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With everything that’s going on with the pandemic, I know that playing will definitely lighten things up and make things a lot more fun for you and your family.
That’s why I’ve got my guest, Janene, who develops toys to help us alleviate this pandemic gloom.
In this episode, Janene and I talk about:
- How she even got started with product development for toys
- Why playing is so important for kids as well as for adults
- Some ways that we can find some time to play or have activities that we can do throughout the day, especially when we’re working from home and have a lot going on
- Some tools or toys that you can use to play with your child, whether they are young little babies, or if they’re grown up middle schoolers and high schoolers, we’ve got you covered.
If you are looking for ways to alleviate the pandemic gloom with your kiddos, this episode is for you.
Janene Russell is an elementary teacher turned toy inventing super-mom dedicated to early childhood development. As a lead product manager at Educational Insights, she brings over 15 years of experience and a unique educator’s perspective that melds creativity, laugh-out-loud fun, and hands-on learning through toys and games. As a passionate advocate for kids of all abilities and needs, Janene is devoted to creating innovative new ways kids can learn, grow, and celebrate their own unique selves. Janene’s inspiration is often sparked by the wonders of playtime with her two young children because after all, play is the work of the child and parent!
- Blog/Website: https://www.educationalinsights.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/Curious.Littles
- Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/janene_117/_saved/
- Freebie: https://www.educationalinsights.com/at-home-activities-for-kids
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Transcript of this episode
Real Happy Mom 0:02
Hey there, I’m Tony and I have an overwhelming passion to help moms navigate motherhood without the overwhelm. I went from struggling with motherhood and losing my identity to be a productive and living out my version of being a happy mom. On the Real Happy Mom podcast, I interview real moms and experts to help you navigate raising children self care, time management, and so much more. So if you’re ready to get rid of the overwhelm, and start being a Real Happy Mom, join me inside the Real Happy Mom podcast. Hey there, and welcome back to another episode of the Real Happy Mom Podcast. I am excited to have you back with me again, if this is your first time listening, you’re in for a treat. I have a really awesome guest today that is going to be talking to us about playing. Now this is something that I took interest in, especially when she came into my inbox and was like, Hey, this is what I’m an expert at. And I’ll talk about it. I was like, Yeah, I guess we need more of that going on right now. In particular, with everything that’s going on with the pandemic, I know that playing will definitely lighten things up and make things a lot more fun for you and your family. So I’m sure you kind of figure it out here by looking at the title of this podcast about wake up in play is definitely what we’re gonna be talking about today with my guest Janine. In this episode, Janine and I are going to be talking about how she even got started with product development for toys. Why playing is so important for kids as well as for adults, because let’s just be real mom. Like we forget sometimes that we need some playtime too. Janine also talks about some ways that we can find some time to play or have activities that we can do throughout the day, especially when we’re working from home and have a lot going on. And then also some tools or toys that you can use to play with your child, whether they are young little babies, or if they’re grown up middle schoolers and high schoolers, we’ve got you covered. So definitely stay tuned to this episode in its entirety. I promise you this one is going to be a pretty quick one, but definitely to the point and give you some ideas on how you can start to play more with your kids or just getting them to play on their own. So let’s go ahead and jump on into this week’s episode.
Real Happy Mom 2:24
Alrighty, Janine, welcome to the podcast.
Thank you so much. I’m so thrilled to be a guest on your podcast Real Happy Mom.
Real Happy Mom 2:33
Get me to because I was just telling before I hit record that I saw that you talked about this particular topic about playing and I was like, Oh, we need to have a conversation. So thank you for coming on. And I am just really excited to hear what you have to say about this particular particular topic. But before we jump in, I wanted you to share a little bit about you and what you do.
Sure, well, Hi there. I’m Janine Russell, I’m a mommy of two little ones. I have a four year old son and a 19 month old daughter, both kids keep me incredibly busy and on my toes. 24 seven. So in addition to being Mommy, I am also a former first in third grade teacher. And now I am a toy and game developer for educational insights, a toy company based out of Southern California, and my role in product development centers around early childhood and Preschool Learning. So I basically turn a seedling of an idea into a real toy or game that you see online and in Toy aisles, which is really incredible. But my background knowledge in early childhood development has really sparked some great ideas. But I would say like the biggest inspiration that I get for the products that I’ve developed and invented really come from just kid watching my own kids. And all of that really hands on Play, which is like so phenomenal to see in front of your eyes. is what really ignites so much of my ideas.
