Best Independent Play Toys and Activities

2020 has been tough on everyone, especially for families that now have to figure out working from home and keeping their kids 24 hrs a day. Parents are finding themselves trying to keep their kids entertained and learning, while still trying to work, and run a household during a pandemic. Here’s a tip though, boredom in childhood is ok. Not just ok, but actually good for them. With boredom comes great creativity. As parents, it’s not our job to fill every minute of our children’s days with activities and lessons. Children need independent playtime just as much as overworked exhausted mommas need it.

Worried your child needs to be learning at all times and solely doing educational activities? The truth is, play is invaluable to a child’s all-round development. The more you practice it, the more productive it becomes. It is crucial for verbal skills, brain development, focused attention, innovative thinking, and problem-solving.

Rules For Setting Up Independent Play

-Set up time every day where the child makes choices on what to play with and how

-Keep things simple and uncluttered, too many choices can be overwhelming

-Start small and for short intervals

-Set clear expectations (ex. you will have one hour of independent playtime and then I will play anything you want for 20 minutes.)

-Study your child’s interest and change out materials to play with accordingly (ex. my 4 year old really likes to play with real materials and act out daily life so her materials are old things from around the house that she plays with her dolls.)

-Tell your child you are closed right now and will be open when the time is up. Any time they come to ask something of you, you can tell them sorry “I’m closed now, be back in ___minutes”

-Try to buy open ended toys that can be used in many different ways. Light up electronic toys get old quickly

-Display toys so the child can see them all, not just in big baskets. toys should each have a spot so children know how and where to put them when they are done, makes clean up time much faster

-Rotate out toys every few months. If you see a toy is not being used as much retire it for a while and when it comes back out it will feel like a new toy all over again for the child

Independent Play Toy Options

Reese MacKenzie’s Birth Story

If you read my older daughter Finley’s birth story, you know how much I was looking forward to my next birth. I didn’t get the birth I imagined the first time but was still really looking forward to having a natural, calm, hypnobabies, birth at a birth center.

My husband Josh and I waited for our first, Finley, to be 3 before trying for a second. It took 4 months but found out on Father’s day a second was on the way. I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to find out what we were having. Our first gender reveal during an ultrasound was such a mess, I really wanted to be in control of it this time. I ordered the blood gender test, Sneak Peak, at 10 weeks. The test directions tell you to do it by yourself, so not to introduce other’s chromosomes, and clean every surface and yourself to not cross contaminate the data. I had to prick my finger, which for someone who HATES blood, this was not an easy process. Then had to collect the blood in a vial. Sounds easier said than done. You have to milk your finger to get enough blood out to fill the vial up to the line. Let’s just say I wouldn’t do it again. Two weeks later we got the email with our results, which Josh and I read together. Sneak Peak was 99% sure we were having a girl, with no Y chromosomes found. I was ecstatic to be having a little sister for Finley.

My family had moved to St. Louis when Finley turned one, so I needed to find a new birth center. Mercy Birthing Center is in Mercy Hospital so it was a great option for us since we were so disheartened by not being able to birth in our original center due to complications. Now unless huge unseen circumstances came up we were going to be good to go. One of my first questions to the midwives was about the procedure of a meconium birth, since that is what had sent me during labor to the hospital with my first. We were reassured it would be no problem and I could still deliver in the center.

My pregnancy was fairly smooth. A little nausea at the beginning, round ligament pains when walking long distances, but no real Braxton Hicks like I had with my first for months. The thing that was the hardest with both pregnancy was carpel tunnel in both wrists. It made daily activities and sleeping very difficult. I went weekly to chiropractor appointments for 5 weeks which helped a little with wrists and lower back pains.

I knew from the start I wanted to use Hypnobabies again for this birth. At 32 weeks I started my daily meditation practice and online readings. It is a very big commitment, but I knew it’d be the only way I’d make it naturally through a birth without trauma. It was at least an hour a day dedicated to my practice, which helped me heal from my first birth that didn’t go expected at all. I felt calm imagining my next birth and knew my body could do it.

During the last part of pregnancy my husband and I made the crazy choice of wanting to sell our house and get ready to move to South Florida. This meant we had to prepare the house for selling and pack. Not an easy task 8 months pregnant with a three year old.

