10 tips from a teacher for making virtual school work

And they're all totally doable. For real.

virtual school tips
Photability/Twenty20

Parents are on edge this school year, not knowing what to expect with distance learning—or perhaps we're just remembering all too well the many challenges of distance learning last spring.

The nature of the COVID beast means that information is changing rapidly, and so are all the plans guided by that information... including school. This wait-until-the-last-minute way of living has been nerve-wracking to say the least, especially for those of us parents who rely on a color-coded schedule for each day to keep things moving smoothly.

As an educator and a mom of three, I knew I needed to try something different this fall to help set all of us up for a better experience with distance learning.

Here are a few tips that can help make the start of virtual school go a little smoother.


1. Check your attitude.

I know this is hard. Big time hard. Trust me. I have been in the house with three very active kids since March, and if I could safely send my kids to school, I would love nothing more than a day of peace and silence. But until it's safe to go back, make sure you project a positive attitude in front of your kids. This is a great opportunity to model how your family deals with difficult situations and overcomes challenges. I am not saying pretend everything is fine, but do try to keep your frustrations and anxieties from influencing your child's view of distance learning. Remember they are always listening and watching.

2. Create workstations.

I definitely went down the Pinterest rabbit hole with this one, but then I remembered my new life mantra: simplify, simplify, simplify. The best remote-school work space is a desk or table, preferably near natural sunlight, with a few sheets of paper and plenty of sharpened pencils. We know that our rising fourth grader can work independently in his room so our dilemma was figuring out where to set up our rising first grader. While he could work next to dad in the office, we all know that means nobody would get much of anything done. If we set him up at the dining room table, I would have to keep the toddler away from him all day so that's a big not-gonna-happen. We decided that he would be able to focus best if he also works in his room at his own desk where I can still check on him without the toddler making a surprise Zoom appearance.

3. Set your kids up for success.

Is your child a little wiggle worm who struggles to sit still for longer periods of time? Consider getting an exercise ball or a wiggle pillow. (We set clear expectations for these two items.) Make sure to allow for time before school starts for kids to be able to get used to these new "toys." Losing some of the novelty will hopefully keep kids from bouncing on the ball too much (wishful thinking?). Since our boys are very, very active, setting them up for success also involves being physical before classes start. We live in a neighborhood that spans an .8 mile circle, which is just the right amount for my kids to jog twice. Though they complain about having to do this, they always return in a better mood and more awake than when they left.

4. Ask kids what they think will help them.

My boys requested play-doh, fidget spinners and a zen garden. They know that they need something in their hands and these are ways that they can engage in sensory work while still paying attention to their teacher. As a teacher, it was difficult for me watching my kindergartener build Lego during his Zoom session. He didn't "look" like he was paying attention—but he was. He even cried on the last day of his summer class. It was an important reminder for me that paying attention looks different for each kid.

5. Teach kids how to get (and stay) organized.

Pin passwords and Zoom log-in information right on their desk where they can see it. This will alleviate the frustration of trying to log into various Zooms and not remembering each teacher's information. Then, show your kids that when classes are done for the day, they need to have a spot for their homework and folders for their various subjects. Everything needs to have a spot and their space should be tidied up each day. I have found that my kids often don't know what I mean when I say "tidy" so I try to be as specific as possible. "Pencils and pens belong in the pencil holder" or "Homework goes in this folder so it doesn't get lost" is clear and specific.

6. Post individualized positive affirmations.

I have seen sheets of affirmations that can easily be printed offline but the best ones are the ones made with your child. At the beginning of each baseball training session, my husband asks my boys to yell "I CAN DO THIS!" Though it took me some getting used to this yelling, I quickly saw the benefits and effects. My 6-year-old's confidence was increasing session after session and missed hits did not lead to melt-downs anymore. Create a sheet of positive statements with your child that they will read daily and start to internalize.

7. Use emojis for quick check-ins.

Communicating feelings can be tricky, especially when the feeling is not straightforward. Especially when it comes to things like Zoom fatigue, I know I need to equip my kids with new terminology so they can express themselves. Putting a piece of paper with a variety of emojis in a clear sheet allows kids to circle the picture of how they are feeling. This can be wiped down daily (or hourly) and used again the following day. Even if my kids don't know what they need and can't put a name to the feeling, it's helpful for me to see what they have circled.

8. Involve the neighborhood in outdoor time.

I am thrilled that our local elementary school decided on a long lunch break, from 11:30 am to 1 pm. That gives kids enough time to eat and then play outside from 12-1 pm. We are hoping to set up some kind of neighborhood rotations that would allow kids to play safely outdoors in different yards during this "recess" time. If that idea doesn't come to fruition, I know my kids will be riding bikes and playing outside during this hour.

