girl-swimming-in-pool-water-safety-tips
@darby/Twenty20

[Editor's note: Natalie Livingston has been in the aquatics industry for decades, training lifeguards and investigating aquatic accidents and drowning deaths. She is passionate about preventing the kinds of accidents she investigates, and that is why a Facebook post she wrote is now going viral. The following post was republished with her permission.]

I investigate drownings. I understand the realities of what can happen in the water, often so quickly and quietly. I read a lot about water safety and tips telling parents to pay attention to their children and not be distracted, which is so important. We see so many news articles about drowning during this time of year, but a lot of the advice isn't practical and just highlights the problems, so I decided to write my own list of tips to help.

Here is a list of 10 things I do to keep my own kids safe in the water.


1. Give safety briefings before every swim session

This actually started with a swim lesson procedure of making sure my kids always asked permission before entering the water. I have expanded it by having a little meeting about expectations. My kids now know to wait (sometimes impatiently, continually asking me, "Mom, what do we need to know…can we go yet?!") until I give my briefing.

I outline where they can swim, jump in, how they can jump in and anything else safety-related. A great time to do this is while applying sunscreen. They also know the consequences if they don't follow the safety rules.

These meetings are a way for me to teach my kids respect for the water. Knowing what I do for work, they obviously know water is dangerous, but sometimes aquatic centers, water parks, beaches and pools look so fun and enticing that it is easy to forget.

I think as parents we need to be just as concerned with safety as we are with fun, but that takes effort. I think some people may not want to ruin the fun by adding in rules, but rules create boundaries, which gives freedom in safety.

I also enjoy including my children in the safety briefings. What do they think the rules should be? What do they see as dangerous? They have some amazing insights, too, and sometimes see things I didn't think of right away!

2. Help your child understand water depth as it relates to their height

My kids know the depths of water and how to read them on the pool deck, and they know what it means related to their height. My 6-year-old knows that 4 ft of water is over his head, and 3 1/2 ft of water is up to his eyes, which is still over his airway. My 8-year-old daughter knows that 4 ft of water is at her eyes and she will need to tread and can't have her airway out at this depth.

This piece of knowledge helps them make good decisions and helps them understand how water depths are different for each person. Their taller friend may have no problem in the 4 ft area, while they would need to tread or have trouble touching. Awareness of depth in relation to their body is important. This keeps me away from the, "But mom, Jayden gets to go over there…" Yes, he does, he is also six inches taller than you are, buddy!

3. Make sure they know how to get away

I jumped into a pool last weekend fully clothed with my phone in my hand at my 8-year-old daughter's all-star softball hotel swim session after a tournament. It was instinct—a 5-year-old boy panicked and grabbed onto a 4-year-old girl and they were both struggling. He was holding her down and trying to keep himself above the water. I went in and scooped both of them out.

They were both naturally scared, with a little burping of water/air, but they were fine. We see this all the time in drowning events: swimmers who are okay on their own have someone grab onto them because they are struggling and then neither can get away.

I have taught, and I am still teaching, my kids how to get away if someone grabs onto them. My daughter is a great swimmer, but I still don't think she can tread water and keep her and another kid above the waterline. I've taught them to suck, duck, tuck:

  • Suck in air if you can: Take a breath
  • Duck under the water: The struggling person doesn't want to go there
  • Tuck (use your arms and legs to push away): And then yell for an adult immediately to help the other person

I've also taught them to be very careful of who they touch or grab onto in a pool. Even adults can be weaker swimmers and may have a hard time with them hanging on. Personal space is key.

4. Be sure to set distraction reminders

I ask my kids to keep me accountable. They know either my husband or I should be watching them at all times. We have told them that if we aren't watching them, they need to get our attention and help us because as humans we get distracted naturally.

I try to stay involved in their activity and also tried to keep my phone away, but I was still distracted with other kids, food, talking, you name it—life is full of distractions. I changed my tactic and downloaded a reminder app, and I set reminders for every minute.

I turn my phone into airplane mode and then use the app. Every minute it alerts me and I have the notification say "Kids Breathing" so I confirm my kids are okay and then clear the notification. Obviously, my goal is constant supervision, but sometimes my brain starts to wander to something I am thinking about and the notification checks me back in.

