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It's important for kids to get outside all year long, but sometimes cold weather means cutting outdoor play time short. While kids might spend hours outside in the spring or summer, they may be shivering and ready to come in after only 30 minutes in the winter.

This means more time for indoor activities, and more planning for you, mama. We have a list to get you started, and after you show your child how to complete an activity, put it on a shelf where they can reach it so they can choose and complete it independently.

Here is a list of 49 Montessori-inspired indoor activities to keep your little ones engaged and learning this winter:

Practical life activities

1. Making clove apples or oranges: Provide your child with a small tray with a bowl of whole cloves and an apple or orange to poke them into. The small size of the cloves makes this great for fine motor development and your child will create something that smells beautiful to decorate the house of give to a friend.

2. Button sorting (not for kids under 3-years-old): Give your child a bunch of buttons differing in size or color and little bowls to sort them in. For example, if you give them red, blue, and green buttons, give them three little bowls to sort them in. Any type of object your child is interested in can be used for sorting!

3. Carrot cutting: Even kids who don't like eating carrots love cutting them and preparing them for others. It's helpful if you provide your child with a tray with everything they'll need: an apron, bowl for water, scrub brush, peeler, small cutting board, wavy chopper, and sponge or small towel for spills. Show your child how to wash, peel and cut a carrot and then let them try on their own!

Tip! For toddlers, use pre-washed and peeled baby carrots so it's easier to chop.

4. Apple slicing: Another popular Montessori food prep activity is apple slicing. For this one your child will need an apron, bowl for water, scrub brush, cutting board and apple slicer. For young children, it helps to cut the apple in half horizontally first so it's easier to slice.

You can use any food your child likes for food prep. Clementine peeling and hard boiled egg peeling are also fun.

5. Make trail mix: Give your child large containers of several different snack items they like (dried fruit, nuts if they're old enough to eat them, cereal, etc.). Give them a measuring scoop and let them scoop some of each item into a big empty container and mix it up. If you like, make this available to them on a shelf they can reach so they can get their own snack.

For an older child, you can write a simple recipe (e.g., 2 scoops of cereal, 1 scoop of cashews, etc.) to make it more challenging.

6. Window washing: This is always a popular activity in Montessori classrooms and all you need is a small spray bottle (full of water or water mixed with white vinegar), a small squeegee, and a sponge.

7. Scrubbing: Many young children love scrubbing because they can see the tangible results! Scrubbing often comes with water spills and mess, but that's okay—learning how to clean the spills is part of the purpose. You can make this super simple with a tub, scrub brush, and towel, or add extra elements like soap and a bottle brush to clean crevices. Children love scrubbing tables, chairs, rain boots or their waterproof toys!

8. Babydoll washing: An extension of scrubbing, your child can wash a baby doll with a small wash cloth—especially perfect for soon-to-be siblings.

9. Leaf polishing: Taking care of indoor plants is something even very young children can do. All your child needs is a small dish for water and a sponge and they can wipe the dust off of the leaves of indoor plants.

10. Plant watering: Provide a small watering can and show your child how to check if an indoor plant needs water.

11. Flower arranging: Get an inexpensive bouquet of flowers and let your child trim the stems, fill small vases with water, and arrange the flowers in little vases around the house.

12. Matching socks: Put your child in charge of matching socks when it's laundry time—a great lesson in visual discrimination, as well as responsibility.

13. Grinding egg shells: Egg shells are great fertilizer. Show your child how to grind them with a mortar and pestle and sprinkle them in potted plants.

14. Sweeping/mopping: Sweeping the floor with a small broom and dustpan is one of the first ways toddlers and young children can learn to help take care of the house. If they're getting stir crazy, give them a purpose and invite them to help you sweep.

15. Bubble making: All you need for this one is a mixing bowl, pitcher for water, whisk and small dropper bottle with dish soap. Your child will have fun adding soap and mixing to make bubbles, but make sure to put them in charge of the clean up too, that's where a lot of the learning happens!

Sensorial activities

16. Mystery bag: Give your child a drawstring bag with a few themed items from around the house (e.g., their small dino toys or kitchen objects). Instruct them to close their eyes and use only their hands to guess what the objects are.

17. Smelling bottles: Fill a few spice jars with herbs or cotton balls with kid-safe essential oils. Let your child enjoy smelling and guessing what they are. For an older child, you can provide two sets of bottles and let them match the smells.

