19 easy ways to feel happier this winter

'The Winter of Our Discontent' is upon us.

happy woman in the snow

As the temperature continues to drop, the days continue to shorten and the pandemic rages on, I cannot help but be reminded of the title of a poem by William Shakespeare: Now Is the Winter of Our Discontent.

Because this pandemic-winter is going to be rough. The fear and uncertainty of COVID-19 are very much all around us, but now we need to deal with it during the winter, when many of our usual uplifting outlets won't be available to us.

While our physical health is certainly at the forefront of our concerns, our mental health needs attention, too. If you're dreading the months that lie ahead, know that you're not alone—but also know that there's good news: There are a lot of easy, inexpensive and science-backed ways we can improve our moods every day.

Now, the one hugely important caveat to remember is that there is a big difference between feeling a little down and having a mental health diagnosis such as depression or anxiety. Mental health diagnoses are medical issues—you do not have control over them, and they usually require the help of a trained professional. None of the "happiness boosting" tricks below are meant to cure mental illness—so if you are suffering, please, please seek help. You are not alone, and you are so deserving of support. Reach out to your health care provider, a therapist or visit a site like psychologytoday.com to get started. And if you ever feel like harming yourself or others, reach out for help immediately.

But if you are in need of an emotional boost, here are 19 easy ways to feel happier this winter:

1. Go to therapy.

I know I just said this—but it warrants repeating. Therapy is amazing; and it's not just reserved for people who have been diagnosed with an official mental health concern. Therapists help us deal with our very complex human brains and the emotions they induce—and who couldn't use a little assistance with that every now and then?

We see a dentist every six months and primary care physicians for check-ups every year; why should our mental health be any different?

Make an appointment with a therapist—even if you think you don't need one.

2. Eat chocolate.

Researchers have found that mindfully eating a piece of chocolate can improve your mood. Eating mindfully means being fully present in the experience, savoring the taste and smell and focusing on the deliciousness (all easy to do when it's chocolate).

So eat some chocolate. You're welcome.

3. Not a chocolate fan? Try these happiness-inducing foods instead.

Researchers have found that an amino acid called tryptophan makes it easier for our bodies to make and utilize serotonin, a chemical that makes us happy.

As I share here, tryptophan is contained in the following foods:

  • Salmon
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Turkey
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Milk
  • Soy
  • Spinach

The goods news is that most of these foods are pretty healthy for us, especially if eaten in moderation. So, plan your meals in such a way that you regularly incorporate these delicious and tryptophan-rich foods into your diet.

4. Exercise.

Can I be honest? I am not a huge fan of working out—at least not in the conventional sense of the term. So I am always a little bummed when I see it on yet another list of things I should do. Well, I used to get bummed out, I should say, until I redefined what working out means for me.

I will never love going to the gym or running. Not ever. But, I adore hiking. Getting lost in the woods for an hour is such a delight to me that I actually forget that my heart rate is up, my breathing is harder and my legs are burning. Low and behold, I have just worked out—and I loved it.

So, figure out how you love to move your body, and then do it—as often as you can. Not only will it help you stay healthy, but it will also help you sleep better and will give you a big release of endorphins, which will improve your mood a lot.

5. Laugh.

This one seems kind of obvious, but I think we very-serious grown-ups could all use the reminder; especially right now, when life is hard. Laughter is, of course, a marker of being in a good mood—but laugher can also help you elevate your mood if you're sad. So make a point of laughing every day. Cue up your favorite funny movie, call your hilarious friend or let yourself laugh at your toddler's silly antics.

6. Dance.

You are not imagining it—your mood really does improve after you have those spontaneous dance parties with your little one in the kitchen. So why not add even more of them to your day? In addition to feeling happier, dancing has been found to contribute to a healthier brain and of course, it's exercise. Win, win, win.

Need some music inspiration? Check out 50+ fun workout songs to motivate you, mama.

7. Call a friend.

The implications of friendship are amazing—it's been found that the quality of one's friendships impacts their overall physical health and longevity more than the quality of their marriage or partnerships!

And, friendship can impact your daily mood, too. Interacting with a friend makes you happier immediately–so give someone a call or plan an outdoor, socially distanced and masked visit.

8. Have an orgasm.

Orgasms release oxytocin, a hormone that can help make you feel happier. Whether with a partner or by yourself, have an orgasm, and feel the oxytocin wash over you,

9. Snuggle.

Orgasms aren't the only oxytocin-releasing things our bodies can do: Snuggling works too! So grab a kid, a partner, a pet or all three, snuggle up and get that oxytocin flowing.

10. Go outside.

Feeling connected to nature promotes a sense of well-being and happiness—so get outside, mama. Yes, it's cold, but even a few minutes will do you good: A lap around the block, a quick stroll in a nearby park or stepping out before bedtime to marvel at the stars. It all counts, and it's all beneficial.

11. Get a plant.

Nature's impact doesn't need to stop when you go back inside—it turns out that houseplants can make you happier, too! Whether you have one low maintenance succulent or an indoor-rainforest, plants can help you to feel calmer, in addition to potentially improving the air quality in your home.

Need some inspiration? Read about these 24 indoor plant decor ideas—from the nursery to kitchen.

12. Sleep.

There's a good chance you have a young child at home, which means that there's a really good chance that sleep eludes you at the moment. But, to the extent you can, try to get as much sleep as possible—not only does sleep itself boost your mood, it also gives you more energy to do the things you love during the day.

