The painless way to declutter your kid’s toys

It just takes five easy steps.

declutter your kids' toys

As parents, we want our kids to be happy. We live to see the joy beaming across those little faces when they tear into birthday gifts. A Christmas tree stacked high with gifts is about as American as apple pie. But what if I told you that having fewer toys is actually better for kids?

Because it is.

I know because I am a mom of two young children. But I also have a Ph.D. in child development. I know a few things about what a young child needs to develop, grow and thrive. They need food, a loving family, a warm bed and a few carefully selected toys. What they don't need? A bunch of mindless toy clutter.

The research shows us that when we cut the excess from the lives of children they focus better and have less stress. But getting rid of toys is complicated: What do you keep? What do you toss?

Here are five steps to get started.

Step 1: Observe

Take a week and observe. Which toys get the most action? Which are neglected? I suggest taking notes on the favorites so that you can be sure to keep those toys. While observing, also start thinking about toys differently. Think about how each of these toys are adding value to your home.

We know that our children learn through play, therefore toys are the defacto tools for learning. We need to equip our kids with the best tools possible. Ask yourself the question, “How are these toys benefitting my children?"

Examine each toy and decide:

  • Does this toy offer opportunity for creativity?
  • Will this toy help my kid to burn off energy?
  • Can this toy be used in many different ways, by kids of different ages and genders?
  • Does my kid LOVE this toy?

Everything that we bring into our lives and home should have added value–toys are included.

Step 2: Reflect

You have to figure out how these toys got into your home. Did you buy them? Were they gifts from extended family members? Brian Gardner of No Sidebar explains, “We don't need to look any further than the mirror—or our own closets—to realize our children's excess is usually a byproduct of our own habits, or the result of spending choices we make."

That means taking a good, long look at the way we buy and what it's teaching our children. Anyone can declutter, but staying decluttered is the hard part.

We have to change the way we buy if we want to stay decluttered.

Step 3: Arrange

When toys are buried in the bottom of bins and toy boxes they are difficult to access. When you store toys at the top of the closet they are difficult to access. If we want kids to play with toys and engage–they need to be out where they can see them.

I suggest placing toys individually on shelves (you can see how I did it in our playroom). Use short bins or trays to keep toys contained–that way kids can easily see what is inside. The last thing we want to do is invite our children to dump bins all over the place–and toy boxes invite dumping.

When we arrange the toys with care we are teaching our children to do the same. They are learning to care for, value and clean up their belongings–rather than to toss them haphazardly into a box.

Step 4: Select

When choosing which toys to keep in your home I recommend keeping mostly open toys. Open toys are toys that can be used in a variety of ways for a variety of different purposes. These can typically be used across varied ages and genders. These are toys that evoke imagination and pretend play, such as a puppet theatre, balance beam, balls and art supplies. Closed toys are different because they are toys that can be completed or mastered. If your child finishes a toy and says “I did it," it's probably a closed toy.

Examples of closed toys are puzzles and shape sorters. Closed toys are great too–but because they can be completed rather quickly, you will need to have a large number of closed toys to keep kids busy. With closed toys, kids will also grow out of them faster and purchases will need to be made more often.

I recommend keeping a ratio of 75% open toys to 25% closed toys in your home. This will help your child to play independently for longer periods of time. Having more open toys will also allow for more creativity and innovation in play.

Step 5: Detox

First you observed, then reflected and selected–now you are ready to downsize. Downsizing the toys should never be a punishment. This is a happy and welcome change for everyone involved–so be sure that your attitude and language reflects that. Generally speaking, kids react very well to this change.

When we get rid of toys, we are giving our children extra space and time to innovate and be resourceful. But it's important to keep in mind that as they “detox" they might experience boredom before they figure out how to get back to the basics of play. Don't fill this temporary void and boredom with more screen time. Once you push through the detox period you will see some pretty amazing things coming from your child's play.

So are you ready to do this? You and your family are going to love playing simply.

These open-ended toys are sure to shine in a decluttered and organized play space.

Lovevery block set

Lovevery block set

With limitless ways to play, this science-based 70-piece set engages little ones of all ages to unlock STEM concepts like math, physics, and engineering, along with higher-order planning and problem-solving. Bonus: The included wooden box is not only ideal for neat and tidy storage, but also converts into a play car!


