First time making the Thanksgiving turkey? Start here.

If this year has taught us anything, it's that we can do hard things.

Thanksgiving turkey
@lelia_milaya / Twenty20

Thanksgiving is looking different for a lot of us this year. Many of us aren't traveling to see loved ones for the holiday, and the traditional Thanksgiving meal—with multiple families crowded together around a table—is actually classified as a high-risk activity by the CDC. (Thanks, 2020.)

This year has thrown a lot of changes and challenges at us parents, from childcare to summer camp to school, but we're adapting and making the best of it. That said, if your usual Thanksgiving m.o. is just showing up at your parents' or your in-laws' house ready to mow down some turkey and stuffing, one of the biggest changes this year might be suddenly finding yourself responsible for cooking your first Thanksgiving turkey. The centerpiece of the meal. The big bird. Don't panic.

Here's a step by step guide to roasting your very first Thanksgiving turkey without a hitch, and making sure your bird is delicious without making yourself go mad. Because it's 2020 and things are complicated enough.


What you’ll need

  • A turkey. Naturally. (More on how to choose a turkey below.)
  • A roasting pan. This can be a deep metal roasting pan, or one of those aluminum one-time-use-only dealies you see in the supermarket. But you need to have a deep, wide roasting pan—don't try doing this in a baking dish, a casserole dish, a skillet or (heaven forbid) a baking sheet. And if you have a roasting pan rack for the turkey to sit on in the pan, that's definitely a plus.
  • A good sharp knife. Carving a big slippery hot turkey is much easier with the proper instrument. Trust me. Bonus points if you have a carving fork too.
  • A baster. Even if you only use this once a year and the rest of the time it takes up space in your kitchen drawer, it's worth it for this purpose.
  • Aluminium foil.
  • Butter, salt, olive oil, pepper, flour, a couple onions and whatever herbs you like. Rosemary and thyme are nice. Fresh is best but dried is good too.
  • A meat thermometer. A lot of supermarket turkeys are sold with a built-in thermometer—that red plastic button that supposedly pops up out of the turkey breast when it's "done." Pay no attention to that red pop-up button. It's a notorious little liar. Get a meat thermometer if you don't have one. It doesn't have to be fancy, just buy one of those basic meat thermometers in the kitchen tools aisle with a pokey bit and a readout dial.
  • Kitchen twine. For tying up the legs. If your turkey comes with a plastic trussing piece (most birds at the supermarket do—feel the package around the base of the bird beneath the drumsticks, and if you feel something rigid, that's it), you can skip this.
  • A box of broth. This is optional, but handy for basting and for gravy-making. It can be turkey broth (if you can find it) or chicken broth.

Here's what you don't need—at least, not your first time wrasslin' the yardbird: Don't buy a gravy separator. Don't buy a ton of extra stuffing to put inside the turkey itself (more on this below, too). Don't buy cheesecloth. Don't buy those little paper chef-hat looking things for the ends of your turkey legs. Keep it simple.

How to pick a turkey

Do not buy the biggest Scrooge-impressing-the-Cratchits turkey you can find at the store. Here's the good news about a pandemic Thanksgiving: Since most of us are cooking for our immediate families only this year, there's no need to buy a giant turkey that takes forever to cook and is hard to roast evenly, even for experienced cooks. You can buy a smaller Thanksgiving turkey to feed your crew and still have leftovers for sandwiches. Look for a turkey in the 8 to 10 pound range. (Or if your family is small, consider just buying a breast only and pan roasting that with some olive oil and seasoning.)

Is your turkey organic? Is it gourmet? Is it from the farmer's market? If so, that's great. If not, that's also great. You have other things to worry about this year. Stay frosty.

How to thaw a turkey

To be honest, this is probably the most important part of making Thanksgiving turkey. If you don't thaw it completely, it won't cook evenly, plus not all of the meat will cook to a safe temperature to eat. And if you don't thaw it at all, you're ordering Thai food. So if you pay attention to nothing else on this page, please do note this:

If you buy a frozen turkey, or if you freeze your turkey after bringing it home from the store, you need to thaw it in the fridge for one full, 24-hour day per 5 pounds of bird.

