A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

We had never heard the name “Elsa” until we had our first baby. Like most new parents, we swore we’d never visit Disney World and pledged to keep any corporate characters out of our home. But, as the months and years passed, Elsa crept in -- along with all her best “corporate character” friends. We wondered where we’d gone wrong, and what we could do about it. Sounds familiar? Handling the corporate character curse is easier than you think, says Allison Klein, early childhood education expert and founder of Rose & Rex, an online toy boutique that specializes in imaginative play. “Find a balance between exposing your child to corporate characters, whose behavior and storyline are predictable, and providing your child with open-ended toys and dolls where the play evolves based on the child’s imagination,” she says. Below, Allison explains how to reverse the Elsa Effect, no matter what stage of corporate character immersion you’re facing, and recommends 5 playtime swapouts that can help put you on the path to imaginative success. 1. Who’s Elsa? I’m still pregnant or my baby is too young to care about corporate characters. Babies begin engaging in sensory play as early as 6 months old, but what we think of as true imaginative play usually begins between 18-24 months old. At this age, imaginative play is particularly essential because children are curious and are naturally using their imaginations as a tool to make sense of the world and process their emotions. The best and easiest way to incorporate more imaginary play is to simply notice and support those beautiful organic moments when your child is pretending. If your child sees a bird and starts flapping his or her arms, ask an open-ended question like, “How do you think it feels to fly?” or “If you could fly, where would you go?” At home, nurture imaginative play by keeping open-ended materials accessible like Play Dough and, for children ages 3+, wooden set of building blocks. The activity of building reinforces cognitive and physical fundamentals. So watch as young children excitedly construct, explore their senses, and create from their own imagination. When it comes to dress-up, choose dolls, plush animals or costumes without pre-determined expressions or identities so children can apply their own. Most importantly, engage in their play! By getting involved, you validate your child’s creative process, reinforce that play is valuable, and open up vital lines of communication. 2. The Occasional Elsa Appearance. My child loves playing Elsa during playdates, requests an Elsa birthday party and opts for Elsa on our monthly family movie nights. The best thing you can do to balance Elsa play, or any corporate character play, is expose your child to a variety of open-ended play opportunities. If your child is beginning to love Elsa, ask yourself why. Do they love Elsa simply because of overexposure or do they resonate with a specific part of her character? Understanding what attracts them to Elsa will help you better understand how to make her a catalyst for imaginative play. For example, if your child is fascinated by Elsa’s ability to freeze people, he or she may be exploring concepts of power and authority. Offer play alternatives that explore the same ideas and help them process their feelings, such as playing school, building a habitat for a powerful animal, pretending to be that powerful animal or creating a magic show. These subtle prompts shift the direction of play toward new possibilities. Make sure to offer open-ended suggestions that encourage original thinking and self-expression, rather than direct ideas for them to create. 3. All Elsa, All the Time. My child only dresses, decorates and requests to be called Elsa. If a child is playing Elsa all the time, a parent may want to consider offering alternative stories and characters—you don’t want your child thinking that they are only one thing, can only take on one kind of role or can only solve one kind of problem. We want our children to feel comfortable being their authentic selves. To reverse the Elsa effect, reach for children’s literature! Read a variety of fairy tales, myths and short stories. Pay attention to what parts of the narrative interest your child most. Once you complete the story, offer open-ended toys and materials to form a new tale or activity. For example if you read Strega Nona by Tomie DePaola—a favorite book involving magical pasta—you can complement the story by giving the child a pasta pot, tools from the kitchen and an empty pasta box from dinner. This provides a dramatic play experience that extends the story into their imaginary world. TRY THESE PLAYTIME SWAP-OUTS: Bunny & The Pea Set. “Once upon a time…” can take a child anywhere! Inspire your young storyteller with this enchanting, luxuriously crafted fairytale set. $127. Buy it here. Princess Anything Doll. Perfect for your young storyteller, this modern princess invites endless possibilities for imaginative play. A true friend, this handmade doll helps them make sense of their world, both real and imagined. $100. Buy it here. Make a Mermaid Kit. Take your adventures under the sea with a mermaid doll you make yourself. This easy-to-assemble kit nudges the dreamer and doer in young children, encouraging them to follow their creative impulses and enjoy the process. $20. Buy it here. Fairyhouse Kit. This set introduces your child to the wonderful world of fairies, and with the treasures hidden inside (moss tufts, feathers, acorn caps, fairy dust) they can build their own fairy house. $40. Buy it here. Design your own Butterfly Wings. This enchanting kit invites children to bring their creative vision to life by crafting their own butterfly wings and shaping a story to go with it. $35. Buy it here. Castle Block Set. A beautiful catalyst for building, storytelling or dramatic play, this wooden non-traditional castle puzzle inspires infinite fantasies, sparking the imagination without defining one direction. $55. Buy it here. Homepage photo by Mary Grace Bernstein. *We are so grateful when brands support our content and community. This post was sponsored by Rose & Rex. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Baby stuff comes in such cute prints these days. Gone are the days when everything was pink and blue and covered in ducks or teddy bears. Today's baby gear features stylish prints that appeal to mom.

That's why it's totally understandable how a mama could mistake a car seat cover for a cute midi skirt. It happened to Lori Farrell, and when she shared her mishap on Facebook she went viral before she was even home from work. Fellow moms can totally see the humor in Farrell's mishap, and thankfully, so can she.

As for how a car seat cover could be mistaken for a skirt—it's pretty simple, Farrell tells Motherly.

