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Vacation is a great way to break out of routine, experience a new place and embrace some adventure. At the same time, small children crave routine and order, so it can be a tricky balance to introduce them to new things outside of their normal life, while also keeping them comfortable and relatively happy.

The Montessori way can help your kids feel a sense of normalcy in a new environment, while also encouraging them to get excited about the adventure you're about to take.

Here are some Montessori-inspired strategies to keep in mind as you plan your summer vacation.

1. Include them in planning

Involve your child in planning your trip, to whatever extent he is capable of helping. A 1-year-old can help you place his diapers in his bag or choose three books for the plane, while a 12-year-old can help design a trip budget or map out a driving route.

In Montessori schools, children are frequently involved in planning field trips and class trips. They take responsibility for things like raising funds for souvenir money, helping select the destination, and budgeting their own food and spending money while on the trip.

Involving your child in planning will give him a sense of responsibility, and a sense that he is a valuable part of the trip community. It will also make him more likely to cooperate with things you want to do if he knows that his top choices also made the itinerary.

2. Share the details

No matter what her age, talk to your child about what will happen during your vacation. Don't stop at, "We're going to see Mickey!" Share the nitty-gritty logistics. Tell her what time your flight is, what you'll need to do to get ready to leave for the airport, and what you'll do first when you arrive at your destination.

This type of detail may seem boring, but children are more successful with breaks in routine if they have fair warning and know what to expect. Talking through what the next day will look like can go a long way toward easing any anxiety your child is experiencing by being in a new place.

3. Enable independence

Montessori highly values encouraging children to be independent. This means letting them dress themselves as soon as they can, putting their toys within their reach, and constantly searching for ways they can participate in the community.

Traveling often leads to parents doing everything for their children, likely because it brings on added stresses and time constraints. Try to set your child up for independence on your trip as much as you can. He will have a better experience, and you will be freer to enjoy the trip as well.

Help him pack his own carry on bag and practice how to unzip it himself if he's still learning that skill. That way he won't be reliant on you to constantly pass him snacks and books.

If you have space in your hotel room or rental house, designate an area for your child's things and help him organize them. This allows him to access his own clothes and toys in one spot, providing a little bit of order, which can be very comforting to a young child.

4. Allow for free time

Schedule in some downtime every day. In fact, it is often best to plan one activity and leave the rest of the day open. While it may be tempting to try to pack in all the fun on a vacation, no one is going to enjoy it if your child is overstimulated or overtired.

It may seem silly to spend your vacation at a playground or reading books together, but children need a little extra time to unwind and release their energy.

5. Get outside every day

Montessori places a strong emphasis on giving children time in nature. Many schools have an outdoor component to the classroom, as well as natural elements integrated throughout the classroom.

Nature gives children rich sensory experiences that can't be matched by even the coolest sensory bin. It gives children the chance to explore more freely, without being shushed or constantly told what to do.

Even if your destination is not nature-focused, search to see if there are any state parks nearby or on the way. This might easily become your child's favorite part of the trip. If that's not possible, spend some time at the playground, or look for a rental house with a fenced in yard so your child can stretch his legs and spend some time in the fresh air.

6. Bring open-ended toys

While it's certainly not necessary to bring a lot of toys with you, it can be really helpful to bring a few open-ended toys. This is especially true if you have a child who wakes up early and you'll have a couple of hours in the hotel room before your day begins.

Creative-minded toys, like blocks or simple art supplies, don't just occupy your child, they also provide a wonderful imaginative outlet.

7. Follow your child, not the schedule

Even if the best children's museum or zoo in the country is on your itinerary, your child (and likely you) will not really enjoy it if she's tired or hungry or just plain overstimulated and done with activities.

Try making a loose itinerary, more of a list of possible activities to enjoy together rather than a schedule. Take a few minutes to observe your child before you decide what to do next—observing children is an integral part of Montessori. While you play and interact with your child constantly, surveying their play is a little bit different. It means fading into the background, quietly watching your child with the intent of gaining insight into her current mood or development or capabilities.

Using this strategy on vacation will help you best gauge what your child is up for and able to handle on that particular day, even if it means the zoo has to wait in favor of a good nap.

You certainly don't need to plan your summer vacation solely around your child, mama. It's your well-earned vacation too and you should include plenty of things that will be fun for you!

The truth is though, no one is going to enjoy time away from the house if your child is miserable. Taking some time to think about what he can successfully handle and what he needs to recharge each day will go a long way toward making your next vacation what it should be—full of happy family memories, relaxation, and a little adventure.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.

Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

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

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Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"

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During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)


Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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