• Episode 20: How Do You Teach Your Kids Outside

    In today’s episode, I talk to Rachel Tidd - Founder of Wild Learning, Author of the Wild Math and Wild Reading Curriculums, and fellow mom. Hear what to teach your kids outside, the benefits of outdoor learning, what outdoor objects make for great math manipulatives, how homeschooling is changing, and what to look for during nature walks. Connect with Rachel at DiscoverWildLearning.com and on Instagram and Facebook at @DiscoverWildLearning

    E20 - 33m - Oct 15, 2021
  • Episode 19: What Are the Benefits of Playing Outside

    In today’s episode, I talk to Marie Kullenberg - Founder of MK Nordika and fellow mom. Hear how to get your kids to play outside, what gear will keep them comfortable, whether to play outside in the rain, the benefits of learning outside, and the story behind forest schools. Connect with Marie at MKNordika.com and on Instagram at @MKNordika

    E19 - 22m - Oct 1, 2021
  • Episode 18: How Do You Create Social-Emotional Learning for Your Kids

    In today’s episode, I talk to Cara Zelas - Founder of Big World of Little Dude and fellow mom. Hear what social-emotional learning (SEL) is, how it overlaps with Montessori, how to be a good role model as it relates to play, whether you should hide your emotions in front of your kids, and why it’s okay to have quiet time sometimes. Connect with Cara at WorldOfLittleDude.com and on Instagram at @WorldOfLittleDude

    E18 - 28m - Sep 27, 2021
  • Episode 17: How Do You Help Your Kid Develop on Their Own

    In today’s episode, I talk to Brita DeStefano - a pediatric physical therapist, Founder of Progress Through Play, and fellow mom. Hear the best ways to set your kid up to learn and grow on their own, how to track how your child is developing, celebrate the small wins along the way, do tummy time right, and what your kids have in common with rotisserie chicken. Connect with Brita on Instagram at @ProgressThroughPlay and at PTPDenver.com

    E17 - 26m - Aug 31, 2021
  • Episode 16: Why Should Your Kids Play With Open-Ended Toys

    In today’s episode, I talk to Sarah Lee - Founder of Sarah’s Silks and fellow mom. Hear why open-ended toys are better than traditional toys, the best kind of open-ended toys for kids, what you can do to inspire imagination in your kids, how alternative schools compare to traditional schools, and the story behind Sarah’s Silks. Connect with Sarah at SarahsSilks.com, on Amazon, and on Instagram at @SarahsSilks 

    E16 - 22m - Aug 13, 2021
  • Episode 15: What Are the Benefits of Sensory Play

    In today’s episode, I talk to Julie Friedman - Founder of Young, Wild & Friedman and fellow mom of 4. Hear what makes a good sensory play kit, the positives of sensory play, how Julie comes up with her themes, how long your kids should play at a time, and how to get your kids to be quiet. Connect with Julie at YoungWildAndFriedman.com and on Instagram at @YoungWildAndFriedman

    E15 - 26m - Aug 7, 2021
  • Episode 14: How to Teach Montessori at Home

    In today’s episode, I talk to Rachel Kincaid - a Montessori-certified mom who is homeschooling with Montessori. Hear the benefits of Montessori, how to teach Montessori, how to inspire independence in your kids, what Montessori activities you should do with your kids, and when it’s right to interrupt your kids. Connect with Rachel at ToiletLearningGuidebook.com, MontessoriLibrary.com, and MontessoriPost.com

    E14 - 33m - Jul 30, 2021
  • Episode 13: How to Parent Like a Pediatrician

    In today’s episode, I talk to Dr. Rebekah Diamond - Pediatrician, Parenting Author, Founder of Parent Like a Pediatrician, and fellow mom. Hear recommendations on play from the American Academy of Pediatrics, where to learn about parenting, the way our kids learn most of the time, the biggest gift you can give your kids, and how to approach arts and crafts with your kids. Connect with Rebekah at ParentLikeAPediatrician.com and on Instagram at @ParentLikeAPediatrician

