Cultivating positive body image is top of mind for #boymoms, too

Without realizing it, my body image complaints had begun to impact my children.

Cultivating positive body image is top of mind for #boymoms, too

Monday morning is the most chaotic and busy day in my household. Reeling off a lazy weekend, I'm usually rushing around gathering uniforms and lunches, asking my children (multiple times) to eat their breakfast and finding something clean to throw on for the school dropoff run.

"Ugh! Nothing fits!" I groaned from my bedroom.

"Mommy, what are you doing?" asks my 4-year-old.

"I'm just trying to get ready, go and finish your toast!" I snap back.

I stormed through the living room, searching for yoga pants. "Seriously, I feel so bloated today, I hate how these jeans look!"

My son looked up at me from the dining table and laughed to his brother, "Mommy's fat."

The horrid 'F' word had finally entered our house.

Without realizing, my body image complaints had begun to impact my children. Being a mother of boys, I never paid too much attention to how negative self-talk could affect their views on body confidence and self-esteem, to be honest. Although, as a female, I am all too aware of how images in the media and friendships can influence a young girl's view of how she looks.

But recently, I found myself wondering: As human beings, do boys not suffer the backlash of negative body images, too? I tried to think of the importance of male role models in my sons' lives but came to realize that as their mother—the one person who spends more time with them than anyone else—what am I doing to encourage positive self-esteem? How am I ensuring they grow up to be confident in their own skin?

I remember back when I worked in an early childhood setting, and one boy said, "Boys only become men once they have muscles!" When they're young, and often into superheroes and muscley TV characters, boys are already receiving passive information about masculinity through their admiration of these characters.

I know I'm guilty of bribing my boys to eat their dinner by saying "If you want to grow strong and have big muscles, you have to eat your meat!" There is no scientific evidence to support my threats, it's just something that has rolled off my tongue without much hesitation.

My 5-year-old refused a piece of chocolate the other day which was completely unheard of for him. His reasoning? "I don't want to be fat, Mom." That really hit me. I am all for healthy eating and encouraging children to down their veggies, but creating a stigma around enjoying a little treat because you might put on weight, is not a healthy mindset—especially at such a young age.

So, what can I do about it? Well, I've realized that it all starts in our home—with me.

1. I am being extra mindful of the words I choose

I've definitely had a moment or two where I'm talking to a girlfriend on the phone, and a complaint about my weight or how my boobs have succumbed to gravity slips out of my mouth...

And it recently all clicked—where are my children during these conversations? Well, they're typically within earshot. And a seemingly innocent chat in the car during school pick-up could be sending negative messages to my kids in the backseat that will impact them for life.

From the age of two, my children were imitating everyone around them—repeating everything. So every word I say matters. Now, instead of saying, "I feel so fat today" we talk about how, "People may be bigger or smaller than you, but that's okay because people are made in lots of shapes and sizes from each other. What's important is that you're eating healthy and taking care of your body."

2. I am drawing attention and focus on positive qualities

Boys may not be as forthcoming about struggles with their body and, in a pack, they seem to be inclined to exhibit physical strength in order to become the Alpha male. My two are so similar and different at the same time—I aim to teach them the importance of their unique qualities.

My older son is taller, has legs for days and is super fast, which at times makes my younger son feel like he is at a disadvantage because he isn't as tall or fast. I try to remind him about the things he is great at, focusing on the positive without comparison.

He is a fantastic artist with a keen attention to detail and so I try to guide him toward what he is good at or interested in and celebrate his talents. A healthy body image and sense of self is an important part of instilling confidence in all aspects of their lives.

3. I am teaching strong values

As I mentioned above, it all starts in the home. My children are learning specific behaviors and values directly from their parents and close family members. As their mother, I have been reflecting on how I nourish my family and myself. Most women I know have been on a diet at one point in their lives (including myself). But I've banned that word in my house now.

Instead, we focus on the health benefits of eating our carrots and broccoli, like how they will make us feel mentally focused and energized rather than me saying something like, "This will help me fit into those jeans!"

Muscles do not define a person. Neither does hair length or the clothes they choose to wear. Redefining the idea of masculinity into a wholesome picture of value-based growth and development is the key to helping my boys thrive. Supporting them in developing a healthy body image, confidence and self-esteem will help them become the actionable and positive male role models for the boys of tomorrow.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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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Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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