Parenting Spotlight: Amber Jones

Each month, In The Know by Yahoo gives everyday parents their time to shine in our exclusive Parenting Spotlight.

This month, we’re featuring Amber Jones, a mother of three and the owner/operator of her family’s farmstead, MOTH WOOD.

Nestled in the mountains of Virginia, MOTH WOOD specializes in small-batch and cold-process goat milk soaps, in addition to offering hands-on tours and learning opportunities for kids. “On our small farm, children learn to love and respect nature,” Amber told In The Know.

When she’s not tending MOTH WOOD‘s 50 farm animals, Amber is busy homeschooling her little ones: Charlie Fox, 8, Poppy Darling, 6, and Francis Wilder, 3.

“[I] have found it to be a tremendous joy and privilege to have [my kids] around me every day,” she said. “They get to see firsthand where their food comes from, what it takes to run a successful business, and all of the wonderful things women can do.”

A self-described dreamer and artist, Amber also supports her family with her nature-inspired art, prints, and cards — often featuring hens from the farm.

“As a first-generation farmer, I’m learning as I go, and it’s a powerful lesson to pass on to the next generation,” said Amber.

What’s the parenting tip that everyone loves but you think is overrated?

If there is anything I’ve learned from this journey through parenthood so far, it’s that kids don’t need much. The newest toys don’t make the best playthings. And oftentimes, the outcome (behaviors, attitudes, lessons learned) will be better with less “stuff” and activities. In the end, a few classic, open-ended toys, like blocks, kitchen sets, art supplies, and as many books as your shelves can hold, will provide all the entertainment kids need. They’ll make their own play if the environment is inviting. Kids have the most wonderful imaginations, after all.

What’s your best parenting advice?

Try to resist the temptation to use TV/phones/computers to entertain or babysit them when they’re young. If they can learn to find a way to play solo or without guidance, they’ll open up a great world of fun for themselves. And you’ll have to do less as they grow to keep their attention. Once kids get “hooked” on screens, it’s often harder to break the trance and get them back in their creative, imaginary, magical brains.

What would be the title of your memoir?

The Daydreamer’s Menagerie.

What’s the weirdest thing you plan on saving from your kids’ baby- or childhood?

I probably save way too many things. Baby teeth, first (and second and third) haircut clippings, umbilical cord stumps 😳. I have this huge collection of rocks, pinecones, sticks and dried flora that I’ve collected from all the times my kids have given me bits of nature on our walks. No plans for what will become of it. For now, the collection graces the shelves of a hutch in our dining room.

Which apps could you not live without?

Is email an app? Haha! Really though, I enjoy the eBay app for clothes and toys and household goods. It has been harder and harder as the years have gone on to go thrifting or antiquing with three kids in tow. My daughter especially loves vintage toys and dolls, such as the original Strawberry Shortcake and friends. eBay is a nice way to score unique pieces while also reusing what already exists around the globe. And often, items made a few decades or more ago are better quality and will outlast any modern toy or clothing.

What’s one parenting product you wish you’d bought years ago?

With my last child, I was gifted a wonderful linen baby carrier by Sakura Bloom that changed the way I parented my baby. With my previous two children, I was always looking forward to nap times, when I could put them in their crib and get stuff done. Well, nap time for a third baby with a 5- and 2-year-old running around looks and sounds so very different. Instead of putting him to nap in a crib, I would take him with us, sleeping on my chest, while we grocery-shopped, went for walks or just got stuff done around the house. No more being tied to an intensive nap schedule. A high-quality (read: comfortable, durable, washable, supportive) baby carrier is a must for any parent.

What’s one life hack you wish you’d learned years ago?

I’m not sure this counts as a hack, but I wish I’d known how important sleep is for parents! It’s something we all do from time to time, sacrifice quality sleep for TV binging or extra house cleaning or just some quality time with our partners. But we can parent so much better with a good night of uninterrupted sleep than when we’re running on fumes. Obviously, quality sleep is harder to come by while raising young children, but it’s worth prioritizing. Our ability to tackle the normal trials of parenting is greatly increased if we’ve caught enough z’s the night before. If you have a hard time turning off your internal to-do lists before bedtime, they make these melatonin gummies for adults that really help you get to sleep and stay that way. And as hard as it is to send the kids away to an alternative caregiver’s house for a night or two, it’s worth it if you can recharge your batteries to their fullest every now and then.

Who is your favorite celebrity/influencer parent? 

Johnna Holmgren. She is an incredibly positive role model, and she deeply appreciates nature. I have discovered so many wonderful things through Johnna such as parenting books, the best kids shoes and outdoor wear, and fantastic recipes. She’s absolutely worth checking out.

Are there any parenting terms you wish you could retire? (ex: “Momtrepreneur”)

I’m not fond of terms like the “terrible twos,” because they set parents up to expect the worse out of their kids. It’s something well-meaning family and friends will say to explain away communication breakdowns and development milestones. They’ll say, “Oh well, of course he’s throwing a tantrum, it’s the terrible twos after all.” But it’s not all chance and unpredictability. Even a 2-year-old wants to be understood. It paints a really wonderful year of your toddler’s life in a bad light. A year full of growth and monumental breakthroughs should be celebrated and anticipated, not feared.

What is one “parenting win” you’re super proud of?

I’m always so proud of my kids’ varied diets and complex palates! I’ve never been too keen on “kid foods” (no plain noodles or making separate meals here) and as a vegetarian, I’ve made it a priority to expose them to as many new fruits, veggies and grains as possible. Honestly, my children like and eat more foods than I do right now. I’m big on using lots of different flavors and spices when cooking, and because I’ve always fed the same food to my kids that I eat, they have naturally grown to love food with a lot going on. Because we own dairy goats and chickens, my kids can tell the difference in nutrient-dense foods and prefer homemade to store-bought for just about everything. They also have great respect for where our food comes from, and have grown accustomed to thanking our flock and herd before partaking in their meals.

If your kids were emojis, what would they be? 

🦊🍄🌳🍁 // ✨🌻🐣🐝 // 🌚👽🌪🦥

(Editor’s Note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.)

In The Know is now available on Apple News — follow us here!

If you enjoyed this story, check out our Parenting Spotlight for Native American artist Aly McKnight.

More from In The Know:

Parenting Spotlight: Gabby Farrington

Parenting Spotlight: Lindsey Diaz

11 thoughtful Mother's Day gifts she'll love at every price point

4 Mother's Day gifts for moms who love flowers and all things floral

Listen to the latest episode of our pop culture podcast, We Should Talk: