20 Things to Say to Your Kids Before School (or After)

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Whether your kiddo is in preschool, elementary school or middle school, words of encouragement can make all the difference between a just-okay day and an amazing day. Whatever time of day, there’s always a moment to remind your kids how much you believe in them and how you can’t wait to hear all about it! We’ve found 20 simple phrases and prompts that can add a dose of positivity to your kids’ day, so keep reading and find your favorites.

photo: iStock

1. I can't wait to see what your day brings. Put a positive spin on their daily morning routine when they fly out the door to catch the bus.

2. Do your best! Send them off with good vibes so they'll be primed to achieve whatever they put their minds to.

3. Can I get a hug? Shh ... this one's really more about you than them, but they don't need to know that. Hugs at the beginning of the day send a clear message of love to your little one.

photo: iStock

4. I'll think about you today! Just this one simple phrase lets your child know that he'll be on your mind throughout the day, and sometimes that's enough of a boost.

5. Do you have everything you need? It's an easy question, but just asking it can assure both you and your child that she is prepared for her day. Lunch (or lunch money), homework, books, a special toy ... whatever it is, taking a moment to ask and make sure she has what she needs to have a happy and successful day lets her know that you care.

6. You look great! Although this one can bring a smile to the young ones as well, it's really a good saying to throw to the older kids as they trudge out the door into a social-media-driven world that can have seriously adverse effects on self-esteem

photo: iStock

7. You've got this! School is tough, much tougher than when we were kids, and the everyday pressures of homework, tests, quizzes, projects and more ... well, it's enough to make even the most self-assured kid second guess his or her abilities. Just giving your child one final boost of positivity as he scrambles out the door can be enough to boost that self-confidence for the rest of the day.

8. I'll be right here when you get back. There are hours that are going to pass between taking your child to school and picking him up, and in that time, a lot can happen. Let him know that you're going to be right there when he's finished with his day, whether good or bad. This tiny little assurance can help slightly younger nervous kids take often difficult steps towards school.

9. I can't wait to hear about your day! Encourage your children to look for the positive in the day by letting them know you'll be ready to hear all about it when you see each other again. 

photo: iStock

10. I’m so happy you’re home. I missed you. Because even though parents joke about alone time, we’re happiest when our kids are by our sides.

11. Thanks for sharing your day with me. Nothing says, “I’m listening” after the day’s download quite like this one. Frasier Crane would be proud.

12. You roll with the punches like a champ. Busy families have ever-changing schedules where flexibility is key. Letting your little ones know that you recognize their ability to also be flexible is important.

photo: iStock

13. Thanks for helping out! when they go above and beyond to keep your family’s groove grooving, let them know how proud you are!

14. Your thoughtfulness shines through. Save this one for the simple gestures they make throughout the day, like helping out a friend or sharing with a sibling.

15. I was thinking about you today when … sharing your day with them lets kids know they’re loved, even when you’re not around to show it.

16. Your joy puts a smile on my face too. This one makes an impact when they come off the bus or through the door with big smiles.

17. I’ll bet your friends/teacher appreciated your ___________ today. Insert your favorite adjective here; no matter which one you choose, letting your kids know others see this same quality in them is super empowering.

18. It sounds like you worked hard today. Whether they took a tough test, ran a mile in P.E. or just tried their best, praise that perseverance. Go grit!

19. What do you want to do now? Set aside some time for when kids first come home from school to let them relax and unwind in their own way, whether that be stopping by the library or ice cream shop or just having free time to run around the yard. Their day has been stressful too, and letting them choose how to spend the first bit after school can be a powerful tone-setter for the rest of the evening.

20. I'm so proud of you. A phrase that's important for kids (and adults!) of all ages—use it often, but especially at the end of a hard day at school. 

—Laura Holloway with Allison Sutcliffe

Featured image: iStock 

 

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8 New Parent Date Night Ideas Right at Home

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You don’t need to go out to have an awesome date night. And bonus: Staying in means saving money on a sitter and not being stressed about having a stranger watch your child. Keep the spark alive with these eight ideas for fun date nights you can have right at home.

photo: Afif Kusuma via Unsplash

1. Facetime Double Date
Chances are, you two have couple friends who are in the same boat. You know, the boat that contains a baby and prevents you from leaving the house except out of necessity? The bad news is, it’s sometimes a struggle to get together. The good news? You don’t have to suffer alone! Schedule a Facetime double date, setting a time for some shared screen time to commiserate and laugh together. Each couple can prepare their own meals at home, uncork a bottle of their favorite beverage, and share an hour or two together in conversation. Of course it’s not as great as seeing your friends in person, but it’s the next best thing and it can be done in sweatpants.