Plan Toys palomino

Plan Toys palomino

When choosing toys that take up more real estate than average, make sure you like looking at it in your space. We love the look of this irresistibly adorable and colorful ride-on.


Plan Toys doctor kit

Plan Toys doctor kit

Ideal for empathetic imaginative play, a doctor's kit tends to get some serious mileage. This heirloom-quality set comes packed up neatly in its own soft cotton bag.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Kristen Bell and Jackie Tohn on how they’re ‘sneak teaching’ kids with their new show "Do, Re & Mi"

The best friends created a musical animated show that's just as educational as it is entertaining

Amazon Studios

This episode is sponsored by Tonies. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Kristen Bell and Jackie Tohn have been best friends since they met as young singers and actors more than 15 years ago, and now they're collaborating on a new Amazon Original animated kids series called Do, Re & Mi. The show, which follows best birds Do, Re and Mi as they navigate the world around them while also belting out catchy tunes, is just as educational as it is entertaining.

On the latest episode of The Motherly Podcast, Bell and Tohn talk to Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety about how they're "sneak teaching" kids with their new show and why music is such an important focal point.

"It was basically our mission from the very beginning to 'sneak music education' into kids' lives, hands, brains, all of it," Tohn admits.

"There's so much science and data to support that [music] helps kids, their brains grow with math, with social skills. It literally can change your neuroplasticity. You can put music of their favorite genre or timeframe on, in an Alzheimer's ward, and they will come back online for a couple minutes. I mean, it's crazy," Bell, who has two daughters of her own, adds. "You know, music can bind a lot of families together. It can bind friendships together. And it's just a show that you can feel really good about. We want to get it in front of as many kids as possible, because I don't like the fact that some kids won't have exposure to music. Their brains deserve to grow just as much as everyone else's."

The first season of Do, Re & Mi premiered on September 17th and its creators recorded 52 different songs for the show that range from reggae and pop to country, blues and jazz.

"That's what's so exciting about this show," Tohn gushes. "Not only are the lessons we're teaching for everyone, but every episode has a musical genre, a musical lesson and an emotional lesson. And so there really is so much to learn."

Elsewhere in the episode, Bell tells Tenety about how she made literal toolboxes that carry different regulation tools to help her kids calm down (one is "find a song you love and sing out loud") and why having a village is crucial to surviving motherhood, especially in a pandemic, while Tohn details her special friendship not only with Bell, but with her daughters, too.

To hear more about the show, Bell's experiences in motherhood, and her enduring friendship with Tohn, listen to The Motherly Podcast for the full interview.


12 baby registry essentials for family adventures

Eager to get out and go? Start here

Ashley Robertson / @ashleyrobertson

Parenthood: It's the greatest adventure of all. From those first few outings around the block to family trips at international destinations, there are new experiences to discover around every corner. As you begin the journey, an adventurous spirit can take you far—and the best baby travel gear can help you go even farther.

With car seats, strollers and travel systems designed to help you confidently get out and go on family adventures, Maxi-Cosi gives you the support you need to make the memories you want.

As a mom of two, Ashley Robertson says she appreciates how Maxi-Cosi products can grow with her growing family. "For baby gear, safety and ease are always at the top of our list, but I also love how aesthetically pleasing the Maxi Cosi products are," she says. "The Pria Car Seat was our first purchase and it's been so nice to have a car seat that 'grows' with your child. It's also easy to clean—major bonus!"

If you have big dreams for family adventures, start by exploring these 12 baby registry essentials.

Tayla™️ XP Travel System

Flexibility is key for successful family adventures. This reversible, adjustable, all-terrain travel system delivers great versatility. With the included Coral XP Infant Car Seat that fits securely in the nesting system, you can use this stroller from birth.

Add to Babylist


Iora Bedside Bassinet

Great for use at home or for adventures that involve a night away, the collapsible Iora Bedside Bassinet gives your baby a comfortable, safe place to snooze. With five different height positions and three slide positions, this bassinet can fit right by your bedside. The travel bag also makes it easy to take on the go.