Real Happy Mom 4:14
Yes, I’m loving all of this in particular about how you are developing these toys because that is something I always wondered about, honestly, because right, I see these toys, but how they actually get here. So this is kind of cool. But I know that you have watched your kids play and gotten ideas, but I’m just wondering why it’s important for us as adults to actually play.
Absolutely. Well, we forget that play is a universal language for all ages. So I say this because there’s no age limit or requirement to play. So when we really look at 2020 and now what 2021 has brought to everyone we know that there is without a doubt the need for fostering positive energy to keep things moving. Going forward, and there’s no better cure than belly laughs and the happiness that play brings. So raise your hand, if you are work, mom working from home, sitting in front of your screen all day or a mom managing your child’s remote learning, plus, keeping your home life together. Yeah, that’s me too. And we are worn out or burned out. But what we’ve learned about 2020, and now 2021. Two is that we are also super resilient. And if you’re like me, you’re looking for quick and simple ways to bring back the sunshine into your home. And adults are always bogged down with those hectic schedules, and we’re always on the go. So let’s not forget that we are also becoming stuck in our ways, like I know what activities I like, and which ones I won’t participate. So this is also known as fixed mindset. And this is where we can learn so much more from our kids, and that we don’t need to put so much thought into playing and what we actually have a lot of more growing up to do. So it’s it’s important to remember that play is so beneficial to our own health. And I’ll tell you why. Play has been shown to release endorphins that improve brain functionality and stimulates creativity. And a bonus benefit is that play can even help us feeling young again. And who doesn’t love that feeling. And studies have shown that play also boosts memories. So when we put that all together, not only are we really building a growth mindset that we’re getting at eye level with our own kids to see how can we engage with our kids more and also bring back that that light and energy that we’re all needing for this new year?
Real Happy Mom 6:46
Yes, now, I’m just thinking because you really have got my brain going here about playing and what I could do for play. So would you suggest for adults? Would it be like board games? Would it be going outside and doing outdoor activities? Like what would you suggest as far as getting started, especially if we’re trying to break out of that fixed mindset they’re talking about?
Yeah, so the the biggest piece of advice I have for all moms and parents is to remember that adding play into your your daily life is not meant to add stress to your work day. But instead create, you know small moments of lightness and freedom. So it’s important to carve out some time to either jumpstart your day or moments during the day to unwind and let loose with your kiddos. And I think the best time to implement play implement play is the moment you wake up. Because nothing boost positive energy and optimism for the day like a dose of vitamin play. So no need to rush out of your pajamas or brush your teeth just grab your coffee and sit down with your child. This could be a daily 10 to 15 minute routine. And this doesn’t also have to be a planned activity each time. Because the best part of play is also being spontaneous. And I love that you mentioned board games because hands on Play can range from half from board games, to construction play constructive play also, which includes building blocks, Legos, dancing to music is played to and my personal favorite is imaginative play. I know if you have a little kiddos especially toddlers and preschoolers, it’s so incredible that once you sit down with them, they immediately invite you to their script, they already have something in mind. And once you sit down, they’re like Mommy, why don’t you take this car and you can be you know, the helicopter and we’re chasing this car. It’s they have it all mapped out. And when you step into the world, it’s it’s incredible. What can come out of that, that new script that they already have. So I love imagine it to play.
Real Happy Mom 8:50
Yeah, now that’s something that my friends, they love to do. And I had to like, tell them I need a break because we will play with they have their little plush dolls and they will play with, they have Super Mario and Sonic. So we do a lot of that. I was thinking about like the, of course with technology. There’s a lot of video games. So what are your thoughts on that in particular?
You know, it’s really hard. I know, I’ve heard so you’ve done such a great job on your other podcasts on on mom guilt. You know, that is something that is innate. We all have it and screen time is a big you know, questionable thing that’s happened with COVID and 2020 and remote learning and with us learning it’s almost impossible not to have screen time. I know I need it and just have quiet time to work or my child needs to take a break from his school learning and he does his own, you know, Youtube Kids. So the biggest thing is also just knowing to do things in moderation. So if video games Is something for your child for an outlet. That’s, that’s okay. But knowing that everything is in moderation. So do they have a certain amount of time? Is it from, you know, a certain time period and later in the afternoon? Or is it you know, right before dinner time so that they know it’s consistent. That’s all that I recommend that it’s something that it’s consistent. And they know when to turn it off. And setting a timer is really important. But I, I can’t say that screen time. And you know, hands on Play, like, it’s impossible to only do hands on play all the time. So that’s why I think that it’s okay, for moms to let go of that guilt and be okay with it so long that it’s in moderation.
