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Why I’m raising my son to be strong —and gentle

I want to raise a little man who knows that it’s ok to cry; who knows what it means to respect others’ personal space because his is respected; that showing compassion and empathy is a good thing; and that if he’d rather play with Barbie than GI Joe that’s just fine with me.

Why I’m raising my son to be strong —and gentle

When I was pregnant, my husband and I chose not to find out the sex of our little one. There are a lot of reasons parents decide not to find out a baby’s sex, but a big one for us was not wanting to put our baby into a gendered corner before birth.


I wasn’t hoping for either sex in particular, and my guess about whether our baby was a boy or girl changed daily. But I think I was more prepared for a girl. I’d spent time thinking about how I’d raise a baby girl to be strong and to not feel forced into the pink, frilly box society might try to put her in. For every princess gift I have given to a little girl, I made sure to also give a science kit or sports equipment or a book about little girls becoming president (here’s my favorite). I’ve used the #LikeaGirl hashtag to celebrate the athletic prowess of women and thought seriously about whether one should #banbossy or reclaim it. And I found myself following A Mighty Girl and excitedly browsing science and math-themed dresses.

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Our surprise baby turned out to be a boy baby.

At some point in his first couple months, I don’t remember exactly when it was but he giggled after farting. Without thinking, I said, “you’re such a boy.” Saying it gave me pause. I knew full well baby girls giggled in those moments too. I’ve stopped saying that. You also aren’t likely to hear “boys will be boys” at our house either.

In that moment, I learned one of the many lessons he’s already taught me in his seven short (and passing too quickly) months: Things will only change for our girls, if they change for our boys.

The American Academy of Pediatricians notes on their website healthychildren.org that kids start differentiating boys and girls based on physical differences around the age of two, and by the time they’re three children have started identifying toys as for boys or for girls. It’s by about four, according to the AAP, that most kids have a pretty good idea of their gender.

In addition to picking up what it means to be male or female from watching us even when we think they’re not, toys also reinforce gender roles. Elaine Blakemore, psychology professor and interim dean of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne, studies gender development in children. In an interview with the National Association for the Education of Young Children about her research into toys and play, she noted that they “found that girls’ toys were associated with physical attractiveness, nurturing, and domestic skill, whereas boys’ toys were rated as violent, competitive, exciting, and somewhat dangerous.”

A 2014 study conducted by the Centre for the Study of Women and Gender at the University of Warwick found that society’s expectations for what it means to be a boy or a girl might actually be hurting our kids. Lead research Dr Maria do Mar Pereira had this to say about the study when it was released: “Our ideas of what constitutes a real man or woman are not natural; they are restrictive norms that are harmful to children of both genders. The belief that men have to be dominant over women makes boys feel constantly anxious and under pressure to prove their power – namely by fighting, drinking, sexually harassing, refusing to ask for help, and repressing their emotions. … Trying to live up to these unreal ideas of masculinity and femininity leads to a range of problems; low self-esteem, bullying, physical and verbal violence, health problems and a tragic loss of potential in our young people. Therefore, we must promote ideas about gender which are less rigid, and recognise there are many ways of being a man and a woman.”

While we empower our girls to dream big and to not be confined by society’s boxes, we can’t continue to shape our boys with a one-size fits all mold that rewards aggression and physical violence, and that teaches our boys that showing emotion is bad.

I want to raise a little man who knows that it’s ok to cry; who knows what it means to respect others’ personal space because his is respected; that showing compassion and empathy is a good thing; and that if he’d rather play with Barbie than GI Joe that’s just fine with me.

That’s why after reading a book about “tooting,” we read a book about female superheroes. My little guy has a baby doll waiting for him in his closet, and a train under his bed. As we expose him to sports, we’re also introducing him to music and dance.

It’s why when the tickle monster comes out to play, the moment my son says “STOP!” the tickle monster will go away. We’re reading books showing a full range of emotion (such as Happy Hippo, Angry Duck from Sandra Boynton).

Our boys need to be empowered to break out of the boxes they’re put into. So break out the costumes for the little guys who’d rather be royalty than superheroes, fire fighters or construction workers. And maybe there’s room on bookshelves for books about boys who like to cook, and space on the racks at the store for clothes made for boys that are pink and purple, or have baby animals.

Let’s start telling our boys that it’s okay to cry, teaching them that there’s strength in admitting fear, and making sure they know that being “such a boy” can include sugar and spice and everything nice.

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

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're 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 toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

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.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

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

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop 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.

$100

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

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

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

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.

$33

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.

$88

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This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

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"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

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