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You don’t need to spend more money on your kids—just spend time

I would much prefer my babies have the childhoods of past generations: The simplified, easy days with nothing to do but be a kid.

You don’t need to spend more money on your kids—just spend time

Sometimes I think back to the stories my parents would tell me about their own childhoods: How they played outside in the summers until the street lights signaled it was time to go inside. The adventures their parents took them on—with everyone loaded into the back of a station wagon and plenty of stops at unique attractions. The simple joys of life in the days when practicing minimalism with your family was just the norm.


Nowadays I feel like we are forever missing the small moments—the moments that our kids will cherish forever.

The world we live in is changing so quickly that it’s often hard to keep up. As a parent, I feel that I’m sucked into this modern-day lifestyle without having time to agree with it.

No, I would much prefer my babies have the childhoods of past generations: The simplified, easy days with nothing to do but be a kid.

I want my family to focus on the minimal things and embrace the small moments. That’s why my family has really embraced simpler living in the past year—and here’s how we’ve accomplished it...

We spend less money on stuff

This past year we really downsized financially. We moved into a house that was much smaller than our last—and not only cut back on square footage, but our mortgage as well.

Although that was a large step, we noticed that the small steps were actually the ones that had the most impact on our lives: We stopped eating out so frequently, I quit making my weekly runs to target (unless I needed something of use) and we basically just stopped blowing money on useless things. If something wasn’t a necessity, then why were we spending money on it?

In place of those things, we started focusing on our time: I would take my little guy to the park instead of Target, and let him get some fresh air and pack a few snacks to munch on while we were there.

Something like this was much more meaningful than dragging him to Target and to the toy aisle. He didn’t need that. What he needed was my time and not me spending money on him. That wasn’t a lesson I wanted to teach him.

We experience life together

A few times a month we always make time to experience things together. Whether it’s a new fishing hole, a camping trip or even a new corner of our city, we make time do just do something as a family—and I can tell you that some of our best memories have come from those times.

We play more

Playing with my little guy more often has made such a difference in his overall mood. I know things have to get done and I completely understand that, but taking some time out of our day to just play and imagine with him makes him light up.

Lately, after dinner, we’ve been breaking out the Yahtzee game. A few daily hours of play are good for the family’s soul! (And it’s just as fun as I remembered.)

We make things

Sharing the art of making something with our children is such a valuable life skill. Whether it’s a craft, a new recipe, a blanket fort or even some handy garage work, making something with our children teaches them skills while they have fun.

Lately, we’ve been on a big chocolate chip cookie and homemade popsicle kick. The treats are much more appetizing and fun than the store bought ones—and my kids will be professional bakers before long! ?

We cherish ordinary, everyday events

Whether it’s admiring the sunset, stargazing or catching fireflies, cherishing the things that come daily are so important. Although we may think of them as ordinary, these events teach our kids the value of nature and that happiness is around us each and everyday. And, as for one investment I don’t regret for a second: Last year my little guy got a telescope for his birthday and we often sit in the backyard and watch the stars with it. ?

The effort we’ve put into living more simply has been rewarded so deeply—and in just a short amount of time. Now I know that happiness isn’t about what you have, but who you share it with.

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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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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