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Montessori at home: Giving your child 'purposeful work' could be a game-changer

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When prospective parents come to observe our Montessori classroom, they often comment on how quiet and calm it is. They sometimes wonder whether their own child could be successful in such an environment. How are all of these children working independently, moving around the room carefully, and speaking softly?


The answer is purposeful work.

Montessori classrooms are designed to provide children with meaningful activities that align with their developmental needs. Just like grownups, children often reach a calm, highly focused state when they find a purpose toward which to direct their abundant energy.

In addition to giving them a sense of pride and confidence, helping children find purposeful work is a powerful way to redirect "misbehavior."

Years ago when I first became an assistant in a Montessori classroom, we had a sweet little 3-year-old boy who had more energy than any child I'd ever seen. We were on the playground one day, and he kept getting cups of water (meant for drinking) and dumping them out—on people, in the sandbox and pretty much everywhere he could think of.

I tried, without success, to redirect his behavior by reminding him of the rules, trying to entice him to do something else, and standing between him and the water station to block his way. Nothing was working.

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I was trying to fight against his impulse, and it was a losing battle. An experienced Montessori teacher came over and simply said, "I see you want to work with water. Let's go find the watering can."

She helped him get started on watering the plants, and he peacefully did so for the rest of playtime. I couldn't believe how focused he was! I couldn't believe how much energy I had spent futilely trying to thwart his efforts when she had so easily redirected them with purpose. Instead of telling him "no," she gave him an outlet, a way to be successful.

His impulse wasn't wrong. He needed to work with water. He just needed help finding a purposeful and appropriate way to fulfill that desire.

Dr. Montessori observed that children are happiest when they have purposeful work that they had a part in choosing.

Children, of course, need lots of time for open-ended play as well—play is their work. But when you see a child breaking the rules, try to look for the impulse behind it and help him find a way to be successful.

Is your toddler carrying around a step stool and knocking things over? Perhaps they're looking for some heavy lifting. Try taking them out to the backyard and letting them move some stones to create a new flower bed border or carry buckets of water to fill up the kiddie pool.

Are they throwing sand out of the sandbox? Show them a purposeful way to use the sand. Demonstrate how to build a sand castle or show them how to sift the sand to get rid of any rocks that have found a way in.

Are they trying to cut a page in a book? Give them work with scissors, perhaps trimming the grass outside. Or simply give them a basket of paper scraps they can cut to their heart's content. They could save them for future collage work.

Are they throwing the laundry on the floor while you try to fold it? Maybe they want to help, to be part of the action. Show them how to organize the laundry into piles of pants, shirts, etc. Show them how to fold the washcloths and stack them neatly. Show them how to match socks. Give them a stack of laundry to carry into their room. Find a way for them to help that matches their ability.

Children have strong impulses and often can't yet fight them—this is really a good thing. These are the same impulses that drive a baby to work hard to learn to crawl and walk and speak. This is how they build the skills they need.

Does this mean they get a free pass to behave however they please? No! They very much want and need our guidance. But it does mean we should approach their misbehavior with a different perspective. They're not doing these things to us, they're just struggling to find an appropriate way to explore the world.

Trust that your child knows better than anyone what they need to practice at that very moment. Take a minute and think about how you can suggest an alternative way instead of saying "no" or "stop."

This takes practice, but becomes natural with time, and is so worth the effort. Children are never so calm and focused as when you find the right match of work to meet their needs.

It would be so much easier if children could just tell us in words exactly what they need, but they can't. Instead, they tell us with their actions and with their behavior. We just have to watch, to interpret, and to learn their language. We won't always get it right, but it will be so much more successful than just saying "no."

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Sometimes it can feel like toys are a mama's frenemy. While we love the idea of entertaining our children and want to give them items that make them happy, toys can end up taking the joy out of our own motherhood experience. For every child begging for another plastic figurine, there's a mama who spends her post-bedtime hours digging toys out from under the couch, dining room table and probably her own bed.

Like so many other moms, I've often found myself between this rock and hard place in parenting. I want to encourage toys that help with developmental milestones, but struggle to control the mess. Is there a middle ground between clutter and creative play?

Enter: Lovevery.