That means if you have a 10 pound frozen turkey, that sucker's sitting next to your milk in the fridge for two full days, or 48 hours. Plan accordingly.

Also, speaking from tragic experience, while the turkey is thawing in the fridge you might consider putting some post-it messages on it for the benefit of any other well-meaning but turkey-illiterate members of your household: Do not move me! Do not put me on the counter! Do not put me in the freezer! I like it just where I am—hogging up all the room and making it impossible to put back the orange juice! Leave me be until Thanksgiving morning!

How to prep a turkey for roasting

A few things need to happen before you put the bird in the oven: You have to pull out the neck and gizzards (sorry), you have to season the bird and you have to truss up the legs so they don't flop to the sides and cook slower than the breast.

Here's how to prep your turkey for the oven, step by step.

Let the turkey sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Unwrap and pat dry with paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Remove the neck and gizzards. Here comes the gross part. Be strong: You've survived the 2020 election, you can get through this.

Most supermarket turkeys have the neck and gizzards tucked inside the bird. To remove them, you need to reach inside the cavity, up toward the neck, and pull them out.

If your turkey's legs are bound with a plastic truss, you'll first need to slip one of the drumstick ends out of its noose. This may be slippery and difficult (like giving a newborn a bath) but if you're a parent you've done harder things (like giving a newborn a bath). Once one of the legs is pulled to the side, you can reach inside the bird and feel around for anything that feels, well, not like a bird's rib cage: that's probably either the neck or the little pouch filled with gizzards. Get them both. Use a flashlight if you have to.

Some people will tell you to save the neck for making turkey gravy. I am not that person. You can make delicious gravy from drippings without holding on to some gross old turkey neck. Again, it's 2020. Let's not go crazy here.

Once you've got the innards out, put the turkey into the roasting pan and move on to the next steps.

Season the turkey. I like to make a mixture of salt, pepper, fresh chopped herbs, and room temperature butter and just slather the bird all over with it, both under the skin and on top. I use about a stick of softened butter, a teaspoon each of pepper and coarse kosher salt, and a couple tablespoons of chopped thyme, rosemary, parsley...use whatever herbs you like. I also like to put a peeled and quartered onion inside the cavity of the bird, along with a bay leaf or two. Once that's all done, sprinkle the skin with salt and pepper.

After the bird is about halfway done and there's a layer of sizzling drippings in the pan, I usually quarter another onion and put another bay leaf right into the pan alongside the bird, to flavor the drippings for gravy. This is not required. You do you.

A word of caution: Please do not stuff your turkey. Certainly not the first time you make one, and maybe not ever. Many many food experts, all wiser minds than my own, have weighed in on why stuffing a turkey is a.) gross (who wants to eat slimy stuffing?) b.) unsafe (stuffing the cavity makes the bird take longer to cook, plus you have to make sure the stuffing reaches a safe temperature) and c.) responsible for a lot of people thinking turkey is hard to roast, because cooking the stuffing to a safe temperature means keeping the bird in the oven until the breast meat is totally dried out. The solution: Make the stuffing on the side and drizzle some gravy or broth over it.

Truss the turkey legs. If your turkey came with a plastic truss, your job here is simple: Fit the bony tip of the drumstick back through the noose, which will pull the legs back in toward the breast. If you don't have a plastic truss, or you threw it away without realizing it was important, or you cut through it in a panic to get the gizzards out, you can still tie the legs together with kitchen twine, making a figure-eight around the drumstick ends to pull them tightly together, then tying in a simple knot and trimming the ends of the twine. Tuck the wing tips under the body as well, to keep them from browning too early.

Now your turkey is ready for the oven.

How to roast a turkey

Cover the turkey with a loose tent of aluminum foil.

Place your oven rack in the lower part of the oven, with extra room between the lower rack and middle rack.

Put the turkey in its roasting pan in the oven on the lowest rack. If you're using one of the floppy, thin foil roasting pans from the supermarket, you may want to put a thin cookie sheet underneath the roasting pan to make it easier to move in and out of the oven.