2. Date in a Box
There are several “date in a box” subscription products on the market right now, including DateBox, a curated box of goodies that provides a unique date experience right in the comfort of your own home. On the company’s website, you fill in your likes and dislikes and a little about your couple personality, and then just wait for the magic to arrive. Packed neatly in a box that ships right to your door, Datebox is the ideal way to try new date ideas without ever leaving the house (which is perfect when your little ones are sleeping and you can’t go anywhere). An example DateBox might include an “indoor camping adventure,” complete with a s’mores kit, a pour-your-own-pine-scented candle making set, a deck of cards with game suggestions, and even a playlist suited for romance in the great outdoors.

photo: Soroush Karimi via Unsplash 

3. Epicurean Extravaganza
There’s something really sexy about cooking together (think Chocolat), and all you need is a kitchen, the right ingredients, and a good recipe to make it all possible. When you’re usually planning meals that appeal to a younger crowd (hello, mac and cheese), it’s nice to make something for a more mature palate, like a complicated recipe that actually requires measuring cups and more spices than salt and pepper. Think of all the sparks that can fly while spoon-feeding each other samples of your creations.

4. Good Old-Fashioned Sleepover
Some of the most fun times while growing up are sleepovers with your BFFs, and who could be a better friend that your partner? Go old-school with it by slathering on face masks and doing homestyle pedicures while watching a cheesy romantic comedy and waiting for your delivery pizza to arrive. You might be surprised at how much fun you can have when you take the pressure off and just be silly for a minute. Sure, you’re adults now with all the adulting you can handle, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put those responsibilities aside for a bit and have a sleepover with your best friend. And who knows? It might just inspire a rousing game of Truth or Dare.

photo: Bao Truong via Unsplash

5.Game Night
Unleash your competitive sides with a game night. And before you roll your eyes and think “boring!” take a moment and consider all the possibilities Twister has to offer. Okay, so maybe most board games aren’t as flirtatious as that, but the competition that traditional board games offers can be pretty stimulating. You might be surprised how having someone sink your battleship can get your blood rushing. And with an unending supply of games (expand to table games like foosball if that’s more your speed), you can each bring a unique choice to the (literal) table.

6. Give Each Other a Massage
It’s stressful being parents, and all that tension you’re holding in your shoulders and neck (you know what we’re talking about) is only going to get worse. A massage might just be what the doctor ordered. And if you’re not a pro, check out YouTube for instructional videos or just tell each other what you like. Once the massages are through, you’ll be relaxed enough to curl up together for a good snuggle.

photo: Phillip Goldsberry via Unsplash

7. Netflix and Chill (No, Really…Watch Netflix and Chill Out)
With several streaming options including Netflix and Amazon Prime available for a small fee, the possibilities for movie night are endless. And while the “Netflix and Chill” movement of recent years suggests jumping straight to the nookie, a fun night in can really be about comfy sweatpants, a good movie or TV show, and some serious couch cuddling. If your tastes differ (he’s more GoldenEye and you’re more Golden Girls), write a few choices on slips of paper and then draw one to decide what to watch.

8. Getting to Re-Know You
You’ve folded the last towel, walked the dog, scrubbed the pink marker stains off the couch, washed the mud out of tiny little jeans, put away the last toy, and started the Crock-Pot dinner for what seems like the millionth time this week. And somewhere in the middle of the survival mode you’re currently living, you’re hoping to make time for your partner, something that can take a back seat during this time in your lives together. It’s okay, you still love each other, but there are only so many hours in the day.

But making time for each other is important, and these date nights, however few and far between, are a way for you to connect during a time that can make you feel, well, disconnected. Take the opportunity to spend a date night every now and then getting to re-know each other, talking about things that have nothing to do with diapers or dry cleaners, mortgages or rent payments. Talk about each other, your hopes and dreams, hobbies and interests, your future plans together. Take a moment to revisit the kind of talks you had in the beginning of your relationship. If it’s hard to get the conversation going, take a few minutes to write starter questions on slips of paper and then draw them out one by one. Or grab a book made just for this purpose, like  Questions for Couples: 469 Thought-Provoking Conversation Starters for Connecting, Building Trust, and Rekindling Intimacy.