    E13 - 33m - Jul 23, 2021
  • Episode 12: Why Playing Outside Helps Kids Learn

    In today’s episode, I talk to Meghan Fitzgerald - Founder and Chief Learning Officer of Tinkergarten, and mom of 3. Hear why nature is good for kids and their development, how being bored helps innovation, why fewer toys can lead to longer play, the perks of quiet time, and how Tinkergarten helps kids learn through the power of play. Connect with Meghan at Tinkergarten.com and on Facebook and Instagram at @Tinkergarten 

    E12 - 32m - Jul 16, 2021
  • Episode 11: Getting Your Kids Back on Track as We Return to Normalcy

    In today’s episode, I talk to Dr. Courtney Bolton - Clinical and School Psychologist, Founder of Veer Clinic, and fellow mom of 4. Hear how to conquer you and your kids’ anxiety as we move back to normalcy, what activities to focus on, why risky play can be good, how to treat each child in the way that’s best for them, and praise their effort. Find out more about Dr. Courtney at DrCourtneyBolton.com and on Instagram at @DrCourtneyBolton and @VeerClinic

    E11 - 30m - Jul 8, 2021
  • Episode 10: How Kids Handle Trauma

    In today’s episode, I talk to Beth Tyson - Trauma-Informed Parenting Educator and Author of A Grandfamily for Sullivan. Learn the importance of play in early childhood, how trauma impacts kids and what we can do about it, how to let your kids build up strength, when to step in and when to stand back, and the heartwarming story behind her book. Find out more about Beth at BethTyson.com, on Instagram at @BethTyson_TraumaCare, in her EmotiMinds Facebook group, and buy her book on Amazon

    E10 - 26m - Jul 2, 2021
  • Episode 9: Big kids and adults need play too

    In today’s episode, I talk to Jeff Harry, author of Rediscover Your Play and self-described play whisperer. Jeff helps people rediscover who they are and helps create psychologically safe spaces through play. He joins us today to discuss what play means to him and how play benefits everyone.

    Jeff starts off by telling us his origin story. When he was a kid, he saw the movie Big and began writing to toy companies in third grade. For Jeff, his dream came true, but it wasn’t what he wished for - it was just adults sitting around tables. He left that career and found an ad online asking for help teaching kids engineering through Lego and made it happen. Their reputation grew and they became the first Lego-based STIM group. They even started doing team-building exercises in Silicon Valley.

    When Jeff talks about play, he defines it as any joyful act where you forget about time. It’s something that adults often lose eventually. We don’t embrace the feeling of failure and experimentation, which is a huge part of play. As Jeff says, play is the opposite of perfection, which is rooted in shame. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that no one knows what they are doing, so why not embrace the joyful moments and work to make more of them?

    In the post-pandemic world, Jeff hopes we can stop overscheduling our kids. Let them be kids and stop trying to make them be the best. If they are in sports, ask them if they are actually enjoying the experience. If they aren’t, let them choose to do what they enjoy. Let your kids have experiences and learning over getting perfect grades. Tell them they don’t have to be perfect to be deserving of love.

    Find out more about Jeff:


    37m - Jun 24, 2021
  • Episode 8: Building Attachment through Play
    A new episode
    38m - May 26, 2021
  • Episode 7: Pandemic Parenting + Independent Play

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., Julia Dennison, and Alanna discuss all things pandemic parenting. Julia lives in Queens, New York, and is the digital content creator for Parents magazine as well as a co-parent to her four-year-old daughter. Julia and Alanna talk about the difficulties of working from home with your kids around and the need to take away the guilt of not playing with your child all the time. Remember: independent play is good for your child! Julia also goes over some of the main concerns and struggles of parents during the pandemic and encourages you to give yourself a break, ask for help, and remove all possible stressors so you can be the parent you want to be.  

