Nature Play the Montessori Way

Guest writer and Montessori educator: Alexis Tharp Beatty

What do you think of when you hear the word Montessori? Beautifully prepared environments with perfectly chosen natural materials? Children buzzing about in a classroom participating in various practical life or sensory activities?

Do you think of outdoors, nature, or children playing in the mud? Probably not, though if you read the works of Dr. Maria Montessori you would know the value she found in nature. She states, “When children come into contact with nature, they reveal their strength.” Not only is Maria Montessori a well-known name in early childhood education, but she was also a scientist who was ahead of her time.

Science today is consistently proving the efficacy of the Montessori method. Nature play encourages healthy child development and enhances pre-literacy skills, language development, physical development, and sensory development.Pre-Literacy and Nature

While most people would not expect nature to play an important role in literacy skills, research has shown that it does. Visual discrimination is the ability to identify differences in visual images. Visual discrimination is used in reading, writing, mathematics, social studies, and science. Different stimuli in nature promote the strengthening of visual discrimination, such as the lines of a tree, the natural colors, the shapes of the clouds, etc. Some outdoor activities that you can do to promote visual discrimination are:

  • Practice drawing letters, shapes, or numbers in different materials, such as dirt or sand.
  • Invite your child to find similarities and differences between objects outside.
  • Lay with your child in the grass and look for stars at night.
  • Play hide-and-seek games with objects or toys outside.
  • Sort rocks, sticks, leaves, etc.

Language Development and Nature

Maria Montessori states “There is no description, nor image in any book capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them in a real forest.” What better way to teach a child about a tree then to show them a real tree. To let them in examine it, touch it, listen to the wind blow through its leaves. There is so much language that can be used outside, and allowing a child to really experience those words is irreplaceable. Some activities you can do to promote language development outdoors are:

  • Read a book outside (especially a book about nature).
  • Describe what you see and feel outside (even for infants).
  • Talk about the sensation of the wind, the warmth of the Sun, etc.
  • Play I-spy outside.

Physical Development and Nature

Physical development is the physical and biological change that occurs between birth and adolescence. There are 2 types of development, gross motor, which includes large body movements, and fine motor, which are more precise movements usually involving the hands. There are so many opportunities for gross motor development outside, including running, jumping, climbing, raking leaves, shoveling snow, throwing, and so much more. There are also plenty of opportunities for fine motor outside, including picking flowers/weeds, outdoor painting, picking stones, building tiny houses with seeds, sticks, pebbles, etc. It is also important for children to take risks. It helps them build confidence, learn their boundaries, and learn the consequences of going beyond their limits.

Sensory Development and Nature

As infants grow, every action that they repeat helps their nervous system to develop new nerve cells and neural networks. The excessive amount of time that infants and children spend indoors and doing structured activities creates a sensorimotor deficit. They don’t spend as much time outdoors, and they don’t spend as much time bored, or with a lack of entertainment. Infants spend less time on the floor and more in bouncy seats or exosaucers and their nervous systems aren’t building the connections they need.

The more connections that are made, the easier it is for children to process all of the signals that their senses are bringing in.

When discussing the sensory system, there are two other senses that must be taken into account, the proprioceptive and vestibular senses. Proprioception is the sense of knowing where your body is in space. The vestibular sense is your sense of balance. One of the reasons that our sensory system thrives outside is because of all of the rich natural sensory experiences. The lighting is natural, not artificial. The colors, sounds, and smells are less abrupt. There are so many different textures for them to feel. The breeze lets them know where their body is in space. While sensory experiences can be recreated indoors (you’ve heard of sensory bins I’m sure) they just can’t compare to the experiences outside. Some outdoor activities to promote sensory development and integration are:

  • Playing in sand, including filling containers to carry for heavy work.
  • Balancing on tree branches or stumps.
  • Gardening (and growing their own food encourages healthy eating choices).
  • Building a hula hoop tunnel.
  • Exploring the woods and finding different natural objects.I would encourage everyone to go outside in all weather because there are so many tremendous benefits. More time outside means happier and healthier kids, science says so. If the rain or cold scare you, remember there is a lot of gear for those seasons to keep outside enjoyable.

As Ranulph Fiennes says “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

Even if you can only go outside for a few minutes, do it! Even if you don’t have a forest near you to explore, go to a park. Even if you don’t know what to do, just go outside! Children are much more likely to keep themselves busy outside, than inside. For healthy child development, get outside!

