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Why we’re asking for experiences, not toys

So please, dear family + friends, know that this message comes from a place of love: No. More. Toys.

I know you love our kids and miss them and want nothing more than to see their eyes light up with love for you.

I know you want to do something that enriches their lives and shows them the simple pleasures of childhood.

So please, dear family + friends, know that this message comes from a place of love: No. More. Toys.

Our kids don't actually need much of any "thing"—they just need our presence, consistent love and guidance.

But maybe your family has gotten here, too. Here's how it happened it ours—

Growing up, my father regaled our family with tales of his humble childhood—he only had a ball and a stick to his name and walked uphill to school both ways and wore the same outfits several times a week. He ate ham sandwiches (every day!) for school lunch and spent his afternoons playing games in his friends' backyards. It was a simple childhood.

But now, this loving grandfather started showing up to visits with armfuls of toys for our kids. He was a one-man Christmas morning, every time he visited.

It sounds like a four-year-old's dream come true—but when it comes to kids and toys, there truly can be too much of a good thing.

When grandpa would come bearing gifts, my kids would quickly open up one box— not even taking the time to enjoy or appreciate it!—before they'd spy the next out of the corner of their eye and aim to rip it open, too. It was like they had an endless appetite for MORE.

Meanwhile, grandpa was perhaps just living *his* childhood dreams—through our kids. He meant well, but he wasn't the only one dropping endless toys in our laps.

Add in excessively indulgent Christmases (they were the only grandkids on both sides.)

Drop in some birthdays.

Add a dash of family friends who can't help but send goodies along to the kids every time we see them.

Add in Happy Meal trinkets, birthday goodie bags, the occasional impulse buy at the checkout line.

Add in 'artwork' that seems to come from everywhere.

Add in stick collections and penny collections and rock collections. "But mom, it's my favorite orange rock!" (You can have a favorite orange rock?)

Our house was TEEMING with toys and stuff. There were half-finished puzzles (the pieces were always missing), books with pages torn out, block sets with essential pieces gone MIA and tent structures with nowhere to stand.

It was all of the work of having toys, but not enough space for the fun.

Most ironic of all? Our playroom was often unusable because—you guessed it!—the toys were E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E and all over the floor, all the time. (No room to play.)

So when we packed up our home earlier this year to settle our family a few states away, we spent weeks doing what we knew we needed to do: We got rid of 75% of the toys we owned.

We brought—honestly—probably 50+ bags/ boxes of "stuff" (toys included) to Goodwill.

(We also got rid of 50% of our own personal possessions—clothes, books, cosmetics—and that felt awesome, too).

It felt amazing to ditch years of junk that had been holding us back.

It felt great to donate hardly-used toys to families that could use them.

And it has been absolutely incredible to see the impact of living with radically less—on me, our home, and especially our kids.

My four-year-old's reading skills have absolutely taken off.

My incredibly rambunctious three-year-old will sit on a couch and stare off into space, quietly contemplating the ending of Paw Patrol, or perhaps Particle Physics, or where do strawberries come from and why do they taste so good? (I consider this emerging introspection in him a major win.)

My one-year-old can be left in our new baby-proofed playroom with little fear that she'll discover some danger amid what used-to-be hundreds of toys. (There is one shelf of toys now, and they're all safe for her.)

I feel good about raising my children in a home that is orderly and purposeful.

I have more energy for work and myself because I don't have to spend all my free time dealing with a house jammed full of stuff.

And thankfully, my family is totally onboard. (It might be because I sent them photos of the dozens of bags and piles of giveaway toys—and they saw their hard-earned money in the 'donate' bin.)

So please, no more random toys for the kids, please. If you really really really want to get something for my kids, I have made a short list.

Here's what my kids really need—

  • New sneakers
  • Swimming lessons
  • An adult to look them in the eyes and talk about anything their little hearts desire (probably 'poop'-related jokes, if I'm honest—they're obsessed)
  • A weekend at grandpa's
  • Art supplies
  • Someone to bring them to the library to return their borrowed books—and get new ones
  • A trip to the playground
  • A movie night
  • Grocery store gift cards. (Real talk: these little kids eat more than I ever imagined possible.)
  • Someone to build blanket forts
  • Ice cream. (Seriously.) It might be messy and sugary but at our house—it doesn't last. Plus, ice cream leaves nothing but sticky fingers, brain freeze and innocent childhood memories—the best gift of all.


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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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Meri Meri: Decor and gifts that bring the wonder of childhood to life

We could not be more excited to bring the magic of Meri Meri to the Motherly Shop. For over 30 years, their playful line of party products, decorations, children's toys and stationery have brought magic to celebrations and spaces all over the world. Staring as a kitchen table endeavor with some scissors, pens and glitter in Los Angeles in 1985, Meri Meri (founder Meredithe Stuart-Smith's childhood nickname) has evolved from a little network of mamas working from home to a team of 200 dreaming up beautiful, well-crafted products that make any day feel special.

We've stocked The Motherly Shop with everything from Halloween must-haves to instant-heirloom gifts kiddos will adore. Whether you're throwing a party or just trying to make the everyday feel a little more special, we've got you covered.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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