Will the stimulus be taxed this year? Your burning 2021 tax question, answered

Here's what you need to do when you file this year.

Will the stimulus be taxed this year? Your burning 2021 tax question, answered

Did you receive stimulus checks in 2020? As a response to COVID-19, many Americans deposited two stimulus checks as part of the CARES Act, passed by Congress in March of 2020. These payments were sent in two separate installments, which varied according to your income and whether you had dependents.

Because these payments from the federal government are unprecedented, that can lead to questions about how to handle them on your 2020 taxes, particularly if you've had a baby this year. You will need to cite the full amount of any stimulus money you received, but perhaps not for the reasons you think.

Will the stimulus payments be taxed?

No. This money does not count as taxable income and will not impact your tax return (due on April 15, 2021). In fact, it's not "income" at all. The stimulus checks were technically tax credits, like the Child Tax Credit, paid in advance. (Think of them as tax refunds you got early.)

You will need to cite the amount received, but as you gather your receipts and W2s to file 2020 taxes, you'll need to include two important forms this year: IRS notices 1444 and 1444-B. These verify the amount of coronavirus stimulus money you received.

(This also goes for the 2021 stimulus passed by Congress in early March.)

Did you receive all the stimulus money you had coming?

The reason you need to include the stimulus check information on your return is actually to protect your wallet: if you didn't receive your checks in full (or at all), your 2020 tax return is your opportunity to file for the Recovery Rebate Credit and recoup that missing stimulus money.

How much was the first stimulus check?

As part of the CARES Act, the first stimulus checks were mailed in April of 2020 as paper checks or sent via direct deposit into your bank account. Depending on your income, the amounts topped out at $1,200 per person (with an extra $500 per dependent).

How much was the second stimulus check?

Later in 2020, Congress approved a second economic relief bill and another round of stimulus check payments began sending out as early as December. This payment maxed out at $600 per person, plus another $600 for each child dependent who qualified.

Double check to make sure you received the full amounts for both checks, and either notify your tax preparer or fill out the Recovery Rebate Credit forms to make a retroactive claim now.

Did you have a baby in 2020?

If your baby did not receive both stimulus checks (for a total of $1,100), you're also entitled to submit the Recovery Rebate Credit. If you missed out on these checks earlier this year, it's because the IRS used 2019 returns to automatically send out payments.

Charity Curley Mathews is a former executive at Martha Stewart and HGTV who's now a family food writer, blogging at Foodlets.com. That's where you'll find quick & easy recipes (packed with fresh ingredients) plus tried-and-true advice about raising little foodies. She's been featured on Food Network.com, Huffington Post, WHUP radio, ABC 11-TV and more. The author of four cookbooks, including "Super Simple Baking for Kids", she lives on a small farm in North Carolina with her family of six, plus their rescue dogs, bunnies, chickens and bees.

In This Article

    How switching to organic dairy was the perfect teaching moment for my family

    It is possible to make a no-brainer decision that still has seriously positive effects.

    Organic Valley

    This article is sponsored by Organic Valley. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    As a mama in 2021, I love when I encounter teachable, problem-solving moments with my kids. One of the biggest recurring themes is that our actions have repercussions—in our lives and in the lives of others. And, sometimes, little shifts can have significant effects.

    Recently, one item on my family's to-do list was to be more mindful about how we're treating our bodies and the planet. That quickly led us to explore our food choices. And, thankfully, we didn't have to do anything too dramatic to reap some wonderful benefits: Switching to organic dairy from Organic Valley was a simple-yet-impactful place for my family to start because we already consume dairy products.

    While I know there are multiple ways to make a difference, this was one easy (and delicious) starting point for our family. Now we just consume dairy products we feel good about—in more ways than one!

    Switching to organic dairy is convenience you can feel good about

    All too often, the "convenient" foods marketed to moms seem to come with a catch like unsavory ingredients or subpar manufacturing standards. Not so with organic dairy products from Organic Valley! I have the peace of mind from knowing that the products I'm serving have been produced with the highest standards of animal care and aren't padded with sugar or other unpronounceable ingredients.