13. Make art.

Did you know that there is an entire branch of therapy focused on the impact of art? It's called art therapy, and it's awesomely effective. In addition to finding an art therapist near you (or online), try incorporating some art-making into your life. Painting, drawing, sculpting, scrapbook making—it's all great. And they key? It doesn't have to be "good;" besides, that's so subjective. Don't let your fear of 'not being artistic' stop you from, well, being artistic! There is so much benefit to making stuff, even if no one ever sees what you've made.

14. Set little goals.

Setting huge goals for yourself is awesome—but huge goals can take a while to achieve, and in the process, we can become hard on ourselves. So while you work towards those big goals, try to set some little, very attainable goals as well. Perhaps those little goals are steps within the big goals, or perhaps they are totally unrelated.

Here are a few little (yet totally awesome) goals you might consider:

  • Play with your child for 20 minutes uninterrupted every day for a week.
  • Go for a 5-minute walk every day.
  • Clean out the junk drawer.
  • Learn how to write your name in calligraphy.
  • Redecorate one wall in your home.

Or anything else you want that would feel great, even if it feels small. Remember that life is made of lots and lots of small moments—so you're small victory isn't actually small, after all.

15. Smell something lovely.

Scent can have a huge impact on our mental state. I always encourage my clients to incorporate scents into their birth plans, but there's no reason it needs to stop there! Find a way to bring the smells you love into your home: A diffuser with some essential oils, a wonderful smelling lotion and fresh flowers are all things to try.

16. Get a pet.

Dogs, cats and other animals have been found to have profound impacts on our moods—and if you're stuck at home during the pandemic, this might be the perfect time to go for it. But of course, getting a new pet is not a decision to go into lightly, so please, only get a pet if you're ready for the commitment they require.

17. Incorporate more routine into your day.

When I was a teenager, I was convinced that spontaneity was the key to happiness. Now that I'm an adult, I find that while an occasional unplanned occurrence is awesome, too many of them is actually pretty stressful. It turns out that science agrees. Routine can be instrumental in establishing a sense of calm and happiness (especially right now, when the world feels particularly chaotic). So sit down and create a routine for yourself and your family. You can even plan for spontaneity within the routine if you so desire!

18. Meditate.

Tons of research has shown that meditation can profoundly impact your happiness levels—so give it a try. Know this: There is no such thing as "being bad at meditating."

Not sure where to start? Check out this IG Live I did with Meditation Teacher, Josephine Atluri!

19. Get some sun.

There's a reason why so many people feel less happy in the winter: The lack of sunlight. Exposure to the sun's light makes us feel better, so in the winter when there is less sun, we really feel the consequences. Make a point of going outside during the day to soak in the rays that you can (wearing sunscreen still, please). You can also invest in a light box that brings artificial sun into your home!

You can't buy happiness. But you can buy beautiful items than can help.

Stroller gloves

stroller gloves

Venturing outside with your little one is so much easier when your hands are toasty warm. These (extremely soft gloves) attach to the stroller, so you can go from pushing to tending your little one without missing a beat—or losing a glove.


Marble Queen Pothos plant


Bringing plants into your home has never been easier—now you can order them online! I have a few pothos in my home and I love them. They are easy to maintain, grow well and add so much beauty to the decor.



sunday citizen comforter

Better sleep starts with a better comforter—and it doesn't get any better than Sunday Citizen. It feels even better than it looks, made of soft snug fabric on one side and microfiber on the other. Our team is very obsessed, and we think you will be, too.


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


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

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

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

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

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


Dr. Brown’s™ Breast Milk Collection Bottles

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


Breast Milk Storage Bags

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


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

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


Dr. Brown’s® Manual Breast Pump

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


Options+™ Anti-Colic Baby Bottle

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


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

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7 hacks for simplifying after-school snacks

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

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

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

1. Prep snacks on Sunday

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

2. When in doubt, go for fruit

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

3. Pair snacks with a dip

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

4. Have high-protein options readily available

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

5. Always keep the pantry stocked

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

6. Make cracker tartines

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

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

7. Pre-make smoothie pops

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

Family Foodies

15 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Stomp Racers

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


Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

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


Secret Agent play set


This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Stepping Stones


Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.


Sand play set

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

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


Sensory play set


Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Foam pogo stick


Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.




Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.


Hopper ball

Hopper ball

Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.


Pull-along ducks


There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Rocking chair seesaw


This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


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


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

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

MoMo Productions/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

The correlations between screen time and children's health

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

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

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

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

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

A novel look at screen time in adolescents

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

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

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

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

Children's health

Mom and gorilla bond over their babies at the zoo: ‘It was so beautiful’

The new mothers shared a special moment at a Boston zoo.

Franklin Park Zoo/YouTube

Motherhood knows no bounds.

When Kiki the gorilla spotted a new mom and baby visiting her habitat at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, she immediately took a liking to the pair. Emmelina Austin held her five-week-old son Canyon to the glass so Kiki could get a better look.

The gorilla spent nearly five minutes happily pointing and staring at baby Canyon.

Emmelina's husband captured the sweet moment on his phone, in a video that's now gone viral.

Mother shares unique maternal bond with gorilla (FULL VIDEO) www.youtube.com

Why was Kiki so interested in her tiny visitor? Possibly because Kiki's a new mom herself. Her fifth baby, Pablo, was born in October.

Near the end of the video, Kiki scooped up Pablo and held him close. The new moms held their baby boys to the glass and shared a special moment together: just a couple of mothers, showing off their little ones.

"When I walked into the zoo that day, I never could've imagined that we would have had that experience," Austin told ABC News. "It was so beautiful, and we walked out just over the moon."

We can't get enough of the sweet exchange. There's something special about sharing your little one with the world. Mothers of all ages, races–and it turns out, species–understand.

Our favorite viral mama + kid videos