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Lovevery Play Kits are like the care packages you wish your child's grandparent would send every month. Expertly curated by child development specialists, each kit is crafted to encourage your child's current developmental milestones with beautiful toys and insightful activity ideas for parents. A flip book of how-tos and recommendations accompanies each box, giving parents not only tips for making the most of each developmental stage, but also explaining how the games and activities benefit those growing brains.

Even better, the toys are legitimately beautiful. Made from eco-friendly, sustainable materials materials and artfully designed, I even find myself less bothered when my toddler leaves hers strewn across the living room floor.

What I really love, though, is that the kits are about so much more than toys. Each box is like a springboard of imaginative, open-ended play that starts with the included playthings and expands into daily activities we can do during breakfast or while driving to and from lessons. For the first time, I feel like a company isn't just trying to sell me more toys―they're providing expert guidance on how to engage in educational play with my child. And with baby kits that range from age 0 to 12 months and toddler kits for ages 13 to 24 months, the kits are there for me during every major step of development I'll encounter as a new mama.

So maybe I'll never love toys―but I will always love spending time with my children. And with Lovevery's unique products, mixing those worlds has become child's play.


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

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Breastfeeding is not easy. But neither is weaning. That's why this powerful photo from Brazilian mama Maya Vorderstrasse is going viral. Her husband captured the first time she ever breastfed their second daughter and next to it, almost two years later, the last time she fed their daughter from her breast.

And it's not just the photo that is powerful. In her caption Maya shares her emotional struggles with weaning and the tricks they used to make this transition easier for their youngest daughter. The caption reads:

"The first and last time my precious daughter ever nursed.

I didn't know that one person could feel so proud and so broken at the same time, right now I am a hormonal, emotional, and mental mess.

Raising my arm in this picture was very difficult for me as I had to fight through uncontrollable tears: this picture meant that I would never breastfeed my daughter ever again. I have been nursing for so long, that I don't know what it's like to not nurse anymore.



As I looked behind the camera, my husband is crying like I had never seen him cry before, like seriously, a deep gut cry. I was her comfort, her safe place, and I hope she still finds me that way. A month shy of 2 years old, she finally has a bed in a shared bedroom with her sister. We bought her her first bed, used any distraction we could come up with, snacks and new toys to keep her mind off of it.

My husband has taken over bedtime completely, including all nighttime wakings. We are on our third day, and every day gets a little bit easier. The guilt I feel for not putting her to bed is so intense and I can't wait to go back to it once she doesn't ask to nurse anymore. Closing a chapter is painful, but I am hopeful that this new season of our lives will also be special in its own way.

Through this maturation step she will not only grow more independent, but I will get a much needed break. She unlatched for the last time and sobbingly I said to my husband: "I did my best". He hugged me and responded with: "No. You did THE best, because you gave her your all". I love my family and am so thankful for such special and unforgettable moments like these. 💛

*my lazy boob has no clue about what's going on, but thoughts and prayers are accepted for my good one, I really think it might explode🤱🏻

**thank you to my husband, for insisting on filming this, I will treasure this forever.🤳🏼👩"

You've got this mama!

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If you're looking for basics for the kids for summer, you're in luck, mama. Primary clothes don't have logos or sparkles—they're classic prints and colors that can easily transition from one kid to the next. And this week, Primary is celebrating the new season with a major summer sale.

Items, like swimsuits, dresses, polos and more, are over 50% off. Most pieces are under $10 so you can stock up on an entire new wardrobe without breaking the budget.

Here's what we're adding to our carts—shop the entire sale here:

1. Baby rainbow stripe rash guard

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2. The track short

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3. Rainbow stripe one-piece

Cute? Check. Will stay in place? Check. UPF 50? Check.

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4. The short sleeve twirly dress

Made of 100% cotton jersey, this one will be a staple all summer long.

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5. The polo babysuit

Perfect to dress up or down.

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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.

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Being an adult is no joke. Beyond dressing ourselves and our kids and, ya know, feeding and bathing everyone, there are so many other things that life throws at us. And because we're adults, we have to take care of these myriad to-dos. Welcome to: Adulting!

I'm not just talking laundry, filling up your car's gas tank and stocking the fridge with groceries. Getting life insurance. Refinancing your loan debt. (Students loans? Us, too.) Marriage counseling. Yep—I'm talking about all the cringe-inducing to-dos that you've likely been putting off for a few months… or years.

But guess what? Because it's 2019 and a little something called technology exists, these seemingly heavy-lift tasks are now a whole lot easier and faster to tackle. Here's how to check off your most tedious adulting chores.