—Laura Holloway

 

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Is This Normal? Your Pregnancy Decoded

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A pea in the pod, a bun in the oven, preggo… No matter what you call it, everyone who experiences pregnancy knows you spend half of the nine-month stretch feeling joyful and excited and the other half feeling anxious and wondering if the things happening with your body are normal. You’re probably spending hours rabbit-holing into Google’s depths to read other mother’s experiences and analyzing your own, wondering, “Is this normal?” Let’s break down a few common pregnancy “normals” and set your mind at ease.

photo: Mustafa Omar via Unsplash

You Are Not Your Belly
Few instances in your life could ever change your appearance so drastically and so quickly, and no two women are going to feel the same. While one may feel more beautiful than ever before, with shiny hair, glowing skin and a cute, round belly, another woman may be counting down (by the minute) until her due date so she can hit the gym and feel like her old self again. The normal response? Whatever is normal for you.

Know that it’s okay to feel whatever it is you feel about your body; just remember that you are not your belly, or your thighs, or your boobs. Many women feel negatively about weight gain, and don’t love that random strangers will comment on your belly and body without prompt or permission. Be gentle with yourself; you’re creating a life, and your body has to change for that to happen. You will feel like yourself again one day, sooner than you think. In the meantime, pay attention to the happy changes going on with your body, especially when you’re able to feel those fluttery kicks from within.

Sex Drive (Or Park)
Some research points to an increased libido during your second trimester, and supposedly during this time, you’re feeling hot and ready for lovemaking at any time of day or night. This may be normal for some, and for others it may be the exact opposite, where you sleep with a fly swatter next to your bed to fend off any unwanted advances (unless, of course, it actually is just the much-needed neck massage and nothing more. Yeah, right. We know your tricks, fellas).

The point is, a lot is happening with your body and mind during this time (you’re growing a little human, for goodness sake), with hormones raging like they might during a Boyz to Men throwback at the eighth-grade dance. You’re feeling it? You’re not feeling it? Don’t worry, Mama. Whatever you’re feeling is normal. But if you’re concerned about the increase or decrease in your sex drive, talk with your doctor, and have an honest discussion with your partner about your needs.

photo: Fallon Michael via Unsplash

The Prolapse and the Pee
Something else totally normal that happens to women during pregnancy? Pelvic floor conditions, including urinary and fecal incontinence and a little condition called prolapse, which happens when the ligaments holding up the pelvic floor stretch, causing the uterus to descend. When this happens, the bowels and/or bladder can be pushed up against the vaginal walls and can cause a bulge, or prolapse, to push out of your vagina.

While this entire description should be a headline on the pamphlets aiming to prevent unplanned teen pregnancies, it is a completely normal side effect of pregnancy and childbirth. Many women say it feels like something coming down into your vagina or that it feels like sitting on a small ball.

Pelvic floor conditions affect one in five women, so to say it’s normal is an understatement. Every pregnant woman has peed a little without making it to the bathroom, but some pelvic floor conditions can be serious, so alert your doctor if you show symptoms, both during pregnancy and afterwards. Together you can develop a plan for treatment and healing. There are also pelvic floor specialists who can develop a treatment plan for you.

And in the meantime, there’s leakproof underwear from brands like Proof. Choose the level of absorbency you need and the style you prefer (thong, brief, cheeky, hipster and more), and you’ll get some piece of mind back.

Anxiety, and Terror and Nightmares…Oh My!
When you’re pregnant, the last thing you want to hear is, “Oh, don’t mind her. She’s just emotional because she’s pregnant.” Don’t you just want to kick that person as hard as you can? Or maybe that’s just the emotions talking…? No, it’s a justified desire to kick that person as hard as you can. Of course you’re emotional; you’re angry, and weepy, and nostalgic, and sentimental, and anxious, and fearful, and excited, and happy and…it’s a smorgasbord of emotions, really. But every single one of them is normal, according to  medical experts.

Yes, you will cry over sweet commercials, and yes, you will get irate that the bag in the box of cereal wasn’t closed the right way and now your Captain Crunch is stale. And yes, you will lie awake at night, mapping and remapping the best route to the hospital where you’ll be giving birth. And yes, it’s completely normal to start crying in your kitchen while looking at your dog, wondering how in the world you’re ever going to still love your dog, or if you’re going to love your new baby as much as your dog.

Having a baby is a big change, and every emotion you are feeling is normal. Talk to friends about their “crazy” pregnancy emotions, journal about what you’re feeling, or ask your partner to give you a secret signal if you’re spinning out. Sometimes it can be as easy as telling yourself, “This anxiety/fear/anger I’m feeling only feels like more than I can handle because I’m pregnant.” Or just take comfort in knowing that the worry and anxiety you feel now is a good indicator that you are going to be a caring, concerned and wonderful mama.

photo: Sergiu Valena via Unsplash

Finding Your New Normal
Try to stay off WebMD about your bump in the night, and instead talk with friends and family who have been pregnant and may have had similar experiences. And always mention anything you find concerning to your doctor. It doesn’t always seem like it, but the nine months is going to fly by, and before you know it, you’ll be Googling “Is This Normal?” questions about your new little one. For now, try to relax and know that the most normal thing about the questions you’re asking is that every other pregnant woman is asking them as well.

