Our favorite viral good news stories of 2020

Here are a few of the good news headlines we loved in 2020.

Our favorite viral good news stories of 2020
Elaine Baca/Facebook

This year wasn't an easy one for most of us. It was incredibly hard. There are hard things happening in the world right now as the coronavirus pandemic continues. We're not going to pretend like this is an easy time to be a parent, because it is not. It's okay to say you're not okay today. But it's also okay to allow yourself to enjoy the lighter moments of life because these moments are still happening inside our homes during the pandemic.

2020 was so hard, but there are still so many things that made us smile this year.

Here are a few of the good news headlines we loved in 2020:


The viral birth photos that celebrated a Black mother's midwifery birth

Elaine Baca/Facebook

In June, as news cameras were capturing history and Americans were taking to the streets to support the Black Lives Matter movement, photographer Elaine Baca had her camera lens aimed at the beginning of life that matters so much.

New mom Anya Jones welcomed her first child, a son, that month at the Gentle Beginnings Birth Center in Hurst, Texas and Baca documented the birth experience as other photographers were documenting Black Lives Matter protests throughout the country.

Baca's incredible photos told an incredible story. The photographs are a celebration of the beginning of a life and a story of hope for a family and a society.

"For me to be birthing another Black man into America right now, I feel privileged," Anya told Motherly. "We as a generation have to teach our kids that they do have a voice."

The toddler who went viral for thanking his mama (for absolutely everything)

Two-year-old Grey Meeker became a viral sensation in 2020 by uttering three little words over and over again: "Thank you, mama!"

His TikTok videos are all kind of the same and yet they never get old. Grey's mom hands him a plate of food, to which the adorably chubby-cheeked toddler inevitably replies, "Thank you, mama," clearly always delighted by the prospect of sitting down to a meal or snack.

We love how Grey brought so much happiness to this dreadful year.

She learned she was pregnant with quadruplets weeks after adopting 4 children!

ArLette Young/Go Fund Me

They went from a couple to a family of 11 in record time. Pennsylvania parents Maxine and Jake Young always wanted kids but were struggling with infertility issues when they decided to become foster parents. They got the call for an emergency foster placement of three siblings in 2017.

The children were young, just 4, 2 and 11 months old. A month later, the couple got another call. Their foster kids had a baby sister, and they picked her up from the hospital.

A couple months later, Maxine learned IVF had finally worked—and she was pregnant after years of trying.

"It was chaos," she tells WFMZ."We went from zero to five within less than a year."

Then in 2019, the children they were fostering became officially theirs via adoption, and a couple of months later, Maxine found out she was pregnant again...but this time she wasn't having one. She was expecting four more babies.

"I didn't even think that I could get pregnant without doing IVF [in vitro fertilization] or IUI [intrauterine insemination], which we had to do with our son. I remember texting [Jake] and was like, 'Oh my God,'" Maxine said.

The quads were born on July 31, 2020 and their parents are preparing to help them transition from the NICU to their home with their siblings. "Luckily, they're all doing really well, and we're really grateful," Maxine said.

This viral illustration highlights how the pandemic is impacting newly postpartum mamas 

The artist Spirit Y Sol touched so many mamas in 2020, letting art speak for the women who have had their postpartum experience changed so drastically by the pandemic. Through an essay and accompanying illustration Sol describes what was stolen from those currently in the fourth trimester.

"This is not what you had planned. This is not what you'd envisioned. There are no visits from friends, no loving doula bringing you soup, no "mommy and me" yoga classes, no coffee dates, no stroller walks through the park." Sol writes.

"But mama, know this—We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing."

Sol is right. We are in this together, mama. And we are here for you.

Viral poem 'For the Lockdown Babies' puts mamas' feelings into words 

Mother and blogger Gráinne Evans saw her art go viral this week after she wrote a poem that is striking a cord with so many mamas. It's called "For the Lockdown Babies" and it's being shared all over social media this week because Evans' words capture the experience of so many parents right now.

The poem is set in the future, when we're all explaining this time to the babies and little ones who won't remember it.

"Sure you were only a baby" I'll tell her when she asks,
About that time in photographs when everyone wore masks.
"You don't remember the chaos when the world was forced to rest."
"You had all you needed in my arms and at my breast"

"You never even noticed" I'll tell her then I'll say,
"I held you as the weeks went by, we took it day by day"
"We were safe and happy, right where we needed to be".
"I fed you snuggled in my arms, protecting you was key".

