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Whether they've drawn on the walls or spat in grandpa's face, acting out is always a symptom among children—not the problem itself.“Acting out" literally comes from “acting out their feelings," which means when children can't express their needs and emotions in healthy ways, they will act them out through displeasing behavior.

The key to understanding “acting out" is to see it as a communication driven by an unmet need.

Just as a puppy doesn't purposely provoke us by chewing up the couch, our children's behaviors come as much more natural expressions of their internal states.

It's so easy to jump to judgments like "he's just pushing my buttons" or "she's doing it on purpose." But we'd be wise to remember that when children can cooperate, they generally prefer to.

Here are some reasons that might really be at the root of the challenging behaviors—and some ideas of how to respond to them

1. They're hungry

Most of us can relate to the feeling of irritability that comes with low blood sugar. As with many adults, when a kid gets hungry, he may not even notice it, but automatically becomes crabby and starts grabbing toys from his little sister.

What to say: "Whoa! I can see we've run out of fuel. Grabbing toys isn't respectful. Come, let's return this doll to Celine and you and I will go grab some lunch. What do you fancy? Rice or pasta?"

2. They're tired

Show me the parent who doesn't totally get this one. When kids are sleep deprived or due for a nap, disintegration happens fast. So rather than sweetly saying: "Please Mummy, may I have a rest?" your daughter flings her bowl across the room.

What to say: "You're showing me how exhausted you are! And I hear you! I'm putting the bowl in the sink and we'll go straight to our room for a rest, my love."

3. They need to pee

This one gets overlooked. But when (potty independent) children need to pee they often hold it in and become increasingly flustered. If little Jose suddenly bursts at you with an obnoxious tone saying, "You're not the boss of me," his stressed bladder may be to blame.

What to say: "Let's take a bathroom break and then we'll talk about this!"

4. They're worried about something

If your child is harboring a concern about an upcoming transition—such as moving houses, a new baby on the way, a new school, a new job, a new babysitter ora sick grandparent—they likely will not have the words to express that in a healthy way. Rather, they'll begin to refuse the meals you prepare, to hurt other children or to breakdown in tantrums at Every. Little. Thing.

This is their way of trying to gain some control over their lives. When you have an inkling as to what the worry is, pick a calm and connected moment, such as bedtime or a long drive, and address it head on. Be sure to be honest, but also optimistic and empowering. Don'tt dismiss their worries, but help talk abouth what might happen and what they can do about it.

What to say: "Hey, my love. I can see you're feeling really worried about something. Perhaps it's about the new baby that's on the way? Are you worried that I won't have as much time for you once the baby arrives?"

5. They're afraid of something

Most children experience normal childhood fears such as fear of the dark, monsters or robbers. While they may be normal, they can also be deeply inhibiting and can set them on edge throughout the day. Rather than remaining calm and regulated, your child might act out with anger. Helping him find coping mechanisms to gradually face these fears is key in helping children overcome their fear and not be controlled by it.

Validate their fears but still hold the expectation for them to overcome them, with support.

What to say: "I do not like being yelled at. I can see you're feeling pretty angry right now. Has this got something to do with the questions you were asking me about robbers before? I know there are none, and I want you to feel sure, too.Would you like for us to go through the house with a flashlight so you can feel satisfied there are no robbers here?"

6. They've been influenced by something

If children are watching violent TV shows or have neighbors, friends or cousins who are wild, destructive or disrespectful—they may well try on this behavior. We all unwittingly, imitate what we see around us. When I've watched too much Downton Abbey, for example, my accent skews far posher than usual. So if your neighbor has been reciting a foul-mouthed rap song to your daughter this morning in the yard, you can expect some of that to come through.

What to say: "Hmmm, using those words is not how we speak in our home. I know you might hear other people using that language but being respectful is very important to our family."

7. They're mirroring you

I know this one bites. But when we've been losing our cool, yelling, punishing, threatening, it's safe to assume our children will mirror that behavior right back at us. So when my son says: "How dare you?" it's nothing short of hypocritical of me to shoot him down with, "You will not speak to your mother that way," because clearly, he got it from me.