9. Establish clear expectations for screen time.

In order to avoid melt-downs in regards to screen time, we have been up front with our kids that things will change once the school year gets started. Since the majority of the day will be spent in front of screens, video games will have to wait until the weekend. Of course, they balked at this change of their routine, but at least now they have a few more days to get used to this change.

10. Communicate with the teacher.

Although I have been a teacher for over a decade, I still get nervous about how my kids will do in other classes. As if my kids will be the only ones who struggle with distance learning. I know better. Yet, talking to my friend who teaches elementary school made me feel so much better. I just needed to hear what I already knew from another teacher. Of course the teachers will be understanding, of course the teachers will work with my kids, of course my kids aren't the only ones who will get off track. Teachers are super nervous and I know from my various online teacher groups that they, as always, just want to be the very best for your child. Partner with your child's teacher. And let's all remember to go into this bizarre school year ready to show our kids, our teachers and selves some grace.

Tackling distance learning at your house this fall? We've got some products that can help.

Dough Parlour fruit set

Dough Parlour fruit set

These fruity play doughs are scented with 100% food-based scents and combine unmatched textures and gorgeous hues to create the ultimate sensory experience.

$22

Plan Toys child's round table

Plan Toys child's round table

Little learners will love this table designed with kids in mind. The surface doubles as a chalkboard, while the storage space in the middle is an ideal place to store toys or art supplies.

$120

Plan Toys natural wooden chair

Plan Toys natural wooden chair

Pairs perfectly with the round table and provides littles with a kid-sized place to learn and focus.

$65

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

This incredibly soft comforter from Sunday Citizen is like sleeping on a cloud

My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

When it comes to getting a good night's sleep, there are many factors that, as a mama, are hard to control. Who's going to wet the bed at 3 am, how many times a small person is going to need a sip of water, or the volume of your partner's snoring are total wildcards.

One thing you can control? Tricking out your bed to make it as downright cozy as possible. (And in these times, is there anywhere you want to be than your bed like 75% of the time?)

I've always been a down comforter sort of girl, but after a week of testing the ridiculously plush and aptly named Snug Comforter from Sunday Citizen, a brand that's run by "curators of soft, seekers of chill" who "believe in comfort over everything," it's safe to say I've been converted.


Honestly, it's no wonder. Originally designed as a better blanket for luxury hotels and engineered with textile experts to create this uniquely soft fabric, it has made my bed into the vacation I so desperately want these days.

The comforter is made up of two layers. On one side is their signature knit "snug" fabric which out-cozies even my most beloved (bought on sale) cashmere sweater. The other, a soft quilted microfiber. Together, it creates a weighty blanket that's as soothing to be under as it is to flop face-first into at the end of an exhausting day. Or at lunch. No judgement.

Miraculously, given the weight and construction, it stays totally breathable and hasn't left me feeling overheated even on these warm summer nights with just a fan in the window.

Beyond being the absolute most comfortable comforter I've found, it's also answered my minimalist bed making desires. Whether you opt to use it knit or quilted side up, it cleanly pulls the room together and doesn't wrinkle or look unkempt even if you steal a quick nap on top of it.

Also worth noting, while all that sounds super luxe and totally indulgent, the best part is, it's equally durable. It's made to be easily machine washed and come out the other side as radically soft as ever, forever, which totally helps take the sting out of the price tag.

My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

Here is my top pick from Sunday Citizen, along with the super-soft goods I'm coveting for future purchases.

Woodland Snug comforter

Sunday-Citizen-Woodland-Snug-comforter

The bedroom anchor I've been looking for— the Snug Comforter.

$249

Braided Pom Pom Throw

Because this degree of coziness needs portability, I'm totally putting the throw version on my list. It's washable, which is a must-have given my shedding dog and two spill-prone kiddos who are bound to fight over it during family movie night.

$145

Lumbar pillow

sunday-citizen-lumbar-pillow

What's a cozy bed without a pile of pillows?

$65

Crystal infused sleep mask

sunday citizen sleep mask

Promoting sleep by creating total darkness and relaxation, I've bookmarked as my go-to gift for fellow mamas.

$40

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

You've got this.

Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

The Motherly Birth Class

pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

$79

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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Tiny thrill-seekers will love this kid-powered coaster which will send them (safely) sailing across the backyard or play space. The durable set comes with a high back coaster car and 10.75 feet of track, providing endless opportunities for developing gross motor skills, balance and learning to take turns. The track is made up of three separate pieces which are easy to assemble and take apart for storage (but we don't think it will be put away too often!)

