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The one thing parents can do to make mornings smoother, according to science

Snuggle with your kiddo for five minutes as they wake up as a way to “fill your child’s cup” before the day starts.

The one thing parents can do to make mornings smoother, according to science

My five-year-old daughter and I tend to get into major power struggles in the morning. I make her the “wrong" breakfast. She wails like I'm torturing her as I attempt to brush her tangled curls. Fresh snow covers the ground and her party shoes are the only shoes she's willing to wear.


She's on the floor, crying and flailing her arms before I can finish saying “snow boots." We are running late (again) but I take a minute to lock the bathroom door, turn the vent on, and cry.

Why is this is hard? What am I doing wrong?

According to experts, my error is obvious. I've forgotten to start the day with connection.

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Instead of “making a deposit" in my child's bank – in the form of cuddles, reading to her, or even asking how she slept, I've attempted to make a number of “withdrawals." I've forgotten that my daughter's brain is just not wired to accommodate that.

As Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson explain in their groundbreaking book The Whole-Brain Child, not only are the structures of a child's brain still forming, so are the pathways connecting them. The connections between the various parts of the brain are what allow adults to function like adults (most of the time, anyway).

You can credit those connections every time you use logic to push through fear, or hold your tongue in a meeting with your boss when you'd rather throw the nearest object at his head.

On the other hand, when you're wondering why your kid loses his mind when you cut his carrots into slices instead of matchsticks, much of it has to do with the fact that his brain is still immature.

Though it takes at least 20 years for the brain to fully develop, there are steps parents can take to make life more bearable in the meantime.

According to Siegel's concept of interpersonal neurobiology, secure attachments in childhood facilitate the brain's ability to function as an integrated system.

In other words, focusing on the relationship with your child, rather than all of the tasks she must complete, will not only make your mornings easier, but will also promote your child's optimal brain development in the long run.

One of the key takeaways from The Whole Brain Child is that it's crucial to connect with your child on an emotional level before trying to reason with him.

The best way to help a kid through a tantrum is to first hug him or offer some other non-verbal sign of affection, like a loving, concerned look, a gentle pat on the arm, or a squeeze of his hand, and talk to him after.

Only after the child has calmed down enough to engage in conversation or to quietly listen, can he actually absorb anything you're saying, whether you're offering a pep talk, empathizing, or offering alternative solutions to the problem.

According to Siegel and Payne Bryson, pausing to establish a connection serves a dual purpose.

First, it strengthens the bond between you and your child, connecting you to each other.

Second, this connection facilitates the building of connections between the distinct areas of the child's brain.

Parents who struggle with mornings that devolve into a frantic race against the clock in an attempt to drop a cranky kid off at school on time with two matching shoes, often find much of the stress can be circumvented by taking a moment to connect before the storm erupts.

Clinical psychologist and parenting expert Dr. Laura Markham recommends snuggling with your kiddo for five minutes as they wake up as a way to, “fill your child's cup before the day starts, and reconnect after the separation of the night, which gives your child motivation to cooperate instead of fight with you."

If five minutes of snuggling feels unreasonable, try two minutes, or even one. If snuggling in bed as your child rouses doesn't fit with your routine, try something that does. It could be reading together, scratching her back, or simply holding her hand and making eye contact as you say good morning. (I've tried all of these)

One friend said that even if she's already up and dressed, she gets back into bed with her son as soon as he's up and spends a minute or two doing a simple gratitude ritual together, where they simply say a couple things they're thankful for.

Whatever way you choose to connect with your child as you start the day, make sure it's part of your morning routine. According to parent educator Kelly Pfeiffer, routines and connection work best when they're used together.

She suggests parents begin the day with some form of connection (i.e. two minutes of snuggle time) and intersperse other forms of connections throughout the morning, such as creating a silly morning song together, giving high fives, or sharing the joke of the day.

In my own quest to make mornings more bearable, I've been pleasantly surprised to find how far even the briefest moments of connection take us, in terms of setting the tone for the day. Some mornings, there's time for my daughter to climb into bed with me for a few minutes.

But when I've accidentally set my alarm for p.m., we're running twenty minutes late, my daughter has to eat breakfast in the car, and every fiber of my being wants to bust into her room and say, “Why are you playing!? You should be dressed by now. We are running so late!", I stop myself.

Instead, I take the time to enter her room slowly, greet her with a smile, rest my hand on her shoulder, and look her in the eye while I say “Good morning. How did you sleep?" It turns out, I don't have time not to.


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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This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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My 3-year-old is eating peanut butter toast with banana for breakfast (his request), and we are officially running late for preschool. We need to get in the car soon if we want to miss the morning traffic, but he has decided that he no longer wants the food that he begged for two minutes earlier. What started off as a relatively calm breakfast has turned into a battle of wills.

"You're going to be hungry," I say, realizing immediately that he could care less. I can feel my frustration rising, and even though I'm trying to stay calm, I'm getting snappy and irritable. In hindsight, I can see so many opportunities that fell through the cracks to salvage this morning, but at the moment… there was nothing.

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