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Childcare is essential for parents—but the industry is in danger

There are 20 million kids under age 5 in this country, the majority of which normally receive some amount of paid care. We can't let this industry collapse.

childcare relief coronavirus pandemic

Parents—especially moms—are stressed about child care. Worried about how much longer they will have to juggle steak knives in navigating the compression of work and family. Worried about whether their kid's daycare will still even exist when it's time to go back. Worried about what happens if school doesn't open in the fall but their workplaces do.

Now there's something parents can do about it.

A coalition of 17 major childcare organizations have come together to launch ChildCareRelief.org, an effort with the singular purpose of ensuring the childcare industry gets dedicated funding when Congress comes back to negotiate the next round of federal aid in response to the pandemic. Childcare is the actual backbone of the American economy. Childcare advocates are asking for at least $50 billion.

This level of funding would be a stark contrast from the CARES Act, in which childcare got only $3.5 billion (compare this to the airline industry, which got $25 billion), while many care providers were boxed out of receiving small business loans.

And it's not going to happen without parents blowing up their Representatives' and Senators' phone lines.

This isn't just about care for infants and toddlers. A large number of childcare providers serve school-aged children since the school day is laughably misaligned with the work day. For instance, a full third of children who benefit from childcare subsidy dollars—nearly 450,000 kids—are ages 6 to 12. With child cares opening on a very different timeline than schools, and with many summer camps closed, childcare providers may become critically important sources of care and education for elementary schoolers. In other words, you don't have to have a kid in diapers for your life to be impacted by the disintegration of America's childcare system.

It's difficult to overstate the size of the parent constituency. There are 20 million kids under age five in this country, the majority of which normally receive some amount of paid care. Another 27 million children are between ages 5 and 11, many of whom rely on child care before and after school. Count up the parents and grandparents of those 47 million kids (to say nothing of the aunts and uncles and godparents and…), and you've got a force to be reckoned with.

Parents are like the water built up behind a dam, a lake of potential energy waiting to be unleashed with enough power to literally reshape entire landscapes. And it's time to break-dam-in-case-of-emergency. It's mama bear time. It's papa bear time. It's time to channel all that pent-up stress.

Someone is messing with your kids. Here's how you stop it:

Elected officials are creatures of incentive, and if parents don't get up in arms when their daycares get scraps, there isn't much of an incentive to change course.

Text CARE to 747-464, or call 1-888-523-8974, and get connected to your Congresspeople. Tell them you expect and demand that childcare receives at least $50 billion in dedicated funding (and ideally the $100 billion that would both rescue the industry and start building a better one—the system certainly wasn't working before coronavirus!). Tell them you will be watching, and your vote in November will hinge on them getting this done.

Then sic grandma and grandpa on them. This is also a time to rally the troops through all those parent Facebook groups and text chains. Parent social networks are strong, and they offer a real chance to add on action steps to the (invaluable!) sharing of tips and clothes and vents. The beauty of this particular topic is that it veers away from the big-P Political: supporting childcare is among the most bipartisan and uncontentious of questions.

To say parents are busy right now is like saying that it's inconvenient to have all the playgrounds closed: an almost insulting understatement. As the father of a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old, I am acutely aware of the demands on parental time. Taking the time to save childcare, however, is how we carve a path ahead to some semblance of balance, even if the scales look rather different for a while. Let Congress hear the parents of America roar.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But, a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4 year old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year...

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keeping an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Following children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

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

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12 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

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

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.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop 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.

$100

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

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

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$189

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

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.

$33

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.

$88

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In Montessori schools, parents are periodically invited to observe their children at work in the classroom. I have heard many parents express shock to see their 3- or 4-year-old putting away their own work when they finish—without even being asked!

"You should see his room at home!" or, "I ask him to put his toys away every day, and it's a battle every single time" were frequent comments.

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