There are tons of campaigns about designating a "water watcher" with a specific tag indicating you have the responsibility of watching the water. I think these are great tools, but we also need to make sure the water watcher is not distracted.

Alerts can keep you focused as long as you stay off your phone for all other purposes. I put my phone in airplane mode, but you can still have the tendency to look at it. Be aware of your distractions both internal and external. If the phone is a distraction altogether, maybe alerts aren't for you. Find what works to keep you focused and stick with it for the entire swim time.

5. Designate breaks

We swim for a designated time, usually 30 minutes, but it varies depending on where we are and the activity taking place. Regardless, we always have breaks. I need these breaks more than my kids. They would swim endlessly for hours if I let them, but they need to rest and so do I.

As a lifeguard, we would rotate every 20 to 30 minutes with the premise being to give our minds a break and so we could stay fresh. The same thing applies to parental supervision. I need to use the restroom, I need to do other things, I need a break too! So, we give time warnings and take swim breaks. Sometimes the breaks are also unscheduled if I have to make an emergency restroom visit or answer the door, but everyone gets out every time.

6. Keep limited trust

This may sound harsh, but I don't trust other people to watch my kids in the pool. It's me or my husband, that's it. If they are swimming at Grandma's, they have to wear a lifejacket. If they are going in the water at the beach on a board with their cousin, they have to wear a lifejacket.

I see so many events where trust was placed in another person, "watch my kids while I go do XYZ," or Grandpa took them to the pool, or a neighbor invited them over. I may love these people, and they may love my children, but I don't trust them, nor do I want them to have to own that responsibility if something were to happen to one of my kids in their care. It just isn't worth it.

Do my kids whine? Yep. Do I care? Nope! They know the other option is they just don't go. The same goes for school pool parties and camps with water activities. It just isn't worth it for me. The same goes for lifeguarded swimming areas.

I know I am my kids' primary source of supervision and the lifeguard(s) are there for backup and emergencies.

I do not rely on them for basic supervision. I only have two children and I can supervise them much more closely than a lifeguard who has divided attention between 25 or more people.

7. Make life jackets seem cool

Culturally, we seem to have a negative attitude towards life jackets. I don't think there is anything wrong with life jackets. In fact, there are so many games and activities you can do with them. We just need to make them cool again.

If there are a bunch of kids I'm watching, I'd rather have everyone be in a life jacket. It can be a cousin life jacket pool party. Having everyone in one makes it much "cooler" and doesn't embarrass the littler kids or weaker swimmers. When I ran camps, even the counselors would wear them: be cool like them!

Try having rolling log challenges in the life jackets, water balloon tossing contests, setting up relays to pass rings from your toes—the games are endless, and the safety is higher with everyone in a life jacket. Now there are times that my kids will even say they would rather just be in a life jacket. (Awesome.)

When referring to "life jacket" I am specifically referring to a U.S. Coast Guard-approved (USCG) life jacket (check the inside of the jacket or vest). Noodles, inflatables, baby circles, tubes, and all other items are not safety-rated and should not be used or trusted to keep your child safe.

We see countless videos of kids who flip over in an inflatable ring, can't right themselves and are stuck underwater upside down, or are in arm floaties and can't get their head out of the water because their arms aren't strong enough, or who lose purchase of a kickboard they were holding onto for floatation. Even in a lifejacket, you need to diligently and constantly supervise, as children can get in positions that can still obstruct their airway, especially if they are younger or weaker.

8. Educate your kids about what drowning looks like

My kids know what drowning can look like. They know water is dangerous. They know good swimmers can drown. They know medical events can happen without warning. They know that drowning can happen quickly.

I talk about how events happen, about what their weaknesses are. They know they can't breathe in the water, they know why we take breaks from swimming, they know why they enter the water feet first, they know why we don't play breath-holding games or activities. It isn't just because I said so, I try to give them real reasons for my rules. A healthy fear of the water is a good thing.

9. Beware the "Hey, watch this…"

Phrases like "Hey, watch this…" usually are the beginning of something dangerous or a little crazy about to take place. This is a kid's way of announcing they are pushing the boundaries or are going to show off, and I take these phrases as a time to talk about danger and pushing boundaries.

