it came to breastfeeding on the go—including how to get situated in the backseat of the car to nurse her son while he was strapped into the car seat.

Decker doesn't recommend mamas go without a seatbelt like she did, but sometimes, a bad day out with the baby calls for extreme measures. When little Forrest couldn't stop crying on the way home from his mama's photo shoot, his mama did what she had to do.

"I hopped in the back seat with Forrest and fed him with boob out leaned awkwardly over the car seat to calm him down," Decker says. "On the way home I cried, I got stressed and anxiety, and I was just a mom trying to do my best just like we all are no matter the situation."

Pink takes a hike

When son Jameson was a baby, Pink proved that breastfeeding didn't have to mean sitting at home in a glider. With some assistance from a baby carrier and a perfect position for Jameson, the multitasking mama was able to go about her hike like it was no big deal.

Gisele Bündchen 'grammed her breastfeeding glam session

In 2013, the super model proved she's also a super mama by multitasking a full-on beauty session while breastfeeding. Recognizing what a team effort it was, Bündchen captioned the post, "What would I do without this beauty squad after the 15 hours of flying and only three hours of sleep."

Tess Holliday was inspired by her fellow supermodel mama 

Tess Holliday followed in Gisele's footsteps after her youngest was born, posting this photo to Instagram. It that proves that breastfeeding mamas can not only multitask, but also don't have to conform to certain body ideals to look amazing postpartum. Any size, any shape, any time, anywhere—breastfeeding mothers like Holliday are normalizing breastfeeding and our bodies.

Padma Lakshmi proves you don't need a team

Without a beauty squad on call, Lakshmi took her multitasking to "level 💯" by using a nursing pillow to free up her two hands. It takes a brave woman to attempt mascara while breastfeeding, but the Top Chef host clearly pulls it off.

Whether a mama is trying to feed her baby on the go or while she's getting glam, it isn't always easy. Motherhood is about trying to do your best even when it feels like 100 things are going on at the same time—and yet we manage, like the super mamas we are.

[Update, September 23: This post was originally published June 12, 2018. It has been updated to include Tess Holliday's Instagram post]

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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So many parents wish there was a way we could add more hours to the day. Unfortunately, we're stuck with just 24 of them, but we can try to make the most of the time we've got. One way more and more working mamas are maximizing the time we do have is by cutting out the commute and working from home.

It can add an hour or two back to your day, and (depending on your hours and circumstances) it can even make childcare arrangements easier. And with more big companies offering legit remote opportunities, it's easier than ever for parents to find these opportunities. As Motherly recently reported, Amazon is on a bit of a remote hiring spree ahead of the holiday season, and it's not the only one.

Williams-Sonoma is currently seeking Seasonal Customer Service Associates to work from home. It is looking for remote workers in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Phoenix, Reno, Tulsa, and near Raleigh, Columbus, Braselton, and Oklahoma City.

These work-from-home positions are part of Williams-Sonoma's plan to hire about 3,500 associates for its Customer Care Centers. The company says a "significant portion of positions" for the Customer Care Centers will be work-from-home. They're looking for remote workers who live no more than an hour and a half away from one of the Customer Care Centers as "on occasion our Work From Home associates must come to the Care Center for meetings and training with advanced notice," the company notes in the job postings.


The positions are very similar to what Amazon is looking for: Basically customer service reps who can take inbound calls to help shoppers with orders, returns and issues with finding products or deliveries of products. Williams-Sonoma is looking for people who can work 30 - 50 hours per week, and the pay is listed at $12 per hour.

Another perk is a 40% discount on most merchandise, which great because the Williams-Sonoma umbrella includes brands like Pottery Barn and West Elm as well.

Sounds like this could be a great gig for a mama with customer service skills and a high-speed internet connection.

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Plenty of modern motherhood paraphernalia was made to be seen—think breastfeeding pillows that seamlessly blend into living room decor or diaper bags that look like stylish purses. The breast pump though, usually isn't on that list.

It's traditionally been used in the privacy of our homes and hotel rooms in the best case scenarios, and in storage closets and restrooms in the worst circumstances. For a product that is very often used by mothers because they need to be in public spaces (like work and school), the breast pump lives a very private life.

Thankfully, some high profile moms are changing that by posting their pump pics on Instagram. These influential mamas aren't gonna hide while they pump, and may change the way the world (and product designers) see this necessary accessory.

1. Gail Simmons 

Top Chef's Gail Simmons looked amazing on the red carpet at the 2018 Emmys, but a few days after the award show the cookbook author, television host and new mama gave the world a sneak peek into her backstage experience. It wasn't all glam for Gail, who brought her pump and hands-free bra along on the big night.

We're thankful to these women for showing that breast pumps belong in public and in our Instagram feeds.

[Update, September 21, 2018: This post was originally published on May 31, 2018, but has been updated to include a recent Instagram post by Gail Simmons.]

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  2. Behati Prinsloo shamed for 'pumping and dumping' during date with hubby Adam Levine
  3. Nicole Phelps pumping in an evening gown is the ultimate definition of a multi-tasking mama 👏
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