Add to Babylist


Kori 2-in-1 Rocker

Made with high-quality, soft materials, the foldable Kori Rocker offers 2-in-1 action by being a rocker or stationary seat. It's easy to move around the home, so you can keep your baby comfortable wherever you go. With a slim folded profile, it's also easy to take along on adventures so your baby always has a seat of their own.

Add to Babylist


Minla 6-in-1 High Chair

A high chair may not come to mind when you're planning ahead for family adventures. But, as the safest spot for your growing baby to eat meals, it's worth bringing along for the ride. With compact folding ability and multiple modes of use that will grow with your little one, it makes for easy cargo.

Add to Babylist


Coral XP Infant Car Seat

With the inner carrier weighing in at just 5 lbs., this incredibly lightweight infant car seat means every outing isn't also an arm workout for you. Another feature you won't find with other infant car seats? In addition to the standard carry bar, the Coral XP can be carried with a flexible handle or cross-body strap.

Add to Babylist


Pria™️ All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

From birth through 10 years, this is the one and only car seat you need. It works in rear-facing, forward-facing and, finally, booster mode. Comfortable and secure for every mile of the journey ahead, you can feel good about hitting the road for family fun.

Add to Babylist


Pria™️ Max All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

Want to skip the wrestling match with car seat buckles? The brilliant Out-of-the-Way harness system and magnetic chest clip make getting your child in and out of their buckles as cinch. This fully convertible car seat is suitable for babies from 4 lbs. through big kids up to 100 lbs. With washer-and-dryer safe cushions and dishwasher safe cup holders, you don't need to stress the mess either.

Add to Babylist


Tayla Modular Lightweight Stroller

With four reclining positions, your little ones can stay content—whether they want to lay back for a little shut-eye or sit up and take in the view. Also reversible, the seat can be turned outward or inward if you want to keep an eye on your adventure buddy. Need to pop it in the trunk or take it on the plane? The stroller easily and compactly folds shut.

Add to Babylist

Tayla Travel System

This car seat and stroller combo is the baby travel system that will help make your travel dreams possible from Day 1. The Mico XP infant seat is quick and easy to install into the stroller or car. Skipping the car seat? The reversible stroller seat is a comfortable way to take in the scenery.

Add to Babylist

Modern Diaper Bag

When you need to change a diaper during an outing, the last thing you'll want to do is scramble to find one. The Modern Diaper Bag will help you stay organized for brief outings or week-long family vacations. In addition to the pockets and easy-carry strap, we love the wipeable diaper changing pad, insulated diaper bag and hanging toiletry bag.

Add to Babylist


Mico XP Max Infant Car Seat

Designed for maximum safety and comfort from the very first day, this infant car seat securely locks into the car seat base or compatible strollers. With a comfy infant pillow and luxe materials, it also feels as good for your baby as it looks to you. Not to mention the cushions are all machine washable and dryable, which is a major win for you.

Add to Babylist

Adorra™️ 5-in-1 Modular Travel System

From carriage mode for newborn through world-view seated mode for bigger kids, this 5-in-1 children's travel system truly will help make travel possible. We appreciate the adjustable handlebar, extended canopy with UV protection and locking abilities when it's folded. Your child will appreciate the plush cushions, reclining seat and smooth ride.

Add to Babylist

Ready for some family adventures? Start by exploring Maxi-Cosi.

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

Boost 1

This incredibly soft comforter from Sunday Citizen is like sleeping on a cloud

My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

When it comes to getting a good night's sleep, there are many factors that, as a mama, are hard to control. Who's going to wet the bed at 3 am, how many times a small person is going to need a sip of water, or the volume of your partner's snoring are total wildcards.

One thing you can control? Tricking out your bed to make it as downright cozy as possible. (And in these times, is there anywhere you want to be than your bed like 75% of the time?)

I've always been a down comforter sort of girl, but after a week of testing the ridiculously plush and aptly named Snug Comforter from Sunday Citizen, a brand that's run by "curators of soft, seekers of chill" who "believe in comfort over everything," it's safe to say I've been converted.

Honestly, it's no wonder. Originally designed as a better blanket for luxury hotels and engineered with textile experts to create this uniquely soft fabric, it has made my bed into the vacation I so desperately want these days.

