Relax, mama: Dad’s roughhousing with your kids is good for them—really

To a mom, all the noise and pummeling can be more than a little bit alarming. But lots of research suggests that regular roughhousing sessions make for happier, more successful children.

roughhousing kids dad

There are feet and elbows and squeals and shrieks, followed by laughing—lots of laughing—thumps and grunts. I watch, waiting for my youngest to smack his head on the coffee table or my oldest to sit a little too long on the middle one's chest, worried that it's not really fun until someone gets hurt.

I don't know if it is amusement, amazement or annoyance I feel as I watch their dad in the middle of it all, tossing them around, spinning them and flipping them, altogether keeping the energy at a frenzy, sweating and panting right along. And I wonder who is having more fun?

To a mom, all the noise and pummeling can be more than a little bit alarming. But lots of research suggests that regular roughhousing sessions make for happier, more successful children.

In fact, in Top Dog, a book about the science of winning and losing, authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman argue that roughhousing can give your kids a competitive edge and help them learn to thrive in an increasingly dog-eat-dog world.

We know intuitively that something magical is going on when dad gets down on the floor and lets little ones give it to him. Even if we are more than a little uneasy with all the activity, somehow we know the special give and take that goes on is fundamental to how our kids relate to him.

But are we aware of how that relationship affects how our kids see the world and themselves in it, or that roughhousing can help protect against childhood depression?

Maybe if we understand that roughhousing is a good way for kids to release aggression, or that it teaches our kids how to set boundaries, we can relax and enjoy watching the show.

As moms, every fiber of our being has been devoted to nourishing, nurturing and protecting our babies from before that first beautiful cry was heard to those first wobbly steps and beyond. The journey has brought us closer and made us more connected and in tune with our children than we could have ever imagined.

The first few years, our children's development requires more from us, with dads as active participants who, for the most part, follow our lead. But by nature, there comes a time and place where dads' involvement and subsequent bond grows independently and quite importantly.

"A mother's bond is established in infancy, and researchers believe that dad's bond is expressed a little later, when the father serves as a secure base allowing the child to explore and take risks," says University of Georgia researcher Geoffrey Brown, lead author of a 2012 study in the Journal of Family Psychology on fundamental questions about how fathers bond with children.

What is roughhousing?

Roughhousing is essentially mutual, aggressive, interactive, high-trust play in which no one is actually getting hurt. Kids feel more relaxed, connected, and happy after roughhousing. This is critical in establishing a deep and lasting bond with dads that lays the foundation for the part of their development that helps them function successfully in the world and pave the way for future generations' success and happiness by properly socializing kids to be good parents themselves. The good news is that roughhousing comes in many shapes and sizes, so dads who are more adverse to the extreme physicality of many forms can easily find others that suit their style better.

Recent research has shown that roughhousing serves an evolutionary purpose. Unlike many other animals, humans need their fathers well beyond just the act of making the baby. Based on research by MacDonald and Parke, fathers play key roles in optimum development of psychological and emotional traits like empathy, emotional control and the ability to navigate complex social relationships.

"Perhaps out of worry for their kids' future financial security, dads across human cultures mostly focus on preparing children to compete within society. They give advice, encourage academic success and stress achievement," says David Geary of the University of Missouri and author of Male, Female: Evolution of Human Sex Differences.

By roughousing, dads "rile them up, almost to the point that they are going to snap, and then calm them down," explains Geary. "This pattern teaches kids to control their emotions—a trait that garners them popularity among superiors and peers," he said. "As adults, they are more likely to form secure relationships, achieve stable social standing and become able parents. In this sense, a father who takes care of his children also gives his grandchildren a leg up."

Science supports the need for this kind of activity.

"We know quite a lot about how important fathers are in general for a child's development," says Richard Fletcher, the leader of the Fathers and Families Research Program at the University of Newcastle in Australia (UON), in an interview on ABC News.

Though all the rolling around and noise on the floor may look like there's just a lot of fun being had, Fletcher and UON researchers believe that the most important aspect of roughhousing is that it gives children "a sense of achievement when they 'defeat' a more powerful adult, building their self-confidence and concentration."

In their study, researchers watched film of 30 dads roughhousing with their kids. "When you look at fathers and their young children playing, you can see that for the child, it's not just a game. They obviously enjoy it and they're giggling, but when you watch the video, you can see that child is concentrating really hard. I think the excitement is related to the achievement that's involved," Fletcher says. "It's not about a spoiled child not wanting to lose, I think that child is really striving for the achievement of succeeding."