At 39 weeks and 3 days I woke up for a normal day of working my home daycare. By 9 am I knew something was happening. I started to get little pressure waves that I could still talk through. I had three daycare kids at the house and my daughter to watch so I was very occupied. By 11 am Josh and I decided it was time for my mom to come over to help with the kids. At 1:30 my water broke once again in my bedroom, and once again I could tell the baby had passed her meconium based on the fluids color. The pressure waves became much more intense and closer together so we decided it was time to start getting ready to go to the center. Of course on this day we had a handyman repairing the back door for resale. The poor guy seemed very confused by it all.

We left for center at 2pm. The car ride was surprisingly very peaceful for me with my headphones in listening to my birthing tracks. I had 2 contractions on the drive, and one walking in to the center. By 2:30 they accessed me and I was 5 cm but my contractions were so close and water broken so they escorted me to the suite. Once in the room the pressure waves really picked up and I went straight to the bed. I went into myself and everything around me disappeared. I still had my back labor discomfort like my previous birth, but my husband knew just what to do by pushing my hips together through each wave. My ritual during a wave was to count a loud. It surprisingly helped to keep my mind busy and made me feel like an end was coming. I stayed in the bed on all fours. My waves were only spaced a minute a part so there wasn’t much down time. Josh was busy getting me cold cloths for my neck and squeezing my hips. I frequently had to waddle my way to the bathroom as quick as possible to relieve myself between waves which was difficult. My eyes were closed unless I was walking the entire time. At any given time I had no idea who was in our dark room other than Josh.

Sounds weird, but during my transition phase, my comfort turned into rubbing my feet against a soft furry blanket I brought from home. The midwife came in and checked me and I was fully complete. She told me it was time to push. I was shocked it was all moving so quickly. I told her I did not have the urge to push at all. The midwife suggested I move to the toilet to get a better position. Getting myself to the bathroom this late in the game was no easy task, and sitting on it through several waves was not the comfort I was excepting. I stayed in there for 5-10 mins. I made my way back to the bed and tried to get on all 4’s. I lasted like that until I had the urge to push and then it felt right to flip over and lay on my back. With in minutes Reese’s head emerged and one additional push for her body. Once out I was surprised she wasn’t put straight to my chest like my first daughter, but was put on my legs, the midwife kept saying don’t pull her you have a very short umbilical cord. With the next wave the cord got a little longer and she was put on my stomach. It took another wave to get her to my chest. The placenta came right out within a couple minutes.

My baby girl was everything I had dreamed of. She had a little dark hair, not as much as my first but great color. I had torn a little so needed to be stitched. My husband and I enjoyed every minute with our new girl. My sister and mom brought our daughter Finley to meet her sister within the first two hours. Finley was quiet and shy at first. It melted my heart to see her hold her new best friend.

We packed up our stuff and were home 4 hours later. It was the perfect birth I had always envisioned and I have Hypnobabies to thank for that. We were so lucky to have her when we did because just a few days later that same hospital had their first case of Covid-19 and the hospital rules changed. I was so thankful none of that affected my birth, but it has made it very difficult to see family and friends since. We have been so lucky our little family of four has safely gotten to stay home together for the last four months and enjoy our new little love.

Reese’s Birth Video

Family Resources to be Anti-Racist:

Raising Children Who Celebrate Differences

Let me start by saying I am white. I don’t know what it feels like to have someone think less of me just based on the color of my skin. I don’t know what it feels like to have security guards follow you around a store, or be scared to walk wearing a hooded sweatshirt for fear of my life. I don’t have to teach my kids how to respond to officers. As a white person, I have privileges that I can not change, but I acknowledge that I have them and others don’t. My family had challenges and obstacles just like many others, but the color of our skin was never one of them. I went to good schools, got into college, and easily got teaching jobs. I can’t take for granted the fact that that was easier for me to accomplish than it is for my colored counterparts. I took this important week to learn. I was like many others and didn’t know what to say; but I didn’t want my not knowing what to say, become my not knowing what to do, therefore becoming me not doing anything. I researched, I listened to the podcasts, I watched the videos and Tedtalks, I read the statistics and I have something to say. It might be imperfect, but I’m showing up. I understand it is my privilege to learn and read about racism and not have to live through it day in and day out. This is MY problem and everyone else’s.

