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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.

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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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As mamas, we naturally become the magic-makers for our families. We sing the songs that make the waits seem shorter, dispense the kisses that help boo-boos hurt less, carry the seemingly bottomless bags of treasures, and find ways to turn even the most hum-drum days into something memorable.

Sometimes it's on a family vacation or when exploring a new locale, but often it's in our own backyards or living rooms. Here are 12 ways to create magical moments with kids no matter where your adventures take you.


1. Keep it simple

Mary Poppins may be practically perfect in every way, but―trust us―your most magical memories don't require perfection. Spend the morning building blanket forts or break out the cookie cutters to serve their sandwich in a fun shape and you'll quickly learn that, for kids, the most magical moments are often the simplest.

2. Get on their level

Sometimes creating a memorable moment can be as easy as getting down on the floor and playing with your children. So don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees, to swing from the monkey bars, or turn watching your favorite movie into an ultimate snuggle sesh.

3. Reimagine the ordinary

As Mary says, "the cover is not the book." Teach your child to see the world beyond initial impressions by encouraging them to imagine a whole new world as you play―a world where the laundry basket can be a pirate ship or a pile of blankets can be a castle.

4. Get a little messy

Stomp in muddy puddles. Break out the finger paint. Bake a cake and don't worry about frosting drips on the counter. The messes will wait, mama. For now, let your children―and yourself―live in these moments that will all too soon become favorite memories.

5. Throw out the plan

The best-laid plans...are rarely the most exciting. And often the most magical moments happen by accident. So let go of the plan, embrace the unexpected, and remember that your child doesn't care if the day goes according to the schedule.

6. Take it outside

There's never a wrong time of year to make magic outside. Take a stroll through a spring rainstorm, catch the first winter snowflakes on your tongue, or camp out under a meteor shower this summer. Mother Nature is a natural at creating experiences you'll both remember forever.

7. Share your childhood memories

Chances are if you found it magical as a child, then your kids will too. Introduce your favorite books and movies (pro tip: Plan a double feature with an original like Mary Poppins followed with the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns!) or book a trip to your favorite family vacation spot from the past. You could even try to recreate photos from your old childhood with your kids so you can hang on to the memory forever.

8. Just add music

Even when you're doing something as humdrum as prepping dinner or tidying up the living room, a little music has a way of upping the fun factor. Tell Alexa to cue up your favorite station for a spontaneous family dance party or use your child's favorite movie soundtrack for a quick game of "Clean and Freeze" to pick up toys at the end of the day.

9. Say "yes"

Sometimes it can feel like you're constantly telling your child "no." While it's not possible to grant every request (sorry, kiddo, still can't let you drive the car!), plan a "yes" day for a little extra magic. That means every (reasonable) request gets an affirmative response for 24 hours. Trust us―they'll never forget it.

10. Let them take the lead

A day planned by your kid―can you imagine that? Instead of trying to plan what you think will lead to the best memories, put your kid in the driver's seat by letting them make the itinerary. If you have more than one child, break up the planning so one gets to pick the activity while the other chooses your lunch menu. You just might end up with a day you never expected.

11. Ask more questions

Odds are, your child might not remember every activity you plan―but they will remember the moments you made them feel special. By focusing the conversation on your little one―their likes, dislikes, goals, or even just craziest dreams―you teach them that their perspective matters and that you are their biggest fan.

12. Turn a bad day around

Not every magical moment will start from something good. But the days where things don't go to plan can often turn out to be the greatest memories, especially when you find a way to turn even a negative experience into a positive memory. So don't get discouraged if you wake up to rain clouds on your beach day or drop the eggs on the floor before breakfast―take a cue from Mary Poppins and find a way to turn the whole day a little "turtle."

Mary Poppins Returns available now on Digital & out on Blue-ray March 19! Let the magic begin in your house with a night where everything is possible—even the impossible ✨

After a pregnancy that is best described as uncomfortable, Jessica Simpson is finally done "Jess-tating" and is now a mama of three.

Baby Birdie Mae Johnson joined siblings Ace and Maxwell on Tuesday, March 19, Simpson announced via Instagram.

Simpson's third child weighed in at 10 pounds, 13 ounces.

Birdie's name is no surprise to Jessica's Instagram followers, who saw numerous references to the name in her baby shower photos and IG stories in the last few weeks.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to experts.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

At this moment in time, Simpson and her husband, former NFL player Eric Johnson, are probably busy counting little fingers and toes , which is great news because it means Simpson's toes can finally deflate. She's had a terrible time with swollen feet during this pregnancy, and was also hospitalized multiple times due to bronchitis in her final trimester.

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We're so glad to see Simpson's little Birdie has finally arrived!

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Spring is officially here and if you're looking for a way to celebrate the change in the season, why not treat the kids to some ice cream, mama?

DQ locations across the country (but not the ones in malls) are giving away free small vanilla cones today, March 20! So pack up the kids and get to a DQ near you.

