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Montessori children’s environments are carefully designed to encourage independence and concentration. Even small changes in a room can have a noticeable impact on children’s behavior.


Whether or not your child is in a Montessori school, setting up a Montessori-inspired play space at home is really simple, and may transform the way your child plays.

Here’s what to do:

1. Simplify

I recently had someone ask me why our playroom, setup for my 1-year-old, is so “minimalist.” This totally caught me off guard because I had never thought about it that way. When I started comparing it to more traditional children’s rooms though, I quickly got what they meant.

Montessori spaces use more neutral colors than the bright colors often associated with young children. The goal is to make the space soothing, so that it fosters concentration. They also have far fewer things, both on the walls and to play with—you may find a small shelving unit with two or three shelves and just a few items on each shelf, with plenty of space between each toy.

If you want to make a Montessori playroom in your home, you don’t necessarily need to get rid of a bunch of toys, but you will likely want to put many of them in storage. Putting out just a few toys at once, and rotating them regularly, allows your child to really focus on what’s available. Rotating toys has the added bonus of keeping your child’s interest as you can regularly put out “new” things without breaking the bank.

When you offer limited options, it also becomes really clear which ones spark your child’s curiosity. I’ve often noticed that a once beloved toy has remained on the shelf for a whole week untouched. I then know that it’s time to put it away and put out something different.

2. Give everything a place

Montessori wrote a lot about “sensitive periods.” A sensitive period is a time when a child is especially attracted to and able to learn about something. Children have a sensitive period for order from birth through age five, peaking in early toddlerhood.

You can see this through young children’s love for routine and repetition (and their sometimes extreme reactions to something being done the “wrong” way or in the “wrong” order). Young children like order in their daily lives, and also in their physical environments, but they definitely need some help to establish that.

Montessori environments support this desire for order through giving everything a specific spot where it goes. You will not find big toy bins full of many unrelated things in Montessori play spaces. Each toy has a space where it belongs on a shelf. Toys including multiple pieces, like blocks or play animals, are often organized in small baskets or trays on the shelf.

You might think this would make it more difficult for the children to put their things away, but it’s really the opposite. It turns out it is much more satisfying to put something in the perfect spot where it belongs, than to toss everything together in a big bin.

Always finding things in the same spot is calming because it’s predictable.

3. Include open space

Montessori environments have plenty of work space, both on the floor and at tables, once the child is old enough to sit at a table independently. Having open space in the room also allows for plenty of movement, which is essential for young children.

4. Think low

The furniture in Montessori classrooms is child-sized and the materials are kept on low shelves so that the child can access them herself. For a toddler or older, you would also want to include a child-sized table and chair so the child has the option to play on the floor, or at a table for things like puzzles.

Ikea has some great, inexpensive options such as this shelf (placed horizontally) and this table and chair set.

You may also want to have a high-up wall shelf to keep any of your own items, like a cell phone or cup of coffee, that you don’t want your child to play with.

5. Include nature

If possible, choose a room with natural light. Few things are more beautiful than watching a baby discover shadows by playing in the changing light from a window or watching a child mesmerized by the rain.

Windows also offer endless entertainment and opportunities to talk about what your child sees, whether looking out at a busy street or a quiet backyard. If the window is too high up for your child to look out of, try providing a step stool. Just make sure to ensure safety while you child is by the window.

It’s also wonderful to include plants and animals in the environment whenever possible. Hanging plants or herbs with edible leaves are a great option for babies in the “eat everything in sight” stage. House plants also offer toddlers and older children a chance to take care of something, as well as adding natural beauty to the room.

Babies and young children also love watching fish or other pets and toddlers and older can help feed and care for them as well.

6. Make it beautiful…for the child

So many children’s rooms have beautiful artwork or photographs hanging, but at a height where children can’t see them. Montessori spaces hang artwork at the child’s level. This way the child can really benefit from the beautiful images you select

For babies, it’s great to include simple black and white images. For older children, images from nature, family photographs, your child’s artwork, interesting maps, and art from different styles of painters or different cultures all work well.