    Main Takeaways

    ●      An introduction to who Julia is and what she does.

    ●      Julia’s work and parenting experience at the beginning of the pandemic.

    ●      When “letting go” in parenting lines up with something that’s good for your child. It’s not “lazy parenting!”

    ●      The importance of doing things you enjoy with your child and not feeling guilty for not entertaining them constantly. 

    ●      Let your child navigate by themselves and don’t interrupt their play. 

    ●      Parents’ biggest struggles and worries during the pandemic. 

    ●      Being honest with yourself about how hard things are and giving yourself a break. Reduce stress in your life so you can be the parent you want to be.

    ●      How to connect with Julia.


    Parenting has never been a walk in the park and parenting in a pandemic has not made things any easier! It means that many parents are working from home with children who often need to fend for and play by themselves. While some parents may feel guilt for working and not playing with their kids, Julia encourages listeners that this is not “lazy parenting!” Independent play is good for your child. 


    Even as companies begin to go back to normal, many parents (especially moms) are still having a hard time and need someone to listen. Julia and Alanna discuss some of parents’ biggest struggles and concerns about parenting during the pandemic, such as the difficulty in maintaining work-life balance, the mental load on moms, the concern that kids are getting too much screen time, and how your own stress can trickle down and affect the way you parent and interact with your kids. 


    With hard and stressful times upon us, it’s important that, as a parent, you give yourself a break and take as much stress off your plate as you can. On the other side of the pandemic, you can make a conscious effort to get back on track and do things the way you want them to be done. Until then, remember that parenting is hard and even more so now! Take a deep breath, give yourself a break, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your “village.” 



    Related Links:

    Parents Website: Parents.com

    Julia’s Instagram: @Juliadennison

    Julia’s Podcast: We are Family 

    S1E7 - 37m - May 19, 2021
  • Episode 6: Developing Speech + Language with Play

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., Nazli Blackwell, a pediatric speech and language pathologist shares her passion for Montessori as well as her expertise about how play intersects with language development in a child. She discusses the importance of playtime (not screen time) and references an interesting research study on how a child’s language affects an adult’s perception of their play. She also goes over what play looks like for children from zero to five and what sorts of toys are good at fostering the cognitive skills we want for our kids!

    Main Takeaways:

    ●      A bit about Nazli’s career as a speech and language pathologist and her personal experience with Montessori. 

    ●      How speech and language development intersect with play, which is how children learn about the world.

    ●      Symbolic play: when children begin to think flexibly and creatively about objects.

    ●      The direct correlation between screen time, which is passive for a child, and playtime, which is active.

    ●      A research study on four groups of children and the role of language in free play. It was found that language makes a big difference in how we interpret a child’s play.

    ●      What parents can keep in mind and look for while observing their child’s play.

    ●      Toys that require children to problem-solve and develop cognitive skills.  

    Play is intricately connected to so many aspects of a child’s development and their speech and language development is no different! Nazli Blackwell, a speech and language pathologist, has a background in public schools as well as private practice and is passionate about early childhood and Montessori. As she mentions, speech and language are developed as children speak and read with their parents but also as they play! Play is how children learn about the world and their play directly involves language.   

    Nazli talks about symbolic play, which is when children begin to think flexibly and creatively about objects, using one object to represent another. This begins at an early age, around one or two, and later develops into more complex play. These play sequences are the precursor to literary skills such as the ability to respond to a prompt and begin a storyline.

    Having plenty of playtime is so essential to a child’s development! This is one of the reasons that screen time is discourage, since time in front of a screen simply takes away from the time that a child could spend in play.  

    Nazli also shares about a research study done on four groups of children participating in free play. She discusses the role not only of language in play but also how play was interpreted by observers when they could hear child’s commentary versus when they couldn’t hear. 

