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If the world was about to be impacted by an asteroid the size of Manhattan and the only way to divert it was to play a game of Monopoly with five eight-year-olds, I’d have to seriously consider letting Earth perish. Although, perhaps playing the game might slow time down enough so as to seem like an eternity. Who knows, maybe there are a group of dinosaurs still trying to finish a game somewhere in an alternate time/space reality – the fateful meteor, frozen in the sky, hovering, glittering, as one of them tries to roll snake-eyes, gripping the dice with their tiny little three clawed forelegs, so they can finally land on Boardwalk.

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I’ve been aware of Monopoly’s curious effect on time for awhile. I’ve been meaning to run my theory by some of my physicist friends, but no one has gotten back to me.

Luckily there are some great other games out there to keep my kids and me entertained while I’m waiting. I have a few criteria that I consider when recommending a game to someone.

How difficult is it to pick up?

This is an important question, and one you have to ask when you are considering introducing a game to a group of people, especially kids. If the game is so complex that it involves a frustrating hour of misery before you even begin, then why bother? I am convinced the age recommendations you see on the sides of most games – the ones that caution: “Ages eight and up” etc. – are derived by a group of masochistic scientists in white coats who test children to see at which age they stop throwing the board off the table in a frustrated meltdown. You have to know your kids and whether or not they can handle the stress of not winning.

How fun is it to play?

This is a big one and, obviously, relative to who you are and what kind of games you like. My wife is a killer backgammon player – I have yet to beat her, ever – yet she is not a big fan of games like Magic the Gathering with all of its variability, changing rules, and different game mechanics. The other aspect of Magic (and the reason I don’t include it in this review) is that it’s a serious money drain. The games I’m reviewing here are ones that involve a single purchase and can be played in under an hour.

What is the re-playability?

This is important when some of these games can cost upwards of $50. If I’m going to spend that kind of money on a diversion, I want to know that my family is going to get some enjoyment out of it for years to come. If the game is fun once but plays the same every time, it’s going to get old quick, (see Monopoly). So the variability of game play makes for a game that you can come back to and have a different experience each time.   

There are lots of great games out there. This is just a small sample of the ones I’m familiar with. I recommend finding a game store near you and doing some research of your own.

1 | Rat-a-Tat-Cat

This is a fun and easy-to-learn card game that involves learning and using numbers without really having to do math. It also teaches kids to remember where certain cards are. This game is great for kids around kindergarten-age to about eight.

The rules are simple: you draw cards from the deck and replace the higher cards in your hand with the lowest cards. Once you think you have the lowest hand you say, “Rat-a-tat-cat.” Everyone else gets one more turn and then you reveal your hand. Whoever has the lowest hand wins.

“Whee,” I hear you saying.

Indeed, if you were to stick with these rules the game would be fun for maybe a week, and by fun I mean it will keep your five-year-old from trashing the house for 10 minutes. The cool thing to do with this game is to change up the rules as your child gets better at reaching the objective.

Favorite rule changes at our house include: playing for the highest card total instead of the lowest, and “Magic Number.” Have your child pick a number between zero – the lowest possible number total – and 36 – the highest possible number total – and have that be your goal. If you’re playful and creative you can stretch the re-playability of this game out from weeks to years.

2 | Ticket to Ride

If you like trains and maps, this is a fun game to play. Ticket to Ride has many different versions, with maps of Europe, Asia, India, the UK, Nordic countries, and the US. However, each one of the sets is a separate purchase and they run between $30 and $100.00 (expansion sets are available).

The object of the game is to complete certain routes from point A to point B on the map. Each person has cards that give them different routes to choose from; some are short, some are longer, and each one completed gives a bonus commensurate with the difficulty. With each person working toward a different goal the game is not directly competitive, but with all of the criss-crossing train lines there are strategic ways to block your opponents while advancing your cause.

Game play is fun with groups of three to five people. It’s fairly simple to learn, has some nuanced strategy, and excellent re-playability. I’ve only played the US map, but I like that there are different ways to advance to the goal. The game play can be fairly quick and it’s not too hard to learn. The game is sturdily constructed but the downside is that there are lots of small plastic pieces.

