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What is the ‘right’ age gap between kids?

There really is no secret sauce to how you choose to space your children. The decision is as individual as each family. What is ideal for one mama is less than ideal for another. But it always seems that no matter the planning (or not planning...surprise babies, ahem, ahem), we always manage.


My husband and I are not over thinkers—we did, after all, get married straight out of college, with no jobs, no money and no clue. Our consideration of family planning amounted to not much more than a vague number of how many kids we wanted (three or four) and a firm number of how many would be too much (six). This left a lot of room in between.

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Having married young, we had much growing up to do—which we did together and individually. After six years of navigating our newlywed ups and downs and packing in as many trips and adventures as we could afford—we were ready.

All geared up for the season of trying, much to our surprise, it happened on the first go. Our thrill and trepidation for our new status—expecting!—did not leave much room for any thoughts of when to plan for baby number two. This state of mind carried on for two more years as we enjoyed, experienced and were exhausted by baby number one.

While discovering who we were as family, we were in no hurry to make another baby. We knew we wanted our first to be a little more autonomous, ambulatory and articulate before we added another so we could try to enjoy our next child in the same manner.

And the longer we watched the nonstop revolving door of care mixed with the lack of sleep associated with the lives of our friends and family who had babies close in age, the more our decision was reinforced to space our brood further apart. It just felt right for us.

It wasn’t until we realized that the farther apart in age our kids would be, the more restrictive it would be to do things together as a family—when they were little and as they got older.

How do we pick a weekend activity that pleases everyone, when one might be bored by the other’s limitations, and the other overwhelmed by the challenges of age-related activities?

What kind of board game do we play that makes everyone happy?

What do we do when our kids are in different schools with different vacation schedules?

How do we manage all the distinct stages at the same time?

And let’s not forget the tandem years of all the stuff—instead of overlapping the years of feedings, diapers, bottles and naps, we were lining them up and creating an arc that would span over a decade.

We decided it was time to giddy up.

Our second was as planned as the first, which is to say, we thought about it and then...it happened. Just like that. This time around we knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into, and We. Could. Not. Wait! All the familiar signs were anticipated with zeal and welcomed with a sly grin that said, oh yes, we know what this is all about. Every step of the way was a walk down memory lane from the previous pregnancy. Every moment savored for the knowledge of how truly special this time in our lives really was.

We enjoyed this second pregnancy and the sharing of it with our first child, she being old enough to understand why Mama’s tummy was growing so big—the extra element of being able to experience a pregnancy through the eyes of an older sibling an added bonus that enriched our journey.

And for us, the three years between our children afforded some modicum—if not illusion—of control, providing some sanity and order that enabled us to weave in other life goals, without maxing out our abilities to cope. If we weren’t the best planners, at least we were good at knowing our limits.

In fact, we were so in our element, we thought there was room for some more expansion. So we remodeled. Twice. And since that was going well, why not throw in grad school? So we did.

Balancing two children who had vastly different needs at three years apart with a full time employment and full time graduate school required a full blown budget, meal plan, sleep schedule and a lot of coffee. (Right?) Suddenly, we were planners—and it was working. So we kept at it. But the longer we carried on, the farther we got from realizing our goal for a larger family.

We were adjusting to the possibility that we might be done. Not really talking about it, but finding ourselves comfortable with the status quo. So the conversation was more about what we weren’t talking about…

…are we done?

…does our family feel complete?

…do we want another?

…can we afford another?

…can either of us manage all the sleepless nights, the diapers, the stuff again?

…being older now, are we comfortable with the risks a pregnancy brings?

The same concerns that compelled us to have our second child did not seem as urgent when we had one of each—a boy and a girl—and we were smooth sailing. Two seemed like a lot. We just couldn’t seem to fit in a third, let alone a fourth. Our proverbial plate was full. And it seemed as though our family was as well.

That’s how six years went by. And then—surprise!—there were three.

I’ve realized over the years that sometimes everything doesn’t go according to the plan, and that’s okay, too. And in this case, it was pretty amazing.

Our journey has allowed us to focus on our children as individuals, without getting lost in the mob of overlapping sibling’s needs and abilities. We have had time to observe and digest what each one has to teach us, and then apply it with the wisdom that distance affords upon the next one in line. Thus refining our skills and avoiding making the same mistakes (apologies to our first born).

We’ve also gotten to savor each one for who and where they are, knowing how fleeting each precious moment is.

Having a surprise pregnancy almost a decade after my first pregnancy was a shock and a blessing. Despite our friends’ incredulity over us restarting the clock so late in our thirties (and so far apart in age from our other two), we thought we would have the best of both worlds. And for us, it has been.

To be honest, we love knowing that when many of our friends become empty nesters, we will still have years at home with our last born.

Looking back, it’s all perfect. Those mental and physical breaks in between pregnancies fortified me for every new challenge life presented. And the years between siblings fortify their bonds in ways we could never have planned.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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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

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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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The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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