A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

As I watch iridescent orbs float through the sunset sky I think, “Wow.”


In the age of iPads, iPhones, and numerous other electronic devices, something as simple as blowing bubbles can still stir up so much excitement. Although we live in a world of overstimulation, kids really do love the simple things in life and I think deep down, so do adults.

The peace and joy that comes from reconnecting with nature and loved ones; the feeling we get every time we leave our busy lives behind and embark on a new adventure. With travel we aren’t only creating awesome memories – we’re giving the gift of a childhood unplugged.

A mama friend made a comment recently about noticing an improvement in her child’s behavior when given less time on his video games. This made me realize that I’ve observed this change too, including when I reduce my daughter’s time on YouTube due to her high-levels of sass. Then I asked myself, “Why?”

I’ll admit, sometimes gadgets are a total lifesaver. I’m a big fan of iPads during family travel because they hold so much entertainment during plane, train, and road trips. Was it really just the electronics causing attitude issues or something else?

I started thinking about my travels and how I use electronics on the road versus at home, and how the day is spent in between uses. I also started thinking about how my kids seem better- behaved on the road versus at home, which is probably why I like to travel so much. 

Then it hit me: the great outdoors! Numerous studies have shown that there are many benefits to being outside, especially for kids, and when we travel we spend a significant amount of time outside exploring. I began to think that maybe the combination of extra time in nature combined with the lack of electronics was the answer. I did some investigating and what I found is quite interesting.

Benefits to playing outside:

Outdoor play offers not only physical benefits like increased balance, endurance, and hand-eye coordination, but has also shown to improve cognitive and social/emotional development.

1 | Improves mental health.

There’s a lot of research to demonstrate that people who live near green spaces have improved mental health. Taking it a step further, a 2000 study by Nancy Wells in the Journal of Environment and Behavior shows that children’s stress levels reduce within minutes of seeing green spaces. There is a drastic change in children when removed from highly urban areas to more open spaces.

The Episcopal Center for Children explains that outdoor play reduces stress and lowers a child’s risk for anxiety and depression. It can also ease some symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This is something to think about for parents with children who have special needs. Incorporating time in nature into everyday life, as well as family travel, can have great results. 

Dirt is good too! I don’t know about you, but my kids love to wallow in the dirt and it makes me cringe. Well, I’m going to start embracing my kids need to be dirty, because the mycobacterium vaccae in soil mirrors Prozac’s effect on neurons.

When kids are feeling at ease, they tend to behave much better. With outdoor play children are not only improving their physical skills, but overcoming obstacles and building self-confidence. 

2 | Improves social and motor skills.

So self-confidence builds self-esteem, but the confidence is gained by overcoming challenges. When kids explore outdoors they have to use their imaginations, acquire new skills and learn to problem solve. By playing outside children are also gaining attention and working memory benefits.

Here is where the difference between video games verses outdoor play is best demonstrated. Video games have pre-programmed rules and kids just follow along, never really understanding why the rule exists. According to a report by Rae Pica in Early Childhood News, when children play outside they have to create their own games and rules, creating a deeper level of understanding.

This also plays into improved social skills, because with these invented games comes learning to work together, dealing with conflict and problem-solving. Remember grassy areas reduce stress, so we are all good!

3 | Improves physical health.

Playing outside requires kids to use their bodies. The physicality of outdoor play by nature improves flexibility, muscle strength, and coordination. They become aware of their bodies in space which benefits motor skills and balance. And running around helps kids stay fitter and leaner. 

In addition to physical fitness, nature does wonders for the general health of the body. For instance, being outside is a great immune booster. Yes, kids get sick less the more time they spend outside.

How Family Travel Promotes Outdoor Play

Travel takes us out of our routine and, depending where we travel, we tend to spend more time outdoors than we would normally at home. Sure, the use of iPads comes in handy during long- haul flights, but it is not the day’s main form of entertainment.

When we arrive at our destination the exploration begins. With no one rushing off to work or school, we awake each morning excited for what the day holds, what adventure lies ahead.

Family travel comes in all shapes and sizes. Travels may last a weekend, a week, a month, maybe longer. Whether our travels take us into the wild or the wilds of urban sprawls, there is always opportunity for considerable time outdoors.

Botanical Gardens and Parks

Traveling to big cities one might question where outdoor play would enter the equation, but cities have many options to spend time in the open-air. The key here is the travel mindset, nothing on the agenda but to explore. Not only is there a lot of time spent walking around the city, but there are usually great city parks to enjoy as well as beautiful botanical gardens.