Are they just showing me something or are they about to do something risky? There is a difference and I try to talk about good decisions around the water. Phrases like "Hey, watch this…" are ways to cue into other people's behaviors and intentions. My kids now alert me when others use these types of phrases too. I always say we can have fun without being dumb.

10. Tell your kids that if they see something, say something

My kids are part of my safety team. They are buddy watchers for each other and I ask them to look out for other kids. I'll often ask my son where his sister is, or what the other person is doing. I want to train them to look at others and make sure they are OK, to know what they are doing.

The other day, my daughter said, "Mom, I almost called you…that boy was under the water and I counted from 5…5, 4, 3, 2, 1 but he popped up again before I got to 2." I asked her, "what would you do if he was still underwater when you got to 1?" She said, "I'd say something to you or an adult until you responded." Perfect.

Kids are an additional layer of protection and they have good instincts. My kids know not to assume someone is playing. If they see someone underwater, they start counting. So often, in drowning investigations we see kids (and adults) swimming over or around someone who is underwater and they don't do anything.

They assume they are OK, they assume they are playing, they assume they are doing it on purpose. Don't assume. Teach them the 5-second rule (check out Mel Robbins' book on the topic) and if they see something, say something.

More vital water safety tips:

Here are more practical tips to keep kids safe during water activities:

  • Know that swim lessons save lives
  • Learn CPR. Drowning patients need oxygen—give air first!
  • Only use USCG-approved life jackets—no arm floaties or inflatables
  • Designate a water watcher *and* swim with a lifeguard
  • Always use pool barriers and extra layers of protection
  • Remind your kids to always, always enter the water feet first
  • Enforce the rule that there's no running around the pool
  • Stay hydrated/protect yourself from the sun
  • Avoid drugs/alcohol use when swimming or serving as a water watcher
  • Understand that all water is dangerous—even just a couple of inches
  • Kids should know to always swim with a buddy
  • Searching for lost/missing kids? Always check the water first

Share this information to help prevent future drownings. Stay safe and vigilant!

[This post was originally published July 8, 2019. It has been updated.]


In This Article

    Helping your 2-month-old thrive: Tips and activities

    Routines create a foundation for learning how to love and developing good self-esteem as baby grows.

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

    Your life may still feel like a blur of feedings, diaper changes and short spurts of sleep. That new baby fog means you usually have no clue what day it is or why the car keys are in the fridge. But this month is the perfect time to actually start a routine. Having a basic schedule helps the day flow, which is good for you and baby.

    According to Dr. Tovah Klein, head of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of How Toddlers Thrive, routines help even 2-month-olds anticipate what's going to happen next. She explains:

    Bath? Check. Song? Check? Feeding? Check. Zzzz.

    This kind of predictability helps her feel safe, calm and trusting of parents and caregivers. This creates a foundation for learning how to love the important people in her life and developing good self-esteem as she grows.

    To help support your baby's development and track routines like sleep and feeding, you can try an app like ParentPal™. ParentPal is the only all-in-one parenting app with everything you need to support, track, and celebrate your child's healthy development. Developed by Teaching Strategies, the leaders in early childhood development, and the creators of Baby Einstein, ParentPal provides trusted, research-based guidance and parenting tools at your fingertips. You can use the Daily Plan of age-appropriate activities, Milestones, Sleep, Health & Wellness Trackers, and a vast library of age-based resources for your middle-of-the-night parenting questions.*

    Week-by-week activities

    And speaking of learning, this month your kiddo is becoming more interested in pictures and objects. You'll see the beginning of hand-eye coordination, too. (You're still her primary focus, so keep up the talking, singing and silly faces.) From story time to play time, these week-by-week tips from child development psychologist Dr. Holly Ruhl will help you navigate the month:

    Week 1

    Instilling an early love of reading can strengthen language skills and parent-child relationships. Squeeze in that oh-so-important 20 minutes of reading by visiting your local library or bookstore for story time. This activity will deepen your tot's love of books and promote mama-baby bonding.

    Week 2

    Infants have an innate love of gazing at faces. Spend a few minutes each day attending to baby's favorite faces: the ones staring back in the mirror! Make silly faces and label baby's facial features. Gazing in the mirror may promote baby's sense of self-recognition. This understanding will appear slightly later and is the basis for baby's later self-confidence.

    Week 3

    Your little bundle is developing rudimentary hand-eye coordination. Promote coordination by fostering interaction with baby's fascinating surroundings. Help your tot gently stroke household pets. Dangle a textured, crinkly toy for those little hands to swat. Lay baby on an activity gym and soak in the baby bliss as your little one intently reaches for toys overhead.

    Week 4

    Are family and friends antsy to cuddle with the new addition? Take baby to visit loved ones for exposure to new faces, voices and styles of play. Plus, social support from friends and relatives around 3 months can help you be a more responsive mama and give baby supplemental support, leading to more secure attachment by 12 months.

    Baby

    One of the greatest joys of parenting is getting to introduce your baby to the great, big world. Even from a young age, travel can open our eyes to new environments, teach resilience and adaptability and create a meaningful bond between family members.

    The problem? The logistics of traveling with a baby can be, well, challenging. For too long, one of the biggest obstacles standing between parents and their traveling plans has been the hassle of managing an infant car seat on our journey.

    The new Nuna PIPA lite rx is changing all that. The Nuna PIPA lite rx is an infant car seat made for everyday life and more enjoyable adventures. With a combination of features that make travel easier, you can skip the question of "how" to go with your baby and move onto asking "where" to go.

    From trips around the corner to trips across the country, the new Nuna PIPA lite rx car seat solves so many pain points of traveling with a baby. Here's why you'll love it...

    It is amazingly light-weight

    We're all for a good workout—just not every time we need to carry the car seat. Weighing in at just 6.9 lbs., the PIPA lite rx truly earns the title of lightweight champion. Combined with a luxe leatherette handle for comfortably carrying in your hand or the crook of your arm, this dreamy travel car seat is great at getting from Point A to Point B—whether you're in the car or not.

    It is incredibly safe and secure from day one

    With an additional GOTS™ certified infant insert and harness covers, 7-position height-adjustable no-rethread headrest, Aeroflex™ foam and side-impact protection, you can travel with the confidence that your baby is well-protected from your baby's first ride and beyond. And because any parent knows the trickiest part of travel is getting baby in and out of the car seat, the PIPA lite rx simplifies the task: The 5-point no-rethread harness can be held to the side with magnetic buckle holders while you're getting your baby in or out of the seat. (Meaning no more searching for straps under a wiggly baby!)

    Your baby will be cozy for longer excursions

    When it comes to keeping your little travel companion content, comfort is the name of the game. With foam cushions and a memory foam headrest, your little explorer will have the best seat in the car when buckled in. For a little extra privacy, pull down the breathable Dream Drape and quietly attach it to the side of the car seat with magnets. Or, enjoy some time in the sun without concerns about harsh rays with the full-coverage UPF 50+ canopy.

    Base or belt... the decision is yours

    The Nuna PIPA lite rx offers two ways to secure the seat to the car: with the (included) PIPA RELX base or by buckling in through the belt path on the infant car seat with the vehicle's seat belt, meaning one less thing to take along when you travel by taxi or airplane. Better yet, the car seat securely installs in just seconds so you can get on with the adventure.

    Stroll on with the full travel system

    Compatible with Nuna's extensive line of strollers, the Nuna PIPA lite rx lets you create a travel system that works for your lifestyle. From single strollers to rides that can grow with your family, you can click the Nuna PIPA lite rx into place and go—wherever your travels might take you.

    The Nuna PIPA lite rx is available now in two color options. Take a closer look at this fully featured infant seat on nunababy.com.

    This article is sponsored by Nuna. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.
    Our Partners

    10 Montessori phrases for kids who are struggling with back to school

    The first day of school can be hard for everyone, mama. Here's how to use the Montessori method to help your child adjust.

    No matter how excited your child was to pick out a new lunchbox and backpack this year, there will likely be days when they just don't want to go to school. Whether they're saying "I don't like school" when you're home playing together or having a meltdown on the way to the classroom, there are things you can say to help ease their back-to-school nerves.

    More than the exact words you use, the most important thing is your attitude, which your child is most definitely aware of. It's important to validate their feelings while conveying a calm confidence that school is the right place for them to be and that they can handle it.

    Here are some phrases that will encourage your child to go to school.


    1. "You're safe here."