The comforter is made up of two layers. On one side is their signature knit "snug" fabric which out-cozies even my most beloved (bought on sale) cashmere sweater. The other, a soft quilted microfiber. Together, it creates a weighty blanket that's as soothing to be under as it is to flop face-first into at the end of an exhausting day. Or at lunch. No judgement.

Miraculously, given the weight and construction, it stays totally breathable and hasn't left me feeling overheated even on these warm summer nights with just a fan in the window.

Beyond being the absolute most comfortable comforter I've found, it's also answered my minimalist bed making desires. Whether you opt to use it knit or quilted side up, it cleanly pulls the room together and doesn't wrinkle or look unkempt even if you steal a quick nap on top of it.

Also worth noting, while all that sounds super luxe and totally indulgent, the best part is, it's equally durable. It's made to be easily machine washed and come out the other side as radically soft as ever, forever, which totally helps take the sting out of the price tag.

My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

Here is my top pick from Sunday Citizen, along with the super-soft goods I'm coveting for future purchases.

Woodland Snug comforter


The bedroom anchor I've been looking for— the Snug Comforter.


Braided Pom Pom Throw

Because this degree of coziness needs portability, I'm totally putting the throw version on my list. It's washable, which is a must-have given my shedding dog and two spill-prone kiddos who are bound to fight over it during family movie night.


Lumbar pillow


What's a cozy bed without a pile of pillows?


Crystal infused sleep mask

sunday citizen sleep mask

Promoting sleep by creating total darkness and relaxation, I've bookmarked as my go-to gift for fellow mamas.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


10 Montessori phrases for kids who are struggling with back to school

The first day of school can be hard for everyone, mama. Here's how to use the Montessori method to help your child adjust.

No matter how excited your child was to pick out a new lunchbox and backpack this year, there will likely be days when they just don't want to go to school. Whether they're saying "I don't like school" when you're home playing together or having a meltdown on the way to the classroom, there are things you can say to help ease their back-to-school nerves.

More than the exact words you use, the most important thing is your attitude, which your child is most definitely aware of. It's important to validate their feelings while conveying a calm confidence that school is the right place for them to be and that they can handle it.

Here are some phrases that will encourage your child to go to school.

1. "You're safe here."

If you have a young child, they may be genuinely frightened of leaving you and going to school. Tell them that school is a safe place full of people who care about them. If you say this with calm confidence, they'll believe you. No matter what words you say, if your child senses your hesitation, your own fear of leaving them, they will not feel safe. How can they be safe if you're clearly scared of leaving them? Try to work through your own feelings about dropping them off before the actual day so you can be a calm presence and support.

2. "I love you and I know you can do this."

It's best to keep your goodbye short, even if your child is crying or clinging to you, and trust that you have chosen a good place for them to be. Most children recover from hard goodbyes quickly after the parent leaves.

If your child is having a hard time saying goodbye, give one good strong hug and tell them that you love them and know they can do this. Saying something like, "It's just school, you'll be fine" belittles their feelings. Instead, acknowledge that this is hard, but that you're confident they're up to the task. This validates the anxiety they're feeling while ending on a positive note.

After a quick reassurance, make your exit, take a deep breath and trust that they will be okay.

3. "First you'll have circle time, then work time, and then you'll play on the playground."

Talk your child through the daily schedule at school, including as many details as possible. Talk about what will happen when you drop them off, what kinds of work they will do, when they will eat lunch and play outside, and who will come to get them in the afternoon.

It can help to do this many times so that they become comfortable with the new daily rhythm.

4. "I'll pick you up after playground time."

Give your child a frame of reference for when you will be returning.

If your child can tell time, you can tell them you'll see them at 3:30pm. If they're younger, tell them what will happen right before you pick them up. Perhaps you'll come get them right after lunch, or maybe it's after math class.

Giving this reference point can help reassure them you are indeed coming back and that there is a specific plan for when they will see you again. As the days pass, they'll realize that you come consistently every day when you said you would and their anxieties will ease.

5. "What book do you think your teacher will read when you get to school this morning?"