7. Choose toys carefully

Unless you are homeschooling, there is no need to fill your home with “academic” work. It is great to choose a variety of toys that help your child develop in different ways though.

You might think about including toys that develop fine motor (small muscles), gross motor (big muscles), art and music, books, and open ended items (like blocks) for creative play. It’s also important to include toys that offer a varying degree of difficulty. You want a mix of challenging toys, like maybe a puzzle with more pieces than your child usually works with, and things that are easy and familiar for your her to play with when she needs a mental break.

In Montessori, we also look for open ended toys that engage rather than entertain. We don’t generally include things that light up or make noises. We also choose toys made from natural materials, like wood and metal, whenever possible to give the child more real experiences.

8. Create a cozy space

Lastly, it is great to include a cozy space, somewhere for your child to rest or recover from an upsetting moment. This is often a big floor pillow in a corner for a younger child. It could be a comfy chair by a window for an older child.

This might seem like a lot to think about, but the great thing is you can totally pick and choose what works for your child and your home. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You may decide to simplify, but keep your child’s favorite electronic toy. Or you may choose to have low, orderly shelves, but also keep a big bin of stuffed animals.

Do what works for you mama!

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We've had some struggles, you and me. In my teens, we were just getting to know each other. It was a rocky road at times, like when people referred to you as "big boned." I was learning how to properly fuel you by giving you the right foods. How to be active, to keep you strong and in good shape. I wish I knew then what I do now about you and what a true blessing you are. But that's something that has come with the gift of motherhood.

In my 20's, we became more well-acquainted. I knew how to care for you. After I got engaged, we worked so hard together to get into "wedding shape." And, looking back now, I totally took that six pack—okay, four pack—for granted. (But I have the pictures to prove it.)

Now that I'm in my 30's (how did my 30's happen so fast, btw?) with two kids, I'm coming to terms with my new postpartum body.

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If there are two things a mama is guaranteed to love, it's Target plus adorable and functional baby products. Target's exclusive baby brand Cloud Island has been a favorite destination for cute and affordable baby clothing and décor for nearly two years and because of that success, they're now expanding into baby essentials. 🙌

The new collection features 30 affordable products starting at $0.99 and going up to $21.99 with most items priced under $10—that's about 30-40% less expensive than other products in the market. Mamas can now enjoy adding diapers, wipes, feeding products and toiletries to their cart alongside clothing and accessories from a brand they already know and love.


The best part? The Target team has ensured that the affordability factor doesn't cut down on durability by working with hundreds of parents to create and test the collection. The wipes are ultra-thick and made with 99% water and plant-based ingredients, while the toiletries are dermatologist-approved. With a Tri-Wrap fold, the diapers offer 12-hour leak protection and a snug fit so parents don't have to sacrifice safety or functionality.

So when can you start shopping? Starting on January 20, customers can shop the collection across all stores and online. We can't wait to see how this beloved brand expands in the future.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Many people experience the "winter blues," which are often worst in northern climates from November to March, when people have less access to sunlight, the outdoors and their communities. Another 4% develops Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a form of clinical depression that often requires formal treatment.

If you have the winter blues, you may feel “blah," sad, tired, anxious or be in a worse mood than usual. You may struggle with overeating, loss of libido, work or sleep issues. But fear not—it is possible to find your joy in the winter, mama.

Here are eight ways to feel better:

1. Take a walk

Research has shown that walking on your lunch break just three times per week can reduce tension, relax you and improve your enthusiasm. If you are working from 9 to 5, the only window you have to access natural sunlight may be your lunch hour, so head outside for a 20 minute brisk but energizing walk!

If you are home, bundle up with your kids midday—when the weather is often warmest—and play in the snow, go for a short walk, play soccer, race each other, or do something else to burn energy and keep you all warm. If you dress for the weather, you'll all feel refreshed after some fresh air.

2. Embrace light

Research suggests that a full-spectrum light box or lamp, which mimics sunlight, can significantly improve the symptoms of the winter blues and has a similar effect to an antidepressant. Bright light at a certain time every day activates a part of the brain that can help restore normal circadian rhythms. While light treatment may not be beneficial for everyone (such as people who have bipolar disorder), it may be a beneficial tool for some.

3. Plan a winter trip

It may be helpful to plan a getaway for January or February. Plan to take it very easy, as one research study found that passive vacation activities, including relaxing, "savoring," and sleeping had greater effects on health and well-being than other activities. Engaging in passive activities on vacation also makes it more likely that your health and well-being will remain improved for a longer duration after you go back to work.

Don't overschedule your trip. Relax at a beach, a pool, or a cabin instead of waiting in long roller coaster lines or visiting packed museums. Consider visiting or traveling with family to help with child care, build quiet time into your vacation routine, and build in a day of rest, recovery, and laundry catch-up when you return.

4. Give in to being cozy

Sometimes people mistake the natural slowness of winter as a problem within themselves. By making a concerted effort to savor the slowness, rest and retreat that complement winter, you can see your reduction in activity as a natural and needed phase.

Research suggests that naps help you release stress. Other research suggests that when your brain has time to rest, be idle, and daydream, you are better able to engage in "active, internally focused psychosocial mental processing," which is important for socioemotional health.

Make a "cozy basket" filled with your favorite DVDs, bubble bath or Epsom salts, lemon balm tea (which is great for “blues,") or chamomile tea (which is calming and comforting), citrus oils (which are good for boosting mood), a blanket or a favorite book or two. If you start to feel the blues, treat yourself.

If your child is napping or having quiet time in the early afternoon, rest for a full 30 minutes instead of racing around doing chores. If you're at work, keep a few mood-boosting items (like lavender spray, tea, lotion, or upbeat music) nearby and work them into your day. If you can't use them at work, claim the first 30 minutes after your kids are asleep to nurture yourself and re-energize before you tackle dishes, laundry, or other chores.

5. See your friends

Because of the complex demands of modern life, it can be hard to see or keep up with friends or family. The winter can make it even harder. While you interact with your kids throughout the day, human interaction with other adults (not just through social media!) can act as a protective layer to keep the winter blues at bay.

Plan a monthly dinner with friends, go on a monthly date night if you have a partner, go to a book club, get a drink after work with a coworker, visit a friend on Sunday nights, or plan get-togethers with extended family. Research suggests that social interactions are significantly related to well-being.

Realize that given most families' packed schedules, you may need to consistently take the lead in bringing people together. Your friends will probably thank you, too.

6. Get (at least) 10 minutes of fresh air

A number of research studies have shown positive effects of nature on well-being, including mental restoration, immune health, and memory. It works wonders for your mood to get outside in winter, even if it's just for 10 minutes 2 to 3 times per week. You might walk, snowshoe, shovel, go sledding or go ice-skating. If you can't get outside, you might try these specific yoga poses for the winter blues.

7. Add a ritual

Adding a ritual to your winter, such as movie night, game night, hot chocolate after playing outside, homemade soup on Sundays, or visiting with a different friend every Saturday morning for breakfast, can add beauty and flow to the seemingly long months of winter. Research has suggested that family rituals and traditions, such as Sunday dinner, provide times for togetherness and strengthening relationships.

8. Talk to a professional

Counseling, which helps you identify the connections between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, can be extremely helpful for the winter blues (especially when you are also experiencing anxiety or stress). A counselor can assist you with identifying and honoring feelings, replacing negative messages with positive ones, or shifting behaviors. A counselor may also help you indulge into winter as a time of retreat, slowness, planning, and reflecting. You may choose to use the winter to get clear on what you'd like to manifest in spring.

The opposite of the winter blues is not the absence of the winter blues—it's taking great pleasure in the unique contribution of a time of cold, darkness, retreat, planning, reflecting, being cozy and hibernating. Nurturing yourself and your relationships can help you move toward winter joy.

Weary mama,

You are incredibly strong. You are so very capable.

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