What to say: "I know I've been yelling and raising my voice. I'm sorry. It's important that we all speak kindly and gently to each other, including me. Can we start over?"

8. They're angry

Perhaps she's angry you didn't let her finish her game this morning, or that you forgot to dry her pink tutu in time for her playdate, or that you said no to a final helping of ice cream, or that you co-sleep with the baby and not with her, or that her teacher didn't give her a warm smile that day, or that her favorite doll's leg broke…

The point is, children have endless frustrations throughout their day—some of which are fleeting and others that are substantial. So when she purposely draws on your favorite cushion, she's expressing just how angry she is. The key is to validate their anger and to empathize so as to allow them to move through the anger and reach the softer emotion beneath is: sadness or fear.

Teach your child to express their anger through words, songs, painting… We love to sing the mad song (below) and eventually break into giggles. The healing comes when the angry feelings are expressed and allowed by you—even if the behavior is not.

What to say: "Yikes. I know you know that cushions are not for drawing on. And I can see from your face how mad you are right now! Being mad is just fine, but ruining our furniture is not. Would you like to stamp your feet and sing a mad song? Let's do it! Repeat after me! "I'm MAD MAD MAD! I want to be BAD BAD BAD! I feel so SAD SAD SAD! That makes me MAD MAD MAD!"

9. They're frustrated

When children hit developmental stages they haven't quite mastered yet, they can feel deep frustration that they often need to act out. Consider the baby who's trying to take their first steps and keeps falling. Or the toddler who desperately wants to feed herself but can't manipulate her fingers just so yet. Or the preschooler who can't write their name legibly despite their best efforts. Rather than politely saying, "I'm finding it difficult to master this skill which arouses deep frustration in me," he swats his baby brother on the head.

What to say: "I can't let you hit! I'm going to hold your hands until you can use them safely… I know you're so frustrated, my love. It's so hard to try something so many times and not manage yet, right?"

10.  They're sad

It's almost taboo for children to be sad, because culturally we like kids to be happy and to make those around them happy. But if a child experiences a loss or that's their temperamental disposition, they may feel deep sadness. They may be sad about things we expect them to be happy about such as a new sibling or graduating kindergarten. So she drags her feet just when you're rushing to get out the door.

What to say: "Sweetheart, your face seems sad. I see that! Would you like to talk to me about it? We must leave the house right now, but we will have plenty of time for me to listen in the car. Let me help you with your shoes and let's hold hands to the car, ok?"

11.  They're curious

Often what we perceive as acting out is really just exploration. Children are infinitely curious and learn through hands on, sensory experience. They need to touch, climb, throw, push, pull, spin things. So if your son just dumped all of the clean, folded laundry down the stairs, that may be his misguided curiosity at play.

What to say: "Oh no! That laundry is clean, so it's not for throwing. I will put it on the bed next time. But I can see you want to throw things! Let me pass you this basket of teddy bears and you can throw away."

12.  They didn't know it's not allowed

Sometimes kids simply don't realize something isn't allowed. Even though it was painfully obvious to you (or perhaps because of this) you never made it clear to them. So if your daughter just sprayed shaving cream all over the bathroom, she may have thought this was your plan all along. Why else would you leave the shaving cream out?

What to say: "Whoops! Shaving cream is not for playing with! Silly me. I should have left it in the cupboard. Next time please do not use this as a game. Let's clean up. I'll grab the mop. Do you want to spray or wipe?"

13.  They don't understand the logic behind the limit

Setting limits is important and sometimes kids do need to simply "do as we say" without further explanation. But those instances are rare. For the most part, we'll garner far more collaboration (rather than blind obedience) when children understand our reasoning behind the limits. Sometimes if we've too often failed to provide the logic, children may be moved to rebel. If they feel the rules don't make sense, they may go ahead and grab the chocolate despite your repeated assertions that's not allowed.