Find out what happens first in your child's school day and help them mentally transition to that task. In a Montessori school, the children choose their own work, so you might ask about which work your child plans to do first.

If they're in a more traditional school, find an aspect of the school morning they enjoy and talk about that.

Thinking about the whole school day can seem daunting, but helping your child focus on a specific thing that will happen can make it seem more manageable.

6. "Do you think Johnny will be there today?"

Remind your child of the friends they will see when they get to school.

If you're not sure who your child is bonding with, ask the teacher. On the way to school, talk about the children they can expect to see and try asking what they might do together.

If your child is new to the school, it might help to arrange a playdate with a child in their class to help them form strong relationships.

7. "That's a hard feeling. Tell me about it."

While school drop-off is not the time to wallow in the hard feelings of not wanting to go to school, if your child brings up concerns after school or on the weekend, take some time to listen to them.

Children can very easily be swayed by our leading questions, so keep your questions very general and neutral so that your child can tell you what they're really feeling.

They may reveal that they just miss you while they're gone, or may tell you that a certain person or kind of work is giving them anxiety.

Let them know that you empathize with how they feel, but try not to react too dramatically. If you think there is an issue of real concern, talk to the teacher about it, but your reaction can certainly impact the already tentative feelings about going to school.

8. "What can we do to help you feel better?"

Help your child brainstorm some solutions to make them more comfortable with going to school.

Choose a time at home when they are calm. Get out a pen and paper to show that you are serious about this.

If they miss you, would a special note in their pocket each morning help? If another child is bothering them, what could they say or who could they ask for help? If they're too tired in the morning, could an earlier bedtime make them feel better?

Make it a collaborative process, rather than a situation where you're rescuing them, to build their confidence.

9. "What was the best part of your school day?"

Choose a time when your child is not talking about school and start talking about your day. Tell them the best part of your day, then try asking about the best part of their day. Practice this every day.

It's easy to focus on the hardest parts of an experience because they tend to stick out in our minds. Help your child recognize that, even if they don't always want to go, there are likely parts of school they really enjoy.

10. "I can't wait to go to the park together when we get home."

If your child is having a hard time saying goodbye, remind them of what you will do together after you pick them up from school.

Even if this is just going home and making dinner, what your child likely craves is time together with you, so help them remember that it's coming.

It is totally normal for children to go through phases when they don't want to go to school. If you're concerned, talk to your child's teacher and ask if they seem happy and engaged once they're in the classroom.

To your child, be there to listen, to help when you can, and to reassure them that their feelings are natural and that they are so capable of facing the challenges of the school day, even when it seems hard.

Back to School

Toy Insider just dropped their Holiday Gift Guide and here's what we're buying

It's not easy combing through 300+ toys, but someone's got to do it.

The time has come! The Toy Insider's annual Holiday Gift Guide is here. Each year they surface the season's hottest toys and games for kids of all ages. To make it easier for parents, they've broken them out into three lists: the Hot 20, the STEM 10 and the 12 Under $20. All together, the list includes over 300 sure-to-be-asked for gifts to make your holiday shopping as easy as possible.

Each category is broken down by age and hand-picked by the Toy Insider so you can be sure to find something for every kid on your list (and then some.) Have a kiddo that likes to circle things old school? (Senior millennials with a Sears holiday catalog obsession, raise your hand!) The Toy Insider's 2021 Holiday Gift Guide will appear in the November issue of PARENTS magazine, on newsstands on Oct. 4.

We were lucky enough to get a sneak peek at their virtual Holiday of Play and while there are dozens and dozens of awesome toys, here are some of our favorites.


Soft, satisfyingly squishy and available in a ton of adorable varieties, I guess it's no surprise these Tik-Tok famous stuffies have become the must-have item of the elementary school set. They're all very cute, but there's something about smiling fruit that gets me every time.

Ages: 0+


Geomag Magicube Shapes

Perfectly sized for little hands, these chunky magnetic blocks let the littlest builders work their hand-eye coordination and critical thinking skills. The 13-piece set is made from 100% recycled plastic which makes them fun and kind to the planet!