    On a practical level, switching to organic dairy was so simple—Organic Valley's string cheese is my kids' most-requested lunch box item anyway. Making the full switch to organic dairy was as easy as picking one carton of milk over another or grabbing the Organic Valley butter.

    The convenience also carries over to our home: When my kids say they are hungry or need a snack, I suggest they look for the Organic Valley packaging in our refrigerator. My 3-year-old can just grab Organic Valley Single Serve Milk herself, which makes her feel capable and independent—and gives me an extra minute to sit down.

    It’s a nutritious and reliable choice

    Organic Valley

    There's no denying that milk is a nutritious beverage for kids. Loaded with calcium, protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and more, milk helps fuel my kids and support their growth. However, not all glasses of milk are created equally. Organic Valley Grassmilk has higher levels of Omega-3 & conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) compared to conventional milk.

    Just as important to me as what the products include is what they don't include. Because Organic Valley is USDA-certified organic, I know there are never GMOs, toxic pesticides, antibiotics or added hormones in my kids' glass of milk or bite of cheese.

    Organic dairy is better for the environment—and our kids’ futures

    Organic Valley

    I first discovered Organic Valley because of their organic promise and delicious products—but our enthusiasm only deepened when we learned more about their commitment to sustainability. That's big for my family: We come face-to-face with environmental issues on a daily basis because we live in the western United States, where water shortages and wildfires have gone beyond the crisis point. As a result, my kids and I have talked a lot about ways to help the environment. And, instead of getting burnt out on trying to do all the things, switching to Organic Valley helped us feel empowered that our choices can lead to positive changes.

    Why? Because Organic Valley "walks the walk" when it comes to making the world better by practicing climate-smart farming with a pasture-based system. Not only does this system allow cows to spend 50% more time outside than USDA standards require, but Organic Valley has a lower carbon footprint because of their on-farm sustainability practices. The business itself even uses renewable power.

    More little changes that can make an impact

    Organic Valley

    For me, switching to organic dairy was an eye-opener not only because I realized how easy a change it could be but also because it inspired our family to look for other small changes we could make. For example, we already ride bikes for fun with the kids, so we started riding them to school instead of driving. We already spend money on disposable plastic bags, so we switched to invest instead in reusable ones.

    On their own, these choices may seem small. But they do add up—in ways that benefit the environment and my family.

    Make the switch to organic dairy with Organic Valley. Explore the products and get a coupon code on the website.

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    When you ask any two mamas to share their experience with breastfeeding, you are bound to get very unique answers. That's because while the act of breastfeeding is both wonderful and natural, it also comes with a learning curve for both mothers and babies.

    In some cases, breastfeeding won't be the right path for everyone. But with the right tools, resources and social support systems, we can make progress toward the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation to continue breastfeeding through the first year of a child's life. After all, breastfeeding helps nourish infants, protects them against illnesses, develops their immune systems and more. Not to mention that mothers who breastfeed experience reduced risk for breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

    With National Breastfeeding Awareness Month this month, it's a great time for mamas (and expectant mamas!) to gather the supplies that will support their feeding journey—whether it looks like exclusively breastfeeding, pumping or combo-feeding.

    Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

    Designed for regular use, this double electric breast pump allows mamas to customize the cycle and vacuum settings that work for them. The 100% SoftShape™ silicone shields on this pump form-fit to a wide range of breast shapes and sizes—which means more comfortable, more efficient pumping. And every pump comes with two complete Dr. Brown's Options+ bottles, giving you everything you need to go from pumping to feeding.


