It’s science: Why your kids are obsessed with those unboxing videos on Youtube

What is it about these clips that make them so mesmerizing for kids?

It’s science: Why your kids are obsessed with those  unboxing videos on Youtube

It’s a parenting conundrum for a digital age: Your child has real, physical toys they could play with, but they would rather watch a YouTuber, like super famous 6-year-old Ryan, or the disembodied hands of the adult known as “Disney Collector” (who has made millions doing it) unpack new toys. The kids don’t necessarily even want the products featured in the video, they just want to watch the video.


So what is it about these clips that make them so mesmerizing for kids? Because technology is moving faster than research does, we don’t know exactly what goes on in a child’s brain when they watch these videos, but we do know they’re kind of addictive.

They activate motivation and desire

According to experts, the videos are relatable and tap into the excitement a child would feel if they really were unwrapping a present themselves, but watching someone else unwrap a present also activates areas of the brain involved with motivation and mirroring, through something psychologists call “mimetic desire.”

"It's the idea that desires don't just depend on the properties of the object, but also on whether the object is seen as attractive to others," child psychologist and neuroscientist Charlotte Keating told Australia's ABC News.

That, combined with a very young child’s natural tendency to get intensely obsessed about one thing (in this case, so-called “surprise egg” videos), and an algorithm designed to serve up more and more of the same has created a phenomenon that isn’t great for parents who are struggling to set limits on screen time.

They give kids control and trigger reward responses

Part of what makes online video (and handheld screen media in general) so appealing to kids is how easy it is for them to control it. Even a very young child can select an appealing unboxing video from a YouTube menu. Plus, they like the interactivity.

In an interview with Scientific American, pediatrician Dimitri Christakis of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute explained how clicking on a smartphone or tablet triggers reward pathways in the brain. “The delight a child gets from touching a screen and making something happen is both edifying and potentially addictive,” he explains.

When the manicured hands of Disney Collector unwrap the next toy, a kid’s brain thinks, “Yay! I made her do that.

Little kids crave them but can’t understand them

“Some people call it 'toddler crack',” says Professor Stuart Cunningham, co-author of the recently published research paper Toy unboxing: Living in an unregulated) material world.

Cunningham cautions against “moral panic” over unboxing videos, noting that making such videos can be empowering for child YouTubers and their families, but critics argue the videos are hardly empowering for the kids (some just toddlers) on the receiving end.

"Children [are] deceived into thinking this is content, a kid playing with a toy, when it's a kid selling them a toy,” Aaron Mackey, a Georgetown Law professor told AdWeek.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy are among those who worry unboxing videos are basically long-form commercials with lower production values, and not at all the kind of “high quality programming” (think Sesame Street) the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends.

They raised the issue to the FTC, along with complaints about other weird YouTube content aimed at kids.

Unboxing videos can be an opportunity to teach media literacy skills to older kids (“Why do you think this YouTuber is making this video? Do you think the toy company maybe paid them to?”) but many of the videos are being consumed by toddlers who can barely grasp the tablet they’re looking at, let alone the concepts of sponsored content.

Kids may bond with unboxers

A playlist of surprise egg videos may be an effective way to keep a toddler quiet during a wait or car ride, but the AAP recommends no screen time beyond Facetime or Skype calls for kids under 18 months, and very limited screen media after that.

As some parents on social media have noted, an early obsession with unboxing videos might change the way kids interact with real people in video chats.

“My two year old was Skyping with my mom and she kept saying ‘egg’ over and over. It took me a minute to realize she thought my mom was going to open surprise eggs like on YouTube,” wrote one Reddit user. “It’s sad that she thinks ‘Disney Collector’ is a family member,” says another.

According to Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, a nonprofit based in Newport Beach, California, kids may start to feel like they know their favorite YouTube unboxer.

In an interview with Nova Next Rutledge explained why a child might feel like they have a relationship with an unboxing personality. “We see the action. So it isn’t as separate from face-to-face communication as our brains process it, as we might rationally or consciously think,” says Rutledge, who notes that it’s similar to how adults may feel about a celebrity like Oprah. “You start to develop a one-sided relationship with that person where you feel like you really know that person.”

Alternatives to encourage real play

A lot of kids get unhealthily obsessed with unboxing and unboxing stars, but some parents do report positive associations with the videos and credit the genre with the speech and language gains their children have experienced.

Experts caution time with a screen can take away from important developmental activities, though. Research has shown that preschool-aged children need to interact with actual physical objects in order to develop their parietal cortex, so real play is a better brain builder than unwrapping videos.

For older kids, making or pretending to make their own unwrapping videos is a creative alternative to passively consuming them (even if the performance is not actually posted to YouTube).

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    The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

    Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

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    Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

    This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

    Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


    Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


    Belly oil

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    Belly mask

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    Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

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    Nipple + lip ointment 

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    Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

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    A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

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    This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

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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.

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    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.

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    The Motherly Birth Class

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    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.

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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.


    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

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    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

    Wooden doll stroller

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    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

    Sensory play set

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    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

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    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

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    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 

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    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.

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    Hopper ball

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    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.

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    Pull-along ducks

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    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.

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    Rocking chair seesaw

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    The ultimate back-to-school shopping list for busy moms

    Use this list to prep for the best first day ever!

    CasarsaGuru / Getty

    After spending a summer reconnecting with friends and family, enjoying the outdoors and (hopefully!) making time for vacation, it's time for kids to head back to school. They're ready to learn, grow and get out of your hair again! But they'll need some help to get there. Before the exciting first day of school, you'll need to get all the gear together to make school a success.

    As a parent, use this basic but essential school supply list to find everything your little ones need for their classes—even on a budget.

