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How to parent like an Australian: Relax, mama

When I was a kid, I loved playing outdoors. I climbed rocks, rode my bike downhills, and ran laps around the block. But I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, which meant my time outside was limited to eight months out of the year. The freezing winters kept me and my sisters indoors, playing board games and pretending to be dancers.


In Australia, it’s a different story. The weather in the Land Down Under is always so gorgeous that parents let their kids run around outdoors for hours on end, no matter the time of year (with sun hats and sunscreen on, of course).

Even though most American parents have to contend with the biting cold for a good part of the year, there are still some parts of the Australian approach to parenting that translate to this side of the Atlantic.

Here are three to consider:

Never stop playing

Australian parents know a thing or two about playing around. According to daily lifestyle blog A Cup of Jo, kids in Australia spend so much time in the great outdoors, in part because the weather is so nice year-round. Not only that, but sporting culture is huge in the South Pacific country, so staying active at a young age is highly encouraged. That’s why there is an abundance of expansive and interactive playgrounds and parks in Australia, more so than you would find in the United States or other parts of North America.

And playgrounds are such a big thing in the country that there was even a best-of competition: In 2016, the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) launched a nationwide search for the country’s best public play space. The winner: the City of Melbourne’s Nature Play at Royal Park.

Babies learn to doggy paddle earlier

When to start your baby on swimming lessons is a point of contention in the United States. Some swimming programs in the U.S. accept kids as little as 6 months old, but experts have raised concerns that learning at such a young age may provide “a false sense of security around water,” according to The Washington Post.

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that children age 4 and older should learn to swim, but, in 2010, updated its policy to say that kids as young as 1 years old can safely take swimming lessons, too.

But in Australia, babies can learn to doggy paddle well before their 6 month birthday. Different recommendations and guidelines exist, but generally, children in Australia can enroll in a formal swimming program as early as 4 months old, according to the Australian Swim Schools Association. “After 4 months, infant swimming lessons in a gentle and developmentally appropriate program can, and should, be started right away,” the association writes on its website.

Chill out, parents

Australians are known to take an easygoing approach to life—and that includes parenting, even though, according to A Cup of Jo, Australian parents have to adhere to stricter safety rules than here in the United States. For example, in Australia, car seats must include an extra strap around the top of the seat, and children must always wear sun hats during recess at school to prevent heat stroke and minimize skin cancer risk.

Still, even though Australian parents are safety-minded, they also have a more laid-back attitude towards raising their little ones, and are less likely to be helicopter parents.

Why is that the case?

One theory is that Australia has far more family-friendly laws that make parenting easier. Australian workers receive a minimum four weeks paid vacation, and primary caregivers get up to 18 weeks of paid parental leave. Under U.S. law, employers are not required to offer workers paid vacation or holiday time, nor is there a federal law mandating paid family leave.

It may be a long time before the United States adopts supportive policies that make parenting easier for Americans. But that doesn’t mean we can’t follow the Australians’ lead and find different ways to relax so that our kids have more freedom to be kids.

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.

$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

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

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

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

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