    Dr. Brown’s™ Breast Milk Collection Bottles

    There's no need to cry over spilled milk—because it won't happen with these storage bottles! Make the pump-to-feeding transition simpler with Dr. Brown's Milk Collection Bottles. The bottles adapt to Dr. Brown's electric pumps to easily fill, seal and transport, and they work with Dr. Brown's bottle and nipple parts when your baby's ready to eat. (Meaning no risky pouring from one bottle to another. 🙌)


    Breast Milk Storage Bags

    With an extra-durable design and double zip seal, your breast milk will stay fresh and safe in the fridge or freezer until it's needed. Plus, the bags are easy to freeze flat and then store for up to six months, so your baby can continue drinking breast milk long after you are done nursing.


    Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump with Options+™ Bottle & Bag

    Here's something they don't tell you about breastfeeding ahead of time: While feeding your baby on one side, the other breast may "let down" milk, too. With this one-piece Silicone Breast Pump, you don't have to let those precious drops go to waste. The flexible design makes pouring the milk into a bottle stress-free.


    Dr. Brown’s® Manual Breast Pump

    No outlet in sight? No worries! With this powerful-yet-gentle Manual Breast Pump, you can get relief from engorgement, sneak in some quick midnight pumping or perform a full pumping session without any electricity needed. With Dr. Brown's 100% silicone SoftShape™ Shield, the hand-operated pump is as comfortable as it is easy to use. Complete with Dr. Brown's® Options+™ Anti-Colic Wide-Neck Bottle, a storage travel cap and cleaning brush, consider this the breastfeeding essential for any mama who has places to go.


    Options+™ Anti-Colic Baby Bottle

    With the soft silicone nipple and natural flow design of these bottles, your baby can easily switch between breast and bottle. Clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to the vent, your baby can enjoy a happy tummy after feeding sessions—without as much spit-up, burping or gas! By mimicking the flow and feel of the breast, these bottles help support your breastfeeding experience.


    This post is sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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    7 hacks for simplifying after-school snacks

    Prepping delicious and nutritious foods shouldn't take all day.

    When you're in the middle of the school year and managing a family, each minute of time becomes very precious. Sometimes that means healthy food choices in the household can take a backseat. But don't stress it, mama. Prepping delicious and nutritious choices for the kids to munch on doesn't need to take all day.

    Remember to keep it fun, simple and interactive! Here are tips for simplifying after-school snacks once and for all:

    1. Prep snacks on Sunday

    This simple trick can make the rest of the week a breeze. Tupperware is your friend here, you can even write different days of the week on each container to give the kids a little surprise every day. I really like storage with compartments for snack prep. Personally, I slice apples, carrots or cucumbers to pair with almond butter and hummus—all great to grab and go for when you're out all day and need some fresh variety.

    2. When in doubt, go for fruit

    Fruit is always a quick and easy option. I suggest blueberries, clementine oranges, apples, frozen grapes or even unsweetened apple sauce and dried fruit, like mixed fruit. It's fun to put together a fruit salad, too. Simply cut up all the fruit options and let the kids decide how they'd like to compile. Prepped fruit is also great to have on hand for smoothies, especially when it's been sitting in the fridge for a few days—throw it in the blender with some nut milk and voila.

    3. Pair snacks with a dip

    Hummus is a great dip to keep on hand with lots of versatility or you can grab a yogurt-based dip. Easy and healthy dippers include pre-sliced veggies, baby carrots and multigrain tortilla chips. Plain hummus is a great way to introduce seasonings and spices too—shake a little turmeric, add fresh basil and you'd be surprised what your kids will take to.

    4. Have high-protein options readily available

    Snacks with high protein, like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs and jerky will fuel kids for hours. One of my favorites is a turkey stick, which is a fun addition to the hummus platter. Just slice into bite-sized pieces. I love cottage cheese because it can go savory or sweet, use as a dip with your prepped veggies, or drizzle pure maple syrup and sprinkle with berries.

    5. Always keep the pantry stocked

    Monthly deliveries keeps the pantry updated without a trip to grocery store. Many kids are big fans of popcorn, granola and pretzels. We like to DIY our own snack packs with a little popcorn, pretzels, nuts and whatever else is in the pantry so there's always something different!