"You were only a tiny baby" I'll tell her and explain,
Why so many people were afraid, anxious and in pain.
"It wasn't always easy, those isolating newborn days,
But feeding you flooded me with love, got me through the haze".

"You were a lockdown baby" I'll tell her when it's time,
"I was your whole world back then, just as you were mine",
"And now, though it's just a memory, I still smile when I see,
A rainbow in a window, put there for you and me."

This baby's quarantine style birthday party is going viral 

So many events have been canceled because of the pandemic, and many first birthday parties are among them. For parents who were looking forward to celebrating their little one's first birthday with friends and family having to cancel the guest list is hard.

Mama Kylie Najjar was one of the many parents having to make the hard choice to cancel her baby's birthday party, but she decided to make it special by doubling down on the theme of social distancing.

Her baby's big day went viral because even in a difficult time like this pandemic, small moments still matter and can still make us smile.

This viral post highlights how our kids are 'little heroes' during this crisis 

In 2020 we found hope in anything we could, including in a viral post floating around that gave some credit where it is due: To our children.

Our kids have been champs during this crisis, as the post notes, "their little lives have been turned upside down...[but] every day they get up and carry on despite everything that is going on! Painting pictures, drawings to show their support to the heroes out there and to make other children walking past feel better!"

We see you, little heroes.

You're doing great and we are so proud of your resiliency!

Viral video shows even social distancing can't stop toddlers from 'socializing' 

Twitter user Toby Marriott went viral thanks to an 8 second clip of his nephew, "the friendliest toddler you'd ever meet." According to his uncle, this 3-year-old always says hello to anyone he meets on the street, but he's not running into any people on his daily walks these days...so he has to pretend.

"Hope this brightens up your day!" Marriott captioned a video of his nephew saying hello to an invisible friend. It's super cute and if we hang in there, one day this little guy will be able to say hello to his neighbors again.

Gabrielle Union's daughter is loving mama's natural quarantine hair

So many of us are going without our usual hair colors, cuts, treatments, extensions and styles these days as social distancing means visits to the salon are off the agenda.

Gabrielle Union is one of many mamas who reverted to a more natural hair situation during the quarantine, and from the looks of her Instagram photos, her daughter Kaavia James is loving the look as much as mama does.

"See @kaaviajames mama's got hair like yours!! When I took my braids out she was like 👀🤔 now mom & baby both rocking their natural curls ❤💜🖤 #QuarantineNaturalHairChronicles" Union captioned a photo of her with Kaavia.

Thank you, Gabrielle, for sharing your hair transformation with Kaavia and the world!

Dad's viral video proves that while isolation is hard on families, it can also be funny  😂

Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is so hard. It's a serious crisis that we at Motherly are taking seriously, but a viral video from a dad stuck working at home with his family reminds us that it's okay to laugh at the lighter moments during this difficult time.

Talent and Sports agent Jason Finegan is now working from home while his family isolates inside it, and he posted a hilarious video to Twitter.

"Day 10 and we've now cracked.. wife on her knees singing with kid in xmas clothing and dog going nuts," he captioned the clip that shows his wife, singer Rachel Adedeji singing along to Whitney Houston as their daughter (dressed like a Christmas elf) sits beside her. Eventually, the toddler and even the dog join in on the singing.

Many parents are laughing along with Finegan because they can relate. Days don't matter as much anymore. Kids are celebrating Christmas and Halloween on a random Thursday in April just because they want to. And mamas are singing to keep from cracking up.

This is hard. But it's okay to laugh, too.

This is the advice we need right now: Start + end the day with activities, have a 'mediocre middle'

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My friend called last night. Her 4 year old son was screaming, just screaming. She says: My life is hell right now. I’m trying to work and the only time I get a moment of peace I get all day and night is during TV Time. I say: Wait. Stop Did you just say the words: TV TIME? WHAT DO YOU MEAN “TV TIME?” Parents, Listen to me and listen good: “TV TIME” is for PEACE TIMES. You know what “TV TIME” is during the corona? TV time is ALLLL THE TIMES. ALL THE TIMES. ALL. . You know I love you and I always try to be gentle — but this: MOM SHAMING YOURSELF DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC IS WHERE I MUST DRAW THE LINE. IF YOU INSIST ON EDUCATING THE WEE ONES DURING HELL, HERE ARE YOU OPTIONS: Sit kids down. Turn on TV. Walk in after a few hours, mute the TV, turn on closed captions - Reading Lesson DONE. Yell: How many Daniel The Tiger episodes is this? They yell back: Seven! - Math lesson DONE. They yell: Can you turn it up? You yell back: TURN IT UP YOURSELF - Technology lesson: Done. They yell: Can I have some water? You yell back: Walk to the kitchen and get it yourself. Physical Education: DONE They whine: Mommy I’m tired of TV. You look them right in the eye and say: Listen to me, baby. Keep on keeping on. Don’t quit. You can do hard things- LESSON ON RESILENCE AND STICK-TO-IT-IVENESS: DONE. . To think of all of you depriving these children of these essential life lessons because of your own TV shame issues. It’s sad. Really sad. #GetUntamed

