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virtual ideas during coronavirus outbreak

Right now is a really challenging time for everyone. The news changes on a daily basis and stress levels continue to rise. We don't know for certain how things will end or what our new normal will be, but as we continue to stay indoors and work from home while taking care of kids, it's important to find time to do things we love.

Our single most important piece of advice to share with mamas is to continue to enjoy life while protecting others. Just because social distancing is in full effect, it doesn't mean your time indoors is doomed.

Here a list of virtual activities for you and your kid to enjoy while spending time at home:

1. Have a music session

In need of a free music session? Jam with Jamie is using its platform to bring people together through the magic of music. Enjoy virtual jam sessions for kids—both live streams and pre-recorded classes and other surprises from their talented performers across the nation.

2. Take a trip to the Zoo

The Cincinnati Zoo may be closed to the public at the moment, but it's open online for animal-lovers. The new program, "Home Safari Facebook Live," is a Facebook live segment that shows viewers how zoologists care for animals at the zoo. Log on weekdays at 3 pm.

3. Read a book with an author

Frozen actor Josh Gad is tucking kids in at night with bedtime stories. Every night the actor is reading to little ones on Twitter. "I'll try to provide at least 10 minutes of day care to you and your families a night while we're going through this unprecedented global event," said the father of two. Also, Mac Barnett, author of The Magic World and How This Book Was Made is reading picture books to kids each weekday starting at noon pacific time.

4. Have virtual play dates with grandma

Caribu, a video-calling app, is offering free services with unlimited access during this time. Create an account to enjoy stories, games and even coloring activities during a video call with friends and family.

5. Take a Disney ride + class

While hoping on a Disney ride is out of the question, little ones (and you too, mama) can enjoy YouTube videos of the experience. To be fair, it's not quite the real thing, but if you zoom in and place yourself there, you can truly enjoy the moment. Our favorite virtual rides include Alice in Wonderland, The Little Mermaid, Frozen Ride and Mystic Manor.

If you're still craving the Disney experience, you can learn to draw your favorite characters at home. Disney recently complied a list of of free drawing classes taught by Disney artists and animators. Here's to finally learning to draw Mickey and Elsa!

6. Draw with Mo Willems

Mo Willems, the Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence, is offering free lunch doodle sessions as he guides you through drawing activities using one of his favorite characters as inspiration. "When I became the Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence, I didn't realize the most impactful word in that title would be," he says. "With millions of learners attempting to grow and educate themselves in new circumstances, I have decided to invite everyone into my studio once a day for the next few weeks." We love it!

7. Listen to Opera

If you're into opera, you're in luck. The Metropolitan Opera will be streaming presentations from its Live in HD series on the company website and will continue to do so until it opens to the public. "We'd like to provide some grand opera solace to opera lovers in these extraordinarily difficult times," said Met General Manager Peter Gelb.

8. Take a fitness class

Stay strong and healthy during the outbreak for free with Tone It Up. New members can enjoy free on-demand fitness training, including live classes and 10 to 40-minute workout videos for the first month. Still need a bit more? Head to Peloton App for a free 90-day subscription trial for its at-home workout app. No, it's not the Peloton bike, but you'll enjoy a host of yoga, stretching, strength training, and other classes that are just as good.

9. Listen to poetry

Next Sunday and every weekend moving forward, Bowery Poetry will livestream their "No Desk Poetry Concert" from 4 pm to 7 pm on its Instagram feed. "We'll live stream & 'pass the mic' from person to person, from the safety of our homes! We will oblige the social distance suggestions and use our poems to connect," they said.

10. Try a cooking class

Delish launched an Instagram Live series teaching mamas and kids super fun and easy recipes they can make together as an indoors activity. The session is hosted by editorial director Jo Saltz and her own children, and features kid friendly recipes with a Delish twist such as pizza waffles and puppy chow. Episodes will air each weekday at 1:00pm ET and last 15-20 minutes.

11. Learn a new language

Duolingo is a free online language learning program that's built to feel like a game. Users can learn over 30 languages as they compete with each other as they learn. Lessons are "bite-sized" which means they can be picked up in 5 minutes at a time.

12. Stream free stories

Who doesn't love a free audiobook? For as long as schools are closed, Audible will allow you to stream kid stories, including titles across six different languages. All stories are free to stream on your desktop, laptop, phone or tablet.

13. Quilt a blanket

The American Quilter's Society (AQS), provides online quilting classes on their iquilt platform, which can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home via computer or smartphone. AQS is now offering a promotion code, which provides users with one free online class of their choosing. To redeem, enter "IQUILTFREE" at checkout. Imagine all of the t-shirt quilts you can make with your old t-shirts!

14. Enjoy a singalong

Sing along with Celeste Cortright, author of The More We Get Together, and learn ways to "get together" from a distance with Barefoot Books.

15. Watch the northern lights

Explore.org and Polar Bears International are live streaming the northern lights from the Churchill Northern Studies Center in Manitoba, Canada. Tune in during the darkest hours of the night (about 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. EDT) to experience the lights and a scientific overview.

16. Take a Taekwondo class

Preschoolers (and you too, mama) will enjoy short lessons taught by Excel Taekwondo on Korean martial art, characterized by its emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks and fast kicking techniques.

