How to turn your backyard into a Montessori-inspired play space

Learning doesn't require tons of money.

Montessori-inspired backyard

Outdoor play time can help your child focus on new and exciting experiences in nature. Whether it's filling a bucket with rocks to carry around the yard and exert maximum energy or planting some seeds to watch them grow, setting up a Montessori-inspired outdoor play space provides a rich environment for fun and learning.

But don't overthink it, mama. A Montessori space can be organized and set up similar to an indoor play space with a few adjustments for size and safety. Some families like to have exposed shelves on a patio to store just a few items at a time while other designate bins or lower areas of a shed for their little ones toys and materials.

Here are a few ideas to create a Montessori-inspired outdoor space from Zahra Kassam, CEO and founder of Monti Kids:

1. Create a garden

From planting herbs and flowers to complex vegetables and trees, gardening is a great way to help kids appreciate the greenery around them. A study found that a healing garden at a children's hospital in California had positive effects on users—about 85% reported feeling more relaxed, refreshed or better able to cope after spending only five minutes in the garden.

"Gardening is a wonderful lesson on the power of nature but also in patience and care, says Kassam. "Invest in child-sized watering cans and tools."

2. Create access to water

Children learn through exploration and experience, and water is the perfect tool to explore. Having a watering can and water table for scooping, pouring, dumping, spraying and staying cool is the goal for fun in the sun. "You can also encourage water exploration with a hose on a safe setting, or even a jug of water that is refilled by you," says Kassam.

But whatever type of water play you decide, remember to be safe. According to the AAP, parents need to ensure "close, constant, attentive supervision around water [and assign] an adult 'water watcher,' who should not be distracted by work, socializing, or chores."

3. Play in sand

A sand area with buckets, shovels and trucks are also great for entertainment and child-lead learning. "Put that interest in building and creativity to work," says Kassam. "Sand is a great outlet for sensory fun with a different medium."

4. Create a mud kitchen

Mud may sound like a mess you'll want to avoid, but it's great to create an "anything goes" space, says Kassam. "Put the water and sand together and it's a great foundation to build, mix, scoop, dump and pour," she says.

5. Encourage play with gross motor toys

Push toys, ride on cars, big trucks, rakes, wheelbarrows, balls and slides are perfect for developing gross motor skills. If you have the space, create "parking spots" with tape or chalk lines for each one, says Kassam.

Editor pick: iimo 3-in-1 folding tricycle with canopy

6. Have many yard tools

A child-sized broom for sweeping sand and debris, a rake for sticks, leaves and a shovel for digging, planting and worm hunting (and shoveling snow in the winter!) will be staples in your outdoor space for years to come, says Kassam.

7. Play with art

According to Kassam, you'll want to regularly keep large paint brushes and a container for water to paint the patio, fence or sidewalk on hand. It's also great to have a bucket of sidewalk chalk to help your little one to find an outlet for their creative side while enjoying the outdoors.

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

23 kid-approved lunch ideas you'll want to steal

Looking for some tried-and-true lunch time suggestions? We've got you covered, mama.

mrs/Getty Images

Whether your little one will eat anything you put in front of them or prefers to stick to their favorite foods, coming up with healthy lunch ideas for your kids every day can be stressful. We're here to help. That's why we're rounding up some fun, healthy meals for you to try. Many of these feature leftovers or options you can make without cooking anything new.

We hope you'll find some great ways to help make lunchtime fun in your house. Whether it's a new idea for a wrap or simply a snack that your child has yet to try, read on for 20+ great lunch ideas for kids.


A version of this story was published in July 2021. It has been updated.

Food

12 baby registry essentials for family adventures

Eager to get out and go? Start here

Ashley Robertson / @ashleyrobertson

Parenthood: It's the greatest adventure of all. From those first few outings around the block to family trips at international destinations, there are new experiences to discover around every corner. As you begin the journey, an adventurous spirit can take you far—and the best baby travel gear can help you go even farther.

With car seats, strollers and travel systems designed to help you confidently get out and go on family adventures, Maxi-Cosi gives you the support you need to make the memories you want.

As a mom of two, Ashley Robertson says she appreciates how Maxi-Cosi products can grow with her growing family. "For baby gear, safety and ease are always at the top of our list, but I also love how aesthetically pleasing the Maxi Cosi products are," she says. "The Pria Car Seat was our first purchase and it's been so nice to have a car seat that 'grows' with your child. It's also easy to clean—major bonus!"

If you have big dreams for family adventures, start by exploring these 12 baby registry essentials.

Tayla™️ XP Travel System

Flexibility is key for successful family adventures. This reversible, adjustable, all-terrain travel system delivers great versatility. With the included Coral XP Infant Car Seat that fits securely in the nesting system, you can use this stroller from birth.


