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Family life can thrive or falter depending on the strength of our routines. As any parent will tell you, we face fewer missed buses, fewer hangry tantrums and more happy kid smiles when critical parts of the day unfold predictably. Too often, we forget that the same routine that makes family life manageable—the rituals and phrases we repeat day after day (after day, after day)—create the framework for who our children will become. Our kids will remember these little moments as the general feel and flare of their childhood.

Over the years, I've watched for ways to work kindness and compassion into my family's daily routines. These small, day-to-day changes have helped me live my values even during the hectic weeks when we're too busy to volunteer and too tired to get creative with little acts of kindness.

Here are nine lifestyle routines to raise kinder kids:

1. Make room for an early morning pause.

The scientific foundation for a daily moment of mindfulness is as expansive as it is overly-cited. According to the Scientific American, the one thing nearly all studies on mindfulness can agree upon is that "tuning into the world around you may provide a sense of well-being."

Even those of us who are night owls can recognize the difference a good morning makes. The world feels less hostile when our family builds in a few moments to pause together. You don't need to mediate for ages or share a three-course breakfast each morning. Some families I know simply wake their kids up a half hour earlier than necessary to allow for a slower pace and a few sleepy-eyed snuggles before the normal morning routine unfolds. At my house, we make it a point to arrive a little early at the bus stop, early enough to take a few deep breathes together and share our goals for the day.

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2. Adopt empowering refrains.

The way we speak to our children shapes the way they understand themselves and ultimately the way they live in the world. Research demonstrates that teaching children to speak and think positively about themselves improves their self-compassion and pro-social behavior.

Here are our favorite phrases to empower kind kids. Remember to use them as specifically and honestly as possible. Kids are incredible at detecting insincerity!

Empower kind kids with these big-hearted phrases

  • You are such a helpful kid.
  • Your kindness (or your big heart) makes me proud.
  • Your kindness takes a lot of courage.
  • Your kindness makes a real difference.
  • I'm proud that you are the kind of person who treats others with compassion and respect.
  • I love how curious you are.
  • That's interesting. Tell me more about that.
  • Fixing your mistakes means you are learning.
  • Every problem has a solution. Let's try again.
  • You're a good problem solver. How do you think we should do this?
  • I'm impressed with how hard you have worked.

3. Celebrate acts of kindness in a concrete way.

Research confirms that accountability is a key way to foster new habits and reach difficult goals. By letting your family know that kindness and helping others is a priority, you're setting high expectations for follow through.

Try making a visual display with this Kindness Quilt printable from Doing Good Together, a national nonprofit that features many creative ways to share kindness as a family. Or simply make time each day to ask, "Who did you help today?" and "Who helped you?" By sharing your acts of kindness each day, your kids will begin to watch for ways they can be helpful, partly so they have a story to share.

4. Move together daily.

We all know the physical and psychological benefits of exercise. By reserving a half hour or so after dinner to move together, playfully, you give your family a chance to shed the day's stress and reset your minds and bodies for tomorrow.

At my house, this looks different every day. Last week, we took a flashlight walk through the trees behind our house. Last night, we played a raucous game of stuffed animal tag. Whether you're walking through the park, playing soccer, or dancing wildly, this moment of joyful movement will make it easier to share compassion tomorrow.

5. Add a recurring volunteer effort to the calendar.

Of course, making small daily changes doesn't replace the benefits of regular volunteering with your child in your community. Regular volunteering gives kids a strong sense of empowerment, as they see themselves as helpers. When they notice a problem, they tend not to wait for someone else to step in with a solution. This self-reliance and empowerment translate into the courage to stand up for others when social conflict arises.

6. Cut down on unsupervised weekday screen time.

The science behind screen time is still evolving, but a growing body of research is declaring play to be the most essential and most diminishing learning tool of childhood.

If you think about how much time kids spend at school, in transit, and in extracurricular activities, they only have a couple of hours a night to be kids.

Outside climbing trees.
Inside building epic Lego towers.
On the swings arguing with siblings and neighbors over what to do next.

It's incredible how much energy it takes to say no to screen time, but watching the creativity and camaraderie (more or less) my children develop away from their gadgets has been worth it. Plus, I've stuck to this rule often enough that I'm basically the family hero when I agree to break my own rule from time to time.