3 | Sheriff of Nottingham

It’s nice to see the Sheriff of Nottingham getting his due without that pesky do-gooder Robin Hood stealing the spotlight. This is a fun game in which the Sheriff goes about his business of extorting the local merchants who are all just trying to make a buck at the market by selling their wares and sometimes a little contraband. The fun thing that sets this game apart from the others is that it involves a degree of bluffing. Each person gets to be both the sellers in the market and the Sheriff who is trying to catch them from sneaking in things that don’t belong.

My kids and I like to use funny accents for each of the characters. It’s also fun to watch the strategies that develop for lying about what you may or may not be bringing into the market. The game is different with each new person who plays as they bring their personality into the roles that get acted out. It can get a bit boring if it’s the same cast of characters every time, so we tend to break this one out when we have guests over.

4 | Catan

This may be the new gold standard of table-top games. Catan has many different formats and expansions with slight variables in the rules for each. Most of the additions and expansions I find cumbersome, making game play long and very involved. If you like that kind of thing and have a couple hours to kill playing a board game, than these additions are for you. Myself, I go for the basic game.

Good for three to five people, Catan is the perfect balance of several different gameplay mechanics. Each player has to gain resources that they get by strategic placement of their settlements on a hexagonal matrix. The map changes with each set-up of the game, so no two games have the same resource allocation. The probability of each die roll determines which resources each player gets so there is both an element of chance, but also certain strategic choices that can influence each player’s fortunes.

The value of particular resources changes as the game develops, so what might be an effective strategy at the beginning of the game may not lead you to victory at the end. There are many different ways that one can generate the points to win the game, meaning that the re-playability is high. New and different strategies continue to emerge as new combinations appear. This is my family’s go-to game lately.

This game has lots of little pieces. A fun house rule we have is that the winner cleans up. Nothing wipes the smirk off of a gloating winner’s face faster than the realization that they have about ten minutes of clean-up ahead of them while everyone else goes about their business

5 | Dominion

This one is interesting because it is really just a card game. There are no moving pieces, no board, no dice, just cards – lots and lots of cards. This is another fun game that involves a multi-phase series of mechanics to achieve victory. Different cards give you different access to resources. Some cards might give you extra money, some cards might give you an extra turn, and some might give you more land. At the end of the game, land equals victory. In the early part of the game, however, you have to generate money in order to gain more cards, which lets you do different things. At this stage, land is burdensome as it clogs up your hand.

There are many expansion sets to this game and each one has 20 to 30 different types of cards that change the rules a little bit. This one takes a little longer to learn. It has great re-playability though, as there are many many combinations of different cards that you can choose from to create unique playing experiences each time. This one can be played with just two people or up to six.

These are just a few examples of the family friendly table-top games out there. When you’re choosing a new one, know your tolerance for small pieces, convoluted rules and set-up, and whether the game is variable enough to justify its price tag. Don’t forget: games are supposed to be fun.

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As the saying goes, "failing to prepare is preparing to fail," and that seriously applies to parenting. With no fewer than one dozen items to wrangle before walking out the door on an ordinary errand, mamas have plenty on their mind. That is why one of the very best gifts you can give the mamas in your life this year is to reduce her mental load with some gear she can depend on when she's out and about.

Although it may be impossible to guarantee completely smooth outings with kids in tow, here are the items we rely on for making getting out of the house less of a chore.

1. Bugaboo Bee 5 stroller

This stroller is a dream come true for any mama on the go. (Meaning: All of us!) Lightweight, compact and easy to maneuver with just one hand, this is made for navigating busy sidewalks with ease—or just fitting in the trunk without a major wrestling match. It's designed for little passengers to love just as much, too, with a bassinet option for newborn riders that can be easily swapped with a comfy, reclining seat that can face forward or backward for bigger kids.

$699

2. Bugaboo wheel board

This wheel board will let big brother or sister easily hitch a ride on the stroller if their little legs aren't quite up for a full walk. We love the smart details that went into the design, including a slightly offset position so Mom or Dad can walk without bumping their legs. And because toddlers have strong opinions of their own, it's brilliant that the wheel board allows them to sit or stand.