A very sincere thank you to Alexis for writing this beautiful article on the benefits of nature for our children’s education and well-being. I follow her parenting journey and I am so incredibly inspired by her approach to raising her daughters. She meets the challenges of parenting with patience, compassion, and a certain grace that I find so admirable. My daughter attended Montessori school for a period of time and I can say from experience, it was the most beneficial decision we made for her growth and it taught her to follow her curiosity. Montessori also taught me to encourage my children’s natural curiosity and support their organic learning process. I find that children are naturally drawn to the outdoors where they can run, play, learn, be loud, and be free! 


I’m a Skincare Product Hoarder. There I said it.

My long rant about my skincare routine.

Cocokind Chlorophyll Mask

My mom definitely held skincare as a priority for us girls. She told me prevention was better than trying to fix it later so I really can’t take all the credit here.

Thanks to mom, I wash my face morning and night without fail. I cannot sleep unless my face is clean. I also never forget my skincare!

I’ve tried SO many products and this is probably my top 3 most asked question so I guess this blog is overdue!

I went through a phase in 2013 where for an entire year I only used products from my kitchen on my skin and hair. I washed my hair with baking soda, moisturized with coconut oil, put olive oil under my eyes at night and did hair masks with eggs. It worked for me but then I got sick of putting food on my face so…there’s that.

And speaking of food: #realtalk what you put in your body definitely reflects on the surface. If you eat junk and throw your body out of whack-your skin takes a toll. Ever notice when you don’t sleep well or drink water your skin looks a little sad?

If you don’t drink water, you deprive your skin.

If you eat a ton of sugar, you’re more prone to breakouts.

If you never wash your face, that is pretty gross.

Long sciency story short: consuming too much sugar will result in enzymes which break down collagen and create inflammation. That is NOT GOOD news for your mug. And your skin is made of cells which consist of water. When there is a lack of hydration, your skin will turn dry and yucky.

So anyways, back to my explanation of my eclectic skincare routine: I also lived in Korea for a few years and only used Korean skincare during that time (I still use Korean rice water face wash by Body Shop).

Korean skincare includes many brightening products. I liked “snail mucin” by COSRX. This is an added step in skincare called “essence” which is applied after toner but before moisturizer. I also picked up on using seaweed masks there which I still do from time to time.

I change my skincare products often. I joke that I like to “sneak attack” my skin by using a product then changing it up often. I typically go back and forth between 2 products at a time. For example, right now I’m using Beautycounter moisturizer during the day some days and also a Peter Thomas Roth one. At night I’ve been using Strivectin anti-wrinkle cream and an eye serum by Biossance.

It all really depends on your age and individual skin needs. Everyone needs added moisture under their eyes since that skin is different than the rest and everyone needs to keep their skin protected and moisturized.

I read an article once saying that if you have oily skin it’s best to use an oil because your body will adjust and stop making so much oil when your supplying it with enough. That made sense to me so I always keep my skin very hydrated no matter what. Now that I’m not a teenager anymore, my skin can be kind of dry unless I keep it moisturized so, there’s that.

You also have to hydrate from the inside out. Like we talked about, keeping sugar consumption to a minimum and drinking plenty of water is important for healthy skin.

That being said I’m going to legit be a hypocrite and say how important exercise is to healthy skin. I’ve been seriously slacking on hitting the gym lately but when I do, my skin always looks better. Why you ask? Because when you sweat you give your pores a chance to clear out and it also increases blood circulation which is good too. This is also why people go to the sauna. It helps your skin to detoxify.

Exfoliate! Our skin cells don’t regenerate like they used to. For real! Ever notice how kids have beautiful skin? It’s because their skin cells turnover so fast. #jealous

Ours are slower so they need help. That’s where a gentle exfoliating wash comes in. I probably exfoliate my face a few times a week. I also dry brush my entire body before I shower. You can get a dry brush at most grocery stores. Simply stand in your shower and brush your skin upward toward your heart for increased circulation and exfoliation.

Oh and I use sunscreen like a boss. Seriously, especially during the summertime you’ll never see me without a hat on or sunscreen. The sun can be very damaging to your skin if overexposed so you have to be mindful of that.

The trademark Guac hat didn’t start for no reason-I keep my face out of those rays!