What to say: "Sam, I was very clear in asking you not to eat this chocolate and I'm disappointed that you have anyway. The reason I asked you not to was because this is for a gift for Marcy, it was not for us! I should have explained that, but I do expect you to honor my requests even when you don't understand them. We'll have to go and buy some more chocolate to replace this one. Let's get your money jar and you can contribute to the purchase."

14.   They're over-controlled

In a home that's run like a tight ship with a lot of control and fear-based parenting, many children will act out. Under the pressures of high expectations and low support, children begin to feel like there's "nothing to lose." They resent feeling controlled and scramble to find ways to exert their autonomy and sovereignty. That's one reason she why she may sneak around, lie or rebel. Lying is a normal developmental stage in children around the age of 5, but it can also be the sign of too much parental control—such as if she's afraid you'll come down on her like a ton of bricks, so she doesn't want to share the truth.

What to say: "Honey, it seems you've lied to me. It's really important that we have integrity and an honest, open relationship in our home. Were you afraid that I would be very angry or punish you if you were honest?"

15.  They're confused about limits 

When we've been confused about a limit ourselves or unclear in setting them, children will push back and act out. They've received the message from us that this is a "free for all" or an "undefined territory" and is up for grabs. So if you sometimes let them use the iPad first thing in the morning and sometimes don't, then you can expect them to try their luck.

What to say: "I'm sorry, I can see the confusion here is my fault as I've been unclear about the rules about the iPad in the morning. Let's have a family meeting and discuss when and how we use it and who's responsible for charging it. We can all contribute ideas and agree on what to do when someone breaks these rules. Then we'll all sign it and hang up the rules for all to see."

16.  They're agitated by something

Many children have sensitivities that can go undetected but manifest in grumpy behavior. Food intolerances such as a sensitivity to dairy or gluten can lead to fussy, testy children who appear to be acting out. A child who is sensorily sensitive to labels in their shirt, tight socks or too much noise can be more likely to tantrum, shut down, make demands or yell rudely.

What to say: "I can see you're uncomfortable. Yelling like that hurst my ears. Can you help me figure out what's bothering you? And then I can adjust it for you. Perhaps it's too noisy in here? Let's try going outside."

17.  There's inconsistency

For most families a certain measure of predictability breeds security. And security helps children (us all) to regulate. If a child is picked up by a different adult each day, has dinner at a different time each day, has a bedtime at a different time each day—you get the picture—they're likely to feel unsafe or unsure of what comes next.

When limits are inconsistent, too, then they're really not sure where they stand. So when she becomes impossible at bedtime, demanding yet another drink, book or trip to the bathroom, this may actually be a plea for more predictability in her life.

What to say: "It's really time to say goodnight now my love. We're done with the books. Let's talk about exactly what's happening tomorrow, okay? In the morning you'll wake up and then daddy will give you breakfast..."

18.  They're over stressed

Just like all people, if children are under too much stress they will absolutely act out or self damage, which is far worse. Unfortunately, today, children are under a lot of unnecessary stress to perform academically from the youngest of ages.

Children need long stretches of uninterrupted, independent play every single day, they need time in nature and time to rest. If they're not getting these de-stressors, and their every day is scheduled with goal-driven, measurable activities that are then evaluated by adults such as grades, then they're probably under a lot of stress. It's no wonder he's obnoxiously slamming doors.

What to say: "Can I come in? You just slammed that door pretty hard! I know you must be feeling very run down with all the homework you've got. Plus the game on Saturday. And piano practice. Still, please respect our home. You can always tell me when you're stressed and I'll get it. Hey, I have an idea, can we take this evening off? I'll write you a note for your teacher. Let's go play Monopoly."

19.  They don't have the words

Especially in the early years, toddlers may simply not have the words we so desperately want for them to use. That's why when parents yell for them to use their words, it usually falls on deaf ears. They can't. Even if the appropriate words exist in their vocabulary, under the stress of the moment they can't muster them.

As the adults, we can help to find the appropriate words for them and model for them how they might be used. So if you're child lashes out when a friend grabs a doll, use it as a language learning opportunity.