7. Seek out one good news story to share each day.

As more people feel emotionally depleted by alarming news stories, they begin to feel a greater sense of apathy and cynicism. The Guardian recently reported, "Research by Dr. Denise Baden, an associate professor at Southampton Business School, the University of Southampton, has found that the more negatively people feel after consuming bad news, the less likely they are to voice an opinion or take action to improve the world around them."

Thankfully, solutions-based journalism is becoming more and more common. Visit the magazine Positive News or the Washington Post's Inspired Life for some beautiful examples. Make it a habit to track down and share a newsworthy story of hope and courage. Your whole family will feel more inspired to become change makers when you make time to notice the important, world-improving work happening right now.

8. Lean into your evening routine.

Research has found that the way an event or experience ends determines the way we feel about that experience. Let's show our children the compassion of a soothing bedtime routine. It's too easy to rush through the bedtime transition with your mental focus already collapsed on the couch in a heap of parental exhaustion. We all do it. We all have had those long days that drive us to just want to be done. When possible, let's resist the urge to rush.

Instead, if we allow ourselves to enjoy the last part of the day, we may all feel more connected, more grateful, and more prepared for the day to come.

I discovered the power of this last year when my daughter asked for "snuggle tickets" for Christmas, so she wouldn't have to beg me to stay a few extra minutes. Ouch, and awwww.

9. Reach for great reads.

Emerging research is demonstrating what book lovers have always known instinctively: reading is an incredible tool for developing empathy, compassion, and insight into the world of others.

One study found that literary fiction, as opposed to popular genre fiction, develops empathy in readers of all ages. So we do need to stretch ourselves and our young readers to read extraordinary books. Not exclusively, but regularly. Up your reading game by seeking out great reads to enjoy as a family.

With persistence, these solid roots of kindness will help our little ones grow into compassionate, helpful, curious, and empowered adults who we'll delight in knowing.

This article originally appeared on Doing Good Together.

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Sometimes it can feel like toys are a mama's frenemy. While we love the idea of entertaining our children and want to give them items that make them happy, toys can end up taking the joy out of our own motherhood experience. For every child begging for another plastic figurine, there's a mama who spends her post-bedtime hours digging toys out from under the couch, dining room table and probably her own bed.

Like so many other moms, I've often found myself between this rock and hard place in parenting. I want to encourage toys that help with developmental milestones, but struggle to control the mess. Is there a middle ground between clutter and creative play?

Enter: Lovevery.

lovevery toys

Lovevery Play Kits are like the care packages you wish your child's grandparent would send every month. Expertly curated by child development specialists, each kit is crafted to encourage your child's current developmental milestones with beautiful toys and insightful activity ideas for parents. A flip book of how-tos and recommendations accompanies each box, giving parents not only tips for making the most of each developmental stage, but also explaining how the games and activities benefit those growing brains.

Even better, the toys are legitimately beautiful. Made from eco-friendly, sustainable materials materials and artfully designed, I even find myself less bothered when my toddler leaves hers strewn across the living room floor.

What I really love, though, is that the kits are about so much more than toys. Each box is like a springboard of imaginative, open-ended play that starts with the included playthings and expands into daily activities we can do during breakfast or while driving to and from lessons. For the first time, I feel like a company isn't just trying to sell me more toys―they're providing expert guidance on how to engage in educational play with my child. And with baby kits that range from age 0 to 12 months and toddler kits for ages 13 to 24 months, the kits are there for me during every major step of development I'll encounter as a new mama.

So maybe I'll never love toys―but I will always love spending time with my children. And with Lovevery's unique products, mixing those worlds has become child's play.


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

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Summertime is here, mamas! And while we couldn't be more thrilled about beach outings and pool days, both of those activities require one major thing—getting into a bathing suit. No easy feat when you're not pregnant (FYI: we tested many and these are our favorite five), but it's even tougher when you are prego and your body is changing daily.

To help, we've rounded up 15 super-cute maternity bathing suit options for you.

From sweet one-pieces (like Old Navy's watermelon-pattered cutie that has matching options for dads, toddlers and girls!) to color-blocked bikinis that will ensure your bump gets nice and tan, we've got something to fit every mama's personal style and body. Because we want you to love your pregnant body and celebrate it—you know the saying: Sun's out… bumps out!

The best part? They start at just $22! Happy shopping, mamas.

1. Motherhood Maternity ruffle front one-shoulder swimsuit with UPF 50+

Motherhood Maternity One-Shoulder Swim

Super flattering with a ruffle and in navy polka dots, this suit will be your go-to all summer long.