18. Sound matching: Fill little bottles or jars (paint or cover if transparent) with little objects like rice, beans, beads, acorns, tiny bells, etc. You'll need two bottles, each a different color or marked with a colored sticker (one set with blue stickers, one set with red stickers) for each filling. Let your child try to match the sounds.

Gross motor activities

19. Yoga: Provide a yoga mat and a few yoga cards at a time.

20. Stepping stones: These are a fun way to help kids practice their balance.

21. Jump rope: Such a simple activity, a small jump rope can easily be kept indoors, just show your child where they are allowed to use it to avoid any disasters!

22. Balance board: These can be pricey, but they provide lots of opportunities for gross motor work inside.

23. Puzzle distance game: Take any puzzle your child loves and put it in the living room. Have them build the puzzle in their room so they have to walk back and forth each time to find a piece. This kind of distance game is used all the time in Montessori classrooms, to keep kids moving and encourage them to practice keeping information (i.e. what piece they need) in their mind while they walk.

24. Throwing baskets: Take two baskets and a set of small bean bags or soft balls and show your child how to throw the balls from one basket to the other.

Art activities

25. Gluing: Give your child a small jar of glue and a paintbrush and show them how to use just a little bit of glue. The smaller the objects they're gluing, the bigger the fine motor challenge.

26. Painting: Even 3-year-olds have independent access to paints in Montessori classrooms. The key is starting them off with just two or three colors at a time until they learn to rinse their brush, and showing them how to clean spills.

27. Working with clay: Most kids love play-doh, but did you know clay is even better for strengthening their hands and preparing for writing?

28. Color mixing: Fill small dropper bottles with red water, blue water, and yellow water. Let your child mix the colors in a paint palette to explore what different color combinations make.

29. Art card matching: Next time you're at an art museum, get two sets of the postcards they sell. Show your child how to match the images. For an older child, you can show them how to sort art postcards by type (e.g., landscape, portrait, still life) or style.

30. Makerspace: Designate a small corner or table for a "makerspace" for your child. Keep a variety of objects there (simple things like boxes, toilet paper rolls, buttons, string) and encourage your child to construct whatever they like.

Sewing activities

31. Bead stringing: Use pasta, pony beads, or whatever you like and let your child practice threading them on to a knotted piece of string or a shoelace.

32. Lacing cards: These help children practice the up-down pattern of sewing before they're ready for a needle. If you don't want to buy them, simply punch evenly spaced holes around the edge or a card stock shape and let your child practice with a shoelace.

33. Necklace making: This is usually the first activity where children use a needle, but it is a yarn needle, so is not sharp. They'll also need a variety of beads. You will need to tie the knot, but even young children can thread the needle with practice so encourage them to give it a try!

34. Button sewing: All you need is a piece of fabric, a needle, and thread. Show your child how to thread the needle, tie a knot and sew on the button. Most children are ready for this around 3 1/2 or 4 years old, with supervision.

35. Pillow making: When a child has mastered button sewing, they are ready for pillow making. Show them how to sew two pieces of fabric together and stuff with pillow batting. Making a sachet full of dried lavender is a fun extension!

Language activities

36. Small to big matching: Take an old calendar and cut out the little images on the back. Cut out the big images for each month. Show your child how to match the small images to the big ones.

37. Story box: Provide a small basket with a few seasonal items (e.g., a mitten, a small snow globe, an ornament) and show your child how to create a story. If they know how to write, they can record it, if not they can tell you and you can write it down while they illustrate!

38. "I Spy": Help your pre-reading child learn to isolate sounds with "I spy". Choose a phonetic sound and say "I spy something that starts with 'a'". Play as long as they like!

39. Rhyming games: Collect a set of household objects or toys (e.g., dino and rhino, doll and ball) and show your child how to match the rhyming objects. Alternatively, take turns coming up with a word and asking each other to think of a rhyme.

40. Household labels: If your child has started to read, write the name of a household object on a slip of paper and let your child read it and place it on the object. Start with easy words like "box" or "cup" and increase the challenge as they're ready.

41. Story writing: If your child knows how to write, encourage them to write their own stories. If they need inspiration, let them cut out pictures from old magazines to use as the illustrations or draw a picture for them and let them make up a story about it.

42. Commands: This is a fun one because it incorporates gross motor and reading! Write action words on slips of paper (e.g., jump, walk, spin, etc.) and take turns choosing a paper. Whoever's turn it is reads the paper silently and acts it out while the other guesses the action.