    6. Make cracker tartines

    I love the idea of replicating popular restaurant dishes for kids. Here are some of my favorite snack-sized tartines using any crisp bread, or favorite flat cracker of your choice as the base. There are no rules and kids love adding toppings and finding new combinations they love.

    • Avocado crackers: Use a cracker and then layer with thinly sliced avocado, a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese topped with roasted pepitas or sunflower seeds.
    • Tacos: The base for this is a black bean spread—just drain a can of black beans, rinse and place into a wide bowl. With a fork or potato masher, lightly smush the beans until chunky. Spread onto your cracker and top with tomato, cheddar cheese and black olives. Try out a dollop of super mild salsa or some lime zest to introduce some new flavor profiles.
    • A play on PB&J: Smear peanut butter, almond or a favorite sun butter on the cracker. I like to get a mix it up a bit and put fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries and tiny diced apples) and a little bit of dried fruit sprinkled on top.

    7. Pre-make smoothie pops

    The easy part about meal prep is the prep itself, but knowing exactly how much to make ahead is tricky. Freeze a smoothie in popsicle molds to have a healthy treat ready-to-go snack. They're super simple to make: Add any fruit (I like apples, berries, pineapples and mangoes) and veggies (carrots, steamed beet and wilted kale) to a blender with your favorite nut milk until you have consistency just a bit thinner than a smoothie. Pour into your trusty reusable popsicle molds and then into the freezer to make an ice pop so good they could eat them for breakfast.

    Family Foodies

    15 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.

    Stomp Racers

    As longtime fans of Stomp Rockets, we're pretty excited about their latest launch–Stomp Racers. Honestly, the thrill of sending things flying through the air never gets old. Parents and kids alike can spend hours launching these kid-powered cars which take off via a stompable pad and hose.


    Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

    Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

    Tiny thrill-seekers will love this kid-powered coaster which will send them (safely) sailing across the backyard or play space. The durable set comes with a high back coaster car and 10.75 feet of track, providing endless opportunities for developing gross motor skills, balance and learning to take turns. The track is made up of three separate pieces which are easy to assemble and take apart for storage (but we don't think it will be put away too often!)


    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.


    Stepping Stones


    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.


    Sand play set

    B. toys Wagon & Beach Playset - Wavy-Wagon Red

    For the littlest ones, it's easy to keep it simple. Take their sand box toys and use them in the bath! This 12-piece set includes a variety of scoops, molds and sifters that can all be stored in sweet little wagon.


    Sensory play set


    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.


    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.


    Foam pogo stick


    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.




    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.


    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    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.


    Pull-along ducks


    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.


    Rocking chair seesaw


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    Even 5 hours of screen time per day is OK for school-aged kids, says new study

    Researchers found screen time contributes to stronger peer relationships and had no effect on depression and anxiety. So maybe it isn't as bad as we thought?

    MoMo Productions/Getty Images

    If you've internalized some parental guilt about your own child's screen time usage, you're not alone. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to significant amounts of screen time in children leads to an increased risk of depression and behavioral issues, poor sleep and obesity, among other outcomes. Knowing all this can mean you're swallowing a big gulp of guilt every time you unlock the iPad or turn on the TV for your kiddo.

    But is screen time really that bad? New research says maybe not. A study published in September 2021 of 12,000 9- and 10-year-olds found that even when school-aged kids spend up to 5 hours per day on screens (watching TV, texting or playing video games), it doesn't appear to be that harmful to their mental health.

    Researchers found no association between screen usage and depression or anxiety in children at this age.

    In fact, kids who had more access to screen time tended to have more friends and stronger peer relationships, most likely thanks to the social nature of video gaming, social media and texting.

    The correlations between screen time and children's health

    But those big social benefits come with a caveat. The researchers also noted that kids who used screens more frequently were in fact more likely to have attention problems, impacted sleep, poorer academic performance and were more likely to show aggressive behavior.

