The key to a good night's rest for your children might be surprising, mama

Have you ever noticed how giggly and playful your children get in the evening? That at the moment you want to get them to wind down they start winding up?

Sleep advice often centers on getting children to calm down and relax at the end of the day. Sleep experts recommend everything from bedtime yoga, lavender candles or soothing meditation music. While relaxation is definitely key, most sleep advice is missing a key element: Laughter!

As parents, we've probably all battled with sleep problems at some point, and as a Hand in Hand Parenting instructor I've come to realize that a lot of our problems are due to a misunderstanding about how children's emotions work, and how they affect sleep.


There are two main ways that children naturally process and release their emotions. One is crying. Tears contain cortisol, the stress hormone, so when children cry they are literally releasing stress from their body. As Dr. Deborah Macnamara says, "Crying is not the hurt, but the process of becoming unhurt." Children often cry when they feel safe and connected to us, and want to let go of emotions from the times they weren't feeling so great.

The other way children release emotions is through play and laughter! When children get to cry, laugh and play freely, with lots of warmth and attention from the adults around them, they tend to sleep very well.

However, sometimes children's emotions get stuck. Difficult or traumatic experiences can be hard to process. A busy day at daycare or preschool means your child may need extra time to wind down. When children take a long time to fall asleep at night, wake regularly in the night, or too early in the morning, it's often a sign that they have emotions to process. When they get giggly in the evening, they are naturally doing what they need to do in order to sleep well.

Studies have shown that laughter lowers blood pressure, triggers the release of endorphins, and contributes to lowering stress hormones. Just like adults, children's sleep problems can be related to stress. So having a giggle-filled bedtime helps them de-stress and sleep well.

Laughter also builds connection. As comedian Victor Borges says, "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." When we laugh and play with our children before sleep they feel closer to us. Children experience sleep as a separation from us, even if they co-sleep, so laughter helps them to internalize a sense of us close to them, so they can let go and sleep.

Laughter even helps with the release of the hormone responsible for inducing sleep, melatonin. In one study breastfeeding mothers were divided into two groups. One group watched a Charlie Chaplin movie, while the others watched a non-humorous film. More melatonin was found in the breastmilk of the mothers who watched the Chaplin movie. Laughter is nature's sleeping pill!

If you want your children to sleep well, then let the giggles flow freely at bedtime. Here are a few tips to optimize the sleepy power of laughter:

1. Let children be in the more powerful role

When children are in situations that are overwhelming or make them feel powerless, it can cause stress and upset. Laughter heals when the tables are turned and our child gets to have the power. So play pillow fights and let your child win and knock you over. Or play a game of 'pajama chase' where you try to put their pajamas on and they run away from you, and always manage to escape. Or read a bedtime story and add in the wrong words as if by accident.

Any situation where you are a bumbling adult making mistakes, and your child has the upper hand is bound to get them giggling.

2. Incorporate giggles throughout the bedtime routine

When children feel more connected to you they are more likely to cooperate, so laughter is a great way to get through bedtime tasks. With teeth cleaning you could try brushing their nose or ears instead of their teeth, or putting their pajamas on the wrong body parts, then you can act all confused and clueless at your 'mistake.'

Games to get the giggles started

Children will often naturally start their own giggly bedtime, running away when you mention it's time to clean teeth, or jumping on the bed. But just in case here are a few ways to get the giggle started:

1. Bedtime mix-up

Call a doll by your child's name, and make a big deal out of getting them all into bed, then act suddenly surprised when you realize it's not your child. Or take your child's hand, and tell them it's time for bed, and then lead them into the bathroom or kitchen instead of the bedtime. Act totally clueless and confused as you try to 'look' for the correct room.

2. I hope you don't…

In a playfully-serious tone, you can invite your child to do something that you pretend you don't want them to do. For example, jumping on the bed, or throwing their plush toys out of the bedroom. Then you can act all playfully 'annoyed' and frustrated, as you try to catch them, or put the toys back. Obviously, it should be something you don't really mind them doing so that you can turn it into a fun game.

Pro tip: If you are introducing play at bedtime for the first time, you may find that it seems like your child wants to play all night long! Children lap up this kind of laughter-filled attention because they instinctively know it's good for their bodies, minds and souls. As a giggly bedtime becomes part of their regular routine this will reduce with time, so bear with it. At first you might want to start the bedtime routine 10-15 minutes earlier so you can factor in extra giggle time and save the weekends for extra-long playtime.

When you've had some time to get all the giggles out, signal to your child that now it's time to calm down by taking a few deep breaths, reading a story and singing a song. Embrace the fun of bedtime, and the magic of childhood with your little one—and hopefully get some better sleep too.

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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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

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

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Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

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Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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