What to say: "Uh oh! That hurt Kiley! I do not want you to hit. Are you trying to tell her you're not done with the doll? Let's check if she's ok and then you can tell her, "I'm not done with the doll, Kiley… Hey, Kiley, are you ok?"

20.  They're overstimulated

Whether there's too much noise, too many people, too many toys, too much novelty, light, excitement, attention, colors, sensations… an overload of stimulation can cause a really visceral reaction in anyone. So when you were so excited to take your 3-year-old to the fair, but they ended up tantruming through the entire thing because they wanted another ride on the Tea Cups, you can bet overstimulation is at the root.

What to say: "I can see we're feeling a bit overwhelmed! And there is a lot going on here! Come, let's go over here to this quiet corner and sit down together for a few minutes. You can put your head on my shoulder and close your eyes. We'll calm our bodies down together."

21.  They're trying to get connection

If we haven't had much time for our little ones, they may be feeling cast aside or left behind. In a somewhat misplaced bid for connection, they may break something, yell or hurt someone. And it works for attention. But the fundamental thing to realize is that it's not about attention, it's about connection. They want our eye contact, our touch, our open hearts—not the stern look on our face telling them off. But if they can't get the former, they'll settle for the latter.

What to say: "Hey! I think you might have run out of hugs… Can I fill you up? Do you know how I can tell? Because you called me "stupid." That doesn't feel good to me and it shows me you must be completely out of hugs. Come over here!"

22.  They're questioning your leadership

If you're a shaky, unconfident leader in your family, you might experience increased limit-testing and push back. So when you say it's time to go, you might experience a lot of dawdling or even just outright ignoring.

What to say: "I can see I didn't make myself clear the first time. I do not like being ignored. We're going. Shoes on, now, please!"

23.  They're not sure what's expected of them

Sometimes your child might behave inappropriately simply because they don't know what they're supposed to be doing. Especially in a new situation, or with new people, they may shy away, or—conversely—become too loud and demand all of the spotlight. They may say things that appear rude or unseeingly, simply because no one's ever told them that it's impolite to point or that we don't make comments about people's bodies.

What to say: "While we're visiting Uncle Tom, we're expected to talk in soft voices. Can you use a soft voice with me?"

24.  They want to be seen

Acting out, ultimately, can be a bid for being seen, valued and accepted as we are. It can be as though our child is saying, "Hey, Mum, will you love me when I do this?!"

What to say: "I can see you're trying to do the worst thing you can think of! But I will love you no matter what you do, you can't escape my love."

When children act out it can be tempting to chalk it up to “bad behavior," “demanding attention" or an “annoying mood." But all behavior is a communication.

A request for help in meeting an unmet need. The need for unconditional love, for security and safety, for clarity and information. Usually when we answer the root cause, the symptom of the unpleasant behavior becomes irrelevant and fades away.

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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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The summer season is the perfect time to get creative and enjoy fun projects around the house with your little ones. Some of the most memorable family moments can start with a piece of construction paper or end with a table covered in shaving cream.

While you're having fun, just remember that being creative is about the process, not the result. Your kids' artwork may not be museum-worthy, but that's okay! Embrace the fun of the creation and not necessarily the end result.

First thing's first, get organized.

before you can begin any project, it's important to start on a clean surface. A fresh canvas sets the stage for family activities and DIY projects so I always put away clutter and clean the surfaces to prepare for new activities.

I always recommend creating or purchasing organization bins or spaces for each activity or categories of items. For example, a container specifically for crayons, markers and colored pencils. Then when it's time to clean up, everything has a specific place. Make sure to clearly label the bins so everyone can easily determine what each container contains. This is a great way to exercise good organizational habits from an early age. As soon as they are 2-years-old, they can play a part in cleaning up and putting things away. And, if you have systems set up for them from the start, it makes it much easier for them! Kids also love to help clean counters once you've put everything away. Whether it's after you've cooked a meal together or exhausted all of the glitter glue, they love wiping down counters with wipes. Set the expectation that kids who craft are responsible for cleaning up their supplies when they're done. It's crucial to start the healthy habit of tidying up after yourself early on.