Roast the turkey at 375 degrees for about 2 ½ to 3 hours (10-12 minutes per pound), until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees F.

While the turkey is roasting:

  • Baste the turkey breast about once every 30 minutes. Try to baste quickly so that the oven doesn't lose heat—about 5 squirts per basting should do it.
  • If the pan juices run dry, add a half cup of broth and a few tablespoons of butter to the pan for basting.
  • Remove the foil and rotate the pan halfway through, or after the turkey has been in the oven 1 1/2 hours.
  • Check the turkey's temperature after it's been in the oven for 2 hours, then check about every 20 minutes thereafter, until the temperature at the thickest part of the thigh reads 165.
  • Do not trust the little red button.

How to carve a turkey

Let the turkey rest under foil for 20 minutes.

Move the turkey to a carving board or serving platter to carve. Or, you can carve it right in the pan and arrange the pieces on a serving platter, which saves you the hot, slippery, nail-biting gamble of moving a heavy, roasted bird.

I like to start with cutting the leg and thigh, because the dark meat is moister and denser than the light meat of the breast and can stand a few more minutes on the serving platter without drying out. For the same reason I also like to carve just one side at a time and leave the rest on the bone until everybody's ready for seconds, or until you're ready to start packing up leftovers.

Remove the leg. First, cut whatever you used to truss the legs. Then use your fingers to pull the drumstick slightly away from the body, which should loosen the skin and thigh joint. Insert the tip of your knife into the thigh joint (start at the top of the crease between the leg and the body and angle the knife in) and cut through the ligaments to separate the joint. Move the leg to a cutting board and separate the drumstick from the thigh by inserting the tip of your knife into the joint and cutting through again.

Carve the drumstick. It's hard to get neat slices of meat off a drumstick, so don't sweat the aesthetics and consider this your warmup round. Hold the drumstick upright by the bone end, so that the meaty part is on the cutting board, and slice downward at a slight angle to the bone. Turn and repeat. Use your fingers to pick off any extra bits. Go ahead. It's family. They'll never know.

Carve the thigh. Lay the thigh flat on a cutting board. Figure out where the bone is by finding the joints on both ends; the bone runs straight through. Then cut through the meat parallel to the bone at a downward angle.

Carve the breast. There are two ways to do this: The on-the-bird way and the off-the-bird way. I happen to prefer the off-the-bird method because it makes thicker, neater slices to serve, but the on-the-bird method is the one most people are familiar with.

For either method, your first step is this: Nestle your knife edge into the crevice between the wing and the body, with the flat edge of the knife facing up, and make a long, deep cut straight in, toward the breastbone.

Next, to carve on the bird, start at the breastbone and carve thin slices down toward the thigh. Imagine the rib cage and angle your knife parallel to that. (That first cut you made across the breast will make the slices come off easier—see?)

To carve the off-the-bird way, make a perpendicular cut along the breastbone from the top all the way down to the bottom. You can then remove the turkey breast entirely with a carving fork, put it on a cutting board, and cut it into slices.

Repeat on the other side. And remember, it's okay to use your fingers if you need to, because #2020.

How to make pan gravy (extra credit)

You could decide to serve pre-made gravy or gravy from broth—again, this year has already been hard enough, so do what's easiest for you. But if you want to make really tasty pan gravy from scratch, you have the key ingredient sitting right in your roasting pan: drippings!

First, pour the drippings into a measuring cup or bowl, let it settle for a minute, and use your baster to skim off as much fat from the surface of the liquid as you can, reserving that fat in another bowl or measuring cup.

Position your roasting pan over two burners and turn them both on medium-low (if you used a thin, aluminum, one-time-use roasting pan, you'll need to use a heavy-bottomed saucepan over one burner for this part).

Pour about two tablespoons of reserved fat into the pan (or butter, if you weren't able to skim much fat off the top), and then add two tablespoons of flour. Cook the flour in the fat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the liquid starts to thicken and the flour starts to smell toasty and look golden brown.