17. Read with role models

Ready to give your kids a new reading experience? Beginning Tuesday, March 31, Hullabaloo Book Company in partnership with Chronicle Kids Books, will have leaders like doctors, pilots, firefighter, biologist, and many more read children's books that feature lessons on kindness, bravery, emotional intelligence, STEM, imagination and cultural awareness. Join them every Tuesday and Thursday at 3pm EST at hullabaloobookco.com.

As much as I love fall, it always feels like the season when my family's routine gets kicked into overdrive. With our oldest in (homeschool) kindergarten, my youngest on the brink of entering her twos, work, housework and *all the things* filling my day, it's hard not to feel a little overwhelmed sometimes. Did I mention we're still in a pandemic? (Yeah, it's a lot.) And while I try to take a positive view as much as I can, now more than ever I definitely jump at the chance to take anything off my busy plate.

One thing first in line at the chopping block? Cooking. To be fair, I like cooking. I cooked most of our meals long before I had ever even heard of social distancing. But there's something about the pandemic that suddenly made cooking every single meal feel exponentially more draining.

Enter Daily Harvest. They deliver nourishing, delicious food right to your door. Daily Harvest's mix of smoothies, bowls, flatbreads, snacks and more provide a balanced, whole food options that are as satisfying as they are nutritious. But my favorite part? When we're ready to eat, I simply pull the food from the freezer and it's ready in minutes—without any chopping, measuring or searching for a recipe. Even better, they're incredibly tasty, meaning I'm not struggling to get my girls to dig in. Not cooking has never felt so good.

Here are my 8 favorite products that are helping to lighten my load right now:

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

One thing that actually helps break up the monotony of quarantine? Trying and introducing new ingredients to my family. I love this overnight oat bowl (add milk the night before and let it set in your fridge overnight—easy-peasy!) because not only does it not compromise on nutrition, but it also helps me bring new whole fruits, vegetables and superfoods to the table with ease.

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

I kid you not, these taste exactly like a mint chocolate chip milkshake. (Just ask my 4-year-old, who is constantly stealing sips from my glass.) What she doesn't know? She's actually getting organic banana, spinach and chlorella with every sip. #momwin

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Our family's eating habits have been leaning more plant-forward this year, which often means a lot of veggie washing, peeling and chopping every time I cook. That's why these flatbreads are my new best friend come lunchtime. This Kabocha + Sage Flatbread is made with a gluten-free cauliflower crust topped with kabocha squash, fennel and sage for a taste of fall in every bite. (Missing the cheese? You can add it before baking for more of a pizza feel.)

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

There's something about the combination of sweet potato crust topped with red cabbage, organic greens and an herby-cilantro sauce that is so delicious… like surprisingly delicious. I polished off this bad boy in seconds! And unlike other "veggie" crusts I've tried, these are actually clean (AKA no fillers, preservations, partially-hydrogenated oil or artificial anything). Plus, it couldn't be easier to throw in the oven between conference calls and homeschool lessons.

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Any time I get to serve a breakfast that tastes like chocolate, it's a good day. (That goes double when it's *my* breakfast.) This rich, chocolatey smoothie is packed with organic zucchini, avocado, pumpkin seeds and pea protein for a nourishing mix of healthy fats and muscle-building protein so I can carry that baby all day long. And did I mention the chocolate?

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Maybe it's just me, but after a long week of cooking, the last thing I want to do on Saturday morning is...wake up and cook. That's why these one-step breakfasts are saving my weekend. I simply add our favorite milk the night before and store the bowl in the fridge overnight. Come morning, I have a nutritious chia bowl that powers me through even the busiest day of errands. It's also Instagram-ready, which makes me feel like I'm out brunching (even if I can't remember the last time I was in a restaurant).

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

My kids have turned into snack monsters during quarantine, and I'm often struggling to find a wholesome option (that doesn't require a lot of extra cooking or else I resort to something ultra-refined and shelf-stable). These bites are the hero I never knew I needed. For one, they taste like cookie dough, but they're actually packed with chickpeas, pumpkin, dates and flax seed (among other whole ingredients). But unlike actual cookie dough, I don't have to go anywhere near my mixer to whip them up—all I have to do is pull the container out of the freezer, let them defrost a bit and we can all enjoy a treat.

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Sometimes I have a little more time to cook, but I still want a quick, stress-free solution. (Especially because it always feels like I just cleaned up from the last meal.) I love these Harvest Bowls because they warm up in under five minutes on the stove top (or microwave!) but pack tons of flavor. The Cauliflower Rice + Pesto bowl is one of my favorites, with basil, olive oil and nutritional yeast for a hearty dish reminiscent of a mouth-watering Italian meal. When I'm feeling extra fancy, I add leftover grilled chicken or a fried egg.

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Who doesn't want to end the day with a little something sweet? This creamy and decadent frozen treat from Daily Harvest is swirled with sweet berries and tropical dragonfruit for an antioxidant burst you'll feel good about—but that your kiddos will just think is ice cream. Go ahead, take credit for being the best mom ever.

Want to try it yourself? You can get $25 off your first box of Daily Harvest with code MOTHERLY.

This article was sponsored by Daily Harvest. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas

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This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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