Pre-math / math activities

43. Sticker patterns: Working with patterns helps young children develop mathematical minds. Take a strip of card stock and create a pattern with stickers. Encourage your child to recreate the pattern, and then to create their own patterns.

44. "Bring me" game: Montessori math for young children is extremely hands-on. Practice with your child who is learning to count by playing a "bring me" game. Say something like, "Bring me 8 red Lego bricks" or "Bring me 3 colored pencils". Your child will have to keep the number in their mind while they find the objects, which makes it more challenging.

Science activities:

45. Sink or float: Use a tub of water (or the actual bathtub to avoid the mess!) and give your child a variety of objects. Ask them to hypothesize which will sink and which will float and then test their theory.

46. Magnetic/non-magnetic: Provide your child with a variety of objects, some magnetic and some not, and let them guess which are magnetic and test their theory.

47. Living/non-living: Explain to your child the difference between living and non-living things—for example, a house plant is "living" but the pot it's in is "non-living.". Make little labels ("living" on green paper and "non-living" on white paper so pre-readers can tell the difference) and let your child label things in your home as living or non-living.

48. Air, land, water: Collect small objects or images representing things found in air, land, and water and let your child practice sorting them.

49. Bird watching: Set up a little bird watching station by a window. All you need is a small chair or floor cushion, some images of common birds in your area (or a bird book!) and binoculars if you like. You can set up a bird feeder outside of the window to increase the action!
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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

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


Our Partners

On Friday President Trump announced that the Centers for Disease Control is now advising people to wear a cloth mask if they need to go out in public. It's not a rule, he says, but a recommendation.

"It's really going to be a voluntary thing," President Trump told reporters. "I'm not choosing to do it."

First Lady Melania Trump is urging others to do it, tweeting, "As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously. #COVID19 is a virus that can spread to anyone—we can stop this together."

What the CDC says about cloth face masks:

The CDC says it's recommending cloth face masks because recent studies show that people can have COVID-19 while asymptomatic, meaning they feel fine and because they don't know they are sick they might still be going about their daily routine in their community.

FEATURED VIDEO

Basically, masks don't protect the wearer as much as they protect people from the wearer (who might not know they are sick) by blocking respiratory droplets

"So it's not going to protect you, but it is going to protect your neighbor," Dr. Daniel Griffin at Columbia University, an expert on infectious diseases, tells NPR.

CDC experts are "advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure."

They say if you're going somewhere where it's hard to maintain the proper social distance of six feet, like a grocery store or a pharmacy, then it's a good idea to wear a simple cloth mask.

"The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance," the CDC states.

"You may need to improvise a cloth face covering using a scarf or bandana," the agency notes on its website.

A DIY cloth mask is an extra layer of protection:

The CDC still says that staying home and practicing good hand hygiene is the best protection against COVID-19, but a cloth mask would be an extra layer of protection if you must go out to get food or unavoidable medical care.

According to Dr. Scott Segal, chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, certain types of fabric are better than others when it comes to making a mask. While he CDC says improvised bandanas or scarfs are better than nothing, Segal says DIY mask makers should aim a little higher for the masks to be effective.

"You have to use relatively high-quality cloth," Dr.Segal, who is researching this topic, tells NBC News.

According to Segal you don't want to use a knit fabric (like an old T-shirt) but rather a woven fabric. He suggests a double layer of heavyweight cotton with a thread count of at least 180 (like quilters cotton). If you don't have a cotton with that high of a thread count, line it with flannel.

For more tips on how to sew a fabric face mask, check out these instructions from Kaiser Permanente.

No-sew methods:

If you're not a sewer you can still fashion a mask, and there are plenty of no-sew tutorials online showing you how. Use heavyweight woven fabric like Segal suggests and make one of these without a sewing machine.

How To Make a Pleated Face Mask // Washable, Reusable, No-Sewing Required youtu.be

Should kids wear masks? Talk to your doctor.

The CDC is not recommending masks if you're just going for a walk around the block or playing in the backyard (which is the extent of most kids' outings these days). The masks are more for grocery runs, which many parents are opting to do alone these days.

But solo parents and those with partners who are in the military know that leaving the kids behind isn't always an option if you're the only adult in the home. If that's your circumstance, choose delivery options when possible to avoid taking your children to public places like grocery stores and pharmacies (the kinds of places the CDC recommends masks for).

If you are concerned that you may need to take your child somewhere where a mask would be required, call your pediatrician for advice on whether a mask is appropriate for your child's age and circumstances. Babies' faces should not be covered.

