What it’s *really* like trying to clean with kids around

Okay, I’ll admit it—and everyone who knows me will confirm—I am a NEAT FREAK. So much so, that I find cleaning therapeutic. I know…not everyone can relate. ?

Sadly, my children do not share my love for cleaning. They more so enjoy jumping in piles of clean laundry that need to be folded, using five dishes for one meal or dripping glue all over the craft table. Even my husband grumbles that we ‘live in a museum’ on days when my need for cleaning reaches a *certain* threshold.

Though cleaning may or may not be your thing, I’m willing to bet you are painfully familiar with the concept of trying to clean while your kids make a game out of following you around from room-to-room undoing your hard work. This seems to happen at my house on a regular basis.

Smudges on freshly cleaned windows and mirrors? Check.

Spilling flour related to an impromptu kitchen experiment after the counters have just been cleaned with granite sealant? Yep.

Dumping ALL the Legos in the middle of the living room floor after I just finished vacuuming? “But moooooom, you’ve already vacuumed, so we can play here now!”

Knocking over a pile of perfectly folded laundry because they’re “helping.” Been there.

Asking (very nicely, of course) for them to not touch the cleaning solution spray bottles as you try to scrub the bathroom. 100%.

Or my personal favorite—wearing an outfit for *literally* 15 minutes around the house, then deciding it’s not the right “look” and throwing everything into the laundry bin. (Seriously?!)

I could honestly keep going for days.

Bottom line: Cleaning with kids can be maddening and can push even the strongest mama over the edge. (No wonder there are so many memes on the subject! ?)

Some days I get so frustrated, I question whether there is even a point. I often think that maybe I should just give up cleaning until my kids leave for college…

But eventually, I get a grip and take a deep breath. Because I know myself. I know that clutter makes me anxious and I know I’m happier when my house looks clean. (Yay for self-awareness!) So I often get into my daily zen space and spend 15 minutes tidying up after they go to bed. Sometimes this just works best.

But let me hit you with the real talk.

While I happen to enjoy cleaning, I also realize that I’m ‘mom,’ not ‘maid’ to my children. To keep my sanity (and also to prepare my girls for the real world where others will not be cleaning up after them), I have transferred ownership of various age-appropriate chores to my little ladies.

They are expected to make their beds in the morning, load and unload the dishwasher, help fold and put away their clean laundry, to name a few tasks. (They are six and nine.) They groan and grumble. And the eye rolls! They could win Oscars for best dramatic performance with those.

But when it all gets to be a bit much, I put on the Trolls soundtrack, and we dance while we fold laundry together. Voila! Instant fun and quality time with your kids. ?

And while everyone (reluctantly) participates in keeping our home reasonably clean, I must say—I really look forward to Wednesdays every other week when my amazing cleaning lady transforms our house into a clean, lavender-scented retreat. I get to revel in the joy of a spotless house for two blissful hours before my cute little Ambassadors of Mess arrive.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve had to work on striking a balance between my high standards for cleanliness and the rest of my families’ lower standards. Because my kids are exploring and creating and playing and, well...being kids.

Kids don’t seem to see messes—they see opportunities for fun!

They don’t always see piles of things—they see more things to take out!

They don’t necessarily see the tidiness as we do—they just see their home. The place where they feel safe and comfortable and happy to play in.

To this day, maintaining cleanliness for longer than just a few hours seems impossible with kids. But there are lots of things that seem impossible as moms, right? And yet, we power through and find a way to rise to the challenge to get the task done.

And hey, if all else fails, it’s also *totally* okay to watch an episode of Hoarders just to feel like your house is spotless in comparison! We won’t tell. ?

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

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!


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.


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.


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.


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Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.

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