Add to Babylist

$849.99

Iora Bedside Bassinet

Great for use at home or for adventures that involve a night away, the collapsible Iora Bedside Bassinet gives your baby a comfortable, safe place to snooze. With five different height positions and three slide positions, this bassinet can fit right by your bedside. The travel bag also makes it easy to take on the go.


Add to Babylist

$249.99

Kori 2-in-1 Rocker

Made with high-quality, soft materials, the foldable Kori Rocker offers 2-in-1 action by being a rocker or stationary seat. It's easy to move around the home, so you can keep your baby comfortable wherever you go. With a slim folded profile, it's also easy to take along on adventures so your baby always has a seat of their own.


Add to Babylist

$119.99

Minla 6-in-1 High Chair

A high chair may not come to mind when you're planning ahead for family adventures. But, as the safest spot for your growing baby to eat meals, it's worth bringing along for the ride. With compact folding ability and multiple modes of use that will grow with your little one, it makes for easy cargo.


Add to Babylist

$219.99

Coral XP Infant Car Seat

With the inner carrier weighing in at just 5 lbs., this incredibly lightweight infant car seat means every outing isn't also an arm workout for you. Another feature you won't find with other infant car seats? In addition to the standard carry bar, the Coral XP can be carried with a flexible handle or cross-body strap.


Add to Babylist

$399.99

Pria™️ All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

From birth through 10 years, this is the one and only car seat you need. It works in rear-facing, forward-facing and, finally, booster mode. Comfortable and secure for every mile of the journey ahead, you can feel good about hitting the road for family fun.


Add to Babylist

$289.99

Pria™️ Max All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

Want to skip the wrestling match with car seat buckles? The brilliant Out-of-the-Way harness system and magnetic chest clip make getting your child in and out of their buckles as cinch. This fully convertible car seat is suitable for babies from 4 lbs. through big kids up to 100 lbs. With washer-and-dryer safe cushions and dishwasher safe cup holders, you don't need to stress the mess either.


Add to Babylist

$329.99

Tayla Modular Lightweight Stroller

With four reclining positions, your little ones can stay content—whether they want to lay back for a little shut-eye or sit up and take in the view. Also reversible, the seat can be turned outward or inward if you want to keep an eye on your adventure buddy. Need to pop it in the trunk or take it on the plane? The stroller easily and compactly folds shut.


Add to Babylist
$499.99

Tayla Travel System

This car seat and stroller combo is the baby travel system that will help make your travel dreams possible from Day 1. The Mico XP infant seat is quick and easy to install into the stroller or car. Skipping the car seat? The reversible stroller seat is a comfortable way to take in the scenery.


Add to Babylist
$699.99

Modern Diaper Bag

When you need to change a diaper during an outing, the last thing you'll want to do is scramble to find one. The Modern Diaper Bag will help you stay organized for brief outings or week-long family vacations. In addition to the pockets and easy-carry strap, we love the wipeable diaper changing pad, insulated diaper bag and hanging toiletry bag.


Add to Babylist

$129.99

Mico XP Max Infant Car Seat

Designed for maximum safety and comfort from the very first day, this infant car seat securely locks into the car seat base or compatible strollers. With a comfy infant pillow and luxe materials, it also feels as good for your baby as it looks to you. Not to mention the cushions are all machine washable and dryable, which is a major win for you.


Add to Babylist
$299.99

Adorra™️ 5-in-1 Modular Travel System

From carriage mode for newborn through world-view seated mode for bigger kids, this 5-in-1 children's travel system truly will help make travel possible. We appreciate the adjustable handlebar, extended canopy with UV protection and locking abilities when it's folded. Your child will appreciate the plush cushions, reclining seat and smooth ride.


Add to Babylist
$599.99

Ready for some family adventures? Start by exploring Maxi-Cosi.

This article was sponsored by Maxi-Cosi. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Boost 1

This incredibly soft comforter from Sunday Citizen is like sleeping on a cloud

My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

When it comes to getting a good night's sleep, there are many factors that, as a mama, are hard to control. Who's going to wet the bed at 3 am, how many times a small person is going to need a sip of water, or the volume of your partner's snoring are total wildcards.

One thing you can control? Tricking out your bed to make it as downright cozy as possible. (And in these times, is there anywhere you want to be than your bed like 75% of the time?)

I've always been a down comforter sort of girl, but after a week of testing the ridiculously plush and aptly named Snug Comforter from Sunday Citizen, a brand that's run by "curators of soft, seekers of chill" who "believe in comfort over everything," it's safe to say I've been converted.


Honestly, it's no wonder. Originally designed as a better blanket for luxury hotels and engineered with textile experts to create this uniquely soft fabric, it has made my bed into the vacation I so desperately want these days.

