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Toddler Tuesday: AKID Brand

Ashleigh Dempster, co-founder of our favorite new kids footwear line, opens up about balancing babies and career.

Toddler Tuesday: AKID Brand

There’s a soft spot in our hearts for a great pair of sneakers. And as former men’s magazine editors, we’ve seen more than our fair share. But nothing prepared us for the world of toddler kicks, where sneakers usually fall into one of two categories: feels-good/durable/not-that-attractive or stylish/sleek/my-kid-would-never-actually-wear-those. Getting our little ones dressed can be a battle of wills, and guess who usually wins? Ashleigh Dempster knows that challenge well. Once her son Jasper was of walking age, she went on the hunt for shoes that were stylish and comfortable, and came up empty-handed. So the serial entrepreneur joined forces with her streetwear guru husband Matt George (think Stüssy, Ransom, Nomad and Goodfoot) and launched AKID Brand, a fashionable and functional collection of unisex kids sneakers that has us making room in our own closets for mommy sizes. In between trailblazing a whole new footwear category for our little ones, Dempster has her hands in several other projects (check out Waiola Coconut Water, mamas-to-be), while also raising her two gorgeous boys, Jasper (2.5) and Stone (6 months). Below she shares some scenes from AKID’s recent shoot for the summer collection, and lets us in on how she finds balance in her daily life. Tell us about AKID. Why did you start it and what makes it unique? It all came to be so naturally when Jasper was at an age where he started wearing shoes. My husband Matt and I quickly identified a gap in the marketplace for functional yet stylish children’s footwear. With his experience in the footwear world and my love for shoes, it was just a matter of time that we collaborated on a collection together. A lot of companies just take a traditional adult shoe and shrink it down for kids. With AKID, we make sure our shoes are built for sensitive skin. Children’s feet need to be able to sweat and breathe, so you will find a lot of leather-lined or breathable material in our shoes. Kids can easily go barefoot in them. No need for socks when you have a well-designed, well-made shoe. Where do you get inspiration for design? What's the new line all about? Matt and I find inspiration everywhere. From magazine spreads, art shows, traveling…the ideas are endless. In the new collection (some styles are online now, with more launching throughout the summer), you’ll see everything from pop-colored high tops to pony hair slip-ons. What are some other kids or baby brands that are getting it right? It’s a really exciting time, as there are so many incredible lines that are raising the bar in the kids fashion space. I am a huge fan of Nico Nico, Album di Famiglia, Mini Rodini and Ruff and Huddle, but I feel like I am stumbling across amazing new brands on a daily basis right now. Walk me through a typical day of work and kids. What’s your schedule like? I haven’t found my groove yet as Stone is still really little, but we’re working on it! My day starts at 5 a.m. with the baby. Jasper is up soon after that. I spend the early morning with the two of them until my nanny arrives. That’s my time to catch up on emails and sort out the rest of the day. From 10 a.m. onwards, it’s usually a combo of coffee meetings (I’m a big fan of in-person), work, running a few errands for the family and jetting home every few hours to check in on the baby. From 5 p.m. onwards, I always try to be home so that I can have dinner with the kids and put them to bed. After that it’s either a quiet night in getting caught up on work or a dinner out with friends. How has having kids impacted the kind of projects you want to take on or get involved in? I have become much more selective in the projects I get involved in after having kids. Anything I choose to do outside of the family is time away from my kids, so I want to make sure that I can actually commit and more importantly, deliver. How does being an entrepreneur compare with a typical 9-5 when you have kids? The number one benefit of working for yourself when having children is the flexibility. I feel so lucky to be able to plan my day around my kids. That being said though, you still need to work just as hard as any other job if you want it to be a success. How do you think becoming a mom has enhanced you as a business woman? Being a mom has forced me to become so much more organized. Pre-children, I was notoriously late and always burning the candle at both ends. Now if I want to get everything done in a day, I need to plan ahead, multi-task like a queen, and find time-saving tricks to get it all done and try and get some sleep! All of this has helped me be more productive in the workplace. Any sacrifices you’ve had to make from a business perspective now that you have kids? It’s always an ongoing juggle trying to do both well but in the end, my children are always number one. Is there such a thing as balance? What do you do that’s just for you? Finding balance is such an individual thing. I try and carve out some time each day for myself to help achieve the balance, whether that be coffee with a friend, a workout or just catching up with a friend on the phone. Who are some entrepreneurial moms you admire or want to emulate? I get so inspired by meeting other entrepreneurial moms, swapping stories, supporting each other, etc. One mom that I would love to have lunch with though is Jenna Lyons. She just seems to have it together! What kind of advice would you give to a new mom that’s trying to start or grow a business? Take your time, be patient and enjoy these two very exciting endeavors. It’s hard enough adjusting to being a new mom, so make sure you give yourself enough space to enjoy that aspect of your life first. Oh…and ask for help when you need it! What’s on your list of “to-dos” for the next year? Our focus right now is to establish AKID as a key player in the footwear industry. Baby steps for now, but I’m confident we can get there! Photography by Aleks Kocev. (Ashleigh with Jasper and Stone by Matt George.)

My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

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

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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

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.

$88

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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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