Black lives matter, plain and simple. Yes all lives matter, but our white necks are not being kneeled on to death in the streets again and again and again. When a house is on fire, that is the house the fire department goes to save, even though all houses on that street matter. Right now our colored brothers and sisters need us. I will not be silent about this.

I am raising two white girls, and they too have unwarranted privilege and need to know love for all, and respect for differences. I will not raise them to be color blind but accepting of all colors and all humanity. To do that I need to be intentional, and a role model. Our children are always watching us. I will be an example. I want them to use their privilege in the best way possible, which is fighting racism. This is some of what I’ve learned.

How to raise children that celebrate cultural differences…

-teach real history, not just what’s in history books

-surround them in other cultures

-teach them that differences are a positive

-take them to multicultural events and churches

-interact and befriend people of color

-have books with black main characters, not just the friends

-diversify who you follow on social media

We all need to do better and be intentional with our learning. Listed below is a section for parent’s learning and children’s learning. All items are linked. Books are linked to Amazon for convenience, but I challenge you to look for black-owned book stores near you to support.

For the Parents…



3in30 Takeaways for Moms ep. 113 How to Teach Your Kids about Racism

Travis Jones: How Can White People Be Better Allies To People Of Color?

Howard Stevenson: How Can We Mindfully Navigate Everyday Racism?

Monique Morris: Why Are Black Girls More Likely To Be Punished In School?

Brittney Cooper: How Has Time Been Stolen From People Of Color?

Heather McGhee is an American political commentator, political strategist, and sits down with Dax Sheppard on Armchair Expert to talk race in America



NAACP:Civil rights organization committed to political, educational social and economic equality.

Know Your Rights Camp: started by Colin Kaepernick, The Know Your Rights Camp Legal Defense Initiative has identified and teamed up with top defense lawyers and civil rights lawyers nationwide to provide legal resources for those in need. 

Reclaim the Block: Coalition that advocates for and invests in community-led safety initiatives in Minneapolis neighborhoods.
“We believe health, safety, and resiliency exist without police of any kind. We organize around policies that strengthen community-led safety initiatives and reduce reliance on police departments.”

Buy Black AtlantaCommunity group fund to support and repair black-owned businesses in Atlanta that were damaged during the protests.

Baltimore Action Legal TeamBail fund and legal relief for the city of Baltimore, with a focus on black activists.
“BALT is committed to building the power of the local Movement for Black Lives. We take our direction from community-organizing groups who are on the ground, and we respect the leadership of local activists. BALT is committed to anti-racist practices and to black leadership.”

For the Kids…


Ages 8-12
Ages 4-8
Ages 2-5
Ages 8-11
Ages 6-9
Ages 4-8
Ages 4-8
Ages 7-10
Ages 3-7
Ages 9-12
Ages 6-10
Ages 8-12


Bronx 5th graders were asked what segregation looks like today.
Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King

Other things to watch

Age 4+

-Dancing in the Light: The Janet Collins Story

-Motown Magic

Age 8+

-Liberty Kids

-Hidden Figures

Age 13+

-The Secret Life of Bees

-On the Way to School

-The Hate U Give Us

Age 17+

-When They See Us


-Dear White People


Arts and Crafts


Finley Grace’s Birth Story

I married Josh, October 2015, after dating for 3 years, and since my sister and husband took a while to conceive we thought it would take as long. Turns out it didn’t, and I was pregnant 2 months later. We were ecstatic. I knew from the start that I wanted to have as natural of a pregnancy, and birth as possible. I knew I wanted to avoid a c-section and epidural, if at all possible. I found a birthing center right next to a hospital in Cary, NC, only 15 minutes from our house. I found a Hypnobabies class to join and we did our center’s birthing class and lactation class. We thought we had it all figured out. Labor was exciting and something I was looking forward to.