—Laura Holloway

 

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Little people have big needs, and sometimes big emotions, which can be tricky during challenging times. But with the right toys, activities and products, you can keep your child engaged and excited, learning and laughing. Read on for our favorite mom-approved, toddler-friendly products for play, meals, baths, bedtime and more.

photo: iStock

Keeping Kids Occupied at Home

Having the right supplies on hand can make life more doable or (dare I say) enjoyable for you both! When your toddler needs a quiet momentor you need one while you’re cleaning or working, these must-haves make time go a lot more smoothly:

photo: Lakeshore Learning Materials

My First Magic Board from Lakeshore Learning is a toddler-friendly, easy-to-use miracle, with endless drawing possibilities and zero mess. Plus, it’s pretty flat and light for easy storage. Or, for toddlers who are into the word “mine” (which they all are), they can carry it themselves with the handy handle. Play together by drawing shapes for your toddler to guess and copy, or tracing hands or feet. Ready for the next drawing? Use the easy-slide eraser to clear the drawing space. And as your buddy grows, the board is going to be great for practicing numbers and letters!

Let me guess; your little one is into cars, trains, tractors and all things that go. Take that obsession on the move with a creative playmat like the Around the Town Play Carpet, also from Lakeshore Learning. This colorful, engaging play inspiration is almost 5 feet long and features grips on the underside to prevent slipping. Great for giving your child a clean, soft surface to play on when you’re on-the-go; just roll it up and throw it in your bag. And then (thank goodness!) throw it in your washing machine for a quick cleaning.

Toddlers get hungry. All. The. Time. And the difference between having snacks or not having snacks can mean the world. The easier it can be for you to grab and for them to maneuver, the better for you both. These finger-friendly Toddler Snack Cups from Skip Hop are not only useful but fun to have and hold too!

For beverages throughout the day, try the CamelBack Eddy Kids Water Bottle (which comes in so many designs, you’ll have trouble choosing which you like most) or the Munchkin Miracle 360 Sippy Cup, which helps your buddy learn to use a real cup without the possibility of a spill.

Learning and Development

Colors, shapes, letters, numbers, songs, dances, animal sounds…the list goes on and on as to what your toddler knows and wants to know. Here are a few great activities to help your toddler’s learning journey:

photo: Lovevery

The most basic of all toys since the beginning of toys is blocks. They teach colors, sorting, stacking, building, categorizing, counting skills and so much more. But do they have to be toxic plastic blocks in four primary colors that always seem to get lost somewhere inside the couch? No! Lovevery has introduced The Block Set, a beautiful 70-piece wooden block set with 18 different shapes and in 18 different hues of water-based, non-toxic paint. The set comes in a beautiful wooden box that converts into a pull car, and also includes a drawstring cotton bag for flexible storage. They’ve thought of everything with this set, including a guide that features more than 20 fun learning and developmental activities that grow with your child from 18 to 48 months. And for you Type-A mamas out there, the every-piece-fits-snugly-in-the-box design makes cleanup sort of fun, like a game of colorful, beautiful Tetris.

Speaking of Lovevery, another item to add to your toddler mom list is the Lovevery subscription service, The Play Kits, which delivers a box every three months that is tailor-made to your child’s current developmental stage, each piece thoughtfully created and selected to be lasting toys for your child’s collection, encouraging learning and creativity now and growing with them to still be meaningful toys months and years down the road.

Toxic, chemical-filled dough at playtime? No thanks! Try Eco-Dough, sculpting doughs made with natural and recycled materials and colored with dyes from fruits and vegetables. The set comes with six lovely colors in resealable and reusable jars and are handmade in Portland by a mama who knows the importance of balancing fun and quality when it comes to toddlers.

Toddlers love to put things into things, whether it’s pouring water into a cup or sand into a bucket, placing toys into a box, or dropping your phone into the toilet. Did you know that this is called the “Load and Tote Phase” of development? Encourage this exploration with the most handy carrying tool you’ll find: the Collapsible Beach Pail from Uncommon Goods. Sure, it’s a beach pail, but in addition to carrying water and sand, it’s perfect for toting bath toys, books, and any other items that a toddler has declared “mine” from point A to B to Z and every stop in between. The best part: It collapses flat for easy storage and packing.

