VB HacksEntrepreneur Jessica Rolph's Tips to a Stress-Free Holiday with the Kids
For Jessica Rolph, motherhood has been an unexpected gateway to entrepreneurship. Rolph, who is a mom of three, was concerned about the lack of nutrient-dense organic food for babies and children. So in 2006, she helped co-found Happy Family, an organic baby and kids food company—it became a huge hit with parents at a time when there were few alternatives to Gerber.
After selling the company to French food giant Danone, Rolph joined their executive team and became a mother twice again. Along this journey at work and home, she became fascinated by how kids' brains develop through their connection with play. That opened the creative gate to her newest venture.
Lovevery, founded in 2017, creates interactive toys focused on brain development for babies and young children, with an emphasis on creating toys that connect with brain development at specific ages. For example, one of Lovevery’s flagship toys is a baby play gym designed by child development experts, complete with interactive toys like a black and white contrast ball intended to sharpen eye-hand coordination, and ergonomic (and teething friendly) rings designed for grasping and holding.
So who better than Rolph to be our expert guide to a kid-friendly holiday done right? Here, she reveals her go-to hacks, from traveling with the wee ones to ensuring healthy eats during this season of indulgence. Plus, she shares her own holiday traditions, the secret to gift giving and the importance of giving back.
Holiday Hacks for Moms
I believe in unplugging during travel. It’s not the time for me to catch up on email; it’s a time to read, play Legos, and connect with each other. When you play with each other on a plane, or read, or talk, you leave the plane with a better feeling than if you just watched a movie. On long flights, it is, of course, hard to resist TV time, but I try hard to at least spend a good amount of time playing and reading with the kids.
In terms of activities, my go-tos are coloring, stickers, books, paper planes, Post-it notes, and Play-Doh. If the kids are feeling comfortable, I bring gloves on the plane and will have them help the flight attendants pick up trash. They love being little helpers and talking to different people on the plane.
In terms of sleep, it’s so hard. Keeping them up later and hoping they sleep in later doesn’t work for my kids because they always wake up early, no matter the time zone. But it’s hard with social events, so I just try our best to get them to bed early, and try not to beat myself up about a late night here and there.
I’ve been trying a ten minute meditation every day or every other day to slow things down a bit. But it’s hard. We just run hard at this time, and try our best to take a minute to be grateful. It helps to take a mental picture of some of these amazing moments with the kids and have gratitude for what we have.
We try as much as possible to come back to home base, which is healthy, organic food. I founded an organic kids food company so it’s so important to be healthy at all times. But the holidays are also a time for rules to be broken. For me, I always try to make sure the kids have a healthy breakfast and some healthy meals at home.
For example, I try to get eggs in my kids. Kids need 200 milligrams a day of super nutrient choline, which is found in eggs. So my go-to is scrambled eggs, and eggs in a toast hole.
I think that a lot is about understanding what stage each kid is in, and then tune in to what they are curious about and want to learn. For younger kids, they go through very predictable stages, and you know that toys focused on that stage are always a good bet. For example, blocks and building are great for kids that are toddler age, 18 months to four years.
For older children around nine or 10 years old, I would focus on toys catered to open-ended play like Keva Planks or Legos.
I also try to align with companies that address climate change and sustainability, like sustainable packing and sourcing, when I purchase toys for my kids. Additionally, I like to purchase toys from companies that will replace a piece if you lose it. There’s nothing worse than losing a piece to a toy your kid loves and not being able to replace it!
I have never missed a Christmas in Minneapolis, Minnesota (where I’m from). I think if I had a prenup with my husband, Decker, it would have included a stipulation that he had to come to Christmas every year in Minnesota!
I’ve been doing the same tradition for my whole life, and I think it’s brought a whole new life to my kids' holidays in terms of traditions. I eat my step-mom’s wild rice soup on Christmas Eve. The kids wait on the stairs of my dad and step mom’s home on Christmas morning, and they can’t come down until we say they can. Because my parents are divorced, Santa then comes to my mom’s house on the 26th, and usually we do crafts and then we go to a performance at the children’s theater in town.
My little brother is disabled and lives in a group home and the only night he sleeps away from his home, and we are all under the same roof, is Christmas. It’s a day I look forward to throughout the year. He can’t walk or talk but he’s so joyful, and we sit and cuddle on the couch and open presents.
It’s my stepmom's wild rice soup. We always have it on Christmas Eve and it’s so comforting and delicious.
We do a trip where I bring my three kids to Target, we fill up a cart of toys and then they we give the toys to Toys for Tots. I like that they have to process the feeling of giving to other kids in need and picking out things other kids would like.
Right now, the biggest challenge is getting the word out. We don’t sell through traditional retail channels. We just launched a new block set and we are so proud of it, and are excited to debut it for the holidays. We went into hundreds of homes and found that kids aren’t using blocks any more. They are being replaced by Magnatiles and legos.
But blocks teach support structure and physics at an early age. Kids also learn math and engineering through blocks. Blocks are really the original STEM toy and block play is incredibly important to childhood development. When we thought through creating Lovevery blocks, we wanted to bring math and imaginative play into people’s homes. So the blocks are colorful, and kids can do around 20 different activities with the set. The box even turns into a pull toy.
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