We only had one ultrasound at 20 weeks per our birthing centers outline. At first our ultrasound tech was very outgoing and smily, however her demeanor changed pretty quickly into the ultrasound. It was evident that she was concerned about what she was seeing. My husband and I were waiting to hear whether it was a girl or boy! And yet we eventually had to ask the question ourselves. She said “its a girl” in a non exciting way and left the room. She went to get the doctor and we had to wait for what seemed like a long time. He came and checked things over himself. After no comments from the doctor or the tech the doctor finally broke the silence by asking us to come to his office. Now we were really worried. The doctor told us that they saw a hole in Finley’s brain. He told us that our little girl had a 33% chance that she was T18, a condition that causes severe developmental delays due to an extra chromosome 18, which is often life threatening, or most commonly leads to still borns. He also was concerned that she had a black shadow in her stomach that looked like it could be Cystic Fibrosis. Both were terrible diagnosis’ that we were not expecting. Josh would have to get a blood test to show if he had the gene for Cystic Fibrosis (both parents must have this gene). We’d have to wait a week and a half to know if both conditions were possible. They performed a test on the amniotic fluid to test for the T18 and Josh had his test done as well. After a long 10 days, thankfully all test came back negative, and we were told the hole would mostly likely close up on its own. This had her odds of having an issue from 33% to 1%, normal odds. This episode with the ultrasound preceded the passing of my father by a month. Which goes to show, we cannot plan on things we cannot control. With all those stresses thankfully Finley and myself were healthy at birth.

At 39 weeks I decided to treat myself to my last pedicure before baby. The nail tech felt bad for me and my big belly, and said he was going to do a nice long leg and foot massage. He must have hit all the right pressure points because 3 hours later, at 10 pm, I was walking to my bed and I felt a small gush of water. I yelled out to Josh “I think I peed.” Turned out to be my water breaking, and while getting ready again for bed, I passed my bloody show (mucus plug). Knowing it could still be a long time until baby I went to bed to rest. By 1 am the contractions started and we went out to lay on the couch and relax. I knew I wanted to wait as long as possible to go to the birthing center. I did my hypnobabies tracks while laying down. I thought every thing was great and even murmered to Josh “I can do this no problem.” Josh did warn me that it could be a long night and day. And I should try to relax. Contractions were steady until 6 am, even getting to the point of needing to go into the birthing center, until they completely stopped. We called the midwives and told them my contractions were 1 minute long and 3 minutes apart, and when my water broke. They told us to come in to be checked and monitored for some contractions. I hadn’t had any for 2 hours by the time we went in. Sadly while getting checked we noticed meconium, this meant no birth center for me and we would have to go to the hospital. I was very disheartened by this. I had dreamed of a beautiful tub birth for 9 months and knew that was not going to happen. The midwives sent us home to pack and would meet us at the hospital. I went home, packed for a longer stay which was tough to swallow since we would only have to stay at the birthing center 6 hours after birth. We now would have at least one overnight.

We got to the hospital around 3 pm, still no contractions. I asked the midwife “ok what natural things can I do to get things moving?” She told us it was past that point and now we would need medical intervention. Again I was very upset with this. I felt let down that they hadn’t prepared me for this situation, and I wish I was coached better previously on what steps I should have taken. At this point I was desperately wishing we had hired a doula. I prepared the sterile uninviting room the best I could, made it dark and hung my hypnobabies quotes. I used headphones and listened to my tracks but I never could get back into my deep hypnosis that I was in at home. I was too anxious and uncomfortable.

The Pitocin kicked in and my contractions started again hard. I had two herniated disks 4 years prior, that never fully healed, and the back labor pain was getting too intense to handle. I couldn’t stop crying out in pain with every birthing wave. I begged to get in the tub and get the relief I had always heard about. Within 2 minutes of being in the tub and no relief I begged to get out. In hindsight I probably should have toughed it out but the pain was so intense. After 12 hours of Pitocin and being in tremendous pain I finally caved and got an epidural at 4 am. Part of this was also due to our midwife being very distant and not willing to assist in any way. Both Josh and I felt very alone in this with no direction, other than pressure to get an epidural. I was still only 5 cm and hadn’t gotten much sleep in 48 hours. Josh and I passed out until 10 am, after getting the epidural, when they woke me to check. They told me I was fully complete and it was time to push. 24 minutes later Finley made it earth side at 11:08am. The room was silent anticipating her first cry since she had meconium in her fluids. They had the NICU team in the room on standby since she was a meconium baby. We held our breath for 28 seconds until she let out a scream. To much relief she was fine and put directly on my bare chest. I couldn’t believe after 36 hours of my water breaking she was finally here at 6lbs 15 oz and 21 inches.