No matter how amazing the destination, the highlight for my kids is always the playground. We were recently in Glasgow, Scotland and ended up spending a lot of time in the botanical garden. The kids loved running in grass, exploring the paths along the Kelvingrove River and playing on the playground so much that it became a good bargaining chip for good behavior later. If they behaved at the restaurants and tours, they were rewarded with extra play time at the botanical gardens.

The great thing about city parks is that it may require very little travel for many of you. Be a tourist in your hometown and enjoy the nature around the corner. “Make sure your child gets at least 15-30 minutes of outdoor play each day,” says Dodd White, president and CEO of Episcopal Center for Children. “If you live in an apartment building or don’t have a yard, try to get to a neighborhood park a few times a week, and leave your technology at home or turned off.” 

Camping and RVing

It doesn’t get more outdoors than camping. We often take RV trips with the family, and the kids are probably the best-behaved on these trips. When camping there is not a lot on the itinerary that isn’t outdoor related, so the time spent playing outdoors is pretty much endless.

The kids love the RV trips, because they’re relaxing and no one is rushing off somewhere. Camping gives us time to just be. We get to fully enjoy all the elements. Play among the earth, feeling the wind in our hair, roasting marshmallows and telling stories by the camp fire, frolicking in the water.

The slow-paced nature immersion that camping provides is not only fun, but is actually really good for our brains. David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University Utah, discussed the three-day affect in National Geographic. Believe it or not, our brains do become fatigued and three days absorbed in nature acts as a mental cleansing.

Beach Vacations

Beach camping or staying at a fun beach resort provides fun in the sun and is extremely beneficial for physical and mental health. All that running in the sand and splashing in the waves is sure to be a blast and burn up lots of energy, but a study by J. Aaron Hipp in the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows that there are actual health benefits to a trip to the beach, including a shot of vitamin D and increased endorphins.

Salty seas have many benefits as well. The sea contains many minerals like magnesium, potassium, and iodine that help provide a healing effect as well as a detox for the human body. Salmon showed in a 2001 study in Clinical Psychology Review that swimming actually reduces stress and anxiety in addition to the physical health effects of non-impact exercise.

The beach is where our family spends the most time outdoors. Not only do we live near local beaches, but we also do a lot of beach camping and traveling to other prime beach resort destinations. Surprisingly enough, there are usually grassy areas near the beach, which really is the best of both worlds.

The takeaway from all this information is that everyone can benefit from time outdoors among nature. Do you have to travel far to get out of the concrete jungle? No, but our day-to-day lives are very busy and we usually don’t make time for decompressing outside.

When we travel we’re in a different mindset, a semi-relaxed state already. We aren’t rushing to work, getting kids to school, finishing homework, and making dinner. Routine, routine, routine; it’s driving us crazy and our kids are growing up too fast. Travel provides us the opportunity and time to reconnect with our family and nature, leaving you and your kids feeling refreshed. A childhood unplugged is often a happy one.   

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

We're a busy people, this family of mine. And we like it that way. But we're still always looking for simple ways to reconnect.

And most of the time, those moments happen around the dinner table.

I'm not embarrassed to admit we've become homebodies—we vastly prefer nights in watching movies and meals at home to the stress and cost of evenings out. While my husband and I still try to schedule a few legit date nights out now and then, by the end of our busy days, we like relaxing at the table as a family, then putting our daughter to bed to spend time together catching up on our shows or watching a movie. Most of our dates happen on the couch, and we're okay with that.

Dinner itself is a tradition I grew up valuing. As one of five kids, it seemed to be the only time our family was really all together, catching up on our days, making plans, or even just being physically present together. (This reminds me so much of the table we would gather around every night!)

Now that I'm my family's connector, I make sure to prioritize that time (even if most nights it's all I can do to get my wiggly toddler to sit still long enough to get a few bites of her dinner).

Whether we're relishing a home-cooked meal or simply noshing some pizza (because mama is tired, folks), nothing can replace the feeling of reconnecting—or leaving the table with satisfied bellies.

Because something strange happens when you have kids. Suddenly, time seems to enter a warp. One day (usually the days when nap time is short and the tantrums are long), time will drag on endlessly, making each minute feel like an hour until my husband gets home and can help with the kids. But most of the time, when I stop and really think about where we are in this busy season of life, I feel like time is flying by.

I look at my daughter, and I feel like someone has snuck in during the night and replaced her with this big-little girl because I swear she was just born a few months ago. I hug my son, unsure where the time has possibly gone because didn't I just take that positive pregnancy test yesterday? And I marvel at this rapidly growing family my husband and I have built because, really, wasn't he just asking me to be his girlfriend a year or two ago? (Try 10, self. That was 10 years ago.)

As fast as time races by, I don't have any answers for how to slow it down. If anything, the pendulum seems to swing quicker and quicker as our days fill with new activities. With jobs and responsibilities, with more and more activities and play dates for the kids.

But at the dinner table, I feel like time slows down enough for me to pause and look at this little family. I imagine us two, five, 10 years down the road (gathering around a table just like one of these). More little (and then not so little) faces peering at me over the table, asking for another piece of bread or more milk as my husband makes them giggle with a silly face or story.

I imagine them as teenagers, telling me about an upcoming test or asking if they can borrow the car after dinner. I even see them as adults, coming back to visit with their own kids for the occasional family dinner. (Hey, a mom can dream, right?)


No matter where life takes us—or how quickly—I'm grateful for this time and this place where we can always come back together.

To shop all of these looks, explore Arhaus and shop their exclusive dining room sale, going on now for a limited time only.

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


It happens to the best of us. Even to the GOAT. When you have a baby it's so easy for your home to just fill up with brightly colored plastic. Just ask Serena Williams.

Her 1-year-old daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.'s things seem to be taking over the house, as Williams shared with her Instagram followers.


"Sometimes I have to throw my hands up in the air. #thismama used to have a living room. Now I just have a play room. When did that happen?" she captioned the relatable pic.

We've all been there, Serena. As Motherly's minimalism expert, Juli Williams, previously wrote, when so many kind family and friends gift your child with playthings, it's easy to forget where the toys taking over the living room even came from.

"By the time my daughter was 8 months old she had so many toys that we had filled two huge chests with them," she explains. "Plus the activity gym, bouncy seat, swing and walker that were sitting in our living room. Oh, and don't forget the bag of bath toys hanging to dry in our bathroom tub."

The clutter began to get to Williams, who was tired of picking up toys her daughter wasn't even playing with. When she got rid of almost all of her toys, she found herself "more at peace, with less to clean" and she noticed her daughter was playing more with the toys she did have.

Williams isn't the only one to notice this: Scientists have, too.

As Motherly reported last year, researchers at the University of Toledo found that toddlers play longer and more happily when there are fewer toys around. Their study involved setting toddlers up in a room with either four or 16 toys. It turned out, the kids with just four toys engaged "in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively."

Bottom line: You don't have to sacrifice your living room (and your sanity) to bright bits of plastic when you become a mama. If you're overwhelmed by the number of toys in your space, your baby probably is, too.

If you are feeling the same way Serena is, consider Team Motherly's tips for keeping toys from taking over:

1. If you're moving soon, don't take all those toys 

When Motherly's co-founder, Elizabeth Tenety, packed up her playroom for an interstate move, she didn't bring 75% of the toys to her new house. She had the same problem as Serena, and didn't want to bring it with her.

"Our playroom was often unusable because—you guessed it!—the toys were E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E and all over the floor, all the time. (No room to play.)," Tenety previously wrote.

Before the big move, she donated a ton of toys and found it has been "absolutely incredible to see the impact of living with radically less—on me, our home, and especially our kids."

2. Consider packing even if you're not moving 

Take a look at your living room or play room (wherever the toys replicate in your home) and consider what you would bring with you if you were moving (even if you're absolutely not).

Pack up anything you wouldn't take, and move it to Goodwill or another charity.

3. Prioritize experiences over material goods 

As our children grow, they're going to remember the memories we make together—not the toys cluttering up the house. If you can let grandparents and aunties in on this secret, you can keep your living room from looking like Serena's.

When Tenety decluttered her kids' toy stash, she asked her family not to gift the kids with any more toys, suggesting a weekend at grandpa's house, some art supplies or swimming lessons would be more meaningful.

Minimalism expert Juli Williams did the same. "For my daughter's second Christmas, we asked our family to gift us a registration to a toddler class instead of toys—and my daughter loved it," she previously wrote. "I took photos at the class and sent them to our family every week to show them the exciting new things she was learning—and so they truly understood that it was a gift that kept on giving."

4. Consider a no-toy Christmas this year

For a lot of families, a pile of toys under the Christmas tree is a holiday tradition, but more and more parents (including Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher) are opting for no-toy Christmas celebrations.

Motherly's own Rachel Gorton has also opted for this minimalist tradition. "Christmas in our household represents so much more than toys under the tree. I don't want our children to be distracted from the real reason we celebrate this holiday by a shiny new toy they don't need," she previously wrote.

"I want them to learn about giving without the concept being tied only to possessions in their mind. I want them to understand that giving doesn't always come in the form of an object."

Like Kunis and Kutcher, (and Tenety and Williams) Gorton emphasizes meaningful gifts and gifts of experience in her family's holiday rituals. Serena might want to hop on this trend, too.