Real Happy Mom 10:48
Absolutely. Now, I’m just thinking about the moms are like, okay, I want to play but I don’t want to play with my kids. Again, like, Can you give me some ideas?
Yeah, there’s so many games out there that are really independent, and hands on what I’m thinking of age group. So when I think of play play really evolves from toddlers and preschoolers, and then when you get into the elementary ages, and then up to middle school plays very different. And that’s part of growing up too. So from the littlest of the ages, like toddlers like giving them things that are open ended play and exploration, I think, really, you’ll be surprised how long they stay occupied for so that you have that alone mommy time that you so deserve. So blocks are really great water play. Like even if it’s cold outside, bring a bucket of water with soap, cups, and filling and dumping for 18 months to two year old. It’s incredible how long they will play with soap and water and giving them a like a toothbrush and cars and pretending it’s a car wash. Absolutely just is a great like I said a great way to hands on engage with their fine motor skills, and also give you that quiet time that you need. But if you’re looking for preschoolers like three to six, like then you could really open it up to more imaginative play and hands on exploration. So I really love any compounds, compounds such as playdough and Doh that you guys can make together first, and then you give them tools in a bucket. And they will sit there for ever. And the company that I work for educational insights makes really great compounds called playfoam and playfoam pobol puffle, where you just throw it into a box that sensory then, and let them just mix it with their hands. And if you have hot wheels and correct construction vehicles, you my son loves that filling and dumping and and molding and sculpting so just never ends. And more of like the hands on like independent learning. If you want something that’s really promoting the skills such as reading and math, I would really recommend this great product called hot dots Jr, which is also by educational insights, which is a low tech, simple technology, hands on workbook that kind of walks kids through the the scaffolding of all of the skills that they need to know for preschool. But the beauty of it too, is that it’s independent learning, like parents could guide kids at the beginning and then back up a little bit and then they will be completely engaged with that that product.
Real Happy Mom 13:44
Nice. Now, I would definitely make sure to include those links that you mentioned in the show notes. But I’m also wondering about finding time throughout the day because I you mentioned that before that, you know some of us are, you know working from home or doing virtual with the virtual school with the kids. And it can be a bit difficult. Just finding some time to do that. Wow, making sure that we take care of everything. So give us some of your tips on finding time during our birthday for play time activities.
100% I know that it can get so chaotic, the moment that we all wake up to till we go to sleep. And my recommendation is to wake up and play. Start your day with 10 to 15 minutes. This is a routine This is your family mantra that we’re going to wake up we’re going to be in our pajamas, we’re going to sit down and play either a board game or the greatest thing are things that you already have in your house. So my son and my daughter we love just creating pillow forts in the morning, and then using sheets and we just sit under there and use flashlights and then we’re just talking a little bit about what we want to do for the day and setting our goals. And that moment already just connects A family and it really lifts like the burden that you might be feeling from the day before. And it kind of jumpstarts like how you’re going to set for for your work day moving forward, because you were able to start your day with so much positivity and light from the kid from our own children that they, they are basically our beacons of optimism through these dark times. Yes, definitely.
Real Happy Mom 15:27
Now, I wanted to touch on one other thing, and that you had talked about some of the toys and particularly for some of the younger groups, but I’m thinking more so for the older kids like the middle schoolers and high schoolers, because I know there’s some moms that want to have some time to, you know, connect and play with them. But they’re too cool for mom. So I was wondering if you had any suggestions for that age
group. It’s so funny, because we had to remember what we used to be like, as middle schoolers and high schoolers, right. And I know that I was I went through this phase like, that’s, I’m too cool for that. But this end of the day, like plays in Nate, and like, instead, it’s a universal language. So my biggest biggest recommendation for parents of middle schoolers and high schoolers, again, is to schedule time, even if it’s not in the morning, but later in the evening after dinner, and it’s a strategy board game with parents. And trivia games, you can’t go wrong with that. So I love a product called Word on the Street, that we have also educational insights, which bring trivial long word, you know, facts to it, like springs laughter and so a little bit of lightness towards the end of the day, I say end of the day for older kids only because I know how hard it might be in the morning to set that routine, especially with remote learning. So that and also like get out and do a physical activity, get together walk, go on a scavenger hunt. And, you know, get those endorphins moving with just physical, gross motor activities, a family relay game is always fine. And whether or not that your middle schoolers at the beginning feeling like I don’t want to do this, I guarantee you when they’re in the middle of that they will not regret the fun that they see their parents, also engaging with them. So seeing their parents in their shoes, and also seeing them in a different light, I think may change their outlook on this adult middle school high school play together.