To my dismay the midwife pulled out my placenta while I focused on my new love. I had a tear, which meant I needed stitches. Finley immediately latched and we thought the hard part was over. Josh’s family including his; mom, aunt, grandparents and cousins got to visit and love on her that night.

First night with the baby was what we expected, she slept on and off while nursing. By the morning we were expecting to go home with our new babe, but at weigh in we discovered she had lost 11% of her birth weight, above the 10% limit, which required us to stay another night. They told me to increase my feedings and just attach her constantly, which I was already doing. That night Finley screamed most the night. She would not latch for more than a suck or two, and would pull off and scream. All the nurses just kept telling me that was normal and that it was fine. The next morning’s weigh in we found she had lost more weight. They checked her over for tongue and lip ties and wrongly told me she had none. I tried telling them I thought it was my milk supply, but they didn’t want to hear it. They kept encouraging me to feed on demand. The next day we were saddened to see she was still dropping weight, which meant another night in the hospital. The next day we insisted on supplementing with donor breastmilk and started using a supplemental nursing system (SNS) which is basically just a tube I taped to my nipple that supplied additional milk while she breastfed. It sounded like an easy solution but it was incredibly difficult to get the tiny tube in Finley’s mouth while trying to get a good latch. It was especially difficult in the middle of the night with a screaming baby and no sleep, and it also required Josh help. So neither of us got any sleep the first couple weeks. Finally after 4 nights, Monday morning they agreed she hadn’t lost more in 24 hrs and we could make it to the Pediatrician appointment.

At the peds appointment I was able to talk to another lactation consultant. She too was concerned with my milk output and confirmed my suspicion that Finley did have a tongue and lip tie. She encouraged me to find some milk donors from Facebook groups if I was insistent on using formula as little as possible. She educated me on never paying any donor for milk, only donating baby related items like wipes or milk bags, and what questions to ask. She also told me to eat as much oats as possible with flaxseed and brewer’s yeast and to chug water all day. These things helped me to produce enough milk that Finley could nurse throughout the day (and I pumped every 2 hours), just to get some added nutrients and antibodies, but not enough to fully satisfy her. I am thankful for every drop I was able to produce even though the process was very difficult.

Things didn’t go as expected at all but in the end I had a beautiful and healthy baby girl, that we couldn’t have loved more. I ended up finding 3 milk donors that helped me supplement her until she was a year old. They were such a blessing to my family.

With all this craziness I still couldn’t wait to have my next child and try again for the natural birth I was so desperately hoping for.

Super Simple DIY Bug Spray

No more stinky chemicals! Try this bug spray that works great and safe for your family! Here in South Florida I can’t go outside in the summer without getting attacked. I finally have something that works and I don’t have to worry about what’s in it!


-1/2 cup Witch Hazel

-1/2 cup Fractionated Coconut Oil

-50 Thieves drops

-15 Peppermint drops

-15 Purification drops

-15 Lavender drops

Mix together in a glass spray bottle. Shake before using. That’s it, super simple! Let me know if you try it out.

No Bake Energy Bites

Try these delicious, super simple, energy bites your family will love! I make these weekly and they’re usually gone with in two days. I also make a lactation version that I love while breastfeeding by adding Brewer’s Yeast. Kids love to help with this recipe!


  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed meal
  • 1/2 cup crunchy nut butter of choice
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, then form into 1 inch balls using your hands. Put balls into storage containers and into the fridge. They take a few hours in the fridge to harden. Keep stored in fridge.

For lactation balls add 1 tbs Brewer’s Yeast

DIY Stain Remover Spray

Finally a stain remover that actually works and is easy to make at home with simple ingredients. Great for stubborn formula stains on babies clothes


  • 1/2 cup Dawn dish-washing liquid soap
  • 1cup hydrogen peroxide

That’s it! Mix together in a spray bottle. Spray on stains and rub in with hands or toothbrush. For stubborn stains you should repeat the spray and scrub 2-3 times and sprinkle some baking soda on stain for some added scrubbing power. You can also let the solution sit on the stain for an hour and then launder as normal. I leave the spray by baby’s laundry basket and spray the collar of her onesies before putting in the basket.