Add the drippings back into the pan, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon, and cook while stirring until the mixture is smooth, about a minute.

Gradually whisk in two cups of broth (either turkey or chicken broth), bring to a boil, and simmer for 3 minutes until thickened, whisking and whisking until it's all smooth and flavorful and delicious.

If you don't like lumpy gravy you can pour it through a strainer before serving. Now go eat.

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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.

$159.99

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. 🙌)

$9.99

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.

$9.99

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.

$14.99

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.

$29.99

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.

$7.99

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.

$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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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?

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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
@9_fingers_/Twenty20

As a mom, I say the phrase 'let me just…' to my kids more times a day than I can count.

Yes, I can help you log into your class, let me just send this email.
Yes, I can play with you, let me just make one more call.
Yes, I can get you a snack, let me just empty the dishwasher.

I say it a lot at work, too.

Yes, I can write that article, let me just clear my inbox.
Yes, I can clear my inbox, let me just finish this meeting.
Yes, I can attend that meeting, let me just get this project out the door.

The problem is that every 'let me just' is followed by another 'let me just'... and by the time they're all done, the day is over, and I didn't do most of the things I intended—and I feel pretty bad about myself because of it.

I wasn't present with my kids today.
I didn't meet that deadline.
I couldn't muster the energy to cook dinner.
The house is a mess. I am a mess. The world is a mess.

It's okay, I tell myself. Let me just try again tomorrow.

But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes and the list of things I didn't get to or didn't do well bears down on my shoulders and my heart, and all I can think is, "I am failing."

And I think that maybe I'm not alone.


Every mother I talk to these days, whether she has one child or five, whether she is a working mom or a stay-at-home-mom, whether she's homeschooling or not—feels like she is failing—no mother has it easy right now (or ever has, for that matter).

For working moms, the constant struggle is feeling like we are letting everyone down: our kids, our partner, our co-workers, our boss...and ourselves? We're not even on the list of priorities.

But mama, it's not our fault.

Society is not set up to support us—it wasn't before the pandemic and it certainly isn't now. The infrastructure we live in makes it unrealistic to get through the day accomplishing all the things we set out to do. The pandemic means that the resources and support we did have—the daycare, the grandparents, the steady flow of income—are gone for many of us. To put it plainly, it is impossible to get everything done.

Let me say it again: It is impossible to get everything done.

And speaking of which, let's talk about the 'everything.' The expectations placed on mothers are ridiculous. Our society prioritizes progress and work above presence and rest, and it's infiltrated our sense of worth—we feel guilty for everything. We go to bed at night focused on all the things we didn't do, and all the ways we let people down, rather than focusing on all the good we did.

But the thing is, there is so much good. Look at us! Seriously, look at what we are accomplishing every day.

It's not pretty or graceful, but my goodness, we are getting it done—during a pandemic, in a society that doesn't show us that we are important. Without resources, without help, without the security that we are going to be okay. We. Are. Getting. It. Done. I'm not sure anything could be further away from failure.

So here is what I vow to myself (and to my children and mamas everywhere):

I am going to do the best I can. Sometimes my best is exceptionally executed work projects, and sometimes my best is telling my boss that I need to take a mental health day. Sometimes my best is a magnificent day of virtual learning and home cooked meals, and sometimes it's missed assignments and cereal for dinner. I am going to allow space for all of it.

I am going to be gentler with myself, even if just a little. When my self-judgment flares and the words "I failed again" start to run through my head, I am going to place my hand on my heart, and say, "Shh. No, mama. You didn't fail. You did the best you could under ridiculous circumstances. You are worthy. You are good."

Let me just remember how hard I work every day.
Let me just acknowledge the unprecedented challenges we are facing.
Let me just love myself.
Let me just trust that I am enough. The rest will fall into place.

For the mama who needs to remember that she is more than enough.

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Motherly "I Am Enough" cuff bracelet - adult

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'This is Motherhood'

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Remembering that we are not alone can change everything. This is Motherhood is a collection of stories and exercises that represent the breadth of the motherhood experience and show us that we really are all in this together.

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Work + Motherhood