     At the end of the episode, Nazli gets practical about what you as a parent can keep an eye out for in your child’s play and how you can foster cognitive skills. Make sure your two- to five-year-old is doing parallel play, engaging with other children around, and getting creative and flexible with their play and use of toys. And, last but not least, provide your little one with toys that require them to activate the use of the toy, encouraging problem-solving and the development of important cognitive skills! 


    Related Links:

    Nazli’s Instagram: @themontessorislp

    Nazli’s Email:  themontessorislp@gmail.com

    S1E6 - 33m - May 12, 2021
  • Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., clinical psychologist Sarah Mundy shares with Alanna insights about the importance of play in the development of confident, self-motivated, independent kids. In addition to being a core element of emotional and intellectual growth, play has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of children. Sarah highlights clinical experience and data points, but above all else her message derives from simple common sense: Children learn from having fun – and having fun leads to learning!           

     Main Takeaways:

    ●      A bit about Sarah’s 20-year career as a psychologist (with a special focus on attachment disorders) and children’s author of an interactive series of books for toddlers.

    ●      The concept of “play” as a core, quantifiable part of childhood development.

    ●      Covid19’s impacts on children and chronic over-scheduling as a block to free play. 

    ●      The long-term impacts of helicopter parenting on children’s soft skills.

    ●      Reexamining your parenting style and considering an adjustment.

    ●      Balancing playing with our kids versus fostering play for our kids.

    ●      Cultivating tolerance in parents for somewhat riskier play among children.

    ●      Ways in which parents can provide the safety necessary for their kids to stretch and grow beyond their comfort zones.

    ●      Considering the spectrum from permissive to authoritative parenting styles and finding your place on that spectrum.

     Despite best intentions, parenting today can tend to be pressure-packed and overly involved with potentially long-lasting impacts on early childhood development. But there is a simple cure: Play! Research clearly demonstrates that unfettered, unstressed playtime confers enormous emotional, cognitive, physical, and creative benefits on children. For “recovering” helicopter parents interested in changing their dynamic, Sarah offers some straightforward steps to consider: 

    1)    Assess your parenting style and ask yourself: Is this environment serving my child?

    2)    Reflect and explore: Why the need to push my children so much? Is it helpful to then? What did my parents teach me about achievement? How helpful has it been?

    3)    Be kind to yourself, recognize your best intentions and consider how you wish to move forward. Do you truly buy into the notion of play as a foundational value and priority? If so, commit to uncovering/recovering playfulness daily.

    4)    Fostering free-time and play does NOT mean spending all day on the floor with your kids. It should be fluid and allow space for then to create and experience emotions, reactions, and choices on their own.

    5)    Fostering free-time and play DOES mean cultivating a certain amount of tolerance for risk. Children need to titrate challenging situations over time to develop judgment, decision-making skills, and appropriate boundaries. 

    6)    Children who feel a consistent sense of safety in the container of their parents are poised to test boundaries in a healthy way. Cultivating freedom, space and unscripted play imbues children over time with resilience, self-confidence, prudence, and joy. 

    In the words of Maria Montessori: “Play is the work of the child.” In this week’s episode, Sarah and Alanna offer both wise perspectives and concrete suggestions every “recovering” helicopter parent will want to hear!

    Related Links:

    Sarah’s Website: www.Parentingthroughstories.com

    Instagram: @Par

    S1E5 - 30m - Feb 17, 2021
  • Episode 4: Responsive Parenting + Play to Address Child Behavior

    On this episode of Play Learn Thrive, Alanna speaks with Sheena Hill, psychotherapist and sleep coach. During their discussion, they touch on how to engage in responsive parenting over behavioral modification, and how to better connect with your young children when they’re struggling with right choices.


    Main Takeaways:

    ●      Any time your children are under stress, they’re going to have limited access to the skills that they already have. 

    ●      Our understanding of dysregulation needs to change.

    ●      We don’t really need to worry about “teaching lessons” in the moment.