Mealtimes

Meals can be less stressful and a lot less messy with the right set of tools on hand, including items that make sitting at the table fun and eating food simpler. Here are our favorite mealtime must-haves:

photo: Uncommon Goods

It’s no wonder meals can be stressfulall those new colors, flavors and textures, and kids have to figure out how to hold this fork, and drink out of that cup, and sit still in their chair, and….whew. Bring fun back to mealtime (and also encourage staying in one place to eat!) with a Mr. (or Mrs.) Food Face Plate by Fred & Friends. If mealtimes are fun, toddlers are more likely to try that “weird green thing” you’re serving up tonight.

Then, of course, there’s the matter of learning to use silverware, which can be frustrating for little fingers. Gerber Graduates Kiddy Forks, with soft plastic handles, are a great start, and the Raise Toddler Forks and Spoons sport an ingenious design that keeps the utensil tip off the table (or floor) and away from germs. For whatever reason, toddlers like to sling a full plate of food off onto the floor (it’s the age of “what will happen if I…”), so make sure you have a few suction plates, like these from Bumkins (which are BPA free and dishwasher-safe) to keep food on the table.

Check out more of our favorite toddler bowls, plates, cups and utensils.

Bathtime and Bedtime

Ah, bedtime is just around the corner, and you can see that quiet house, glass of wine, and Netflix queue in your near future. But first, you have to help your little darling through the bath and bedtime routine. Pretty soon, they’ll be doing this all on their own, and you’ll long for the days of toothbrush wrangling and bath towel snuggles. But for now, you’re in the trenches, mama, so here are a few products that can help your toddler learn the ropes and you keep your sanity:

photo: Uncommon Goods

A regular bath? Boring! A multicolored, glowing bath of fun? Yes! Uncommon Goods’ Glowing Bath Time Pals and Glowing Bath Time Buddies are water-activated, turning your toddler’s bath time into a brand new experience! Usable again and again and offering a new sensory opportunity, these are a must-have for baths.

Grab a Moby Scoop and Splash Bath Toy Organizer from Skip Hop to do a quick cleanup and hang to dry for next time. We love how quickly you can scoop up toys while letting water drain from the mesh bottom, and that it adheres to the tub wall for space-saving, mess-free storage.

And then, of course, it’s time to brush those toddler teeth, which is a challenge because A. they don’t want to do it, and B. they don’t want to do it. Make it fun with a colorful brush, like Brusheez Kids Electric Toothbrush Set (cup included!), which feature a friendly animal to encourage brushing. And while most adult toothpastes are not recommended for toddlers (at least until they learn to spit out any fluoride-containing paste), Hello Fluoride-Free Toothpaste in yummy flavors like watermelon and strawberry will seem like a treat, and help your buddy learn the basics of brushing with regular use.

Bedtime already? You made it, mama! We love the Hatch Baby Rest+ sound machine and monitor, customizable with color, brightness, sound and volume, and controllable remotely from your phone. It’s genius. You can even program it to set an okay-to-rise sound/color combo so your toddler knows exactly when it’s time to leap from their beds, demanding juice, cereal and Little Baby Bum.

Check out more of our favorite sound machines and white noise machines.

All of a sudden, these little people in our lives are going to be big kids, so savor every moment you can. Sure, there are tantrums and meltdowns, but there are also snuggles, kisses, hugs, laughs, dances and the privilege of being able to watch little ones discover the world around them.

featured photo: Lovevery

Laura Holloway

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10 Quiet-Time Activities Kids Will Actually Enjoy

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The benefits of quiet time for kids has been proven countless times over. It increases attention and focus, helps little minds deal with information overload and overstimulation, promotes mindfulness and independence, inspires creativity and (sometimes most needed) allows for a few moments of peace and quiet for parents. Scroll to see 10 of our favorite quiet-time activities for kids.

Make Believe & Pretend Play

Remember the good old screen-time-free days of digging through a costume box to determine the plot of the elaborate superhero story that involved every kid in the neighborhood? Nothing fosters creativity like old-fashioned make believe and pretend play, and you can encourage your little creative minds to spend quiet time weaving their own storylines with a thoughtfully curated dress up trunk and a few easy pretend play ideas. Of course, expect to take on a role when it comes time for the big performance. Don’t worry though; dressing like a superhero is good for you.