And if you can't make it today, from March 21 through March 31, DQ's got a deal where small cones will be just 50 cents (but you have to download the DQ mobile app to claim that one).

Another chain, Pennsylvania-based Rita's Italian Ice is also dishing up freebies today, so if DQ's not your thing you can grab a free cup of Italian ice instead.

We're so excited that ice cream season is here and snowsuit season is behind us. Just a few short weeks and the kids will be jumping through the sprinklers.

Welcome back, spring. We've missed you!

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The woman who basically single-handedly taught the world to embrace vulnerability and imperfection is coming to Netflix and we cannot wait to binge whatever Brené Brown's special will serve up because we'll probably be better people after watching it.

It drops on April 19 and is called Brené Brown: The Call to Courage. If it has even a fraction of the impact of her books or the viral Ted talk that made her a household name, it's going to be life and culture changing.

Announcing the special on Instagram Brown says she "cannot believe" she's about to be "breaking some boundaries over at Netflix" with the 77-minute special.

Netflix describes the special as a discussion of "what it takes to choose courage over comfort in a culture defined by scarcity, fear and uncertainty" and it sounds exactly like what we need right now.

April 19 is still pretty far away though, so if you need some of Brown's wisdom now, check out her books on Amazon or watch (or rewatch) the 2010 Ted Talk that put her—and our culture's relationship with vulnerability and shame—in the national spotlight.

The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown

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If Marie Kondo's Netflix show got people tidying up, Brown's Netflix special is sure to be the catalyst for some courageous choices this spring.

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My husband and I recently had a date night that included being away from our son overnight for the first time since he was born three years ago (but don't let your heads run away with a fantasy—we literally slept because we were exhausted #thisiswhatwecallfunnow). It was a combination of a late night work event, a feeling that we had to do something just for the two of us, and simple convenience. It would have taken hours to get home from the end of a very long day when we could just check into a hotel overnight and get home early the next day.

But before that night, I fretted about what to do. How would childcare work? No one besides me or my husband has put our son to bed, and we have never not been there when he wakes up in the morning.

Enter: Grandma.

I knew if there was any chance of this being successful, the only person that could pull it off is one of my son's favorite people—his grandmother. Grammy cakes. Gramma. We rely so much on these extended support systems to give us comfort and confidence as parents and put our kids at ease. Technically, we could parent without their support, but I'm so glad we don't have to.

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So as we walked out the door, leaving Grandma with my son for one night, I realized how lucky we are that she gets it...

She gets it because she always comes bearing delicious snacks. And usually a small toy or crayons in her bag for just the right moment when it's needed.

She gets it because she comes with all of the warmth and love of his parents but none of the baggage. None of the first time parent jitters and all of the understanding that most kids just have simple needs: to eat, play and sleep.

She gets it because she understands what I need too. The reassurance that my baby will be safe. And cared for.

She gets it because she's been in my shoes before. Decades ago, she was a nervous new mama too and felt the same worries. She's been exactly where we are.

She gets it because she shoos us away as we nervously say goodbye, calling out cheerfully, "Have fun, I've got this." And I know that she does.

She gets it because she will get down on the floor with him to play Legos—even though sometimes it's a little difficult to get back up.

She gets it because she will fumble around with our AppleTV—so different from her remote at home—to find him just the right video on Youtube that he's looking for.

She gets it because she diligently takes notes when we go through the multi-step bedtime routine that we've elaborately concocted, passing no judgment, and promising that she'll follow along as best as she can.

She gets it because she'll break the routine and lay next to him in bed when my son gets upset, singing softly in his ear until she sees his eyelids droop heavy and finally fall asleep.

She gets it because she'll text us to let us know when he's fallen asleep because she knows we'll be wondering.

She gets it because just like our son trusts us as his mom and dad, Grandma is his safe space. My son feels at ease with her—and that relaxes me, too.

She gets it because when we come home from our "big night out" the house will be clean. Our toddler's play table that always has some sort of sticky jelly residue on it will be spotless. The dishwasher empty. (Side note: She is my hero.)

She gets it because she shows up whenever we ask. Even when it means having to rearrange her schedule. Even when it means she has to sleep in our home instead of her own.

She gets it because even though she has her own life, she makes sure to be as involved in ours as she can. But that doesn't mean she gives unsolicited advice. It means that she's there. She comes to us or lets us come to her. Whenever we need her.

She gets it because she takes care of us, too. She's there to chat with at the end of a long day. To commiserate on how hard motherhood and working and life can be, but to also gently remind me, "These are the best days."

After every time Grandma comes over, she always leaves a family that feels so content. Fulfilled by her presence. The caretaking and nourishment (mental and food-wise) and warmth that accompanies her.

We know this is a privilege. We know we're beyond lucky that she is present and wants to be involved and gets it. We know that sometimes life doesn't work out like this and sometimes Grandma lives far away or is no longer here, or just doesn't get it. So we hold on. And appreciate every moment.

As Grandma leaves, I hug her tight and tell her, "I can't thank you enough. We couldn't have done this without you." Because we can't. And we wouldn't want to.

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