$125

3. Nuby Keepeez cup strap

If you know a little one gearing up for the major leagues with a killer throwing arm, this is a must-have so parents aren't buying new sippy cups on a weekly basis. Perfect for tethering to high chairs, strollers, car seats and shopping carts, it allows Mama to feel confident she'll return home with everything she left with in the first place.

$6.99

4. Bugaboo footmuff

For those mamas who live anywhere where the temps regularly dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, this ultra-soft, comfortable footmuff is a lifesaver. Made with water-repellant microfleece, it keeps little ones dry and cozy—whether there is melting snow, a good drizzle or simply a spilled sippy cup.

$129.95

5. Bugaboo stroller organizer

Because we know #mombrain is no joke, we are all for products that will help us stay organized—especially when out and about. With multiple zipper pockets, a sleek design and velcro straps that help it easily convert to a handbag when stepping away from the stroller, it helps keep essentials from spare diapers to the car keys within reach.

$39.95

6. Bugaboo Turtle car seat

It may be called a car seat, but we love that this one is specifically designed to securely click into a stroller frame, too. (Meaning there is no need to wake up a sleeping baby for a car-to-stroller transfer!) More reasons to love it are the lightweight design, UPF 50+ sun protection shade and Merino wool inlay, meaning it's baby and mama friendly.

$349

7. Chicco QuickSeat hook-on chair

This hook-on baby chair will almost certainly earn a spot on your most-used list. Perfect for dining out or simply giving your baby a space to sit, it's portable and beyond easy to install. (Plus, it's a great alternative to those questionably clean high chairs at many restaurants!)

$57.99

8. Bugaboo stroller cup holder

Chasing after kids when out and about can work up a thirst, just like neighborhood strolls in the chillier months can get, well, chilly. So we love that this cup holder will help mama keep something for herself to drink close at hand. Designed to accommodate bottles of all sizes and easy to click onto any compatible stroller, it's a perfect stocking stuffer.

$29.95

9. Bugaboo soft wool blanket

Fair warning with this luxe stroller blanket: It's so cozy that you might want to buy another one for yourself! Made with Merino wool that helps it stand up to any elements parents might encounter during an outing, it will help baby stay warm during the winter and cool enough as the temps start to pick up.

$109.95

10. Munchkin silicone placemats

Made to roll and stow in a diaper bag, these silicone placemats will make dining out a (relatively) less messy experience. With raised edges that will help contain spills and a grippy bottom, they will stay in place on tables so that parents might be able to enjoy their own meals, too.

$8.99

11. Bugaboo Breezy seat liner

Designed to keep baby warm when it's cool and cool when it's warm, this seat liner will minimize fusses during all seasons—which is one of the very best gifts you can give a mama. Because accidents of all types can happen on the go, we also love that this seat liner is reversible! With a number of colors, it's also a fun way to help a stroller to stand out at the playground.

$79.95

12. OXO Tot Handy stroller hook

If you ever catch yourself thinking it would be nice to have another hand, these stroller clips are the next-best solution for when you are out and about. Perfect for lugging a bag or anchoring a cup, you'll want a set for every stroller you own.

$14.99

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

Our Partners

It's so interesting how the popularity of baby names ebb and flow over time. Think about the most popular names when you were growing up—chances are, you probably don't see too many new babies being given those monikers in 2019. Khaleesi overtook Brittany in terms of popularity, for example.

But if you're noticing that names like Charlotte, Henry and Amelia seem to appear in a lot of your friends' birth announcements, you're onto something: These are three of the most popular names from 2019.

BabyNames.com has released a list of the top baby names of this year, and you may find a few of them (but not necessarily all of them!) a little surprising. 2018's biggest boy name, Atticus, dropped off the top 10 list. Also missing from this list? Sophia, the beautiful female name that has dominated on a global scale in previous years.

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But some names have held their popularity: Liam, Owen, Olivia and Violet are a few of the names that trended both last year and this year.