"A friend of mine had given me a huge lot of baby stuff, from clothes to baby carriers to a rocker and blankets and when I pulled it out I was not sure what it was," she explains. "I debated it but washed it anyway then decided because of the way it pulled on the side it must be a maternity skirt."

Farrell still wasn't 100% sure if she was right by the time she headed out the door to work, but she rocked the ambiguous attire anyway.

"When I got to work I googled the brand and realized not only do they not sell clothing but it was a car seat cover."

The brand, Itzy Ritzy, finds the whole thing pretty funny too, sharing Farell's viral moment to its official Instagram.

It may be a car seat cover, but that print looks really good on this mama.

And if you want to copy Farell's style, the Itzy Ritzy 4-in-1 Nursing Cover, Car Seat Cover, Shopping Cart Cover and Infinity Scarf (and skirt!) is available on Amazon for $24.94.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy.You've got this.

You might also like:

Daycare for infants is expensive across the country, and California has one of the worst states for parents seeking care for a baby. Putting an infant in daycare in California costs $2,914 more than in-state tuition for four years of college, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Paying north of $1,000 for daycare each month is an incredible burden, especially on single-parent families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing no more than 10% of a family's income—by that definition, less than 29% of families in California can afford infant care. Some single parents spend half their income on day care. It is an incredible burden on working parents.

But that burden may soon get lighter. CBS Sacramento reports California may put between $25 and $35 million into child care programs to make day care more affordable for parents with kids under 3 years old.

Assembly Bill 452, introduced this week, could see $10 million dollars funneled into Early Head Start (which currently gets no money from the state but does get federal funding) and tens of millions more would be spent on childcare for kids under three.

The bill seeks to rectify a broken childcare system. Right now, only about 14% of eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in subsidized programs in California, and in 2017, only 7% of eligible children younger than three years of age accessed Early Head Start.

An influx of between $25 to $35 million dollars could see more spaces open up for kids under three, as Bill 452, if passed, would see the creation of "grants to develop childcare facilities that serve children from birth to three years of age."

This piece of proposed legislation comes weeks after California's governor announced an ambitious plan for paid parental leave, and as another bill, AB 123, seeks to strengthen the state's pre-kindergarten program.

Right now, it is difficult for some working parents to make a life in California, but by investing in families, the state's lawmakers could change that and change California's future for the better.

You might also like:

When a mama gets married, in most cases she wants her children to be part of her big day. Photographers are used to hearing bride-to-be moms request lots of pictures of their big day, but when wedding photographer Laura Schaefer of Fire and Gold Photography heard her client Dalton Mort planned to wear her 2-year-old daughter Ellora instead of a veil, she was thrilled.

A fellow mama who understands the benefits of baby-wearing, Schaefer was keen to capture the photos Mort requested. "When I asked Dalton about what some of her 'must get' shots would be for her wedding, she specifically asked for ones of her wearing Ellie, kneeling and praying in the church before the tabernacle," Schaefer tells Motherly.

She got those shots and so many more, and now Mort's toddler-wearing wedding day pics are going viral.

"Dalton wore Ellie down the aisle and nursed her to sleep during the readings," Schaefer wrote on her blog, explaining that Ellie then slept through the whole wedding mass.

"As a fellow mother of an active toddler, this is a HUGE win! Dalton told me after that she was SO grateful that Ellie slept the whole time because she was able to focus and really pray through the Mass," Schaefer explains.

Dalton was able to concentrate on her wedding day because she made her baby girl a part of it (and that obviously tired Ellie right out).

Ellie was part of the commitment and family Dalton if forging with her husband, Jimmy Joe. "There is no better behaved toddler than a sleeping toddler, and she was still involved, even though I ended up unwrapping her to nurse her. I held her in my arms while my husband and I said our vows. It was really special for us," Dalton told POPSUGAR.

This is a wedding trend we are totally here for!

Congrats to Dalton and Jimmy Joe (and to Ellie)! 🎉

You might also like:

The internet is freaking out about how Peppa Pig is changing the way toddlers speak, but parents don't need to be too worried.

As Romper first reported, plenty of American parents have noticed that preschoolers are picking up a bit of a British accent thanks to Peppa. Romper's Janet Manley calls it "the Peppa effect," noting that her daughter started calling her "Mummy" after an in-flight Peppa marathon.

Plenty of other parents report sharing Manley's experience, but the British accent is not likely to stick, experts say.

Toronto-based speech and language pathologist Melissa James says this isn't a new thing—kids have always been testing out the accents they hear on TV and in the real world, long before Peppa oinked her way into our Netflix queues.

"Kids have this amazing ability to pick up language," James told Global News. "Their brains are ripe for the learning of language and it's a special window of opportunity that adults don't possess."

Global News reports that back in the day there were concerns about Dora The Explorer potentially teaching kids Spanish words before the kids had learned the English counterparts, and over in the U.K., parents have noticed British babies picking up American accents from TV, too.

But it's not a bad thing, James explains. When an American adult hears "Mummy" their brain translates it to "Mommy," but little kids don't yet make as concrete a connection. "When a child, two, three or four, is watching a show with a British accent and hears [words] for the first time, they are mapping out the speech and sound for that word in the British way."

So if your baby is oinking at you, calling you "Mummy" or testing out a new pronunciation of "toh-mah-toe," know that this is totally natural, and they're not going to end up with a life-long British pig accent.

As Dr, Susannah Levi, associate professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University, tells The Guardian, "it's really unlikely that they'd be acquiring an entire second dialect from just watching a TV show."

It sure is cute though.

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.