A post shared by Glennon Doyle (@glennondoyle) on

Glennon Doyle is a mom and a bestselling author, but she's also a former preschool teacher and had some excellent advice for parents during this challenging time. Back when she was teaching preschool she discovered her students only really concentrated on the first and last activities of the day. So she gave herself permission to have a "mediocre middle" and it worked.

"No matter what I did all day, the students only remembered the last thing we did," she says in a video posted to Instagram. "All of them. That's all they remembered. That's all they talked about to their parents."

She continues: "All you have to do is finish strong...I decided every day to start strong and finish strong and just have a big mediocre middle. One cool thing in the morning, one supercool thing last. Mediocre middle. Done and done."

According to Doyle, now is the time for all of us to lean into screen time if that's what we need to do. It's okay.

"After breakfast, read a book with them — that's starting strong," she says. "Then a quick seven-hour TV show. Then before dinner, turn off the TV and do something cool, something fun. Not Pinterest fun. Just easy fun. A board game, I Spy. That is finishing strong. Then dinner, then obviously another family show."

For a lot of us now is not about homeschooling, it's about surviving without school. And Doyle's advice is just what we needed to hear today.

Father of 5 James Van Der Beek's amazing homeschool hack 

James Van Der Beek is total #dadgoals and, like the rest of us, he's now tasked with not just being a parent but a teacher, too.

For Van Der Beek, who grew up with a learning challenge (specifically dyslexia) becoming a teacher has meant bringing back some of the tricks that helped him learn as a kid who didn't quite mesh with the standard classroom curriculums.

"Numbers. Being a #homeschool teacher has suddenly brought back all the weird tricks I taught myself in order to write numbers and letters correctly. And this deep into quarantine... I'm batty enough to share it. 🤗," he captioned an Instagram video this week.

In the video, Van Der Beek shows how he learned his numbers as a kid, by giving them personalities he could remember.

"One stands there alone," he explains, adding that 2 is always looking over at one because "three is trying to eat me" he says, making the number '3' with his fingers.

Instagram fans are loving these tips from the actor/dad.

"As a mom to a dyslexic son, I could not love this more!!! ❤️" one mama wrote.

The viral photo that inspiring people to thank their delivery drivers 

Delivery driver Tadashi Andrews found a pleasant surprise during his run in Glendale, Arizona when he came upon this box a household had set outside for delivery folks.

He snapped a pic and captioned it: "WE NEED MORE OF THIS!!! So. I'm a courier. I deliver to so many types of places everyday. Businesses, houses, apartments, hospitals, you name it, I'll deliver. This house I just left had this box on the porch. So thoughtful. So caring. In a time when people are panicking an[d] hoarding everything for no really good reason, these people are willingly giving it away. We need waaaaay more of this. Everyone needs to see this.... PS, I didn't need anything, so I didn't take anything. That's how we also need to be."

Andrews' Instagram comments blew up with people loving this idea and other delivery people and couriers chimed in to say what a great idea it is.

One commenter wrote: "I am a FedEx contractor and to be honest stuff like this is what makes us come to work every day no matter what!"

Some people are choosing to leave Lysol wipes and other sanitary supplies for the delivery workers or even just notes of appreciation.

Delivery workers are keeping our household's running right now and they certainly deserve thanks and respect.

The mom who went viral for running a 5:25 mile—at 9 months pregnant

Mike Myler/TikTok

Makenna Myler was nine months pregnant when a video of her running (shot by her husband, Mike) went mega -viral on TikTok. A clip of Myler running a 5:25 mile while super pregnant has now been viewed millions of times.