The comforter is made up of two layers. On one side is their signature knit "snug" fabric which out-cozies even my most beloved (bought on sale) cashmere sweater. The other, a soft quilted microfiber. Together, it creates a weighty blanket that's as soothing to be under as it is to flop face-first into at the end of an exhausting day. Or at lunch. No judgement.

Miraculously, given the weight and construction, it stays totally breathable and hasn't left me feeling overheated even on these warm summer nights with just a fan in the window.

Beyond being the absolute most comfortable comforter I've found, it's also answered my minimalist bed making desires. Whether you opt to use it knit or quilted side up, it cleanly pulls the room together and doesn't wrinkle or look unkempt even if you steal a quick nap on top of it.

Also worth noting, while all that sounds super luxe and totally indulgent, the best part is, it's equally durable. It's made to be easily machine washed and come out the other side as radically soft as ever, forever, which totally helps take the sting out of the price tag.

My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

Here is my top pick from Sunday Citizen, along with the super-soft goods I'm coveting for future purchases.

Woodland Snug comforter

Sunday-Citizen-Woodland-Snug-comforter

The bedroom anchor I've been looking for— the Snug Comforter.

$249

Braided Pom Pom Throw

Because this degree of coziness needs portability, I'm totally putting the throw version on my list. It's washable, which is a must-have given my shedding dog and two spill-prone kiddos who are bound to fight over it during family movie night.

$145

Lumbar pillow

sunday-citizen-lumbar-pillow

What's a cozy bed without a pile of pillows?

$65

Crystal infused sleep mask

sunday citizen sleep mask

Promoting sleep by creating total darkness and relaxation, I've bookmarked as my go-to gift for fellow mamas.

$40

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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15 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are 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 indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Stomp Racers

As longtime fans of Stomp Rockets, we're pretty excited about their latest launch–Stomp Racers. Honestly, the thrill of sending things flying through the air never gets old. Parents and kids alike can spend hours launching these kid-powered cars which take off via a stompable pad and hose.

$19.99

Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

Tiny thrill-seekers will love this kid-powered coaster which will send them (safely) sailing across the backyard or play space. The durable set comes with a high back coaster car and 10.75 feet of track, providing endless opportunities for developing gross motor skills, balance and learning to take turns. The track is made up of three separate pieces which are easy to assemble and take apart for storage (but we don't think it will be put away too often!)

$139

Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Stepping Stones

Stepping-stones

Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Sand play set

B. toys Wagon & Beach Playset - Wavy-Wagon Red

For the littlest ones, it's easy to keep it simple. Take their sand box toys and use them in the bath! This 12-piece set includes a variety of scoops, molds and sifters that can all be stored in sweet little wagon.

$17.95

Sensory play set

kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

Filled with sand or water, this compact-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.

$19.95

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

Foam pogo stick

Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

$16.99

Dumptruck 

green-toys-dump-truck

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

$22

Hopper ball

Hopper ball

Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

$14.99

Pull-along ducks

janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

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.

$16.99

Rocking chair seesaw

Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

$79.99

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.

$79.99

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.

$24.75

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

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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How the Teal Pumpkin Project helps *every* kid enjoy Halloween

Keep Halloween safe for all kids—even those with food allergies.

EvgeniiAnd/Getty

From the moment Cora learned she was pregnant, she began to daydream about her child—trips to the park, Saturday morning cuddles, the magic of holidays—she was so excited for all of it.

On a chilly October morning, Cora gave birth to her healthy, beautiful little girl. Her daydream was now her most perfect reality. But like all parents, Cora worried. She worried about developmental milestones, finding the right school district and making sure her daughter ate enough vegetables.

But unlike most parents, Cora has an additional worry—her daughter is allergic to nuts.


An aspect of life that so many of us take completely for granted is constantly on Cora's mind. She has to call ahead of every birthday party to see if they are planning on serving anything with nuts. She has to repeatedly remind her child's daycare that even if “peanuts" isn't in the ingredient list, the snack bar may have come in contact with peanut dust in the factory.

And instead of looking forward to Halloween with joy and eagerness, she has to brace herself for the nervousness it inevitably causes—how is her daughter going to safely Trick-or-Treat, and enjoy the holiday?

One out of every 13 children has a food allergy. The most common allergens include nuts, eggs, dairy, soy, wheat and seafood, though there are many other possibilities as well.

Holidays and celebrations like Halloween are so difficult for these children and families.

Teal Pumpkin Project to the rescue.

The Teal Pumpkin Project was created in 2014 in response to the growing number of children with allergies. It promotes awareness and safety by encouraging everyone to offer non-food treats for trick-or-treaters.

Not only does this support children with allergies, it also makes sure that children with other conditions—diabetes, feeding tubes, celiac disease and more—to participate in Halloween safely, and free from judgment.

And here's the good news—it's so easy to join in.