What it does to your child's brain

There is a lot of science to reinforce the value of roughhousing. A lot of it can be tied to one salient fact: Roughhousing releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

Based on research by the Child Mental Health Centre's Margot Sutherland, when kids roughhouse, the brain recognizes this as a small stressor. As heart rate increases, the brain thinks they are fighting or fleeing some danger. To protect the brain from stress, BDNF is released, which repairs and protects the brain while improving it's learning and memory capabilities. Stimulating neuron growth in the cortex-amygdala, cerebellum and hippocampus regions of the brain, BDNF is vitally important and responsible for the development of memory, higher learning and advanced behavior, such as language and logic–skills necessary for academic success. This growth underpins a myriad of benefits for our kids.

Why we roughhouse

Some parents worry that roughhousing teaches kids to be violent and impulsive. In their book, The Art of Roughhousing, Anthony DeBenedet and Larry Cohen claim instead that roughhousing “makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful."

Other studies have indicated that kids who aren't allowed to roughhouse can develop inappropriate responses to aggression, imagining threats where none exist, according to research by Daniel Paquette, a Professor of Psychoeducation at the University of Montreal.

"Parent-child roughhousing enables kids to explore aggression within the context of an emotional bond. By practicing aggression in a safe environment as a kid, they learn to be comfortable with it and take more risks as an adult, whether it's by standing up to a bullying colleague or asking for a raise. In particular, fathers play a critical role in helping kids develop these skills," he says.

In Paquette's surveys of children's behavior for the University of Montreal, kid-initiated roughhousing peaks at around three or four, but continues until about age 10. During that time, Psychologist Anthony Pellegrini has found that "the amount of roughhousing children engage in predicts their achievement in first grade better than their kindergarten test scores do."

Roughhousing is a fun and safe place to teach your kids that failure is often just a temporary state and that victory goes to the person who is resilient, sticks to it and learns from his mistakes.

As a parent, resilience and grit are two of the best things you can help your kids develop. "Since resilience is a key in developing children's intelligence, resilient kids tend to see failure more as a challenge to overcome rather than an event that defines them. This sort of intellectual resilience helps ensure your children bounce back from bad grades and gives them the grit to keep trying until they've mastered a topic," says Pellegrini. The ability to bounce back from failures helps your kids face challenges and reach their full potential, living happier lives as adults.

Though on its surface it appears rather brutish, roughhousing is really quite sophisticated, requiring the coordination of three aspects of human intelligence: physical, social and cognitive. When in concert, these aspects provide the sweet notes of our kids' lives, but when out of balance can make for some sad music.

10 ways kids benefit from roughhousing

1. It rewires the brain, making kids smarter.

Roughhousing requires our kids to adapt quickly to unpredictable situations. In his book, Wild Justice, evolutionary biologist, Marc Bekoff, says, "The unpredictable nature of roughhousing actually rewires a child's brain by increasing the connections between neurons in the cerebral cortex, which in turn contributes to behavioral flexibility. Learning how to cope with sudden changes while roughhousing trains your kiddos to cope with unexpected bumps in the road when they're out in the real world."

2. It teaches children about taking turns and cooperation.

Roughhousing teaches kids the concept of leadership and negotiation. Physical games require the give-and-take of negotiation to establish the rules upon which everyone needs to agree in order for all to have fun. This is excellent preparation for both professional success and committed relationships.

Roughhousing also requires taking turns with the dominant role. Whether you're the wrestler or the wrestlee, everyone has to take turns in for the fun to continue. Kids don't want to keep playing if they are constantly on the losing side.

3. It toughens kids up.

Occasional scuffs and scrapes are a byproduct of roughhousing and are bound to happen. Rather than coddle, dads tend to distract their kids from the pain with humor or some other task.

In a study of 32 subjects in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, researchers found that many fathers walk a fine line during roughousing between safety and risk, allowing children to get minor injuries without endangering them. Learning to deal with and manage minor discomforts while roughhousing can help kids handle the stresses they'll encounter at school and work.

4. It teaches kids to take risks.

Beckoff states that roughhousing is good for learning because "it provides an opportunity for making mistakes without fear of punishment." And because "fathers play a particularly important role in the development of children's openness to the world," writes Paquette, "they also tend to encourage children to take risks, while at the same time ensuring [their] safety and security, thus permitting children to learn to be braver in unfamiliar situations, as well as to stand up for themselves."

5. It helps kids manage aggression.

Some parents fear that roughhousing will lead to aggression and that we should always be “safe" with our children. While this is a concern, studies perfomed at the University of Regensburg in Germany suggest that it actually has the opposite effect.

Children who roughhouse at home are less violent, presumably because they feel a strong connection with their fathers and because they learn the difference between healthy roughhousing and aggression. As psychologist John Snarey says in his research-turned-book, How Fathers Care for the Next Generation, "Children who roughhouse with their fathers... quickly learn that biting, kicking, and other forms of physical violence are not acceptable."