If you have no one to watch your children while you get groceries and cannot get them delivered try contacting your local government, community groups and churches for leads on grocery delivery help. They may be able to put you in touch with someone who can fetch groceries for you so that you don't have to take your children to the store with you.

News

Lizzie climbed up the playground stairs on all fours, walked across the small suspension bridge and slid down the big red slide at our neighborhood park. I followed just inches behind my 4-year-old daughter ready to catch her.

I had become her shadow by necessity. Her actions were often unpredictable and sometimes dangerous so my arms became her safety net. Her big brown eyes and unruly curly brown hair encapsulated her carefree spirit, and I adored her with a love I never thought myself capable of.

She walked over to the swings and stood there, stiff, her eyes glazed over. She didn't look to me for help. She didn't point, raise her arms up or ask me to place her in the swing. But I knew what she wanted—I sensed it.

FEATURED VIDEO

"Do you want to swing, Lizzie?" I asked in a gentle voice. She remained silent.

I didn't expect an answer, but I always asked in hopes today was the day she would choose to use her voice to form a word for the sake of communicating with me. I placed her in the swing anyway and pushed her to the exact height I knew she preferred.

A look of contentment came across her face and a giant smile curled her lips. She was in her happy place. This place was a place I wasn't allowed in—not yet anyway. She lived in an alternative universe inside her head, and after the park, we would spend the rest of the day inside using therapy techniques to pull her from this place into the real world. I missed my daughter and the connection we once had.

There were so many quirks I thought were hers alone, when in fact they were symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.

Here are five possible signs of autism parents should know about. If you notice something that concerns you, please reach out to your pediatrician.

1. Change in language

As a baby, Lizzie's language gradually changed from babbling to gibberish. "With typically developing language skills, infants will babble often as early as two to three months indicating first instances of intentional and social communication," says licensed clinical speech language pathologist Julie Liberman. "An early sign of autism may be seen in infants creating nonsense syllables without added social-communicative behaviors."

Lizzie lost her social-communicative sounds and began to mimic noises from her environment such as screeching sounds or sirens. She also developed a few sounds such as "diddle diddle" that she would repeat all day long. The transition was subtle and slow—enough that at first I didn't recognize that it was happening. .

2. Sensory processing issues

"Sensory processing is how our brain and body organize and respond to sensory information. Issues develop when we are over or under-responsive to sensory information which impacts the body's ability to organize it, or modulate it and so responses range outside of typical parameters and dysregulation is observed," writes licensed occupational therapist Rachel Wolverton.

Lizzie walked on her tiptoes, flapped her arms when she was excited and ran full speed into the couch cushions over and over again. Many toddlers do similar behaviors, and we thought she was just being quirky and adorable. As part of her diagnosis, though, we came to understand that these repeated behaviors were signals that her processing was under-stimulated. She needed these movements to help her body and brain function. This also works the opposite way, too. Many kids are over-sensitive to lights, sounds and/or touch, so they become easily overstimulated. They might cover their ears, melt down when clothes are put on their bodies or withdraw from crowds.

3. Lack of response to name

Lizzie displayed what I call "selective hearing." I would stand in front of her, saying her name with a raised voice and she wouldn't respond or look up. She appeared to be deaf, but as soon as the theme song from her favorite Dora the Explorer TV show came on, she would run from the other room to watch.

As autistic teen advocate Matteo Musso explains, "Because we hear your voice so much, we don't usually respond to our name. It's that you say our name the same way all the time. A TV is more auditorily complex. One-word, same voice, can get lost in our thoughts and in our brain."

4. Repetitive behavior

My daughter began lining up her toys by color and her green peas at the dinner table. We thought she was brilliant! She is brilliant, but as it turns out, not because of her repetitive behavior.

While many children love repetition—as any parent who's got their child's favorite bedtime story memorized knows—what I learned is that the kind of repetitive behavior we saw in Lizzie is one of the core symptoms of autism.

"Individuals with autism typically find much comfort in repetitive behaviors, giving them a sense of control over their environment in a quite unruly world," says Dr. Caroline W. Ford, clinical psychologist and director of the Fairhill School and Diagnostic Assessment Center in Dallas. As she explains, autistic children experience real difficulty when their repetitive behaviors are interrupted: "When asked to change or alter the repetitive behavior, many autistic children become overly anxious."

