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Mother Essentials: Zahra Kassam

Written by Erin Feher

You’re going to want to listen up to what this week’s mama has in store for us. Zahra Kassam has dedicated her life to fostering intelligence, focus, and creativity in kids. She was already a child-development and education expert by the time her first son, Musa, was born seven years ago. As a double Harvard grad and an internationally certified Montessori teacher, she knew the importance of those first three years of life, during which 85% of the brain is formed. Yet the Montessori preschool she was working at—like most preschools—didn’t admit children until their third birthdays. So, Zahra set out to create a program that would help parents support their children’s development during those crucial first 1000 days of life. She launched Monti Kids—a Montessori program delivered to the home for children 0 to age 3—nearly five years ago, and has since racked up an impressive list of awards and honors: She was named a 2018 Global Education Influencer, a World Changing Woman by Conscious Company Media, took home a 2019 Parents’ Choice Gold Award, and just landed a lucrative Shark Tank deal. Not to mention, she’s also a dedicated mama to Musa, 7, and Zayd, 1. Below, Zahra shares her 15 Mother Essentials, from an old-school watch to high-tech work-out pants to a few must-have tools that help her kiddos dig into learning.

Analog Watch. “The reason I bought this watch is because I didn’t want to have to look at my phone to check the time while meditating. It’s been great to eliminate the distraction. I’m also trying to reduce the number of times I check my phone in front of my kids. Going back to wearing a watch allows me to put my phone in a drawer to be present with my kids while still being able to know when it’s bedtime!” MVMT Women’s Analog Minimalist Watch, $125, Amazon.

Kid-Sized Table and Chairs. “When Zayd has snacks or meals on his own he sits at his own table to build up his independence. He can set and clear the table, wipe it down, and get in and out of the chair all by himself. It’s great because this table grows with your child.” Community Playthings Table and Chairs, $370, Community Playthings.

Apricot Baby Oil. “I use Burt’s Bees apricot baby oil on my 18-month-old son Zayd each night. It smells so good. Now, he associates the smell with bedtime, which is so useful when we travel. He loves it, too, and he’s even learned how to say the word ‘massage.’” Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Nourishing Baby Oil, $15.87, Amazon.

Gratitude Journal. “I have a gratitude practice and I keep a Moleskine journal with me. Every day I write down three things I’m grateful for and why. Research shows if you write down why you’re grateful you will drop into the feeling of gratitude more deeply. My 7-year-old son Musa has started writing down what he’s grateful for at the end of the day, too.” Moleskine Classic Notebook, $15.90, Amazon.

Fashionable Flats.“This San Francisco–based company makes flats that I can slip on and be comfortable wearing all day long. They look polished if I need to dress up. The best part—they’re made from recycled water bottles so you can feel good about your purchase.” Rothy’s Flats, $125, Rothy’s.

Silk Sleep Mask. “I took a wellness class and learned how crucial it is to have total darkness while sleeping. I love the Lunya sleep mask. Especially for travel.” Lunya Washable Silk Sleep Mask, $48, Madewell.

Radio Flyer Push Wagon. “This wagon is great for the stage when your baby begins to ‘cruise,’ or walk around the room by holding onto things. It’s a Montessori teacher favorite because it allows babies the opportunity to practice their walking skills while building their independence. Weigh it down with heavy books or free weights to slow it down at first.” Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagon, $79.99, Amazon.

Clean Cookies. “Emmy’s cookies are great for a snack on the go. I get my chocolate fix and they only use clean ingredients.” Emmy’s Organic Coconut Cookies, $22.65, Amazon.

Yogi Tea. “I enjoy tea as part of my morning routine. This tea tastes really good and comes with messages. The little notes are a pearl of wisdom each time you brew a cup of tea.” Original Yogi Tea, $8.35, Amazon.

Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations. “This podcast helps me keep grounded. While building a business it reminds me to focus on what truly matters.” Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations, free, SuperSoul.

Hard-Working Work-Out Pants. “Lululemon is based out of Vancouver, which is where I grew up, so I get very nostalgic when I wear them. It reminds me of high school. Plus, they are so comfortable and last for years.” Wunder Under Pants, $98, Lululemon.

Stress Less, Accomplish More. “I like to carve out time in my day to meditate. The approach author Emily Fletcher describes in her book Stress Less, Accomplish More: Meditation for Extraordinary Performance is so helpful in bringing a sense of calm to my busy days.” Stress Less, Accomplish More: Meditation for Extraordinary Performance, by Emily Fletcher, $11.19, Amazon.

Toddler Library Rack. “This is the perfect way to keep a series of books at your child’s level in their play space. Including books in your baby’s play area right from birth supports their learning and development. Once your child can walk, a shelf like this provides the opportunity for them to go and choose from a larger selection. Montessori educators recommend keeping six to eight books on the shelf and then rotating the selection to keep your baby engaged and curious.” Toddler Low Book Display, $118.74, Amazon.

Hip-Hop Class. “Hip-hop dance workouts are part workout, part therapy for me! I grew up dancing, so it feeds my soul. I try to make it a priority to go to Hipline three times a week.” Hipline, 3270 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland, CA.

Inglesina Seat. “The Inglesina seat allows my son Zayd to sit right at the table with everyone. It helps him feel like he’s part of the family during dinner time.” Inglesina Fast Table Chair, $69, Amazon.

For more on Zahra Kassam, check out her Instagram feed. And for more Mother Essentials, peep our past columns with designer Taylor Jay, clean living expert Kristian Henderson, Oakland retail queen Sherri McMullen, eco-fashion designer Alyssa KerbelShahidah Zareef of Bossmom NationJoanne EncarnacionLaTonya YvetteMorgan Walker of Make.doJeanne Chan of Harlow & Grey, and more.

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