RANK

BOYS

GIRLS

1

Liam

Charlotte

2

Oliver

Amelia

3

Theodore

Violet

4

Declan

Aria/Arya

5

Henry

Aurora

6

Owen

Ava

7

Finn

Olivia

8

Caleb

Vivienne

9

Emmett

Hazel

10

Benjamin

Nora

The top name for baby boys probably won't come as a surprise to most. It's Liam, which has been a consistent powerhouse for a few years now. It's easy to see why—Liam is one of those names that everyone just loves. With that being said, if you're hoping to avoid giving your child a very common name, you may want to cross this one off the list, along with Oliver and Theodore (these were the top three boys' names). And if you're expecting a girl, forget about Charlotte, Amelia and Violet, which took the three top spots.

"It seems there is definitely a royal influence to baby names this year," says BabyNames.com founder and CEO, Jennifer Moss. "Both Liam and Charlotte are linked directly to the British Royal Family. Liam is a shorter version of the name William, like the Duke of Cambridge, and Charlotte is the name of his daughter."

Classic names that have always been incredibly popular are expected to become less common as well. "For 2020 and beyond we see some traditional Biblical names like David, Michael, and Luke dropping off the top 100. This is almost unprecedented," says Moss. "Those are being replaced with more unique Biblical names like Josiah, Gabriel, and Elijah."

Expect lots of nods to nature and flowers to become more popular in common years, with names like Violet, Iris, Juniper, Rose, Daisy and Dahlia gaining speed. Want to see how your child's name stacks up? Check out the full list of 2019's top baby names at BabyNames.com.

News

In a culture full of consumerism and competition, it can be difficult to remember to feel grateful and not stressed when preparing the "perfect" holidays for our kids. After all, we create the magic. But how often do we stop to think about what is really good in our lives? Probably not often, mama. Days are spent worrying about what we have to do next, what we haven't done yet, what we did do, but not well—especially during the holidays.

This stress can make us tense and anxious. Our bodies think we are in flight or flight and our nervous system kicks into overdrive, releasing adrenaline and cortisol to ensure we can deal with this stress. Adrenaline increases our heart rate, elevates our blood pressure and boosts our energy and cortisol, the stress hormone, increases blood sugar and enhances our brain's use of all that energy. This response is all well and good if we are really in danger, but too much for too long can weaken our immune system, affect our digestive system and weight, impair our reproductive systems, and may lead to heart problems.

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This natural alarm system also communicates with the parts of our brain that control mood and motivation—a sure formula for no fun when combined with the pressure of creating the perfect holidays.

Instead of feeling burdened, what if we choose to be grateful for all we have to do? We get to shop. We get to wrap. We get to decorate.

Psychologists say that we can switch or replace one thought with another. It takes practice—like all good things do—but taking a moment to switch from I have to, to, I get to, can make all the difference.

Research at UCLA's Mindfulness Awareness Research Center found that having an attitude of gratitude can actually alter the molecular structure of our brain, making us healthier and happier. And the effects of practicing gratitude are long-lasting. In a study out of University of California, Berkeley, nearly 300 adults participated in an experiment that involved writing gratitude letters and reported significantly better mental health for up to 12 weeks after the writing exercise ended.

Need more reason to practice a little more gratitude? A study at the University of Southern California found that our brain is full of the love hormone, oxytocin, when we experience gratitude, which may account for those positive effects of being thankful has on our relationships, well-being and mental health. Bonus: The beneficial effects are likely to be amplified with more gratitude, producing a positive feedback loop that serves to create more gratitude.

Bottom line: By switching our perspective from "I have to" to "I get to," we can change our perception and affect positive changes in our lives. What a great thing to model for our littles during the holidays—and always.

Life

As part of my training to become a Montessori teacher, there was a big emphasis on building relationships with the children. When a child walked into the classroom, we would get down on their level, shake their hand and make eye contact (if they were open to this) and say something like, "I'm so happy you're here today."

This is because Montessori focuses on the whole child, including their physical and emotional well being, and also because it is much easier for a child to succeed academically if they feel comfortable and connected in the classroom.

So amidst the busyness of life, how can we make sure we're showing our kids enough affection? How can we make sure they feel our love when we're racing around being mamas?