Ages: 1+


LeapFrog Count-Along Basket and Scanner Play Food Shopping Toy

LeapFrog Count-Along Basket and Scanner Play Food Shopping Toy

Little ones will love scanning the healthy foods and dropping them in the rolling basket. New from LeapFrog, this shopping pal teaches counting, colors, numbers and following directions. And with all of its dad-joke level puns (Yall "bready" for this?) you might even refresh the batteries when they wear out. 😉

Ages: 2+


Magna-tiles Jungle Animals Set


Who isn't already obsessed with Magna-tiles? A sweet addition to a growing collection or simply fun on its own, the new 25-piece jungle animal set comes with a tiger, leopard, caiman, sloth and hippopotamus that cling to whatever build they dream up.

Ages: 3+


Crayola Spill-Proof Washable Paint

Crayola Spill-Proof Washable Paint

Love arts and crafts time but stress about the mess? Crayola, the brand that's conquered washable art supplies for decades just released one of the coolest products yet. Spill-proof, washable and easy-to-use, their brand new paints can be used with or without water to create all kinds of masterpieces. (Seriously, you can turn it all the way upside down and, NOTHING. Not a drip.)

Ages: 3+


Creativity for Kids Sensory Bin: Construction Zone Playset

Creativity for Kids Sensory Bin: Construction Zone Playset

This ready-made sensory bin comes with everything your construction-loving kiddo needs to entertain themselves for hours. When they're done, just snap the lid back on and store for next time. Honestly, I'd pay double. (And if diggers and dump trucks aren't thing, they offer a bunch of different themes that are sure to please.)

Ages: 3+


Colorforms 70th Anniversary Set


Throwback analog goodness that's fun for the entire family. This anniversary set comes with over 500 pieces in a gorgeous color palette to create and recreate endless works of shape-based art. Family night just got a whole lot more creative.

Ages: 3+


Osmo Math Wizard and the Magical Workshop

For educational screen time everyone can agree on, we're big fans of all things Osmo. This new offering is perfect for first and second graders to brush up on math skills while brewing magical mixtures, helping dragons take flight and more.

Ages: 6-8


Stomp Rocket Stomp Racers

Stomp Rocket Stomp Racers

As longtime fans of Stomp Rockets, we're pretty excited about their latest launch–Stomp Racers. Honestly, the thrill of sending things flying through the air never gets old. Parents and kids alike can spend hours launching these kid-powered cars which take off via a stompable pad and hose.

Ages: 5+


Crayola Scribble Scrubbies Peculiar Pets

Crayola Scribble Scrubbies Peculiar Pets

There's something about coloring on things that aren't paper that's oh-so-appealing to kids. (God bless Magic Erasers, right?) Spare your walls and get them hooked on Crayola's Scribble Scrubbies. The creatures can be colored, washed and colored again to keep the fun going. This set is a stand out not only because of that adorable baby dragon, but because the bath has a real working sprayer to help get everyone squeaky clean.

Ages: 3+


LEGO Disney Ariel, Belle, Cinderella and Tiana’s Storybook Adventures

LEGO Disney Ariel, Belle, Cinderella and Tiana\u2019s Storybook Adventures

Perfect for LEGO play on-the-go, this 130-piece building set features all their favorite Disney Princesses and a two-sided castle that folds up inside.

Ages: 5+


LEGO Dots Designer


LEGO DOTS may be my favorite of the recent LEGO lines. The small scale kits offer a new creative way to play, which is more arts + crafts than towers and buildings. This 650+ piece set comes with ideas for creating things like jewelry boxes, room signs and wall art that can be taken apart and put back together in endless configurations.

Ages: 7+


LEGO VIDIYO Unicorn DJ Beatbox

LEGO VIDIYO Unicorn DJ Beatbox

Another LEGO favorite is the VIDYO line which seamlessly blends screen-free play with digital creativity. Kids can direct and star in their own music videos with the VIDYO app which scans the minifigures and unlocks new effects with each BeatBit. They can also safely share their work on the app's kid-safe social feed.

Ages: 7+


Crayola Paper Butterflies Science Kit


Learn about color mixing while building and designing their own gorgeous butterflies! This science-meets-art kit teaches the concept of capillary action as the colors make their way across the paper. When they're done, it's ready to display for all to admire.