$139

Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Stepping Stones

Stepping-stones

Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Sensory play set

kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$19.95

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Foam pogo stick

Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

$16.99

Dumptruck 

green-toys-dump-truck

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

$22

Hopper ball

Hopper ball

Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

$14.99

Pull-along ducks

janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$16.99

Rocking chair seesaw

Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

$79.99

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$79.99

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$24.75

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12 baby registry essentials for family adventures

Eager to get out and go? Start here

Ashley Robertson / @ashleyrobertson

Parenthood: It's the greatest adventure of all. From those first few outings around the block to family trips at international destinations, there are new experiences to discover around every corner. As you begin the journey, an adventurous spirit can take you far—and the best baby travel gear can help you go even farther.

With car seats, strollers and travel systems designed to help you confidently get out and go on family adventures, Maxi-Cosi gives you the support you need to make the memories you want.

As a mom of two, Ashley Robertson says she appreciates how Maxi-Cosi products can grow with her growing family. "For baby gear, safety and ease are always at the top of our list, but I also love how aesthetically pleasing the Maxi Cosi products are," she says. "The Pria Car Seat was our first purchase and it's been so nice to have a car seat that 'grows' with your child. It's also easy to clean—major bonus!"

If you have big dreams for family adventures, start by exploring these 12 baby registry essentials.

Tayla™️ XP Travel System

Flexibility is key for successful family adventures. This reversible, adjustable, all-terrain travel system delivers great versatility. With the included Coral XP Infant Car Seat that fits securely in the nesting system, you can use this stroller from birth.


Add to Babylist

$849.99

Iora Bedside Bassinet

Great for use at home or for adventures that involve a night away, the collapsible Iora Bedside Bassinet gives your baby a comfortable, safe place to snooze. With five different height positions and three slide positions, this bassinet can fit right by your bedside. The travel bag also makes it easy to take on the go.


Add to Babylist

$249.99

Kori 2-in-1 Rocker

Made with high-quality, soft materials, the foldable Kori Rocker offers 2-in-1 action by being a rocker or stationary seat. It's easy to move around the home, so you can keep your baby comfortable wherever you go. With a slim folded profile, it's also easy to take along on adventures so your baby always has a seat of their own.


Add to Babylist

$119.99

Minla 6-in-1 High Chair

A high chair may not come to mind when you're planning ahead for family adventures. But, as the safest spot for your growing baby to eat meals, it's worth bringing along for the ride. With compact folding ability and multiple modes of use that will grow with your little one, it makes for easy cargo.


Add to Babylist

$219.99

Coral XP Infant Car Seat

With the inner carrier weighing in at just 5 lbs., this incredibly lightweight infant car seat means every outing isn't also an arm workout for you. Another feature you won't find with other infant car seats? In addition to the standard carry bar, the Coral XP can be carried with a flexible handle or cross-body strap.


Add to Babylist

$399.99

Pria™️ All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

From birth through 10 years, this is the one and only car seat you need. It works in rear-facing, forward-facing and, finally, booster mode. Comfortable and secure for every mile of the journey ahead, you can feel good about hitting the road for family fun.


Add to Babylist

$289.99

Pria™️ Max All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

Want to skip the wrestling match with car seat buckles? The brilliant Out-of-the-Way harness system and magnetic chest clip make getting your child in and out of their buckles as cinch. This fully convertible car seat is suitable for babies from 4 lbs. through big kids up to 100 lbs. With washer-and-dryer safe cushions and dishwasher safe cup holders, you don't need to stress the mess either.


Add to Babylist

$329.99

Tayla Modular Lightweight Stroller

With four reclining positions, your little ones can stay content—whether they want to lay back for a little shut-eye or sit up and take in the view. Also reversible, the seat can be turned outward or inward if you want to keep an eye on your adventure buddy. Need to pop it in the trunk or take it on the plane? The stroller easily and compactly folds shut.


Add to Babylist
$499.99

Tayla Travel System

This car seat and stroller combo is the baby travel system that will help make your travel dreams possible from Day 1. The Mico XP infant seat is quick and easy to install into the stroller or car. Skipping the car seat? The reversible stroller seat is a comfortable way to take in the scenery.


Add to Babylist
$699.99

Modern Diaper Bag

When you need to change a diaper during an outing, the last thing you'll want to do is scramble to find one. The Modern Diaper Bag will help you stay organized for brief outings or week-long family vacations. In addition to the pockets and easy-carry strap, we love the wipeable diaper changing pad, insulated diaper bag and hanging toiletry bag.