Price: $39.98

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2. Hatch Antigua maillot

Hatch Antigua

Did we mention we love ruffles? This beauty from Hatch is sweet as can be, and while it's on the pricier side, the quality is there and it will last you multiple pregnancies.

Price: $218

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3. ASOS Design maternity recycled glam high-neck swimsuit

Asos maternity high neck swim

Who says you need to be in a boring black bathing suit all summer? Let's embrace color (and some sexy drama!) with this high-neck suit that will have everyone asking where on Earth you found such a fun maternity look.

Price: Sale $33.50 (Regularly $48.00)

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4. Motherhood Maternity 'Beach Bump' maternity one-piece swimsuit with UPF 50+

Beach Bump Swim

This suit is anything but plain with it's adorable "beach bump" sign.

Price: $39.98

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5. H&M Mama swimsuit

H&M Mama Swim

Spice up your pool days with this super fun pattern that is also super flattering—after all, it's hard to spot flaws with all that leopard going on. The wrapped top, low-cut back and ruched siding all add to why we love this one so much.

Price: $29.99

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6. Hatch color-block bikini frutto

Hatch Colorblock Bikini

Show off the bump in this color-blocked bikini that looks like something straight out of the 1950s.

Price: $208.00

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7. H&M Mama swimsuit with ruffles

H&M Mama Swim

Bohemian perfection, this suit is perfectly on-trend for the season.

Price: Sale $24.99 (Regularly $34.99)

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8. A Pea in a Pod rib knit striped maternity one-piece swimsuit

A Pea in a Pod Striped Swim

Preppy but also a little bit sexy thanks to the cleavage-baring peephole, this suit screams "summer" in the best way possible.

Price: $98.00

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9. Summersalt Maternity ribbed voyager bikini top + bottom

Summersalt Maternity Ribbed Voyager Bikini

Summersalt is one of our favorite swimwear brands and they just released maternity options! Giving their ubiquitous high-waisted bikini bottoms the prego treatment, this is one suit that will grow with you from first to third trimester.

Bikini top price: $50.00

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Bikini bottom price: $45.00

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10. Pez D’or stripe one-piece maternity swimsuit for Nordstrom

Pez D'or Stripe Swim

Love you some stripes? Then you can't go wrong with this halter-neck option that is flattering and cute all at once.

Price: $98.00

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11. Old Navy Maternity halter v-neck swimsuit with UPF 40

Old Navy Maternity Halter V-Neck Swimsuit

We're obsessed with this suite for two reasons: One, that crazy cute watermelon pattern! Two, the halter cut with tiny peephole is perfection and there's lots of support thanks to an extra strap at mid-back.

Price: Sale $22.50 (Regularly $44.99)

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12. Gap Maternity tie-back print one-piece suit

Gap Maternity Tie-Back Print One-Piece Suit

This one-piece is as pretty as can be with it's tiny floral print! We love that the straps criss-cross in the back and that the sweetheart neckline drawcord is adjustable.

Price: Sale $58.99 (Regularly $69.99)

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13. Pink Blush ruffle trim ruched one-piece maternity swimsuit

Pink Blush Light Blue Ruffle Trim Ruched One-Piece Maternity Swimsuit

Oversized ruffle? Check. Removable straps? Check. Ruched siding? Check. Adorable baby blue hue? Check.

Price: $46.00

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14. Jojo Maman Bebe flamingo halterneck maternity tankini

Jojo Maman Bebe Flamingo Halterneck Maternity Tankini

Tankinis for the win! Perfect for pulling up when you want the bump to get some sun, but tugging down when you don't want to show some skin.

Price: $59.00

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15. PregO Maternity Wear roll waist dot bikini set

PregO Maternity Wear Women's Maternity Roll Waist Dot Bikini Set

We love how sporty chic this suit is and that you can wear it after pregnancy, too.

Price: $68.00-$72.00

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Babies love it when their mamas sing to them, and Carrie Underwood's son is no exception. But does he love his dad's singing? Not so much.

If your mom has a voice like Carrie Underwood's, chances are your lullaby standards are a bit higher than most. And, if a recent video from the singer is any indication, even Dad's singing may not quite make the grade.

The country singer shared a cute video clip of her son, Jacob, reacting as her husband, Mike Fisher, sings him a song. Let's just say the little guy isn't having it: Jacob cries throughout his father's mini-performance...That is until Mama steps in to sing the same song.