Arts & Crafts

Whether it’s a rainy day, a too-hot-to-play-outside day, or just the kind of day that warrants a little creative, quiet time inside, it’s always a good moment for bringing out the trusty arts-and-crafts box. Whenever you see an opportunity to restock the A&C box, go for it, including pom poms, popsicle sticks, empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls, finger paints, construction paper, markers … you get the idea. Even though no real road map is needed for kid creation, perfect paper crafts for kids and even 10 peaceful arts and crafts projects can get the inspiration flowing.

Outdoor Quiet Time

Fall brings cooler temperatures and more opportunities for outside play, both quiet and downright rambunctious. For the quieter moments spent with Mother Nature, easy-to-clean-up outdoor art projects are a nice way to spend an afternoon; you can even consider taking time with your little Picassos to create an inspiring outdoor art studio. If the whole gang is getting together, or you’re just looking for a relaxing, stress-free outdoor evening activity, host an outdoor movie night.

Getting Creative

Creativity comes in all forms, and during the quiet times, creativity can be inspired by items you can find around the house, including things to make with a toilet paper roll and fun toys made with household items. Even painting without brushes can encourage creative little minds to think outside the box, and for the most restless of young ones, here are even more ways to encourage your child’s imagination.

Reading

Mental stimulation, stress reduction, increased knowledge, vocabulary expansion, memory improvement … the list goes on and on when it comes to the benefits of reading for kids, and, of course, nothing provides a better opportunity for quiet time. The first step is setting up a comfortable, inspiring reading nook and then stocking it with great reading material, like our list of books kids need to read before they're 12. You can’t go wrong with classic children’s books either, and it’s always nice to take some time to read together as well.

Games

Depending on how competitive your little game-players are, game time might not be the most quiet activity, but playing games has been shown to teach social skills, help with the development of good sportsmanship, increase verbal and math skills, teach patience and up logic capacity. The good news is, some games are designed for quieter times, including games to play around bedtime to help wind down and classic games meant for sick days when leaving the bed just isn’t an option.

Science

Remember how cool it was the first time you saw a paper mâché volcano explode in science class? Or when you first realized that combining vinegar and baking soda could create a magical fizzing effect? Curious kids become successful adults later in life, so foster that scientific mindset and encourage some good old fashioned science for quiet time with pretend magic potions, a DIY pinhole camera and simple science experiments with five ingredients or less.

Forts & Tents

Quilts, blankets, and a few other household items and you’re all set for creating the ultimate quiet-time space. Whether building an epic outdoor fort, setting up a teepee for indoor play or just throwing blankets over two couches for a makeshift tent, creating a quiet-time play place is only limited by your child’s imagination. Now all you need is construction paper and a marker to make a good, solid "No parents allowed" sign.

Snuggle Up

Rainy days, cool fall and cold winter weather and sometimes just for no reason at all, it just feels good to spend time snuggled up together. There’s even a National Cuddle Up Day in November that’s definitely worth celebrating. Some other ways to snuggle up all year long? Pile up in the bed together, read aloud, tell some little jokester-approved jokes, and, when eyelids start to droop, ease into bedtime with some thoughtful stories with good life lessons and beloved lullabies.

Spread Some Kindness

In the fast-paced rat race of our days, spreading kindness can take a backseat, but quiet times offer special moments to talk about and find ways to spread a little kindness. Reading books that teach compassion and social change and working on projects (like making a hug card) that spread kindness can give a little perspective and inspire kindness in your whole family. You can even download a kindness calendar for 30 whole days of kindness inspiration.

—Laura Holloway

 

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Featured image: iStock

7 Baby Registry Items that Give Back

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Congratulations, you’re having a baby! In all your planning for diapers, baby gear, toys and clothes, it suddenly dawns on you that this can also be an opportunity to offer your child something more meaningful: a better, more giving, more sustainable future. As you’re making your registry, here are a few products that are changing the world for the better, and what could be a better gift than that?

Cuddle + Kind Dolls & Prints

The Cuddle + Kind founders wanted a way to give back, and they did just that, developing a model in which the purchase of a doll can feed ten children in need. Since September 2015, purchases have helped provide more than 8 million meals! In addition to that, the hand-knit dolls are ethically created in Peru, offering more than 750 artisans a sustainable, fair-trade income. And the dolls are beautiful, soft, cuddly and meant to be snuggled. With so many different styles and choices, there's a Cuddle + Kind for every baby. The company also sells inspirational prints for the nursery (shown above); each purchase provides five meals to children in need.