Ask your kids for their input.

Imagination runs wild, so take advantage of their creativity. Ask them what type of art project or fun family activities they want to prioritize. If you have multiple kids, create a "suggestion jar" they can continually add and pull from when they are looking for an activity to do.

It's important to embrace collaboration. You know what they say: Teamwork makes the (crafts) work. Encourage your kids to work together and call out ideas for each other's artwork.

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Here are a few of my favorite craft projects:

  • Flipbooks: Have each kid create their own flipbook full of creative crafts, poetry, or other fun moments they want to capture.
  • DIY dollhouse: Make a custom dollhouse filled with handmade mini furniture to decorate it in their own way.
  • Out-of-the-crayon-box crafting: Challenge your kids to craft with creative elements around the house—whether it be clothespin snowmen or sponge sailboats, there are endless possibilities.
Garner even more excitement by making the prep part a project itself! Have your kids help create a fun workspace for food-making, craft-building, or DIY science-slime experimenting. They can pick a color scheme, help find the right organizing bins, or decorate the wall with art projects from this past school year for inspiration.

Try DIY projects.

Kids need to get out their creativity and energy so hands-on projects are a fun way to put their growing brains to work while they do it.

Be sure to practice safe crafting. Store all scissors and other sharp objects in protected, designated places, make sure to read all directions for new craft supplies or projects, and watch out for slippery messes!

Stock up on these essentials:

1. On-the-go park bag: Parents should be ready to go to the park at a moment's notice. Have a bag pre-packed with all the essentials: a mini kite, a picnic blanket, a ball to toss around, sunscreen and more.

2. Chalk: I love bringing crafts outside whenever possible, and something as simple as colorful sidewalk chalk is an easy way to make drawings larger than life!

3. Contact paper: You can use contact paper to add temporary color and character to flower vases, glass jars or really any decorative container with a hard, smooth surface. As a first step, wipe the vases or jars down with a disinfecting wipe to make sure the surface is clean so the paper will stick properly.

4. Felt: Felt is one of my favorite kid-friendly ways to incorporate color into crafts. You can make fun flowers, finger puppets, or whatever your heart desires.

5. Bubbles: They provide instant fun for any age!

6. Instant camera: Capture all of your moments —happy, sticky, and everything in between. Let your kids get in on the action of capturing their favorite family moments and compiling them into an end of the year scrapbook!
Learn + Play

Is it too soon? I ask myself as you toddle in and chat excitedly about the baby in mommy's belly. "Where is she?" you ask. "But I don't see her," you insist when I tell you she's in there.

Will you miss our special time as a trio? I wonder, as we snuggle on your rug at night, you, Daddy and me, under a blanket too small to cover us all. But you don't realize, pulling it up over us anyway, feet popping out, giggling all the while.

Were we selfish? I worry as I rush to comfort you during the night when a fever spikes and you call out our names. "Mama!" "Daddy!" And we're both there in a minute.

How can I possibly love another child as much as I love you? I question myself, as you run into my waiting hug and beg for just a million more.

But I tell myself that we'll learn these new steps together in stride, just as we did when you found your way into the world and became all of mine. Because it was you, my sweet boy, who taught me how to be a mama.

It was you who, in those first weeks, rested your head contently on my chest, just when I thought nursing might be too hard to handle. And it was you who flashed your first smile as the washer broke, amid mounds of spit-up stained laundry.

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You were the one who settled my breathing, as it quickened and tightened during my first panic attack. And it was rocking you at night that saved me when my maternity leave came to an end.

When you brought your very first stomach virus home and we all got sick at the same time, it was the sound of your first laugh that saved us during the eleventh hour, when we were questioning what made us think we were strong enough to care for a family.

We learned together how to navigate pediatrician visits and shots, what rocks and rhythms made nighttime smoother, how to introduce foods and when to wean. After six months, it was you who gave me the signal it was okay to stop nursing. When endless pumping sessions at work had me in tears, you assured me you'd love me just as much if I picked up a bottle of formula, gulping it down with a smile, your hands resting on mine.