You might also like:

As the royal tour of Australia continues, it seems the Duchess of Sussex is feeling some jet lag—but it's not necessarily from traveling.

During a visit to Bondi Beach to participate in an "anti-bad vibe circle" with members of the OneWave surf community mental health support group, Markle talked with circle participant Charlotte Connell who is also pregnant, about 23 weeks according to news reports.

Cornell says Markle told her that her own pregnancy has been making her tired, and keeping her up at odd hours. Mamas around the world are nodding in agreement.

"Meghan told me that pregnancy was like having jet lag," Sky News quotes Cornell. "She said she was up at 4:30 a.m. this morning doing yoga in her room as she couldn't sleep."

It's not surprising that (on a two-week tour with a mind-boggling 76 planned engagements) Markle is feeling a bit tired. Fatigue is so common in pregnancy, we hope someone on the tour is making sure Markle can sneak in a nap now and then (seriously, research suggests pregnant women who regularly nap are less likely to have a baby with a low birth weight).

As for being up at 4:30 in the morning doing yoga? Well, if you can't sleep (and so often pregnant mamas-to-be struggle with this) self-care though yoga may be the next best thing.

It's a great way to relax, and a recently published study found working out during pregnancy can cut your labor time down significantly.

Meghan may have pregnancy-induced jet lag, but it sounds like she knows how to take care of herself, something all pregnant mamas should remember to do.

You might also like:

Although my youngest is approaching a year, I'm still inspired by cozy, but minimal nurseries—especially those that can grow into toddlerhood and beyond. One that has always caught my eye was my sweet friend Lauren's little sweet space for her darling little boy, Graham. Graham's nursery is clean, modern and has just the right amount of warmth added to it.

I asked Lauren what inspired her with this little space, what some of her favorite items were and what feeling she was trying to evoke with the space. Here's what she had to say...

1. What inspired your nursery?

Lauren: I wanted to create a modern, neutral and warm space. His room honestly doesn't stray too far from the rest of our house, which is where I pulled the colors from when I set out searching for a rug with burnt orange, gray and green in it.

I also knew I wanted to include some house plants—again like the rest of our home!—and a few cacti. But I was careful not to get too theme-y, as I knew I would regret it. Rather, I stuck to a color scheme to go with the white walls, natural wood and modern furniture I had in mind.

2. What was the first item you bought for the nursery?

assets.rbl.ms

The first item I purchased was a bassinet basket from Design Dua, which actually lives in our room now, but is probably my favorite piece for baby. I also already had a large sheepskin rug given to me as a birthday gift and knew I wanted to save it for the baby's room to do layered rugs since it is a small cozy space.

3. What is the most meaningful piece included in the room?

The most meaningful items in his nursery are the crocheted play blanket made by my mom. It was technically for my oldest, June, but perfect for all those early baby days spent playing on the floor around the house. And the heirloom Willaby blanket, as they are such a beautiful keepsake. I guess I really like blankets!

4. How does the space make you feel when you spend time there?

assets.rbl.ms

Relaxed and cozy.

5. What "must have" items did you decide to go without?

assets.rbl.ms

With him being our second, we already had all the necessary baby gear, so my nesting was mostly all about creating his modern little nursery. I prefer not to have a crowded home with baby stuff everywhere, so we chose not to invest in a pack 'n' play, baby swing, baby activity center, double stroller or even a true changing table—or any other baby furniture really, besides the affordable IKEA crib! Rather, I got pieces I can arrange around the house in the future.

6. What are the most-used elements of the nursery?

assets.rbl.ms

The rocking chair and the sheepskin rug. I discovered with my daughter you spend a lot of time playing on the floor, so a fluffy rug was a must—as is a comfortable and stylish rocking chair for rocking those babes to sleep daily for the next couple years. And, currently, his handmade baby gym is a hit daily!

Although I was inspired to create a baby gym that matched, I was mostly motivated by wanting one that was foldable to set out the way in his small room when not in use. We made one by combining a couple Pinterest DIYs, using leftover wood from our garage and a few leftover pieces from his DIY mobile.

7. What advice would you give any pregnant mamas planning a nursery?

assets.rbl.ms

It's easy to impulse buy or get overwhelmed with giant lists of must-have baby items, so it helps to plan it out. Or, at least, that is what I enjoy doing as I tend to be an online shopper. That way you can take advantage of sales or coupon codes after you've thought about what will work well in your space. Also, pick items that can grow with your baby or have multiple uses.

Thank you so much to Lauren for giving us a peek inside her adorable nursery! Graham sure is one lucky guy.

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.