Girls have aggressive feelings, too, and few know how to deal with them. Roughhousing provides the same benefits to them as it does to boys. Occasionally, roughhousing can lead to tears—play may have activated feelings that needed to come out, and they are coming out in tears rather than laughter and body slams. It turns out that roughhousing can help "mean girls" access their feelings more directly, which cuts down on the meanness.

7. It increases social and emotional intelligence.

“The ability to differentiate between play and aggression translates into other social skills that require people to read and interpret social cues," says Pellegrini. Kids need to learn when to stop. In a report published in Behavioral Neuroscience, Jennifer Mascaro and her colleagues at Emory University state that, "rough play mimics aggressive actions, and requires accurate reading of social cues to determine when the rough and tumble tickling or fighting has gone too far, or if someone is feeling hurt. That requires evaluating other people's emotional state and determining when the feelings pass the threshold from fun and play to fear and anger."

Play expert and founder of The National Institute for Play, Dr. Stuart Brown, says that the “lack of experience with [roughhousing] hampers the normal give-and-take necessary for social mastery and has been linked with poor control of violent impulses later in life. When kids roughhouse they learn to tell the difference between play and actual aggression," making them more well-liked, compared to kids who have a hard time separating the two.

Moreover, kids learn how to regain self-control, which makes them more confident in their emotional lives.

8. It teaches kids about boundaries, ethics and morality.

When we roughhouse with our kids, they learn the difference between right and wrong and about the appropriate use of strength and power. Roughhousing also teaches children about setting limits and boundaries while being safe when they play with others.

In nature, self-handicapping is one of the most amazing illustrations of moral behavior in animal play. "When we roughhouse with our kids, we model for them how someone bigger and stronger holds back. We teach them self-control, fairness, and empathy. We let them win, which gives them confidence and demonstrates that winning isn't everything and you don't need to dominate all the time," say DeBenedet and Cohen.

According to Bekoff, this is moral behavior because the larger the animal cares more about both players having fun together than it does about winning. Kids learn that actual strength is showing compassion to those weaker than you.

9. It makes kids physically active and can protect them from depression.

"Being active, getting sweaty and roughhousing offer more than just physical health benefits. They also protect against depression," says Tonje Zahl, a Ph.D. candidate at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and first author of the article on the study findings which were recently published in the February 2017 issue of Pediatrics.

Her new study supports that this kind of physical activity protects against depression. The researchers at the NTNU examined just under 800 children when they were six years old and conducted follow-up examinations with about 700 of them when they were eight and ten years old to see if they could find a correlation between physical activity and symptoms of depression. They found that the more the kids engaged in activity that caused them to sweat and pant, the less incidence there was of depression.

10. Roughhousing builds a better bond.

The rough play fathers engage in is just as important as the gentle mothering that mothers do. Roughhousing offers dads a chance to show physically their affection to their kids in a fun and playful manner. Throwing kids up in the air and catching them, or swinging them upside-down, builds kids' trust in you—by taking part in somewhat risky activities with you, your kids learn that they can trust you to keep them safe. And as dads tumble around with kids, the closeness and physical activity release the parenting hormone, oxytocin, which boosts feelings of bonding and closeness.

It's not just for dads and sons

Just as fathers can be super midnight soothers, mothers can be awesome roughhousers. This is especially important, since not all children have fathers. "If a mom does it, the child will learn the same thing," says Catherine Tamis-LeMonda, a professor of developmental psychology at New York University. And moms who roughhouse with their kids give them a whole new set of behaviors to figure out and learn from.

All kids need loving physical contact, and both boys and girls need to get it from their fathers. In roughhousing, dads and kids get the endorphin rush of athletics as well as the oxytocin rush of a good hug, benefitting both the same way that the release of oxytocin does when a child is being comforted or is nursing.

Importantly, DeBenedet says roughhousing can benefit both genders, often in different ways. “For boys, it's a way to learn physical interaction that isn't violent or sexual. For girls, it's finding a way to make sure their voice is heard."

So, what can you do to remain sane while watching all of this go down?

  • Be aware of the surroundings Keep your kids away from areas where they can get hurt. Also, keep in mind that a child's joints are prone to injury when roughhousing.
  • Watch for and respect clues Ensure that roughhousing has not gone too far and that everyone is still having fun.
  • Don't roughhouse right before bed Kids need some time right before bed to relax and ramp things down so they can get into sleep mode.
  • Remember that roughhousing is for girls, too While boys are naturally prone to engage in roughhousing, make sure you don't leave girls out of the fun. Studies show that girls who roughhouse with their fathers are more confident than girls who don't. And some studies even indicate that roughhousing can prevent your little angel from being a mean girl that psychologically terrorizes other girls.