Ages: 7+


Make It Real Color Fusion Nail Polish Maker

Make It Real Color Fusion Nail Polish Maker

At-home manicures have really had a moment in these pandemic times and even the youngest in the family have gotten hooked. Take the fun to the next level with their own custom polish colors! The easy-to-use nail polish maker can craft up to 400 different shades with their k-cup-esque pods and simple formulas.

Ages: 8+


Tetris Head-to-Head Multiplayer Game

Tetris Head-to-Head Multiplayer Game

Bring everyone's favorite video game classic to the family game night table!

Ages: 8+


LEGO Seinfeld Set


No soup, all fun.

Ages: Anyone who celebrates Festivus.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


Where to give birth: Here are your labor and delivery options

Is a hospital, birthing center or home birth best for you? Here's what to think about for your upcoming delivery.

Dougal Waters/Getty Images

Whether you are just starting to think about getting pregnant or are already on your pregnancy journey, an important step is deciding where you will receive prenatal care and give birth, and who will care for you along the way. When it comes to where to deliver your baby, you'll need to decide between giving birth in a hospital, a birth center or at home. And you can also decide which type of provider to receive prenatal care from: an obstetrician (OB/GYN), a family physician, a midwife or a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO).

You definitely have options. Before we get into them, please remember that this is YOUR BIRTH. Do what feels right for you. Factors such as what you have access to, your insurance and underlying medical conditions may limit your choices, but ultimately you make the decisions that are best for you.

It's important to get reflective and be honest: Research shows that those who are not thrilled with their birthing place choice can feel anxious throughout pregnancy. So choose wisely, but and remember that you can always change your mind.

Let's break down your options for where to give birth and who to have guide your pregnancy and catch your baby.

Where to give birth: hospital, birth center or at home?

As I share in The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama, there are some questions you can consider which might help you decide where to give birth:

  • What do you want the overall experience and vibe to be like at your birth?
  • Do you have any medical conditions that may require additional support during your pregnancy and birth?
  • Do you expect to have a low-risk or high-risk pregnancy?
  • How do you think you will want to cope with labor and birth? Epidural or other medications? No medications? Undecided?
  • How do medical settings make you feel? Comforted? Or nervous?
  • What types of settings do you have access to?
  • What settings does your insurance cover and how much, if any, are you able to afford to pay out of pocket for uncovered expenses?
  • If your family is LGBTQIA+ or you are concerned that you may be treated in a different way from other patients, it's important to look into the organization's approach or to get a reference from friends. Consider whether the staff have received sensitivity training, if they regularly provide services for families like yours, and if you generally feel like you will be treated well at the facility.

1. Hospital births

The majority of women in the U.S. give birth in a hospital labor and delivery unit. Birthers in hospitals have access to a wide range of medical interventions including continuous monitoring, pain medication and labor-inducing Pitocin, and are also down the hall from an operating room in case a Cesarean section becomes necessary. You can be attended by a physician, midwife or doctor of osteopathic medicine in a hospital.

Intervention rates are the highest in hospitals; more than half of women get epidurals, and the chances of having a C-section are the greatest. (Check out this Consumer Reports guide to see whether your potential hospital shares its C-section rates.) However, in many cases, this increased rate of intervention can be mediated by choosing a hospital that admits certified nurse-midwives (CNMs). Ask your local hospital whether midwives have admitting privileges there.

Is this the right option for me?

Women who choose hospital births may have a health condition that requires more advanced medical care. They may know that they want to have an epidural for their birth, or they may simply feel most comfortable in a hospital setting.

2. Birth center

The American Association for Birth Centers defines a birth center this way: "A birth center [is] a home-like setting where care providers, usually midwives, provide family-centered care to healthy pregnant women. Most birth centers are located separately from hospitals, while a few are physically inside hospital buildings."

A large study of more than 15,000 women found that birth centers are a safe place for women with low-risk pregnancies to give birth, and that women experienced lower rates of Cesarean sections and other interventions than those who gave birth in a hospital. Birth centers work with hospitals, so if an issue comes up during your birth, you can be transferred to receive more medicalized care.

Is this the right option for me?