5. Loss of connection

One of the most beautiful moments between mother and child is the first time her baby looks into her mom's eyes. It was in that moment with Lizzie, the connection formed was so strong I knew I would be willing to do anything for her.

Slowly over the course of months, she became more and more distant. She wandered around the house aimlessly and didn't seem to need me at all. As long as there was food and drink available, she was content to be all alone. It was hard to measure because it was a feeling, a distancing, a loss of connection. I second-guessed my feelings regularly. Mothers have a built-in intuition with their children, which should never be underestimated.

After my daughter's diagnosis with autism at the age of two, we researched and implemented a 30-hours-a-week home therapy program (although it's important to know that early intervention supports can also be found through community organizations and school systems—you don't have to do this alone). Now, I'm happy to say, Lizzie has made good progress, and I've found (and offered) support in the generous community of parents of autistic children like mine. I even started a non-profit, United in Autism, which partners with local charities to bring community-building, emotional-support events to special needs moms all over the country.

My daughter continues to be a source of joy and amazement. Most importantly, I know now that my daughter and I are not alone—and we never were.

Learn + Play

Starting this weekend Target and Walmart will be limiting the number of people allowed in its stores to give shoppers and staff more space to spread out and adhere to social distancing recommendations during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Beginning April 4, Target will actively monitor and, when needed, limit the total number of people inside based on the store's specific square footage," Target notes in a news release.

Walmart's corporate message is similar: "Starting Saturday, we will limit the number of customers who can be in a store at once. Stores will now allow no more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet at a given time, roughly 20 percent of a store's capacity."

FEATURED VIDEO

At Target you will also notice staff wearing gloves and masks over the next two weeks as the company steps up its coronavirus protection measures.

Many people are choosing to stay home and order groceries online, but that's not an option for everyone as long lines at some Target's prove.

"We're incredibly proud of the commitment our more than 350,000 frontline team members have demonstrated to ensure millions of guests can count on Target, and we'll continue to focus our efforts on supporting them," says Target's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, John Mulligan.

Target is open this weekend but—along with Costco, Aldi, Publix and Trader Joe's—Target stores will be closed on Easter Sunday to give the essential employees in these stores a much-deserved break.

News

I was blissfully asleep on the couch while my little one was occupied elsewhere with toys, books and my partner. She got bored with what they were doing, escaped from his watch and, sensing my absence, set about looking for me. Finding me on the couch, nose-level, she peeled back my one available eyelid, singing, "Mama? Mama? ...You there? Wake UP!"

Sound familiar? Nothing limits sleep more than parenthood. And nothing is more sought after as a parent than a nap, if not a good night's rest.

But Mother Nature practically guarantees that you are likely to be woken up by a toddler—they're hardwired to find you (and get your attention) when you're "away."

FEATURED VIDEO

According to attachment theory, when you respond to the needs of your child, a strong bond is formed and woven into their personality, serving as a basis for all future emotional ties. So your kids love and depend on you. And they can feel anxious when involuntarily separated from you, like when you are asleep.

Child psychologist Esther Cohen suggests that it is fairly universal that infants and toddlers try to open the eyes of their sleeping parents. Her theory is that when you are present, but with your eyes shut, you are not responsive, and on some level this causes your child a form of "emotional distress." So the best and easiest way for them to feel better is to wake you up.

Cohen believes that reestablishing eye contact bridges the gap between your physical presence and your emotional presence, making the situation feel normal again. Your kids are relieved that you are alert and there to interact with them—and that you are available to protect them.

Kids are hardwired to seek our attention all the time.

At birth, your brain is only about 25% of its adult volume. Born particularly vulnerable, you depend on years of loving care. This prolonged helplessness has resulted in the evolution of certain behaviors—like baby coos, smiles and crying—that increase your odds of survival within your family.

By the time you are a toddler, you've developed a sense of who you are and what you can do in relation to people and things. You also know that you are a separate person from your parents. Toddlers also have the sense of what's called object permanence—the ability to understand who or what is, or is not, present. That means you can search for objects and people. (And wake them up when you find them.)

Bottom line: When you sneak off for a nap and your toddler looks for you, know that this is a natural instinct for them, and they will grow out of it. But for now, when you are asleep, you are not there, so your kids must. wake. you. up.

And for an extra fun fact: Research indicates that this also could be why it's so hard for you to ignore your partner when working from home. They are there, but technically not available, so you

continually find reasons to interact with them—just like waking them up from a nap. 😉
Life
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