The Art of Roughhousing recommends specific things you can do with your kids while roughhousing, along with helpful illustrations showing you how to do them. Also, you can visit the website for additional roughhousing ideas.

In the end, roughhousing may be alarming but is truly necessary for proper development to take place—all that tumbling and tackling helps develop strength, flexibility and complex motor learning, in addition to concentration, cardiovascular fitness, and coordination. Additionally, tossing kids in the air and spinning them around provides early vestibular stimulation (the input that your body receives when you experience movement or gravity), which is important for balance and may be a building block for future athleticism.

And there is one more surprising bonus: Roughhousing makes parenting easier by providing a positive outlet for big feelings so they don't get worked out in more problematic ways. If we use roughhousing to improve communication and to impart values that influence our children's attitude at home, with peers and at school, we can learn how they react to success, failures and obstacles, and we can build a special bond to guide them through troubled times. We lay the groundwork to better our present mutual relationships and those relationships of generations to follow.

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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    Coterie

    Ask any new mama what she needs and nine times out of ten you're going to get the same answer. SLEEP. More sleep, better sleep, a baby that sleeps, a nap, a full night's worth, a rest of the eyes, anything. Give her alllll the sleep, please and thank you. In fact, in Motherly's 2021 State of Motherhood Survey, 89% of mothers reported getting less than eight hours of sleep per night. Surprised? Ha. No, we're not either.

    We can all agree there's no better gift for new parents than the gift of sleep. If you're close by, the gift is win-win. You get to snuggle a perfect, most delicious new babe and they get some much needed zzz's, worry-free. But if that's not an option or you want to really (rightfully) spoil them, two of our favorite sleep-obsessed brands have come together to create the perfect new mama gift. Coterie, the modern baby care brand that's mastered the art of sustainable diapering and Parachute, our go-to for all things cozy home just launched The Gift of Sleep, a bundle of gorgeous goods that any new parent will be over the moon about. (We certainly are!)

    In the box they'll find two packs of Coterie diapers to keep baby dry even overnight, a supremely soft Parachute swaddle blanket, a Parachute eye mask so you can doze off no matter what time of day, Charlie the Bunny plush toy, and (we saved the best for last!) a 30-minute session with a certified sleep coach. How's that for hero status?

    A good stretch of sleep can make all the difference. And getting a bit of help to establish a routine that works for everyone is priceless. If you've got a new mama in your life, you might just change everything with one small box.

    Check out Coterie X Parachute's Gift of Sleep Bundle below!



    Coterie x Parachute The Gift of Sleep Bundle

    Coterie x Parachute The Gift of Sleep Bundle

    Just choose the diaper size (NB, 01, 02) and the box will ship with a personalized gift note to cheer on the new parents (or you know, offer up your baby-snuggling skills)!

    $135


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    TODAY host Dylan Dreyer shares that her water broke 6 weeks early

    In her latest Instagram post, Dreyer says that doctors are working to keep her third baby "on the inside a little longer."

    Dylan Dreyer/Instagram

    TODAY host Dylan Dreyer is currently in the hospital because she says her water broke six weeks early. Dreyer, who is pregnant with her third child, shared the news via Instagram on Tuesday.

    "Just a little update as you won't be seeing me on @todayshow or @3rdhourtoday for a while," Dreyer, who is the meteorologist and 3rd hour co-host, wrote on Instagram. In the post, she shared two hospital room photos.


    "My water broke Sunday evening and I've been hanging at the hospital. Our little guy is anxious to get out and meet us!" she continues. "Doctors are closely monitoring both of us and trying to keep him on the inside for a little while longer to get stronger."

    Dreyer and her husband, Brian Fichera, are already parents to sons Calvin, 4, and Oliver, 1. Back in May, she announced she was expecting her third baby—and blamed the show Bridgerton for getting pregnant (which, relatable). In an Instagram post at the time, Fichera shared an ultrasound photo, which he captioned, "When two people are quarantined together for over a year and Bridgerton is on..."

    As for their third bundle of joy, Dreyer says her youngest son will likely make his appearance later this week despite being so early.

    "All is well! I'm in great hands and I have the best person to keep me calm and comfortable," she writes. "Looks like we'll be getting to meet our littlest boy sometime this week…6 weeks early! Guess he couldn't handle being left out of all the fun his brothers have been having!"

    Dreyer has also been candid about her experience with secondary infertility—she suffered a miscarriage in 2019 while trying to have a second child.

    "So many women are going through their own fertility issues, and I want to open up the conversation to get us all talking instead of sneaking onto that baby chat room and scrolling endlessly through the comments hoping to stumble upon someone going through a similar situation as us," she wrote at the time.

    As for her current situation, she remains confident that she's receiving the best care possible, but she still has one request:

    "We'll gladly take any extra prayers you have."

    Consider it done. ❤️

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