If there’s ever been a time to bring Montessori education into our homes, a global pandemic is pretty much it. With our kids out of school for months on end, it can feel like they’re falling behind; especially if we have very young kids at home, how can we possibly replace the fine motor skills learning and other education they’d normally get at preschool and kindergarten? It’s not like you can Zoom yourself a Pink Tower or a set of Metal Insets (if you’re not a fellow Montessori mom, those are just a couple of examples of the education modality’s hands-on learning activities for littles). Lucky for us, that’s where Jessica Rolph and Lovevery come in — bringing mindful (and straight-up gorgeous) educational toys into homes everywhere, pandemic or no pandemic.
Rolph’s company offers stage-based learning blocks, puzzles, play kits and more toys for babies through preschoolers that cater to their immediate developmental needs. In addition to being cofounder and CEO of Lovevery, Rolph is also a founding partner of baby food company Happy Family Organics, a co-founder of nonprofit Climate Collaborative — and a mom of three (!) living in stealth-cool city Boise, ID. So how does Rolph navigate it all —between kids food and kids toys and kid-chasing and saving the planet for her kids’ future? Hacks, hacks, and more hacks, that’s how.
In this week’s Momsessed, Rolph shares with us her pointers for pandemic parenting (and the podcast that helped her), plus the music, movies, books, subscriptions, snacks and more that help her and her family stay smart and also keep their cool, school or no school.
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I was meeting with a potential investor a few months ago in New York. She has a three year old. I had to ask and then I held my breath… "so did you get the @lovevery block set yet?"… ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ She said she thought her 3 year old was too old for blocks. Wait what? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Here is the deal – three-year-olds are just getting warmed up to blocks. There are whole courses in child development programs that educate educators on the developmental benefits of block play, but @Lovevery our parent research discovered that kids were no longer really playing with blocks. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Blocks have been replaced with magnet tiles and legos – which are great for open ended play, but aren't the same because they click together and don't teach balance and engineering the same way a classic block set does. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ At 3, they are learning to build towers up higher and higher, and at four, if they have been exposed to blocks a lot, children will start building wider and taller structures, and incorporating fantasy play. It is all so healthy for development. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ And block play goes on until elementary school. First grade teachers often include blocks in their classrooms because of the rich learning about space, balance, engineering and math. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I gave her this whole speech…hoping I've convinced her to get a set. 🤞
The podcast I’m currently plugged into
“In the My New Life podcast we just launched, we interview experts about the science behind early childhood development [insert nerd-glasses emoji here]. Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris and Inc Founders Project with Alexa von Tobel are also top favorites. There was a great recent episode in Ten Percent Happier, ‘How to Go Easy on yourself in a Pandemic,’ that talked about the delicate balance between giving ourselves a break and not relinquishing our high standards. That was so helpful for me to hear right now.”
The book(s) my kids are currently obsessed with
“Bea, my 4-year-old, loves The Night Gardener by the Fan Brothers and On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna. The illustrations are gorgeous, and of course we love the stories too. Thacher, age 7, is really into The Complete Ramona Collection by Beverly Cleary. I have loved reading this to him — brings back so many memories of loving Beverly Cleary books. Leland, my 9-year-old, is obsessed with the Warriors series by Erin Hunter.”
What I’m currently reading
“This one is deep, heavy, and very emotional for me, but it’s so good: The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully by Frank Ostaseski. I can only read a couple pages at a time, but it gives me new insights in every chapter.”
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C is for Consent. This book came across my desk at work (thank you @bretjturner 🙏) and got me thinking… this one is hard actually. I want my kids to be affectionate with their grandparents and people we love, so I often find myself (too strongly?) encouraging a kiss or hug. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This was especially heavy when my 102 year old grandmother was dying in hospice. Darling little Bea, with my encouragement, gave my beloved grandmother and her namesake Beatrice Thacher a kiss goodbye days before she died. Sick and elderly people can be scary to a toddler, but Bea seemed comfortable? with my encouragement and it meant the world to me and it seemed to touch my darling grammie in her last days… hmmm…. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ After reading the "C is for Consent" book to Bea I noticed she started creating more (healthy) boundaries with her brothers and even me on when she gets cuddled and loved on a little too much. Was a good reminder for us all. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Link to a great article about creating healthy body boundaries in bio – "They get to decide if they want to share hugs and kisses with someone. If they want someone to stop tickling, it should stop immediately. Parents shouldn’t dictate, for example, that they kiss grandpa goodnight. Let them decide. They could kiss him, hug him, blow him a kiss, give him a high five, or whatever they’re most comfortable with.”
The snacks I always keep on hand for the kids
“The Happy Family Superfood bars and pouches — the kids know they can have unlimited Happy snacks because I developed them.”
The beauty product I always have in my bag
“Montana Ranch Company Emu lotion. The name sounds weird, I know, but the stuff really works!”
The apps that make my life as a parent easier
“The Hatch Rest App — my daughter picks the color she wakes up to (and then stays in bed until it turns that color!) It saves us soooo much sleep.”
The parenting accounts I love to follow on Instagram
“I love @candokiddo for great tips from an OT expert in milestones. @Howwemontessori, @Bringingupbabe, @Montessoriinreallife all have great Montessori-at-home tips. @Literacyforlittles has inspiring tips about early literacy and language development, and @drzelana provides encouraging words for life and parenting.”
The non-screen activity that keeps my kids occupied for hours
“Origami! We have a bunch of books and paper and the kids spend hours folding and making different creations.”
TV or movies I don’t hate watching with my kids
“We don’t have a TV, but love family movie nights. Favorite family movies include: Wonder, Mary Poppins (the original), The Secretariat, Queen of Katwe, and Annie (the original).”
The kid-friendly music I don’t hate playing around the house
My favorite subscriptions for the kids
“I LOVE kids books, so all three of ours each have a subscription to Literati; it complements Lovevery really well.”
Kids bath/skincare products I swear by
“We love Healthynesting skincare products for our kids — uber-natural and eco-friendly.”
The under-the-radar kid’s brands I love
“@gormanplayground has super cute kids’ clothes and accessories.”
How I keep my mom wardrobe on point
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In addition to Lovevery’s kits, here are more toys guaranteed to keep kids off screens.