    Without a randomized controlled trial, it's hard to nail down these effects as being caused directly by screens. The study's authors analyzed data from a nationwide study known as the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD Study), the largest long-term study of brain development and children's health in the country. They relied on self-reported levels of screen time from both children and adults (it's funny to note that those reported numbers differed slightly depending on who was asked… ).

    It's important to remember that these outcomes are just correlations—not causations. "We can't say screen time causes the symptoms; instead, maybe more aggressive children are given screen devices as an attempt to distract them and calm their behavior," says Katie Paulich, lead author of the study and a PhD student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Also worth noting is that a child's socioeconomic status has a 2.5-times-bigger impact on behavior than screens.

    Weighing the benefits with the risks will be up to you as the parent, who knows your child best. And because we live in a digital world, screens are here to stay, meaning parents often have little choice in the matter. It's impossible to say whether recreational screen time is fully "good" or "bad" for kids. It's maybe both.

    "When looking at the strength of the correlations, we see only very modest associations," says Paulich. "That is, any association between screen time and the various outcomes, whether good or bad, is so small it's unlikely to be important at a clinical level." It's all just part of the overall picture.

    A novel look at screen time in adolescents

    The researchers cite a lack of studies examining the relationship between screen time and health outcomes in this specific early-adolescence age group, which is one of the reasons why this study is so groundbreaking. The findings don't apply to younger children—or older adolescents, who may be starting to go through puberty.

    Screen time guidelines do exist for toddlers up to older kids, but up to 1.5 hours per day seems unattainable for many young adolescents, who often have their own smartphones and laptops, or at least regular access to one.

    Of course, more research is needed, but that's where this study can be helpful. The ABCD study will follow the 12,000 participants for another 10 years, following up with annual check-ins. It'll be interesting to see how the findings change over time: Will depression and anxiety as a result of screen time be more prevalent as kids age? We'll have to wait and see.

    The bottom line? Parents should still be the gatekeepers of their child's screen time in terms of access and age-appropriateness, but, "our early research suggests lengthy time on screen is not likely to yield dire consequences," says Paulich.

    Children's health

    Viral TikTok of clogged milk duct reminds us breastfeeding mamas are champs

    Even if you've had mastitis before, you may still need to lie down after watching this video.


    There are so many aspects of breastfeeding that no one can truly prepare you for—engorgement, being a 24/7 diner, actually wanting to wear a bra to sleep—but clogged milk ducts might just top that list.

    This new viral TikTok is the perfect demonstration that breastfeeding is hard work, yes, but it can lead to mastitis. Which can lead to...this.

    Warning: this video is not for the faint of heart. I breastfed both of my children, I had mastitis twice, and I still wasn't OK after watching this! LOL.

    TikTok user @tylermarieoates shared a video of the actual clog that was stuck in her milk ducts. But this isn't just any clog—this one led to sepsis. "In case your significant other doesn't believe you that a clogged duct hurts, show them this," she captioned the video.

    She says she went septic from mastitis and passed multiple clots.

    Mastitis is a painful inflammation of the breast tissue, often accompanied by infection. Mastitis is usually caused by a blocked duct or by bacteria getting into the breast (often via cracked nipples). Blocked ducts occur for a number of reasons, like going too long in between feedings or experiencing an incorrect latch. It's pretty common among parents who breastfeed, though sepsis is a rare and very serious complication.

    In rare cases, untreated mastitis may cause sepsis. Sepsis is the body's extreme reaction to infection, and it can result in organ failure and even death. Sepsis is nothing to take lightly in any way, and it's a relief to see that this mama is now OK.

    Now, back to that clog. HOLY MOLY, AMIRIGHT? She followed up with another video showing another clog that was removed during this incident.

    Is it just me, or is anyone else feeling phantom twinges in their boobs? Whew. What a reminder that breastfeeding mamas are total champs, huh?

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