My favorite part of the day is when I get to sit and read with my kids

Reading is our daily escape to a magical world—together.

My favorite part of the day is when I get to sit and read with my kids

In a busy world filled with screens, reading to my kids is a daily ritual I prioritize and cherish. Our nightly reading time takes center stage for many reasons, but mainly because it is our special time together—no interruptions, no work, no sibling quibbles. Just the magic of being immersed in a good story.

Reading is one of my earliest memories of childhood and my own parenting career thus far. As new parents, my husband and I read countless studies on the benefits of reading aloud to babies. So we started reading to our children even when they were tiny infants.


Initially our motivation for our daily read-aloud to our pint-sized (mostly sleeping) babies—and later, squirmy toddlers—was centered around building their vocabularies and fostering their curiosity about the world around them. But as the years passed, reading with our girls became so much more.

Reading is our daily escape to a magical world—together. It’s an opportunity for snuggles and meaningful, deep (sometimes spirited) discussions. It is our chance to see the world from their perspective, but also to impart a bit of worldly knowledge to them in a safe environment.

Though the nights of those early childhood reading sessions blur together (we questioned how many times we could read Moo Baa La La or Brown Bear, Brown Bear “just one more time” without going insane…), nine years later, the magic that is our daily reading time remains. It provides comfort to us all.

We collectively reflect on our busy days as we snuggle in bed to be reunited with our favorite characters. Our kids may have graduated from the likes of Eric Carle’s iconic board books, but their voracious appetite for reading remains. We often hear “just one more book” and also catch my older daughter under the covers with a flashlight on a regular basis. Though we don’t always give in, I secretly *love* the additional story requests and even the sneaking books under the covers. (But shh, don’t tell my oldest—she’d never go to sleep!)

Speaking of my firstborn, as I’m writing this, she is reading the fifth book in the Harry Potter series. Harry and his friends have played a large part in our lives these past months. What my daughter does not realize, however, is that I use the Hogwarts crew for IRL teachable moments.

I eagerly jump on the opportunity to talk about friendships, bullying, courage and loyalty while weaving in examples from my daughter’s experiences. She opens up about her day in a whole different way than at our dinner table.

The power of books and my family’s love of reading has impacted our lives in other meaningful ways, too. Perhaps most important, books expand our view of the world. After reading I Dissent about Ruth Bader Ginsburg with my first grader and discussing the obstacles the respected Supreme Court judge, and women, in general, have faced (and are still facing), I got a note from her teacher the next day.

Unbeknownst to me, my youngest brought the book to class and gave an impassioned speech to her classmates about the importance of women’s rights. My husband and I shed a few happy tears reading the teacher’s email detailing our little activist’s spontaneous urge to teach her classmates about right and wrong. I’m not going to lie. My heart nearly exploded I was so happy. I delighted in this proud parenting moment.

Brava, my fierce and fearless little girl! And thank you, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for inspiring a beautiful book and for giving little girls like my 6-year-old a voice.

I know the day will come when my girls turn into sullen teenagers who will not want to read aloud with us anymore. I will mourn that day but take comfort in knowing that as parents, we prepared our girls to always find joy in reading. The magic of books will take them on many adventures—with or without us reading them together.

So mama, find the books your kiddos love and read aloud (even if it has to be the same book a dozen times back-to-back). I promise you; it’s worth *every minute.*

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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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