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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.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

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

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My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!

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