Add to Babylist

$129.99

Mico XP Max Infant Car Seat

Designed for maximum safety and comfort from the very first day, this infant car seat securely locks into the car seat base or compatible strollers. With a comfy infant pillow and luxe materials, it also feels as good for your baby as it looks to you. Not to mention the cushions are all machine washable and dryable, which is a major win for you.


Add to Babylist
$299.99

Adorra™️ 5-in-1 Modular Travel System

From carriage mode for newborn through world-view seated mode for bigger kids, this 5-in-1 children's travel system truly will help make travel possible. We appreciate the adjustable handlebar, extended canopy with UV protection and locking abilities when it's folded. Your child will appreciate the plush cushions, reclining seat and smooth ride.


Add to Babylist
$599.99

Ready for some family adventures? Start by exploring Maxi-Cosi.

This article was sponsored by Maxi-Cosi. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Boost 1
The Children's Place

We can't lie to you—the idea of matching family holiday pajamas gets us all sorts of giddy inside. They're the perfect early holiday present for kids to wear on holiday mornings and the best excuse to wear loungewear all day long.

In recent years, tons of awesome brands have jumped on the bandwagon, but we have to give a shout out to the OG of Holiday Fam Jams, Hanna Andersson. They just dropped their Holiday 2021 line and are already selling out super fast. In case your fingers aren't speedy enough, we've rounded up a variety of offerings from Hanna and our other tried-and-trues from The Children's Place to Amazon.

So snuggle up next to the fire 🔥, grab some hot chocolate ☕, and get ready to rock these comfy, cozy matching PJs this holiday season. Shop our favorite looks below!


Hanna Andersson Bright Bulbs Collection

hanna-andersson-holiday-pajamas

Iconic brand Hanna Andersson pretty much wrote the book on matching family PJs, and we could not love them more. There are so many Insta-worthy styles to choose from, you're going to have trouble choosing just one. Prices start at $35.20 for kids.

$35.20

Hanna Andersson Hanukkah Matching Family Pajamas

hanna-andersson-hanukkah-matching-family-pajamas

New to the Hanna collection this year–the coziest way to celebrate the Festival of Lights! Prices start at $38.40.

$38.40

Pottery Barn Kids Heritage Santa Family

Pottery Barn Kids Heritage Santa Family

A vintage take on a classic look—full of Santa and trees! Pick from a nightgown for kids, adult flannels or a one-piece for kiddos. Prices start at $46.

$46

Pottery Barn Kids The Grinch Matching Family Pajamas

Pottery Barn Kids The Grinch Matching Family Pajamas

It's basically law that you have to serve hot chocolate and fire up the beloved holiday classic when wearing these. Prices start at $46.

$46

Sleepyheads Holiday

matching pajamas

Made for lounging, Sleepyheads' pajamas have the cutest polar bear designs. These would make the most adorable Christmas morning pictures! Infant pajamas start at $16.99.

$16.99

PajamaGram Candy Cane Stripe Set

pajamagram-candy-cane-stripe-pajamas

Even the pups can get in on these classic stripe pjs. Prices start at $24.99

$24.99

PajamaGram Green and Red Plaid Pajamas

PajamaGram Green and Red Plaid Pajamas

These comfy plaid PJs will keep everyone nice and warm this season. The theme isn't holiday specific and can be worn all winter long! Prices start at $22.49

$22.49

Gray Striped Collection

gray striped matching pajamas

If you're not into the holiday colors, or want sets that work outside of the season, we love this minimalist gray striped set. Perfect for cozy days all year long. Prices start at $14.99.

$14.99

The Children's Place Bear Buffalo Plaid Pajamas

The Children's Place Bear Buffalo Plaid Pajamas

There's nothing more classic than buffalo check during the holidays. This one even has nightgowns available! (For kids and dolls!) Prices start at $13.97.

$13.97

The Children's Place Buffalo Plaid Pajamas

The perfect pair for your holiday Instagram photo. Prices starting at $13.97.

$13.97

The Children's Place Glow-in-the-Dark Santa Pajamas

The Children's Place Glow-in-the-Dark Santa Pajamas

Glow in the dark Santa jammies? Yes please! Prices start at $17.47

$17.47

Burt's Bees Baby Family Jammies

matching family pajamas burts bees

Made of 100% organic cotton, you won't believe how soft these jammies are. Plus, they're breathable so if you're the type of overheat at night, these are a great option. Prices start at $39.50.