    ●      Use playfulness to redirect frustration.

    ●      Anything that involves a child’s body is where power struggles tend to emerge.


    Sheena is a responsive behavior coach. She helps parents to understand a positive-parenting approach. Sheena kicks things off by explaining that parenting in the pandemic is harder than normal. Our reserves are lower and our kids’ needs seem higher. We can get stuck in a power cycle this way—but there are still options. First is recognizing that most of us were raised in the behavior modification approach. This ultimately hurts our ability to recognize what’s happening when we see dysregulation. Parents tend to just react with consequences because people can’t fathom what it would look like to stay and support a person through their big feelings. Parents feel attacked when they’re questioned on this, but they should try not to take offense. They want to feel like they’re doing something to prevent bad behavior in the future.


    Instead, Sheena suggests using playfulness to redirect their frustration. Get them laughing. This way, your child feels understood and like they’re on the same team as you. Ask yourself: are your expectations reasonable for your children? There are lots of things that come before dysregulation that we need to recognize. And it seems that intentional connection with your children’s needs is what works. Parents need to help their children to “reset”—and they’re looking to you to help regulate. Theory is good, but we need to talk about tools. We don’t need to be right; Sheena says. We just need to be wacky. 

    So, what can you do as a parent? Try to remember that your children need you to help them regulate their emotions, and they’re not very good at it. Remember that consequences often have negative effects, and playfulness can often boost confidence in the skills they already have. And finally, remember that you are your child’s coach. You want to see them succeed in life, but it’s not always about teaching a lesson at the moment. Be compassionate and judicious about when it’s the right time for lesson learning. They are looking to you to guide them.



    Related Links:


    Instagram: @parenting_works

    Facebook: Parenting Works

    Check out Sheena’s website: Sheenahill.com

    S1E4 - 41m - Feb 3, 2021
  • Episode 3: Play + Physical Development

    Today's episode features Dr. Allison Mell, PT, DPT is a pediatric physical therapist who has spent over a decade working with infants through grade schoolers.

    After recognizing the need for a place where parents can find answers to all their questions, Allison and her partner Maryann Deutsch MS, OT/,L co-founded Tots On Target, a community to bring parents and child development professionals together.

    Dr. Mell chats about the importance of floor time, what types of toys are best for physical development (as well as some recommendations for toys to avoid) and much more.

    Dr. Mell and her partner also have a Podcast called Talk with Tots On Target, and are social media platforms @totsontarget. You can sign up for their website community forum www.totsontarget.com

    S1E3 - 22m - Dec 16, 2020
  • Episode 2: Outdoor Play + Child Development

    On today's episode, Ginny Yurich from 1000 Hours Outside and I chat about the importance of outdoor play and how it impact child development from birth all the way through high school age (and beyond).

    We explore risk taking, slowing down family life, the education system and how it impacts kids natural development among other things.

    You can read more about the importance of outdoor play here and check out some of our must have outdoor toys to encourage play here

    Check out 1000 Hours Outside on their website here and get the free tracker here

    45m - Dec 9, 2020
  • Episode 1: Play & Emotional Intelligence

    The Importance of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) for Kids

    We now know that one of the biggest predictors of a child being successful and happy is emotional intelligence.

    One of our main goals as parents and caregivers should be to guide the child towards independence. As hard as it is to accept, our little ones will, all too soon, be off and dealing with life’s challenges.

    In order for true independence to emerge, kids need to feel confident and in control.

    Stephanie Pinto, an Australian based former speech pathologist and certified emotional intelligence coach, says that, simply put, emotional intelligence is “a person’s ability to be aware of their own emotions as well as others’ emotions, and how they can use this information to guide their actions and behaviors in day-to-day life.”

    Listen as we chat about play & building emotional intelligence.

    You can read the full blog article here

    S1E1 - 48m - Dec 2, 2020
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Play. Learn. Thrive. with Alanna Gallo