The clip shows little Jacob calm immediately when he hears his mom's voice (relatable, right?). Mike takes that opportunity to step back in and resume his vocals...but Jacob begins to cry again. "Everyone's a critic," Carrie captions the adorable video.

But don't take this to mean you have to be a recording artist in order to sing to your children! Even the most tone-deaf among us can (and should!) sing to our babies—not just because it's fun, but also because singing to your babe comes with some pretty awesome benefits. The act may even improve your baby's attention span and increase positive their reactions towards you, as we've previously reported.

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While Carrie and Mike opt to belt out the song "I Still Believe" by singer Vince Gill, you don't have to get too fancy. Singing a good old-fashioned lullaby to your kids is a great idea (they work for a pretty good reason). We are fairly certain that most babies out there love the sound of their mama's voice more than just about any sound (with the possible exception of the "Baby Shark" video), so keep up the family singing sessions even if you don't have a hit song on the charts.

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I am generally not considered a sentimental person, and I do not keep a lot of junk. When I moved to college, everything that wasn't part of my closet fit into a single trunk. By the time I got married, I had shrunk those keepsakes down to a single box. When I got pregnant, the box had shrunk down to a tiny container I shoved under my bed.

Then we had kids.

The sheer amount of stuff we received from well-wishers was overwhelming. I figured that we needed most of it—babies are high maintenance, right?—and took comfort in the fact that when our child got bigger, we could ditch the bassinet and the bottles and shrink down our lives again.

I could not have been more wrong. The stuff continued to pour in, and it became impossible to throw anything out. Some of it was useful and consumable, like diapers, and some of it was thoughtful and small, like a special stuffed animal, but most of it was simply too much…like the 1,398 toys that began a procession through our lives over the next three years.

It was nobody's fault. My children have four grandparents, two great-grandparents, and five aunts and uncles within a 20-mile radius. Many of them express their love through purchases. Constant purchases. For Christmas, birthdays, Easter, St. Patrick's Day, your regular Saturday. There was bound to be a build-up.

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The problem was that my children received so many presents the gift-giving itself began to lose meaning. Every time a family member came by the house, my 3-year-old expected a treat.

The amount of stuff piling up in our house started to grate on me, but I didn't know what to do. My oldest child has the memory of an elephant: the other day he cried because he couldn't find a specific drawing that he made in preschool 12 months ago. And my family was constantly checking up on their gifts: "Where's the special bear I gave you, little guy? Do you play with it a lot?" I didn't want to offend anyone.

Then I had an evening that changed my life as a mom. We went to a friend's house for dinner; they had young kids too, about a year or so ahead of us. We walked in and I was shocked at how completely their house had been taken over by their kids' belongings. You couldn't see the living room floor because there were toys everywhere—not in use but stacked up to the ceiling. They apologized for the mess, and it didn't seem to bother them, but I was panicking on the inside.

Was this what was in store for me as a parent? Were my children going to accumulate so much that I wouldn't be able to find my own life under all the mess?

We went home that night and put the kids to bed. And I ransacked. Three years of accumulated playthings, old "special" clothes, and my concerns and ideas about disappointing our relatives, were all ruthlessly sorted through.

If I was going to be a good mom, it would have to be on my terms, and my terms included the right to dispose of accumulation. It included the right to gently but firmly inform relatives that we may not have room for the stuffed bear as big as a house as a Christmas present this year, could there be a special place at their house to keep it? It included the right to shape my family's values, even when they clash a little with those closest to us.

I love our extended family very much, and I am glad they shower my children with affection, including gifts. But every mom has her own way of keeping her sanity, right? And for me, the key to a happy household now includes the occasional purge, when the kids are looking away, and knowing inside that your family will love you anyway.

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Life

If you buy Parent's Choice baby formula at Walmart you need to check to see if your product is being recalled.

The manufacturer of Walmart's Parent's Choice Advantage Infant Formula Milk-Based Powder with Iron, Perrigo Company, is recalling the product because it may be contained with metal. There are no reports of babies experiencing adverse effects, but the company says it is proceeding with the recall out of an "abundance of caution stemming from a consumer report."


If you buy this formula look on the bottom of the tub to check the lot code and use by date. If it is lot Code C26EVFV with a "use by" date of February 26, 2021, it is part of the recall. Don't use it and take it back to Walmart for a refund.


These tubs retail for just under $20.

The FDA suggests "consumers with any health-related questions should contact their healthcare provider", and you can also call Perrigo Consumer Affairs at 866-629-6181.

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