When I worried at work each day that you were bonding more with your daycare teachers in those long hours than we ever could at home, you shared your first word, reminding me how special our bond is in that sweet, jumbled "mama."

We did it all, together.

And even now, as I worry about transitioning you into a big boy bed, you excitedly accept the challenge and graciously tell us we can give your crib to your new baby sister–just not your blanket.

At daycare, you rock the baby dolls, and you tell everyone you pass what your baby sister's name will be. You ask to read about Daniel Tiger and Baby Margaret, making sure I know how to navigate what's on your horizon.

Because, baby boy, you've always been quicker to adapt than me. Sometimes I think it's you who is teaching us.

You see, baby boy, it was your encouragement and love all along that guided me into motherhood. And it was your hugs and kisses and "good job mama's" that told me I could do this again.

Life will change as our family grows, but we'll keep learning together.

It'll be you who marches into that Kindergarten class, head held high as you proudly wear the backpack you picked out yourself, reminding us that time stops for no one.

It'll be you who introduces us to practices and clubs, field trips and permission slips–I'm sorry in advance for the ones I'll forget to sign!

It'll be you who turns my grip white, as you tuck your permit into the glovebox and pull onto the street for the first time.

It'll be you we wait up for first, worried that you haven't called. And it'll be you who heads off to college, leaving the house that seems too small feeling much too big.

But before your baby sister comes, and time continues to carry us in its unforgiving pace, I'll soak up every undivided second of attention I can give you. I'll snuggle you close and savor our chats. And we'll follow each other's leads, continuing to figure out this whole thing called life together.

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Life

A recent trip to the movie theater had me brimming with excitement to reunite with Woody, Buzz, and the crew of Andy's (er, Bonnie's?) toys in the Toy Story franchise's new installment. Sure enough, my family laughed at the adventures of the cast, but it was a newcomer to the gang that really stole the show: a plastic spork named Forky.

While his reluctance to accept his place was charming and sweet, Bonnie's creation of Forky, and her subsequent attachment to him as her new favorite toy, points at a bigger picture—what constitutes a toy? Likewise, what does a child really need to be entertained?

The film's inclusion of such a common, utilitarian object as a chosen plaything serves as a reminder that children's imaginations are a powerful thing, and—when left to their own devices—kids are quite capable of having fun with far less than our society typically deems necessary.

Forky is a throwback to a time when less was more, and when families' homes weren't miniature toy stores.

I remember recently being spellbound as I watched my daughter engrossed in play with a handful of rocks. Each pebble had its role—mommy rock, daddy rock, baby rock, etc—and she carried on with a captivating scene encompassing equal parts comedy and tragedy. It was a rock family saga, and frankly, I was mesmerized.

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Despite a house full of flashy, modern, (and sometimes expensive) toys, I've found that some of the most creative play comes from the most unexpected "things" that most adults would consider non-toys. Kids have a unique way of looking at things, and often the items they gravitate toward as their preferred toy may leave parents not only scratching their heads, but also howling in laughter.

Kitchen accessories seem to be a favorite for many little ones, as I remember my own niece insisting on carrying a serving spoon everywhere with her. These inanimate objects function as the perfect plaything for children, as their minds are free to create whatever story or fantasy they desire. The make-believe is endless.

Other favorites for my kiddos include shoelaces, ropes, or yarn, which have infinite aliases—stuffed animal leashes and zip-lines being their go-tos. And who can forget the magic of cardboard boxes and of course bubble wrap. We're talking hours of fun and play.

After watching the film, I looked around my house at the abundant number of toys that my own children possess. Then I turned around and watched as they chose to stack Tupperware containers and throw foam koozies at them in a competitive game of kitchen bowling.

So yeah, we're all probably a little guilty of overindulgence with it comes to our kids. To be honest, it's fun to watch their eyes light up upon receiving a new toy at their birthday or other holiday. And I'm not arguing that those practices need to change completely. Rather, let's not forget the power of minimalism and its place in our lives. Let's encourage resourcefulness and creativity.