So basically, NEVER go to bed without washing your face, ALWAYS moisturize, exfoliate away the old, SPF, and stop frowning or you’ll get wrinkles!

and I do have wrinkles btw. My skin does occasionally breakout thanks to hormones. (Which I use tea tree oil for and it works miracles!) I just try to treat my skin as nicely as possible and hope it gradually eases into my 30’s!

So now that I’ve ranted here’s the deal-my rules of skincare:

  1. ALWAYS wash your face in the morning and at night. Maybe even in between if you need to. DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE especially with the phone. germs guys. Your skin needs to breathe. Give it some space.
  2.  Protect it from the sun and elements. SPF, hats, lotion, etc. The world is a tough place, your skin would like some barriers.
  3. Drink alot of water (Okay, I’m terrible at this. I rationalize that coffee is made with water…so….)
  4. SWEAT! Yes. Workout. Go to the sauna-just sweat all the toxins out of your pores! Sweat naturally clears your skin. Sweat now…glow later. That’s my motto! (Or it would be if I hit the gym more…but hey, work in progress)
  5. TAKE A LAYER OFF-exfoliate. Get rid of those dead skin cells and remind your skin that we haven’t given up hope! Theres a variety of exfoliating face washes out there or you could always use some nifty products which I will list below.
  6.  PLAY FAVORITES-treat your eyes as more special than anything else. Why? because your skin around your eyes is different. It’s extremely thin and lacks oil glands so you need to be very gentle with it and moisturize it. Eye creams are lighter and less greasy for your delicate under eye area.
  7.  HANDLE WITH CARE-breakouts that is. Do NOT pick at your face. First off, your hands are filthy. Second, you don’t want to make it worse or scar yourself and have to deal with a long term mark.
  8. Don’t neglect your NECK! Your neck needs care too. Moisturize it with whatever you’re using on  your face.
  9. DRINK COLLAGEN like a boss. I noticed a huge difference in my skin when I started drinking collagen regularly. It gave me back that youthful plump skin that I was pretty sure I lost with my 4 years of sleep deprivation that motherhood gifted me.
  10. DO NOT SCRUB. Don’t use a washcloth on your face you barbarian! If you are rough with your face you are unnecessarily pulling on  your skin and asking for it to give into gravity. I use my hands to gently wash my face and pat it dry. #benice
  11. CHAPSTICK-hydrate your lips too! Chapped lips are a sign of dehydration. We’re always taking and eating and ya know, breathing! a barrier of chapstick offers protection and hydration.
  12. Be DEDICATED to your skincare routine. My morning routine: wash my face, apply toner, essence, eye cream, then regular moisturizer. My nightly routine: remove makeup thoroughly, wash my face, eye cream, night time moisturizer, chapstick. Once or twice a week I exfoliate and I try to do a face mask (usually charcoal or coconut oil) once a week.

While I am slowly making a transition to all natural skincare, my list of products is not there yet. So, just know that the following list is not entirely organic/plantbased/etc. It’s just what I like and some of what I like still has some junk in it. I also change what I use as I find better products that work for me so please don’t take this as an end all be all of my skincare! haha

Suggested products (in no particular order other than what popped into my head that I love):

  1. Beautycounter cleansing balm. This stuff melts your makeup away yet it’s very gentle and moisturizing. I love it.
  2. Cocokind chlorophyll mask
  3. Biossance Eye Serum 
  4. Beautycounter Charcoal mask
  5. COSRX Snail Mucin Essence (that extra step!)
  6. Skinfood Rice Brightening Scrub Foam 
  7. StriVectin SD Wrinkle Cream (prevent and treat!)
  8. Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Face Moisturizer 
  9. Vital Proteins Collagen Powder
  10. StriVection Advanced Acid Resurface (another way to exfoliate!)

That’s all folks!

Yeah, I ate that.

Placenta encapsulation.

What the heck?

I know, bear with me guys.

I’m just a hippie by nature. I’ll just throw that out there. I’ve always leaned towards a more natural lifestyle and dug into alternative remedies.

When I got pregnant it was like research on steroids.Cloth diapers, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, etc I rubbed coconut oil on my belly and tried to eat the right things….but what about me?

What about the aftermath of birth…postpartum care and recovery?

I started digging into what the heck to do about my hormones going crazy and my body healing while simultaneously going into breastfeeding mode. This just sounded like a lot of stuff to me.

So, I landed in placenta ingestion. Now, some people flat out eat it. That’s not the life for me guys.

So, I opted to have it encapsulated. This means that a Doula dehydrated it into powder and put it in pill form. She also made me a tincture so when I go through menopause and lose my mind, I can try that out too.