$39.50

SleepytimePjs Fleece Deer Plaid

matching family pajamas

You can never go wrong with buffalo plaid and this set doesn't disappoint. The baseball tees offer a more modern look and the deer head is such an adorable touch. Prices start at $36.99.

$36.99

Dinosaur Pajamas

dinosaur pajamas

For the dinosaur obsessed kid + family, look no further than these super fun pj's from Pat Pat. They are light weight, which is great for keeping kids cool and comfortable, and the print could not be more fun. (If dinos aren't your thing, the brand has a ton of other cute designs to choose from, too.)

$13.99

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The important safety tip parents need to know about sleep + car seats

Why you might want to plan for more pit stops on your next road trip.

When we become parents we don't just have to learn how to take care of a baby, we also have to learn how, when and why to use all the different kinds of baby gear.


There is so much to learn and when it comes to car seats there is one rule many parents haven't heard of: infants shouldn't be left in car seats for more than an hour at a time, and they should never nap in a car seat outside the vehicle.

According to multiple studies, babies are at risk for decreased oxygen levels while in car seats, especially when the car is not in motion or the trip lasts for an extended period of time. Although preterm babies or infants with respiratory conditions are most at-risk, there is good reason for all families to take proper precautions.

As Scottish mother-of-two Kirsti Clark recently told STV, she had no idea that infants shouldn't be left in car seats for more than an hour at a time until her 3-week-old daughter, Harper, had a seizure following a car trip that went longer than expected. It was a situation not unfamiliar to many other families: The Clarks simply got stuck in traffic and then left Harper in the seat while they put their older daughter to bed.

When Harper's father then took her out of her car seat she seemed like she could not get comfortable on his lap, Metro reports. Her father tried to settle her on a play mat and that's when the baby suffered a seizure. The Clarks rushed to the hospital where she was treated and thankfully recovered. But, Clark says one of the biggest shocks to her was that these guidelines even exist.

"I've never once been told a child should not be in a car seat for any length of time," she told STV. "Nowhere in the instruction booklets or any guidance that we've seen online has there been anything mentioned about breathing difficulties."

This is why some hospitals do what's known as a "car seat challenge" with preterm babies before discharge, which allows professionals to monitor the baby's cardiorespiratory stability when they're in their car seat.

Make sure all care providers know to never use a car seat for naps 

Sharon Evans, a trauma injury prevention coordinator at Cook Children's Hospital, told WFAA News the idea that car seats can be used for naps outside the car is a pretty common misconception that needs to be cleared up.

"There's nothing about the car seat that's designed to sleep," she told WFAA News. "Of course, if the straps aren't tight, the child can kind of slump down."

Safety experts say parents should make sure everyone who looks after the baby, including daycare providers and babysitters, understands that they should not be placed in the car seat outside of the vehicle.

Lisa Smith tells WFAA News she did understand the risks associated with car seat naps and didn't let her baby daughter, Mia, nap in the car seat. Tragically, at nearly 18 months old Mia was left to nap in a car seat at her licensed home daycare, and lost her life to positional asphyxia, or restricted breathing. Now Smith, like Clark, is on a mission to educate other parents to make sure this doesn't happen to another child.

"I walk around town and see people using a car seat on the seats at restaurants or putting them on the floor at tables," Smith says, adding that she will tell Mia's story to parents when she sees a baby napping in a car seat, letting them know kindly, "'I just want you to be really careful.'"

What parents should do

Researchers with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Paediatric Society agree with Smith: The most dangerous time for a baby to be in a car seat is when they're not actually in a car. So while it may seem convenient to leave a sleeping babe in their car seat after a long trip or while you're at a restaurant, it's best to take them out right away.

The AAP recommends that when you are using the car seat as intended in the car, plan"to stop driving and give yourself and your child a break about every two hours." In the case of babies younger than one month, some car seat researchers recommend avoiding unnecessarily long road trips.

"Restrict it to say, no more than half an hour or so," Professor Peter Fleming, a noted car seat researcher, told the BBC. (If you've got to go farther than that, just plan for rest stops to get baby out of the car seat.)

All this comes with one significant note: While baby is in a moving car, safely buckled into a car seat is always the safest place to be. As noted in a study The Journal of Pediatrics, babies riding in a car seat as per the manufacturer's guidelines have a very low risk of suffocation or strangulation from the harness straps.

If we're aware of the risks and make sure to take breaks and take the baby out of the seat when the car stops, everyone can ride safely. Car seats, when used properly, are a literal lifesaver we should all be thankful for.

[Update, September 13, 2018: Added information regarding Lisa Smith's case.]

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