Bombas Socks

The word "bombas" comes from the Latin word for bumblebee, a creature that works with its fellow hive members to make a real difference in the world around them. Bombas, as a company, strives to achieve the same impact, donating one pair of socks for every pair of socks purchased. The company’s founders found that socks were the number-one item requested in homeless shelters, and since its foundation, the company has given away 29,262,619 of them. The Bombas mantra is “bee better,” and you have the chance to do the same by adding Bombas socks to your baby registry. Bonus: They’re adorable. You can even order a family pack pack that has matching socks for moms (or dads) and toddlers.

TOMS

TOMS isn’t a new company, but it was one of the first to offer a give-back option for shoppers, founded on the one-for-one model that donated a pair of shoes for every shoe purchased. Since its foundation in 2006, TOMS has given away more than 95 million shoes in 85 countries, and the numbers continue to grow. A new direction for the company directs a portion of proceeds to the support of physical safety, mental health and equal opportunities for all. And TOMS baby shoes? So cute you’ll wish they made them in your size. Oh, wait! They do.

Play Gym by Lovevery

This play gym is so lovely in design it may as well be a piece of art for your floor. But, more importantly, it’s designed to grow with your baby, including five developmental zones created to promote brain and motor skill development. What’s more? The Lovevery Play Gym is created using 100% baby-safe materials, with organic cotton, water-based, non-toxic finishes and sustainably harvested wood, providing an opportunity for you to give back to the earth by supporting sustainable farming practices. Even the plastic and silicone components of the gym are manufactured without BPA and phthalates. And it comes with a Lifetime Lost Parts promise. 

Abby + Finn Diapers

There are so many diaper choices on the market, and knowing their use and disposability can make it difficult to justify their price. However, Abby + Finn Diapers offer a better solution, one that provides a quality product for your little one while also helping those in need, as the company donates 30 diapers for every monthly diaper box purchased. Made without chlorine, heavy metals, latex, fragrances, lotions, moisturizers, allergens, dyes or any substances known to be harmful to the environment, these diapers provide a clean alternative to traditional diapers and offer an easy way for your registry to give back. Added bonus: Abby + Finn has a subscription service, so you never have to worry about running to the store when you reach your last diaper.

Erbaviva Baby Skincare

Did you know that, on average, children are exposed to at least 27 harmful chemicals each day, through regular, everyday body care products like sunscreen, shampoo, and lotion? Erbaviva, a USDA certified-organic company, creates skincare products for babies (and everyone else!) that are free of pesticides, fertilizers and chemicals such as parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and more. Erbaviva’s handcrafted packaging is sourced through a nonprofit that collaborates with local villagers in northern Thailand to provide sustainable income and support a mobile children’s clinic. Further, Erbaviva partners with the Blinknow Foundation to help provide quality education and a safe environment for Nepali youth. And the Erbaviva products are effective, including such items as Sniffles Chest Balm for stuffy noses and Tummy Rub to sooth baby’s upset stomach. They have some great products for pregnant mamas as well!

Greentom Stroller

You don’t think about strollers being environmentally friendly, but the Greentom line of strollers is made from just over 12 pounds of recycled high-quality post-consumer plastic and 74 recycled PET bottles. And when your little one outgrows the stroller, it can be recycled and reused. It’s what they call a “true circular solution,” as it creates no waste and actually uses waste to clean up the environment by creating new products. Calling themselves the greenest stroller on planet Earth, Greentom strollers have award-winning designs, incredible functionality and customization choices, and offer a way for you to save the planet with every stroll, a must-have for the conscientious gift registry.

—Laura Holloway

featured image: Philip Walker via Pixabay

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Pregnancy can be a joyful time, one of excitement and anticipation as we prepare to welcome our own little miracles into the world. But pregnancy is also a challenging time of sleep loss, strange eating habits, sometimes embarrassing bodily functions, and roller-coaster emotions. Sometimes the very last thing pregnant ladies want to hear is exactly what friends, family and strangers at the grocery store choose to say to us. To make things a little easier, here are a few phrases to avoid—and one phrase guaranteed to make a pregnant woman’s day better.

photo: Xavier Mouton Photographie on Unsplash 

1. You look like you’re about ready to pop!
This expression isn’t only rude, but it’s kind of gross to think about. With the abundance of new stretch marks, the climbing numbers on the scale, and our desire (and right!) to eat whatever we want, the idea that a pregnant lady could pop doesn’t always seem too far-fetched. There are some days we already feel like we actually might pop, so if you could just hold that thought inside your head forever and not vocalize it, that would be great.