Try these phrases and adjust them to fit your own style and family so your precious little one doesn't get lost in the shuffle:

1. "I'm happy to see you."

When I became a mom, I said this every morning in the classroom and made it a part of my morning greeting to my children each day. It can be hard not to start the day on a grumpy note when young children wake up (SO) early, but it's important to let them know that we're happy to be here with them, taking care of them, each and every day.

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2. "Let's snuggle."

Maybe you set the alarm just five minutes earlier every day and build in a little snuggle time when you wake your child up for school. Or maybe that sounds horrible and you opt for a Saturday morning weekly family snuggle party instead.

Whatever works best for your family, find a way to include regular opportunities to relax and snuggle together even as your child gets older. Some children need more physical affection than others, so make sure to follow your child's lead.

3. "I love that you are so generous."

One part of my Montessori training that really stuck with me is acknowledging "qualities of greatness." This is a strategy that can be particularly effective with a child who seeks negative attention. Catch them when they are doing something right, no matter how small it is, and make a big deal about it.

Does your child always take toys from their younger sibling, but then you catch them in the act of sharing a favorite book? Let them know that you see it. Say something like "I love seeing you be so generous with your sister! You are a really giving person."

This lets our children know that we see them as good people, and it also helps shape their perception of themselves.

You can extrapolate a quality of greatness from almost anything.

Your child put their own shoes on? "I love that you're so independent!"

They picked up their Legos without you asking? "You sure are conscientious!"

Find a way to give them a meaningful compliment and it will stick with them.

4. "Do you want to know one of my favorite things about you?"

Especially if you have more than one child, it's important to let them know that you love them for who they are, uniquely. The more specific the compliment you offer them, the more it will mean to them.

"You're a good boy" doesn't really mean much but "I love that you take good care of your things" is specific enough to matter.

5. "Come sit with me."

Sometimes affection looks like a big bear hug and kind words and sometimes it's simply a quiet moment together. Especially for young children, it's not always clear what their love language is, but quality time together is always important to our children.

It's easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself and think "quality time" has to be a special one on one date to an unforgettable place, but it can be as simple as a few cozy minutes together on the couch.

6. "Is there anything you want to chat about?"

I often ask my 3-year-old this at bedtime (well really after bedtime, when he's called me back into his room for "one last song"). He usually doesn't come up with anything in particular at this point, but it's important to me that he knows I'm there to listen.

I imagine that one day he'll surprise me with an answer that gives me a little window into his heart, but even if he doesn't, what matters is that he knows he can talk to me and that I always have time for him.

7. "You give the best hugs."

One day when I was in my Montessori classroom, a little 3-year-old girl walked up to me and randomly gave me a hug. As she walked away I heard her to say to herself, "I give the best hugs," and it brought the biggest smile to my face.

I am sure her parents tell her this all the time. There is a big difference between "Do you need a hug?" (which is also a great thing to say) and "You give the best hugs!"

Let your child know that you're hugging them not just because they want to be close to you, but because you want to be close to them, and value and treasure their affection.

8. "Did you get my note?"

I'm not entirely sure why, but one of my earliest and most clear memories from my young childhood is of receiving notes in my lunchbox at daycare from my mom. I couldn't even read yet, but it meant the world to me to have a little note from my mom in the middle of the day.

It doesn't need to be every day, but writing little love notes to your child lets them know you're thinking about them.

9. "What would you like to do together?"

Try letting your child lead the way in choosing what to do with your quality time on occasion. Even if it's only for 30 minutes, they will get the idea that you want to spend time with them doing what they want to do. Showing interest in your child's hobbies, even if you have little interest in them yourself, pays off over time because you learn so much about what your child is thinking and feeling through watching them play.

10. "I love you no matter what."

It's easy to show your child that you love them when they're being fun and adorable, but it's a bit harder when they're getting in trouble at school or yelling at you. Even, and especially, amidst the tantrums and notes from the teacher, make sure to let them know that your love for them is unconditional.

At the end of the day, you have to find a way to show your love that feels natural to you. Experiment with different types of affection and you will be able to tell what resonates the most with your child.

Maybe you're a snuggler and they're not, maybe you're not big on compliments but they crave your words of affirmation. That's okay. Just becoming a little more aware of how you show your affection will help you make sure your child is really feeling the love you send them each day.

Learn + Play

We can't lie to you—the idea of matching family holiday pajamas gets us all sorts of giddy inside. They're the perfect early holiday present for kids to wear on Christmas morning and the best excuse to wear loungewear all day long.

So snuggle up next to the fire 🔥, grab some hot chocolate ☕, and get ready to rock these comfy, cozy matching PJs this holiday season. Shop our favorite looks below!

1. Hearth & Hand with Magnolia

matching family pajamas target

Matching family PJs designed by one of our fave design couple powerhouses Chip & Joanna Gaines? Yes, please. Even the family dog can get in on the fun. Starting at $9.99.

$9.99

2. Hanna Andersson Deer Collection

hanna andersson pajamas

Iconic brand Hanna Andersson pretty much wrote the book on matching family PJs, and we could not love them more. There are so many Insta-worthy styles to choose from, you're going to have trouble choosing just one. Plus, they're on sale right now! Prices start at $28 for kids.

$28

3. Feliz Navidad Collection

feliz navidad matching pajamas

However you say Merry Christmas, celebrate in style with this gorgeous green set. Prices start at $8.39.

$8.39

4. Sleepyheads Holiday

matching pajamas

Made for lounging, Sleepyheads' pajamas have the cutest polar bear designs. These would make the most adorable Christmas morning pictures! Infant pajamas start at $16.99.

$16.99

5. Hanukkah

hanukkah family pajamas

You don't need to celebrate Christmas to get in on the matching family pajama game! We love these coordinating Hanukkah PJs to kick off the Festival of Lights. And, yes, there's a matching piece for your pup! Pieces for your little ones start at $10.49.

$10.49

6. Wondershop Winter Wonderland

matching family pajamas

Nothing adds to the magic of the holidays like mama and a little winter wonderland. How gorgeous are these colors? Prices start at $8.39.

$8.39

7. Harry Potter

harry potter matching family pajamas

Add a little extra magic to the holidays with this Harry Potter set. Mischief managed by mama, of course. Prices start at just $9.09.

$9.09

8. PajamaGram Snowfall Plaid Set

matching family pajamas

These comfy plaid snowflake-filled PJs will keep everyone nice and warm this season. The snowflake theme isn't holiday specific and can be worn all winter long! Prices start at $29.99

$29.99

9. Plaid Collection

matching family pajamas plaid

The perfect pair for your holiday Instagram photo. Prices starting at $8.39.

$8.39

10. Gray Striped Collection

gray striped matching pajamas

If you're not into the holiday colors, or want sets that work outside of the season, we love this minimalist gray striped set. Perfect for cozy days all year long. Prices start at $8.39, mama.

$8.39

11. Jammies for Your Families

khols matching family pajamas

How fun are these festive fairisle prints? There's something everyone in your family will love. Prices start at $19.99.

$19.99

12. Hanna Andersson Stripes Collection

hanna andersson stripe family pajamas

For a classic look, these stripes would be adorable on any family. And, we can't resist that elf hat for your littlest family members. Prices start at $20.

13. Burt's Bees Baby Family Jammies

matching family pajamas burts bees

Made of 100% organic cotton, you won't believe how soft these jammies are. Plus, they're breathable so if you're the type of overheat at night, these are a great option. Prices start at $16.95.

$16.95

14. SleepytimePjs Fleece Deer Plaid

matching family pajamas

You can never go wrong with buffalo plaid and this set doesn't disappoint. The baseball tees offer a more modern look and the deer head is such an adorable touch. Prices start at $6.99.

$6.99

15. Frozen Pajamas Collection

matching family frozen pajamas

If you prefer to have a little Disney on your Christmas morning, we love the classic look of these pajamas. The cold won't bother anyone in this set. Prices start at $9.09.

$9.09

16. Red Buffalo Check Collection

buffalo check family pajamas

There's nothing more classic than buffalo check during the holidays. This one even has nightgowns available! Prices start at $8.39.

$8.39


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