  • Fill a separate bowl (so it doesn't touch the candy) with non-food treats—stickers, bubbles, pencils, glow sticks are a few ideas.
  • Put a teal colored pumpkin in front of your home to let trick-or-treaters know you offer food-free treats (I bought a fake pumpkin at my local craft store, and painted it teal. I store it with the Halloween decorations, and pull it out year after year!)
  • If you can't make a teal pumpkin, you can print out this free sign and hang it on your door.
  • Encourage your neighbors and friends to join the movement.

Remember, we're all in this together.

Participating in the the Teal Pumpkin Project does more than allow kids to have a fun, safe and memorable Halloween. It shows them that they matter. It shows their parents that they are not alone.

For more information on how to support the Teal Pumpkin Project and how to participate safely, please visit their website.

Halloween

75 powerful baby names that mean strength

Having a baby during a pandemic calls for a name that says, "I can do hard things."

Getty

Parenthood is a test of emotional and physical strength like none other—and every baby born during the pandemic is a testament to the incredible strength and powerful resilience of motherhood. Baby names that mean "strong," "mighty" or "powerful" feel uniquely appropriate in 2020.

You may be hoping that your child inherits the personal strength of you or a loved one, or that they boast the inner strength to overcome any obstacle life may throw their way. While the word "strong" itself might not be the ideal name, there are plenty of baby names that mean strong that fit the hopes and dreams you have for your newborn.

Whether you're looking for something outside of the box, or something more common, this list of baby names that mean "strong" is packed with inspiration.


10 popular baby girl names that mean strong

These baby girl names meaning "strong," "strength" and "power" rank in the top 1,000 names for girls.

  1. Andrea
  2. Audrey
  3. Briana
  4. Bridget
  5. Briella
  6. Gabriella
  7. Matilda
  8. Valentina
  9. Valerie
  10. Valeria

10 popular baby boy names that mean strong

Baby boy names with the meaning "strong," "powerful" or "strength" are always popular—these currently rank in the top 1,000 names for boys.

  1. Andrew
  2. Brian
  3. Denzel
  4. Ethan
  5. Ezekiel
  6. Gabriel
  7. Garrett
  8. Harvey
  9. Kenzo
  10. Valentino

25 unique baby girl names that mean strong

Less common but still powerful and beautiful, these girl names that mean "strength," "mighty" or "power" include vintage-sounding names ripe for a comeback, like Maude and Trudy, as well as modern-sounding names with strong meanings, like Bree, Aila and Bali.

  1. Adira
  2. Aila
  3. Asta
  4. Audra
  5. Bali
  6. Bedelia
  7. Bidu
  8. Bree
  9. Britta
  10. Drusilla
  11. Fortney
  12. Gertrude
  13. Imara
  14. Imiza
  15. Irie
  16. Isa
  17. Maude
  18. Melisande
  19. Millicent
  20. Philomena
  21. Rainey
  22. Riella
  23. Rita
  24. Trudy
  25. Zenobia

25 unique boy names that mean strong

Looking for an alternative to the perennially-popular boys' names with the meaning "strength"? Some of these boy names that mean strong are old-school favorites that have become less common in recent years (like Gerard and Howard), while some have a more modern feel, like Brycin, Chasin and Fort.

  1. Abelardo
  2. Anders
  3. Arsenio
  4. Azaiah
  5. Bernard
  6. Brycin
  7. Chasin
  8. Conall
  9. Egon
  10. Ermentrude
  11. Fort
  12. Gavi
  13. Gerard
  14. Howard
  15. Kwan
  16. Mandla
  17. Maynard
  18. Osiris
  19. Oz
  20. Uzi
  21. Uziah
  22. Valens
  23. Warrick
  24. Zane
  25. Zeke

10 gender-neutral baby names that mean strong

Whether given to a boy or a girl, these gender-neutral names that mean "strength" evoke power and resilience.

  1. Baldwin
  2. Barrett
  3. Dree
  4. Drew
  5. Evander
  6. Everett
  7. Griffin
  8. Kiah
  9. Quillon
  10. Zale
Celebrate the strength of motherhood

Mina Baie mama adult tee

Because comfort just became a priority in your daily style. Composed of 100% cotton, this simple tee is soft, breathable, and essential for the on-the-move mama. Wear your new title for the world to see.

$49

Mama necklace

Mama necklace

What was intended to be a small gift from a mom to a fellow new mama, quickly grew into a signature piece with a following of its own: The "MAMA" necklace in 14K gold.

$360

Motherly “I Am Enough” cuff bracelet - adult

Motherly \u201cI Am Enough\u201d cuff bracelet - adult

Dealing with a tough pregnancy? Remember, "I am enough." Need help reframing and comforting your mind during birth? Remember, "I am enough." Questioning yourself as a mother? Once again, remember, "I am enough." It's hard to remember what we and our bodies are capable of; let this Oath Bracelet empower you to believe that you truly are enough.

$35
Unique Baby Names