    If you have a young child, they may be genuinely frightened of leaving you and going to school. Tell them that school is a safe place full of people who care about them. If you say this with calm confidence, they'll believe you. No matter what words you say, if your child senses your hesitation, your own fear of leaving them, they will not feel safe. How can they be safe if you're clearly scared of leaving them? Try to work through your own feelings about dropping them off before the actual day so you can be a calm presence and support.

    2. "I love you and I know you can do this."

    It's best to keep your goodbye short, even if your child is crying or clinging to you, and trust that you have chosen a good place for them to be. Most children recover from hard goodbyes quickly after the parent leaves.

    If your child is having a hard time saying goodbye, give one good strong hug and tell them that you love them and know they can do this. Saying something like, "It's just school, you'll be fine" belittles their feelings. Instead, acknowledge that this is hard, but that you're confident they're up to the task. This validates the anxiety they're feeling while ending on a positive note.

    After a quick reassurance, make your exit, take a deep breath and trust that they will be okay.

    3. "First you'll have circle time, then work time, and then you'll play on the playground."

    Talk your child through the daily schedule at school, including as many details as possible. Talk about what will happen when you drop them off, what kinds of work they will do, when they will eat lunch and play outside, and who will come to get them in the afternoon.

    It can help to do this many times so that they become comfortable with the new daily rhythm.

    4. "I'll pick you up after playground time."

    Give your child a frame of reference for when you will be returning.

    If your child can tell time, you can tell them you'll see them at 3:30pm. If they're younger, tell them what will happen right before you pick them up. Perhaps you'll come get them right after lunch, or maybe it's after math class.

    Giving this reference point can help reassure them you are indeed coming back and that there is a specific plan for when they will see you again. As the days pass, they'll realize that you come consistently every day when you said you would and their anxieties will ease.

    5. "What book do you think your teacher will read when you get to school this morning?"

    Find out what happens first in your child's school day and help them mentally transition to that task. In a Montessori school, the children choose their own work, so you might ask about which work your child plans to do first.

    If they're in a more traditional school, find an aspect of the school morning they enjoy and talk about that.

    Thinking about the whole school day can seem daunting, but helping your child focus on a specific thing that will happen can make it seem more manageable.

    6. "Do you think Johnny will be there today?"

    Remind your child of the friends they will see when they get to school.

    If you're not sure who your child is bonding with, ask the teacher. On the way to school, talk about the children they can expect to see and try asking what they might do together.

    If your child is new to the school, it might help to arrange a playdate with a child in their class to help them form strong relationships.

    7. "That's a hard feeling. Tell me about it."

    While school drop-off is not the time to wallow in the hard feelings of not wanting to go to school, if your child brings up concerns after school or on the weekend, take some time to listen to them.

    Children can very easily be swayed by our leading questions, so keep your questions very general and neutral so that your child can tell you what they're really feeling.

    They may reveal that they just miss you while they're gone, or may tell you that a certain person or kind of work is giving them anxiety.

    Let them know that you empathize with how they feel, but try not to react too dramatically. If you think there is an issue of real concern, talk to the teacher about it, but your reaction can certainly impact the already tentative feelings about going to school.

    8. "What can we do to help you feel better?"

    Help your child brainstorm some solutions to make them more comfortable with going to school.

    Choose a time at home when they are calm. Get out a pen and paper to show that you are serious about this.

    If they miss you, would a special note in their pocket each morning help? If another child is bothering them, what could they say or who could they ask for help? If they're too tired in the morning, could an earlier bedtime make them feel better?

    Make it a collaborative process, rather than a situation where you're rescuing them, to build their confidence.

    9. "What was the best part of your school day?"

    Choose a time when your child is not talking about school and start talking about your day. Tell them the best part of your day, then try asking about the best part of their day. Practice this every day.

    It's easy to focus on the hardest parts of an experience because they tend to stick out in our minds. Help your child recognize that, even if they don't always want to go, there are likely parts of school they really enjoy.

    10. "I can't wait to go to the park together when we get home."

    If your child is having a hard time saying goodbye, remind them of what you will do together after you pick them up from school.

    Even if this is just going home and making dinner, what your child likely craves is time together with you, so help them remember that it's coming.