Those who choose birth centers have low-risk pregnancies and want an unmedicated birth in a cozy setting, but may not be able or want to have a home birth. Some birth centers do administer some forms of pain medications, but not epidurals. However, they do offer lots of different labor techniques designed to effectively mitigate pain.

3. Home birth

Just like it sounds, a home birth is when you give birth in your home. Just 1% of women have home births, but this number is on the rise. You'll be attended by an experienced midwife (though some physicians and doctors of osteopathic medicine do make house calls). The midwife will bring a big kit of equipment with them, including emergency medications and oxygen. They'll check the baby's heart rate periodically with a doppler and will be there to ensure your and your baby's safety throughout the labor and birth. People often ask about the safety of home birth, and indeed it is a controversial topic.

The Cochrane Journal found that there is no strong evidence from randomized trials to favor either planned hospital birth or planned home birth for low-risk pregnant women.

But we need more studies. Women who have home births do enjoy fewer interventions and many describe the experience as life-changing.

Is this the right option for me?

Those who choose home births have low-risk pregnancies; want to have unmedicated, low-intervention births; and feel that they will be safest and most comfortable birthing at home.

Who will catch your baby: obstetrician, family physician, midwife or doctor of osteopathic medicine

In addition to deciding where to give birth, you'll need to decide who takes care of you during your pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period.

In The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama, I share questions you can ask potential providers:

  • Where do you deliver babies?
  • How many years have you been practicing?
  • Do you work with anyone else? What are the chances that you will be the person who delivers my baby, versus someone else? Can I meet that person (those people) if someone else may deliver the baby?
  • Will you see me for each visit, or is there a team of people I might see?
  • What is the Cesarean section rate at the place you attend births? What is your Cesarean section rate?
  • How many laboring women do you care for at a time, on average?
  • I would like an unmedicated/medicated birth. How do you feel about that?
  • I would like a water birth. Is that a possibility with you?
  • I am nervous about ________. What are your thoughts about it?
  • How do you feel about working with doulas?
  • I am LGBTQ+. Have you had experience working within the queer community?
  • I am a survivor of violence. How will you help me to feel safe while giving birth?

For midwives specifically:

  • Are you licensed by the state?
  • Under what circumstances would you need to collaborate with a physician for my care, or would I need to transfer completely to physician care?
  • Do you have privileges at the hospital I would be transferred to (for home and birth center births). Will you be able to continue to be my provider if we transfer?
  • What other types of professionals will I have access to during my pregnancy?

1. Obstetrician

Obstetricians, or OB/GYNs, are medical physicians who specialize in pregnancy and delivering babies, as well as gynecological care to non-pregnant women. OB/GYNs care for all types of pregnancies, though their focus is usually in high risk. They can perform surgery if needed (like a C-section), and they predominantly work in hospitals.

2. Family physician

Family physicians are doctors who care for the entire family, and this sometimes includes pregnancy and birth. They usually care for low-risk pregnancies, though this is not always the case. You'll find them attending births in hospitals and at home.

3. Midwife

The word midwife is means “with woman." Midwives are highly trained professionals who provide holistic care and support to women through pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. They also care for non-pregnant women. A few things to know:

  • Midwives attend birth in hospitals, birth centers and at home.
  • Midwifery care often results in fewer medical interventions, though you absolutely can still have an epidural, ultrasounds and other procedures with a midwife.
  • Midwives usually care for low-risk pregnancies. If you require additional medical interventions during your pregnancy or birth, you will likely be transferred to the care of an obstetrician.

To learn more about midwives, you can visit the American College of Nurse-Midwives and the Midwives Alliance of North America.

4. Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO)

DOs are licensed physicians who, in this case, specialize in caring for women during pregnancy and birth, as well as provide gynecologic care. The American Osteopathic Association states that focus on "emphasizing a whole-person approach to treatment and care, DOs are trained to listen and partner with their patients to help them get healthy and stay well."

DOs work in all birth settings.

It's a lot to think about, we know. If you're having a hard time deciding, you can do some interviewing: Meet with a few types of providers, ask questions and make a decision that is informed and feels right.

A version of this story was originally published on April 13, 2020. It has been updated.

For more guidance about your birth options, may we present The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama:

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