During her moment of viral fame Myler told Motherly that while internet commenters seemed very concerned about her pregnancy (she was fine, she was an elite runner before pregnancy and her doctor said it was okay to keep running), there's not as much concern for pregnant people who are say, working a physically demanding job in the third trimester, or live in countries where they have to walk miles and miles per day to get water for their families.

Talk about taking a good news story and using it for good!

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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.

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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?

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

It's science: Your blood pressure *before* you get pregnant could determine your baby's sex

It's not just chromosomes that help determine whether you're having a boy or girl.

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For centuries, mamas have been trying to predict the sex of their baby by assessing how they look, feel or carry. And then there's food—some mamas might believe their pregnancy cravings can either reveal or sway the result. But as far as accuracy is concerned, the interest is equal to the debate. (Spoiler alert: Absolutely none of these have been conclusively supported by robust scientific evidence.)

However, a more dependable way to predict a baby's sex was recently discovered.


While studying the health of prepregnant women as an indicator of a population's boy-girl ratio, researchers found a connection between a mama's blood pressure in the weeks before conception and the sex of her baby. Higher systolic blood pressure tended to result in boys, while lower blood pressure resulted in girls.

Systolic blood pressure is the top number in the reading that indicates the force your heart exerts on the walls of your arteries each time it beats (diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number that indicates the force in between beats).

In this new study, led by Dr. Ravi Retnakaran of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and published in the American Journal of Hypertension, 1,411 women in China who were planning to get pregnant were examined at about 26 weeks prior to getting pregnant.

The study results revealed that, for the women who went on to become pregnant, the higher their systolic blood pressure was at 26 weeks before pregnancy, the higher their chance was that they would deliver a boy.

On average, the 672 mamas who delivered girls had a systolic blood pressure of 103.3 mm Hg, versus the 106.0 mm Hg of the 739 mamas who delivered boys. The data also revealed that if a mama's systolic blood pressure got as high as 123 mmHg, her chance of having a boy was 1.5 times higher than of having a girl.

According to Dr. Retnakaran, "[This] suggests that a woman's blood pressure before pregnancy is a previously unrecognized factor that is associated with her likelihood of delivering a boy or a girl."

3 ways higher maternal blood pressure before pregnancy has emerged as a strong independent predictor of delivering a boy:

  1. Statistically, the difference in blood pressure was big (almost 3 mm Hg)—both before and after researchers adjusted for age, education, smoking, body mass index, cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose.
  2. As a predictor of a baby's sex, no other maternal characteristic was nearly as significant or consistent as systolic blood pressure before pregnancy.
  3. The difference in systolic blood pressure between future mothers of boys and girls was easily observed before mamas got pregnant—but was not evident during any trimester of their pregnancy.

Keep these limitations in mind:

  • The findings do not indicate that higher systolic blood pressure causes a mama to have a boy, but merely suggests that there is an association.
  • The study was performed in young, healthy Chinese women with normal weight and may not be applicable to other populations.
  • It has not been demonstrated that a mama can increase her chance of delivering a boy by deliberately raising her blood pressure (researchers caution against this).

No one actually knows how blood pressure may affect a baby's sex, but other studies indicate the early process in how the placenta is formed seems to be different, depending on the sex of the baby. Changes in a mama's vascular function are needed in early pregnancy to accommodate the increased blood flow required by the baby and placenta combined, so a mama's blood pressure potentially may be relevant to the early development of the placenta in a sex-specific manner.

Who knew when they set out to understand what underlies the human sex ratio that the researchers would discover a previously unrecognized factor associated with the likelihood of having a boy or girl? Only time can tell what implications this discovery may have on the future of reproductive planning.


Sources:

Brown ZA, Schalekamp-Timmermans S, Tiemeier HW, Hofman A, Jaddoe VW, Steegers EA. Fetal sex-specific differences in human placentation: a prospective cohort study. Placenta. 2014 Jun;35(6):359-64. doi:10.1016/j.placenta.2014.03.014

Retnakaran R, Wen SW, Tan H, Zhou S, Ye C, Shen M, Smith GN, Walker MC. Maternal blood pressure before pregnancy and sex of the baby: a prospective preconception cohort study. American Journal of Hypertension. 2017 Apr 1;30(4):382-8.doi:10.1093/ajh/hpw165]

Rosenfeld CS. Periconceptional influences on offspring sex ratio and placental responses. Reproduction, Fertility and Development, 2011;24(1):45-58. doi:10.1071/RD11906







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