Behind the fun and nostalgia of the Toy Story series are important lessons and messages. In today's culture where more is more, Forky is a reminder that parents don't necessarily have to break the bank in purchasing toys for the little ones in our lives. In many cases, a "spork" will do.

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School will be here before we know it, mamas. Which means it's time to take a look in your kid's closet, pull out all those leggings and jeans with holes in the knees and replace them with durable, super cute options... today! Why? Because Prime Day, that's why!

We've been lucky enough to try out Amazon's Spotted Zebra and Look by Crewcuts, and trust us when we say these clothes are quality with a capital "Q." And at these prices, you just might want to stock up on multiple seasons' worth!

From sneakers and sweatshirts to shorts and hoodies, these are the cutest staples at the best prices that you want to take advantage of today!

Amazon Essentials Girls' Long-Sleeve Elastic Waist T-Shirt Dress

Amazon Essentials Dress

Available in seven colorways and sizes 2T to XXL, this dress is the perfect transition piece from summer to fall...just add leggings and she can rock it all winter long, too.

Price: $10.50 (regularly $15.00)

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Spotted Zebra Girls' Toddler & Kids 4-Pack Leggings

Spotted Zebra Legging

Mamas, listen up: We've tried out leggings from many retailers and Spotted Zebra's are among the best. And they come in 18 different patterns/sets.

Price: $10 (regularly $20)

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LOOK by crewcuts Boys' 2-Pack Knit Pull on Shorts

Look Crewcuts Knit Shorts

Cozy shorts for little boys to run around in are imperative for the school year and these ones fit the bill perfectly.

Price: $16.80 (regularly $24)

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Spotted Zebra Kids' 12-Pack Low-Cut Socks

Spotted Zebra Socks

Mamas, if you've got school-age children, then you've also probably got a bin full of random socks. At a buck a pair, this set is well worth it.

Price: $12.60 (regularly $18.00)

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Crocs Kids Bayaband Clog

Crocs Bayaband Clog

No mom has ever regretted buying Crocs for her kids! The easiest shoe to slip on and off chubby feet, Crocs' big rubber toes make them for great scootering and biking.

Price: $18.99 (regularly $34)

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Simple Joys by Carter's Boys' 2-Pack Flat Front Shorts

Carters Shorts

For the days when you want him to look a bit crisper, this two-pack of flat-front chino-esque shorts will do nicely.

Price: $16.75 (regularly $23.99)

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Spotted Zebra Boys' 2-Pack Light-Weight Hooded Long-Sleeve T-Shirts

spotted zebra

You can never have too many lightweight long-sleeve shirts for your kids, and we love the hoods and patterns/colors on these.

Price: $15.40 (regularly $22.50)

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PUMA Kids' St Runner Velcro Sneaker

Puma Velcro Sneaker

Available in 12 colors for girls and boys, these sneakers are perfect for pre-K and young elementary school kids who haven't quite learned how to tie their own laces yet.

Price: $17.49 (regularly $40)

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LOOK by crewcuts Girls' Lightweight Cat-ear Hoodie

Look Crewcuts Cat Hoodie

This hoodie is going to be their new fave when the school year rolls around.

Price: $18.20 (regularly $26)

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Spotted Zebra Girls' Toddler & Kids 2-Pack Knit Sleeveless Tiered Dresses

Spotted Zebra Dress

Even if your girl is going through a no-dresses phase, we're pretty sure she'll love this for two reasons. One, it's SO twirly, whirly, perfect for spinning around (and around and around). And two, she's going to love the bright blocked colors.

Price: $16.80 (regularly $26.80)

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Starter Boys' Pullover Logo Hoodie

starter hoodie

Perfect for throwing on after a baseball game or on the walk to school when the temps start dipping again.

Price: $13.94 (regularly $19.99)

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UOVO Boys Running Shoes

Uovo Boys Running Shoe

UOVO's running shoes are about as durable as they come thanks to rubberized finishes that mean you can wipe stains (grass! mud!) right off. Also available in orange at this price.

Price: $23.64 (regularly $42.99)

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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