The life insurance

When you're a single with no descendants, life insurance doesn't seem like a top priority. But when you suddenly have a kid (or three), setting your family up for longterm financial success is a must. And thanks to Ladders, obtaining a policy isn't the taxing, cringe-inducing process it used to be! Modern and so easy to use—seriously, you can even get one from your phone or tablet—Ladders makes it possible to obtain a policy in under five minutes. Yes, really. See? No need to procrastinate!

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The student loan redux

You have the degree and the career—and you also have the debt. And like us, you're likely just paying your monthly minimums without a thought to ever refinancing your student loans. Because that sounds hard and complicated, right? Right. Not so with help from Laurel Road, however. On this straight-forward site you can check your rates in only a few minutes —fear not, doing so won't impact to your credit score!—and refinance your debt, saving yourself (and your family) thousands of dollars.

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The marriage counselor

Did you know that 66% of couples report a drop in marital satisfaction when new arrives? It's not surprising considering the stress an infant creates for mamas alone, but all that pressure affects your relationship, too. But taking the time to really invest in marriage counseling often falls to the bottom of the to-do lists because of the many hurdles—finding a therapist, traveling to appointments, the cost of copays or out-of-pocket fees, the stigma of need therapy. With Lasting, however, you and your partner pair your apps and can begin working on your relationship together on your own timeline.

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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A lot of women are literally walking around in fashion mogul Jessica Simpson's shoes, but there was no way she was going to be getting her feet into any of the footwear with her name on while she was pregnant.

A few months ago, back when she was still super pregnant with her third child, Simpson posted a photo of her left foot on Instagram and honestly, just looking at it was painful.

"Any remedies?! Help!!!!" she captioned the pic of her incredibly swollen ankle and foot. Thankfully, now that she's in her fourth trimester and no longer pregnant, Simpson's feet have chilled out. She posted a new pic with the caption: "I spy....my ankles!!!!

Before + after

The commenters on Instagram are now as happy for Jessica as they were were as shocked back when she posted the first foot photo.

"Omg Jessica call your Dr. Keep feet up lower salt intake and no heels," one wrote (although the last bit seems like it probably wouldn't be an option even if she wanted to wear them).

Calling the doctor is not a bad idea if your foot look's like Simpson's before photo, because swelling during pregnancy can be a sign of preeclampsia, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation, which notes that "a certain amount of swelling is normal during pregnancy," but suggests that moms-to-be watch out for "pitting edema" (which means that when you press on the skin an indentation stays for a bit) and leg discoloration.

"If you suspect this kind of edema, notify your healthcare provider. You should also put your feet up every day, but avoid sitting for extended periods of time," the foundation states on its website.

What mamas need to know about swollen feet

Simpson took her swelling with a sense of humor, posting a before and after pic of some super high wedges and her swollen pregnancy foot with the caption #tenyearchallenge, but swelling can be serious in pregnancy.

It can be related peripartum cardiomyopathy a rare kind of heart failure that can develop in the last month of pregnancy or in the first five months postpartum, but, according to the the American Heart Association, isn't easy to diagnose as the symptoms (like swollen ankles) are also symptoms of third trimester pregnancy.

So swelling is something to watch and definitely talk to a health care provider about—but it also happens in many uncomplicated pregnancies, as a lot of Jessica's IG followers pointed out. "That happened to me with my 1st pregnancy. Lots of elevation for my feet and fluids. Watch the sodium intake. Hang in there," one mama wrote, throwing in a 💞 emoji.

Jessica Simpson just launched a collection of flats 

Another commenter offered a funny story to put Jessica at ease: "My feet looked like this the last month of my pregnancy (if not worse) and I had normal BP and didn't have preeclampsia. I'm 5'0" and retained so much water. My OB-GYN at the time (a 65 year old man) told me that I had what he called "Fiona feet"....yep, the ogre from Shrek. Yep. 🤦🏼♀️ Needless to say, I switched doctors after my daughter was born."

Jessica Simpson's shoe collection currently includes a wedges, booties and a gorgeous stacked stiletto, and she recently launched a collection of flats, which should be helpful to all the mamas-to-be who have swollen feet (although not as swollen as hers were, she should design an extra-wide slipper for that season of life).

[A version of this post was originally published January 11, 2019. It has been updated.]

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