    It is totally normal for children to go through phases when they don't want to go to school. If you're concerned, talk to your child's teacher and ask if they seem happy and engaged once they're in the classroom.

    To your child, be there to listen, to help when you can, and to reassure them that their feelings are natural and that they are so capable of facing the challenges of the school day, even when it seems hard.

    Back to School

    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.

    $19.99

    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!)

    $139

    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

    Stepping Stones

    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.

    $99.99

    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.

    $17.95

    Sensory play set

    kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

    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

    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

    Foam pogo stick

    Flybar-my-first-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.

    $16.99

    Dumptruck 

    green-toys-dump-truck

    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.

    $22

    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.

    $14.99

    Pull-along ducks

    janod-pull-along-wooden-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.

    $16.99

    Rocking chair seesaw

    Slidewhizzer-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.

    $79.99

    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.

    $79.99

    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.

    $24.75

    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

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

    Your curious kiddo is getting the hang of lots of new things this month: eating (and playing with) solid foods, sitting unassisted, sleeping on a schedule (with two naps!) and making new sounds. So get ready for lots (and lots) of peekaboo now that your baby understands cause and effect.

    Dr. Tovah Klein, head of the Toddler Center at Barnard College and author of How Toddlers Thrive, shares fun ways you can play with your baby to encourage exploration and get lots of giggles in the process.

    To help support your baby's development and track routines like sleep and feeding, you can try an app like ParentPal™. ParentPal is the only all-in-one parenting app with everything you need to support, track, and celebrate your child's healthy development. Developed by Teaching Strategies, the leaders in early childhood development, and the creators of Baby Einstein, ParentPal provides trusted, research-based guidance and parenting tools at your fingertips. You can use the Daily Plan of age-appropriate activities, Milestones, Sleep, Health & Wellness Trackers, and a vast library of age-based resources for your middle-of-the-night parenting questions.*


    Tips for your 6-month-old


    Play peekaboo.

    Try putting your hands over your face and ask, “Where's Mommy?" then remove them. This game, played over and over, helps your baby learn that you go bye-bye, but then you come back. This helps her learn about separation from you, and helps her practice saying goodbye, knowing that you will be back. Plus, it is a lot of fun!


    Play back-and-forth games.

    Give your baby a toy, then put your hand out and say, “Now give it to Mommy." Eventually she'll give it back (it's okay if she doesn't; she may just want to hold it, too). Then you can say, “You gave it back. Now I give it to you." Babies love this game and can do it over and over. She also likes to copy you. If you bang on a toy, she will try it too.

    Use bath time to learn new things.

    Give your baby clean, empty plastic containers. Fill them with water, then let your baby pour it out and see what happens as the water falls, or when she pours it into an empty cup. This is how she learns about how things work and it helps her brain develop.

    When she splashes and you laugh, she learns about connecting and playing with you. This will help her learn about playing with other people, and friends, as she gets older. Bath time may also be the one quiet time you get alone with her. When you gently bathe her, and snuggle her in a towel afterward, she enjoys being with you. This helps her feel good about herself and shows her how much she is loved.

    Let her play with her food.

    Aside from eating new things, experiencing how it feels is another way of learning.

    From building block towers to making music together, child development psychologist Dr. Holly Ruhl has week-by-week tips for month seven.

    Week-by-week activities

    Week 1

    Now that baby is sitting independently, a family-friendly concert in the park would be a mutually rewarding activity for you and baby. Bring a picnic blanket, baby carrier, and a few toys to keep your tot content during intermission. Even young infants are predisposed to comprehend and appreciate music, and your little one will love it even more if you enjoy it, too!

    Week 2

    Mamas often get caught up in the daily grind. This week, put down the phone and make room for classic play time with your tot. Roll around on the carpet, build block towers and play demolition, read books, roll a ball back and forth, or put a box on your head and help your babe remove it—Peekaboo, Mama! This quality interaction fosters baby's competence and security.

    Week 3

    Baby needs many hands-on experiences to develop adaptive grasping skills. Fill a box with household items of varying textures, sounds, smells, and colors for your tot to explore. Put doubles of each object in the box to help baby find pairs, mimic baby's behaviors with matching objects, and introduce the idea of “two," a concept developed in the second year.