Real Happy Mom 17:42
Yes, definitely. And I was just thinking about that too. Cuz you. You made me think when you said like, remember what you were like when you were that age? And I was like, Yeah, yeah, that that is because even though I have an eight year old, we tease and say that he’s a high schooler cuz he acts like a teenager. So I have to remind myself like, yeah, it was the time that I was like, Yeah, but definitely getting outside is is definitely helpful. So I love that you brought that one up, too. So I was just wondering if there’s any other tools or toys that you want to recommend? I know you’ve mentioned a few. But I don’t know if there was any other ones that you wanted to mention, too, as well, that can help us with implementing more playtime.
Yeah, I mean, like I said, with the littlest kids, I love products that again, really promote and encourage, imagine have to play and also have a hidden educational learning benefit embedded in part of that play. So any products that like you can use in multiple ways to one of my personal favorites is called pancake pile up. And it’s a relay race for all ages. Even though it’s four, four, like it starts at four, four and up. It really is a great multi generational games. So you start with these pancakes, and you set them up and you flip over an order card and you relay race and, and balance these pancakes across the room into the box, which is also designed as a griddle, and I love this game, a because it gets your fine motor and your gross motor skills moving. But it also the product can be used as a pretend place that later for the little kids. So products like that you’re not you’re just basically engaging all of your senses, which is so important in celebrating the whole child and everything that we need to spark as a mom.
Real Happy Mom 19:40
Yeah, I like that one too. That definitely sounds like something that we could use over here at this house. Now, Janine, you’ve given us a lot of really good tips, and it’s definitely some products that we can at least start with. And I was just wondering before we signed off if you had any motivational quotes or words of encouragement for us Real Happy Mom.
Yeah. I would say never underestimate the healing powers of play. But adults forget that play was our very first jobs as children. So when we see our little ones engaging in play, that is the work of the child, Real Happy Mom can get easily caught up in our day to day work task and that overwhelming feeling of guilt. But there will never be a time where you would look back on your past and regret playing with your child. And that goes the same with your child. Never. They will always remember those times of us sitting down i to i with them, playing with them no matter what age they are. Even if it’s a video game, can you play with their child with your child? And knowing that, wow, my mom understands me and gets me, will will move mountains?
Real Happy Mom 20:49
Yes, for sure. Now, Janine, where can we find you if we want to connect with you online or just learn more about you and your business? Yeah,
so you can visit the wonderful website of educational insights.com to find games and toys for all ages. We started to to up all the way to adult. And you can find more expert tips on play on Instagram to and follow us and educational insights.
Real Happy Mom 21:17
Awesome, awesome. So I will make sure to include those links in the show notes. Janine, thank you so much for coming on and sharing all of this wonderful goodness with us. This has been super helpful.
Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure.
Real Happy Mom 21:32
All right. Now that does it for this week’s episode of the Real Happy Mom podcast to find the links in the show notes make sure you head over to Real Happy Mom comm slash podcast in there you’ll find a wealth of information regarding this podcast as well as show notes to this particular episode. And do me a favor if you enjoyed this episode, leave me a five star rating review in particular on Apple podcast because that will help me out more than you know because let’s just be real, we are going out shopping. And we are looking at reviews with definitely want to go to the store or definitely get the services that have the five star rating in the setting goes here for the podcast. So let me know if you’ve enjoyed this. If there’s anything in particular that you want to hear more of, I want to make sure that I give it to you. So I will definitely be back again next week. And make sure to stay tuned on Thursday for mommy talk Thursdays. Those are always one of my favorite times to just chat with you. So stay tuned for that and take care with lots of love.
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