    Loose Leaf Paper

    Even though there won't be any tests or quizzes when school begins, kids take plenty of notes, complete assignments and do in-class exercises. Every student needs at least a few packets of loose-leaf paper for quick notes and doodles. Check with your child's school to find out if they require college ruled or wide ruled before you fill up your shopping cart — odds are they won't, but it's worth being sure.

    $4

    Personal Planner

    Your child will need a personal planner to kick off the school year and keep up with all of their assignments. It's an opportunity to invest in cute school supplies that motivate your kids every time they open their planners. Plus, planners help kids learn time management and responsible scheduling, which they can carry with them throughout their academic lives and into college and adulthood.

    $22

    #2 Pencils

    Most classes require #2 pencils because they show up easily on test bubble sheets that machines scan and grade. Add them to your child's school supply list before they sell out at local stores. A great deal on a large pack will likely last through the year.

    $10.29

    Black Ink Pens

    Teachers grade in red ink pens so their notes stand out as study tools. Your student should use black ink pens that don't bleed on the paper. Their work will stand out and never smudge if you use a tried-and-true brand that knows how to make a quality pen, like BIC.

    $4.47

    Highlighters in Different Colors

    Highlighters help students study if they outline notes in different colors. Get your child a pack so they have all the help they need for their study materials. If they're stressed about the tougher classwork, don't forget to break the tension with jokes that will put them at ease.

    $9.99

    Big Pink Erasers

    The erasers on the top of pencils won't last long in classes like calculus or trigonometry. Give your kids a backup by buying packs of big pink erasers. They last much longer and often do a better job of wiping mistakes away.

    $.99

    New Headphones

    Headphones are one of the school supplies kids can use to express themselves. They'll wear them while studying in the library or riding the bus so they can focus or relieve stress between classes.

    $16.99

    Lined Notebooks

    Notebooks are cute school supplies that students always need. The spiral-bound pages are easy to flip through and lightweight in a backpack. They even help with virtual classes because each subject can have a different notebook and further organize notes that assist with online tests.

    $3.19

    Three-Ring Binders

    Students collect their loose-leaf notes in three-ring binders because they snap everything shut and keep notes safe. Find back-to-school binders that match your child's personality so they can stack everything safely in their locker without bending or crushing papers.

    $16.95

    Locker Decorations

    Most kids love decorating their lockers when they start middle school or junior high. Add locker decorations to your school supply list so they can personalize their storage unit and feel more at home.

    $14.99

    New Lunch Box

    Spoiled food ruins the first day of school. But a dual-compartment lunch box ensures your child's food stays fresh throughout the day by designating a special section for an ice pack. Your purchase could also start a new tradition of getting a different lunch box when the school year begins, easing your kids' nerves about beginning a new grade.

    $12.99

    Upgraded Backpack

    It's always fun to get a new backpack. Let your kids pick one that matches their size and expresses their personality with characters, colors, or other prints.

    $31.96

    Colorful Markers

    Young kids might need help adjusting to virtual school or having fun during in-person classes. Colorful markers are an easy way for them to relax while doodling, and they'll likely be part of daily assignments for elementary school students.

    $3.49

    Reusable Water Bottle

    Drinking out of water fountains helps spread illnesses. Your kids can avoid flu season by carrying a reusable water bottle in their backpack. Let them pick out whichever one they want and they'll look forward to using it instead of drinking from public fountains.

    $29.95

    Calculator

    Every teenager needs a calculator when they go back to school. A TI-89 model assists with graphing functions and lasts throughout their academic careers. You won't have to buy another one if they keep it in its case between classes.

    $130.99
    Back to School Landing

    Mom relieves baby's gas like a pro in viral TikTok

    "How was he not floating around like a balloon?!" asked one commenter.

    @kaseybuscemi/TikTok

    We all know the struggles of having a gassy baby. It can be rough—for baby and for you! Since babies don't actually come out of the womb knowing how to pass their own gas without a little assistance, there are so many different techniques and tips out there to help your baby feel more comfortable when they're a little...flatulent.

    "Bicycle legs" is one common technique that can help get things moving for baby gas relief, and no one does it better than this mom on TikTok.

    Her video has more than 10 million likes, and it's not hard to see why—it's mesmerizing, informative, and, of course, downright hilarious!


    Her little baby has a wicked case of the toots and even mom cracks up by the end.

    Someone give this mom, @kaseybuscemi TikTok, a gold medal, because she just placed first in the Farting Your Baby Olympics. No joke. When I first learned about the "bicycle legs" technique (after my baby spit the gripe water right back at me and, I kid you not, laughed in my face while making direct eye contact), I felt awkward and had no idea what kind of rhythm was required to effectively fart my own baby.

    This mom? TOTAL PRO.

    The comments on this video are as funny and entertaining as you'd expect them to be, too:

    Never in my 30 years of living have I ever seen someone fart a baby. This is so cool.

    TWIST IT! PULL IT! BOP IT!

    *baby all grown up* "So what's a fun fact of yours?" "Oh 6 million people saw me fart."

    How was he not floating around like a balloon??

    Farting a baby is just as important as burping a baby!

    As far as the importance of farting a baby goes, yes, in case you're wondering, it is important. Some gassiness in babies is totally normal—just like with adults. Regular farting and burping are a sign of good gastrointestinal health, according to Healthline. In addition to bicycle legs, changing the baby's position, gently massaging the baby or bouncing the baby a little bit can also help alleviate trapped gas.

    Your baby could also be intaking a tad too much air from your nipple or the nipples of a bottle if they're extra gassy. If you're concerned about your own baby's gassiness, contact your pediatrician or healthcare provider for more information.

    If you're looking to master the bicycle legs technique, though, look no further than this video right here!

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