    Week 4

    Exploration with music can develop motor skills, socio-emotional awareness, and so much more! Engage your little one with egg shakers, maracas, bells, or good ole' pots and pans. Baby will develop the foundations for rhythm by shaking and whacking instruments, moving to the beat and learning hand motions to beloved children's songs.

    A treat for little one: B. One Two Squeeze Blocks

    Build. Topple. Repeat. Baby will love watching you create a tower of blocks and then helping to knock it down. These squeezable, floatable and of course chewable blocks are perfect for little hands to grab.

    Baby Learn + Play

    To my friends who had kids before me: I am sorry I didn’t know

    But now that I'm a mother, I do know. And I promise to pay it forward.

    I have never felt more fiercely loved than in the days, weeks and months after my baby girl was born. I felt immense love from everyone in my life, but the love I felt from other mothers was different. It came from deep-seeded understanding and empathy. It came from heartfelt celebration and excitement.

    It came from a place that only another mother can relate to.


    I recall one very emotional day when my daughter was about a week old. I had been going through the throes of triple feeding coupled with the height of what I assume you would call the baby blues.

    My sister sat on the couch with me as I painstakingly tried to pump through severe engorgement, and as she rubbed my shoulders, encouraging me to make it through just one more feeding session, I broke down in tears and told her I was so sorry.

    She looked at me shocked. Why, exactly, was I apologizing?

    It is so simple to see now—in those moments of raw motherhood, my sister was able to love me in a way that no one else could because she had been there before.

    While feeling overwhelmed with gratitude to have her in my life, I suddenly felt so much sadness that I hadn't been able to love my sister in the same way when she was walking through early motherhood.

    And so many moments followed that one, moments that made me feel immensely lucky to be surrounded by what can only be described as the best humans on earth, followed by the realization that I wish I could have done so much more, and felt so much more, for my dear friends in their early days of motherhood.

    So, to my friends who had kids before me: I am sorry.

    To my sister who tried for months to breastfeed her son and spent countless hours with lactation consultants and feeding groups, I am sorry I didn't understand how something as simple as feeding your child could make you feel like a failure. I am sorry that I did not wrap you in the biggest hug every day and tell you that you are a great mom and that if you need to cry about it, it is okay.

    To my friend with the baby in the NICU, I am sorry I didn't realize that behind the text saying you were "okay" and "didn't need anything," that nothing would've made a bigger difference than a warm meal and hot coffee dropped off to the front desk of the hospital. I knew you were a strong warrior mom (all NICU moms are), but now I know that even warrior moms need someone listening to what they aren't saying.

    To my friends who lost their sweet babies before they arrived, I am so sorry that I never knew how much you could love someone you have never met. I am sorry that I couldn't even come close to imagining your pain and sadness until I felt my own daughter wiggle in my belly, and even then, I still couldn't. Saying I am sorry will never be enough to encompass the pain you are feeling, so I hope saying "I love you" will let you know I am here.

    To my friends with the sick children, I am sorry I never fully understood the heart-wrenching agony of seeing your child in pain until I saw my own heart beating outside my body in my beautiful daughter. You are the bravest type of mom there is, and I know there is nothing you wouldn't sacrifice for your child. You hold up the world, but when you need someone to hold you up, I am here.

    To my friend who confided in me that she was struggling with postpartum depression, I am sorry I did not know just how heavy that anxiety felt on your heart. I am sorry I didn't understand the darkness you experienced every night when you went to bed and the desperation of wondering when it would all go away.

    To my friend who sent me the Starbucks card and heartfelt message on my first day back from maternity leave, I am sorry I didn't take more time to check in with you when you came back to work. I loved looking at photos of your beautiful baby and hearing about her life, but I should've spent more time checking in on you and making sure you felt loved and appreciated, especially as you made the adjustment back to work.

    These wonderful, beautiful women have taught me so much. And while I didn't know, I do now. My understanding was almost instantaneous the moment I became a mom, and the sisterhood of motherhood has carried me through the difficult times and celebrated alongside me during the good.

    To be loved without pretense or judgment is what this sisterhood is all about, and you just don't know until you experience it for yourself.

    I am sorry I didn't know, but I promise to pay it forward each and every day.

    This this story was originally published on May 24, 2018. It has been updated.

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