So that being said, ingesting your placenta is supposed to benefit your milk supply, healing from a ton of blood loss, and also support your hormones since they go crazy when you have the baby.I was a good test subject because I did this with my first baby but I couldn’t with my second (she was high risk and the placenta couldn’t be saved). So, I got to see both sides of it.

Yes, my doctor thought I was crazy when I asked him to set the placenta aside instead of disposing it. He said I was his first patient in all of his career to do it-there’s a first time for everything!

The truth is, placenta ingestion has been practiced for centuries. Scientifically there’s no super solid evidence you should do this BUT it’s one of the many things in motherhood you just have to decide for yourself. I figured it couldn’t hurt.It is a nutrient rich organ and if it has the potential to ease my transition into becoming an exhausted, healing, breastfeeding mother then I was totally down.

The process was fairly straightforward. We called the Doula when I was going into labor so she would be on standby. Once I had my baby, the placenta was placed into a medical bag and into a cooler. The Doula came to pick it up from the hospital and then a couple days later she delivered the placenta pills and tincture to my home. She also checked up on me to see how I was doing mentally and physically-Doula’s are cool like that. So long story short-I took my placenta pills twice a day. My milk supply was great with Noelle and I honestly do think that it eased my transition into motherhood and healing. I noticed a big difference emotionally and in my energy levels when I took them versus when I forgot to.

I wasn’t able to do this with Orchid and I had a harder time with postpartum recovery and breastfeeding so, I personally think it was worth it when I did it. I enjoyed the experience and it was a personal preference. 

The moral of the story is-if you’re someone who is interested in alternative remedies and a more natural lifestyle I encourage you to do some research because there are options and you do not have to stick with one certain path! 

And yes, I still have my tincture for menopause so we’ll see!

Dunny Acres Farm & Apothecary

That smell of lavender and sage gets me.I’ve been using handmade soap since I was a teenager. My sister used to make it for me. Even when I lived in Korea she would make it and ship it to me because she rocks.

I’ve always been an advocate of natural, handmade products so when I saw what Dunnyacres was cookin’ up, I was down to try it out!

First off-what she’s making is different. She’s putting things together I would’ve never thought of and it works.I told her she’s a mad scientist-mixing things and making it happen!

It turns out, she does have a background in science, she was a nurse! This impressive entrepreneur set her nursing career aside when her two beautiful children entered the world and one became ill.

She began to implement natural alternatives and it worked.

There’s a lot to be said about what comes from the earth guys.And wait for it… SHE’S HER OWN SUPPLIER!

That’s right. This rockstar mama grows herbs, makes them into essential oils and then turns around and makes all kinds of high quality products.

This business is a family effort. Her nephew helps her with business tasks and she lives on the farm with her family. Meeting the face behind the business definitely brings a new level of appreciation.I just love that the herbs and products are locally sourced and I know where my apothecary goods are coming from. How neat is that? She even grows her own loofah sponges and tea. What a freakin’ rockstar!I got to try out her bath soak, elderberry syrup, Roselle syrup, face mask, locally grown loofah sponge, lip balm, and white sage spray (yes smudging in a spray bottle-I know… I was totally Christmas morning excited over this!) She also makes headache balm and smudge candles which I find to be so innovative and cool! I’m ridiculously impressed with the variety and quality she offers. She’s a hard workin’ lady and I’m super proud of how she goes about her business.I was introduced to her products on the shelves of Leclair’s General Store. You can also find her doing pop-ups! Honestly, the education I got from talking to her was equally as impressive as her products and I feel much more confident about what I’m putting into my body so if you get a chance, pick her brain!

Hurricane Prep

With the hurricane closing in-

Let’s focus on what we can do.

Try to get your hands on these items:

  1. Water
  2. Flashlights
  3. Batteries
  4. Candles & matches in a waterproof container
  5. Food you don’t have to cook
  6. TP & Personal hygiene items
  7. Ice (or freeze Ziplocs of water)
  8. Towels
  9. Plastic bags
  10. Bug spray (mosquitoes are a thing when there’s standing water)
  11. First aid kit
  12. Battery operated radio

If you’re having trouble finding these items locally, you can order online (try Sam’s club or Amazon)

Ideas for food/snacks in case the power goes out:

Crackers and tuna
Bread and peanut butter
Fruit & veggies
Trail mix
Energy bars

Parents don’t forget:

  • formula
  • baby food
  • diapers
  • wipes
  • medications
  • board games/coloring books/entertainment in case power goes out and you need a sanity break 😉

Also don’t forget to:

  • Fill up your gas tank
  • Fill up your bathtub
  • Pull cash out of the ATM
  • Charge your phone
  • Do your laundry & clean your home. You may be without electricity for a bit.
  • Make sure you have some way of hearing updates if the power goes out (radio, phone, etc)
  • Gather your important documents and put them in a safe, easily accessible place in a waterproof bag.
  • Look up a map of the area for local shelters in case they are needed after the storm hits
  • Refill any prescriptions you may need prior to the storm
  • Make a list of important phone numbers
  • If I left anything out please add it to the comments section. Stay safe everyone!

That Gut Feeling-Probiotics are Promising

*Walks into Winterbloom Tea*

“Hi Josh! I would like some tea so I can grow a culture of bacteria and ferment it”

Probiotics are important guys!

Winterbloom Tea Fayetteville, NC

It’s a thing.

(It turns out I actually did that thing wrong. Apparently you can’t just go to town being a mad scientist. There’s a finesse to this 😬)

It also turns out that there are bacteria that improve your overall health. Ya know, not just the kind your mom told you to wash off your hands.

Who knew?

Siggi’s Vanilla Yogurt (probiotic party!) Justin’s Almond Butter, Annie’s Homegrown Graham Crackers

I’ve been drinking kombucha since I was in high school. I didn’t really understand the full scope of the benefits-I just thought it was something different and I dig fermented foods in general. It turns out I was building up my gut health and doing my body a huge favor. And when I consider all the tacos I want to eat this taco Tuesday…it’s probably a good thing I balance it out.

Kimchi tacos. Yes, I went there.

Fast forward to the fermented foods trend-can I just say IT IS AWESOME! Fermented foods are more readily available all over the place now. I used to have to wait until I went back home to get booch and now I have a cart full of the stuff every time I “run for milk and bread”  *happy dance*

So lets get down to it. Your body is full of a jillion different kinds of bacteria. It’s part of your microbiome. Remember that so you can sound super smart when someones asks why you’re drinking booch or shamelessly eating a bowl of kimchi for breakfast.  *awkward laugh*

Normal car snack

YOU GUYS. There are more bacteria in your body than CELLS.

At least, that’s what Google said so it’s gotta be right.

*Mind blown*

So seeing as how they take up a large residence in our existence, you can see how they impact many aspects of how we’re doing. Digestion, blood sugar, the immune system, even our mental health.

Next time someone asks if I want to get junk food- “Sorry, I can’t. My microbiome is off.” I mean…that’s a legit excuse if I’ve ever heard one.

People are literally referring to their gut as their second brain. 🤔 It kind of makes sense. I mean, have you ever eaten a really unhealthy meal..or an entire day of junk…and just felt tired, sluggish, maybe foggy? I have. I always feel more energetic and clear minded when I eat clean. I think it has alot to do with supporting that healthy gut environment. You are what you eat after all, right?

Happy Gut, Happy Life 👌🏻

If that’s the case I am eggs, kimchi, and booch. 😬

p.s. I’m not a doctor or nutritionist. I just really dig good bacteria.

Raleigh Raw-fuelin’ our bodies

Half-Hearted Homebody


There I said it.

Blanket: Pendleton from Leclair’s General Store

So many times we have trouble with that word for fear we are missing out.

I’ve discovered that “missing out” can mean a variety of things.

There was a time I felt I was missing out if I declined invitations.

I mean, it could be SO fun!

…but then the prism turned. Maybe it’s age or maybe it’s that mom/worklife exhaustion but I started to feel that I was missing out on opportunities to better my quality of life by constantly saying yes to events and gatherings. I was missing out on resting, focusing on art, and doing things I love to do! You know, that self-care trendy stuff 😉

Sometimes self-care means being selfish with your time.

Giving myself permission to stay in has been one of the most rejuvenating and productive things I’ve done for myself.

I bounce around my place cleaning, creating, resting, and taking care of my own little corner of the world.

Supereats Snacks

When my little world is given the attention it deserves, I can thrive in my career and the things I do attend. Spreading yourself thin is no bueno.

That’s not to say I never get out or attend events-I definitely do! It’s just a matter of balance 🤷🏻‍♀️

But I mean, who doesn’t love sweatpants, messy buns, and movies? #justsayin