2. Are you carrying twins/triplets/a whole litter/some other clever something that indicates we are bigger than we are? (AKA Are you sure there’s only one in there?)
We get it, okay? We are bigger than we normally are, and clever you, you’ve noticed! And you’ve decided to comment on it. Thank you so much for your opinion and for feeling the freedom to voice it so openly. But there’s something you should know: We know we’re getting bigger and you have two choices. Choice one: Lie to us. “Wow, you’re already in your eighth month? I would never have guessed anything past month three!” or “My goodness! You’ve only got this tiny bump in the front and you haven’t gained an inch anywhere else!” We know you’re lying, but it’s the kind of feel-good-fib that we need you to pull from your pocket during this time of rapid weight gain. Or choice two: Say absolutely nothing at all. (Always a very safe bet.)

3. You look so tired.
So do you, but we didn’t feel like we had to say that to you, did we? Sorry, didn’t mean to snap. We haven’t slept in several weeks. Yes, we’re tired. The body pillow stopped working long ago in its quest to deliver comfort, and the ache in our backs that the heating pad simply cannot soothe kept us up for hours last night. And then we were up from 2-4 worrying if we had ordered the right car seat, if we did or didn’t believe in epidurals during delivery, if we had remembered to cover that last plug in the bathroom, and if we should have bought stock in Amazon before this month, when it seemed like a Prime package was arriving every day. Then, we had to get up and pee (again), then back to bed for more worrying before finally dragging ourselves to the shower to start our day. Then we had to go to work, or the gym, or our mother-in-law’s house, or a luncheon, or something that required effort and energy, and, most often, a smile on our faces. So yes, we look tired. Because we are very, very tired.

photo: Dave Cobb via Unsplash

4. Anything at all about breastfeeding.
Unless you’re our significant other, obstetrician, doula or lactation consultant, it’s none of your business. So don’t ask unless we bring it up first. Breastfeeding is a natural thing and it’s proven to be one of the most important things for baby, but some women struggle with it. And we don’t have to discuss it with you. And don’t ask us about it when the baby gets here either. Just let us do (or not do) our thing.

5. I bet you want to order pickles and ice cream.
Chances are, probably not. Just because it’s a stereotype doesn’t mean it applies to us. And our hormones are pretty raging right now, so a comment like that (meant in jest and good nature) might just be the thing that pushes us over the edge. We don’t know why; it’s just annoying. So don’t say it. If you think we actually want pickles and ice cream, then go get us some. Along with a box of Apple Jacks, a mango, and some fresh flowers. (Because we’re pregnant and we deserve to be brought flowers.)

6. What’s your birth plan?
Again, not your business unless you’re one of the aforementioned people. Pretty much, unless you’re going to be in the room, assume that information is off-limits to you unless we offer it up ourselves. We might be getting an epidural or we might be going au naturel. We might be waiting around for a week for a little person to finally decide to make an entrance, or we might be inducing (we’re busy, okay?). Whatever our plan is, it’s our business and none of yours.

photo: Jessie Holloway

7. You must be excited about being a stay-at-home-mom.
Again with the assumptions! Some women want to stay at home with their little ones for as long as they can; some have to go back to work; and some are excited to go back to work. Some women work from home and juggle both. Here’s all you need to know: It’s not 1950 anymore and a woman has the right to decide her next steps after baby arrives. And whatever she decides is a good decision, because it’s hers.

8. (After asking if it’s a boy or a girl) Are you going to try again for a girl/boy?
Why is it that some people are never satisfied? And can we please just finish growing this baby before we start talking about another one? You never know what we have gone through to be carrying this one, and maybe we would like to take some time to be able to be truly grateful for our currently growing little one. And what’s more, we may be completely satisfied with the boy or girl we are carrying, and we don’t have any intention of having another. Or maybe our hearts did fall a little when we cut into that gender-revealing cake and saw pink when we were hoping to see blue. Most likely, we’re just fine with whatever is coming our way, but with the swollen feet, pounding headache and weird body functions we’re currently experiencing, the last thing we want to think about right now is doing it all over again! Whatever it is that’s going on in our heads, it’s best to leave that subject alone.

photo: Herney via Pixabay

Stumped on what you should say to pregnant woman? There’s one thing that will always land right and keep your foot as far away from your mouth as humanly possible: “You’re doing a great job.”
It’s not easy to create a life (at least not for the mother), and carrying a baby gets harder and harder the larger we grow. Of course, we’re excited and grateful, but pregnancy is tough, and sometimes all we really need to hear are the words, “You’re doing a great job.” And you know what? Those five words are still going to be some of our favorite words to hear for the next 18 years (and beyond) as we navigate the crazy world of motherhood, so use them often.

Laura Holloway

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