Pediatricians say play is the medicine our kids need

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It brings a smile to their faces and ours, while lowering stress and building little brains. Play is such an important part of childhood, but opportunities for play in modern life are shrinking, and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests they need to grow so our kids can grow, too.

In 2018 the AAP published a clinical report stressing the importance of play in child development and urging parents to play with their children every day.

The report suggests pediatricians should offer a prescription for play to new parents, advising moms and dads to make time for playtime, and suggesting schools do the same. "I think we're continuously learning that play is really essential for kids — it's not just an afterthought or an accessory," Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor in the psychology department at Temple University and one of the report's lead authors told AAP News.

A growing body of research on the subject shows that play—and the bonds we build when we play with our kids—helps kids learn important skills, leads to changes in neuronal connectivity, encourages prosocial behavior and protects kids from toxic stress.

"Collaboration, negotiation, conflict resolution, self-advocacy, decision-making, a sense of agency, creativity, leadership, and increased physical activity are just some of the skills and benefits children gain through play," the report's authors explain, noting that the science suggests play also leads to brain changes at the molecular and cellular levels.

"Play is really brain-building, and we tried to give examples of how play enhances the structure and function of the brain," says Dr. Michael W. Yogman, M.D., FAAP, a lead author of the report and chair of the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, according to AAP News.

Yogman and the report's other authors point to animal studies as well as real-world studies of children's behavior in the report. One of the studies referenced involved 3 and 4-year-olds who were nervous about starting preschool. Half the kids were assigned a 15 minute play session while the other half listened to an adult read a story. The group that got to play showed a two-fold decrease in anxiety.

Another study of preschoolers exhibiting disruptive behavior found that when they were assigned one on one playtime with an adult (who allowed them to take the lead in play while narrating the children's behavior out loud and discussing emotions as they played) the kids' salivary cortisol stress levels went down and their behavior improved.

Early play with parents builds baby's brain architecture

The pediatricians are advocating for more playtime in schools, but they also want parents to include more playtime at home, and this should start way before school does.

"This evolution begins in the first three months of life, when parents (both mothers and fathers) interact reciprocally with their infants by reading their nonverbal cues in a responsive, contingent manner. Caregiver–infant interaction is the earliest form of play, known as attunement, but it is quickly followed by other activities that also involve the taking of turns," the report's authors write.

As Harvard University's Center on The Developing Child has previously pointed out, this kind of parental play known as "serve and return" builds the foundation of baby's brain architecture. It starts so simply with babies pointing at something or looking at something, serving up us parents and opportunity to engage with them by returning their interest. Games like peek-a-boo or point-and-name can happen any time, anywhere, giving little brains an opportunity to grow while bonding with mom or dad.

From peek-a-boo to problem solving

The authors of the AAP's report note that in the second year of a child's life, play becomes more complex. As our kids grow, we move on from those serve-and-return interactions into a whole host of interactive games and activities.

"Fantasy play, dress up, and fort building now join the emotional and social repertoire of older children just as playground activities, tag, and hide and seek develop motor skills. In play, children are also solving problems and learning to focus attention, all of which promote the growth of executive functioning skills," they explain.

Some parents love getting down on the floor to play pretend with their kids, but for some it can be hard to prioritize play when you've also got a huge to-do list to tackle.

Dr. Yogman suggests parents should see playtime not as a thief of time, but as a chance to "re-experience the joy of their own experiences in childhood play...and to notice the kind of nonverbal cues that their kids display during those … experiences, which are really critical to improving their interactions and their relationships with their children," he told AAP News.

Basically, making a fort or playing dress up is good for both of you.

You don't have to get fancy

The AAP's experts aren't suggesting parents blow the budget on toys—in fact, it's just the opposite. Dr. Yogman suggests the stuff you've already got around the house—wooden spoons, blocks, balls, puzzles, crayons and cardboard boxes—is enough to enhance playtime. "Sometimes simple objects with the least accoutrements allow kids to really be creative about how they're using them," Yogman explains via AAP News.

Get outside with your kids

The report notes that while "outdoor play provides the opportunity to improve sensory integration skills," a lot of families don't get enough time outside these days.

"A national survey of 8,950 preschool children and parents found that only 51% of children went outside to walk or play once per day with either parent," the AAP's experts note. Concerns over the safety of outdoor spaces was one reason parents did not engage in outdoor play with their children, but if you've got access to a safe neighborhood playground or a backyard space, getting outside and playing with your child invites all kids of opportunities for sensory development and bonding.

A cultural shift

The AAP's prescription for play is actually a prescription for a cultural shift. The report's authors note that demanding parental work schedules, fewer safe places for outdoor play, more screen-based media and a shrinking opportunities for play at school are having a negative impact on a generation of kids.

"These factors may negatively affect school readiness, children's healthy adjustment, and the development of important executive functioning skills," the report's authors note.

There is a silver lining though, and we are it. Parents can make a huge difference, even if we don't have as much time for play as we would like. We can make play a priority every day, and even bring play into everyday activities to make the most of the time we do have with our kids.

Dr. Yogman says even a trip to the grocery store can be a playful bonding experience that builds little brains. "Giving kids the opportunity to, say, count the apples in the supermarket. Those are the kinds of joyful experiences [that are good] for kids as opposed to just sitting tacitly in their shopping cart," Yogman tells AAP News.

Those are also the kinds of joyful experiences that make memories.

[Correction: August 21, 2018: Clarified attribution of quotes to AAP News.]

[A version of this post was originally published August 20 2018. It has been updated.]

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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

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Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

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Gabrielle Union + Dwyane Wade have been blended family goals, an inspiration to those struggling with infertility and now they are an inspiration to parents of trans kids and supporters of trans rights.

Earlier this month Wade appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and spoke about his 12-year-old daughter Zaya coming out as transgender and Union posted a beautiful video + caption to Instagram, inviting fans to "meet Zaya."

This week Wade appeared on Good Morning America, explaining that Zaya has known she was transgender since she was 3 years old.

"Zaya has known it for nine years," the proud dad said on GMA, adding that he credits Zaya (who was assigned as male at birth) with educating him and helping him grow.

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"I knew early on that I had to check myself... I've been a person in the locker room that has been a part of the conversation that has said the wrong phrases and the wrong words myself," he told GMA's Robin Roberts. "My daughter was my first interaction when it comes to having to deal with this conversation...Hopefully I'm dealing with it the right way... Inside our home we see the smile on my daughter's face, we see the confidence that she's able to walk around and be herself and that's when you know you're doing right."

It sure seems like Wade and Union have been doing it right. When Union posted a video to Instagram earlier this month introducing Zaya it was clear the tween's dad and step-mom have her back.

In the video Zaya is riding in a golf cart with her dad and dropping wisdom. She says: "Just be true to yourself, because what's the point of even living on this earth if you're going to try to be someone you're not?...Be true and don't really care what the 'stereotypical' way of being you is."

Union was so impressed by her step-daughter, captioning the video: "She's compassionate, loving, whip smart and we are so proud of her. It's Ok to listen to, love & respect your children exactly as they are. Love and light good people."

Later in the week Union addressed criticism of Zaya's transition on Twitter, writing: "This has been a journey. We're still humbly learning but we decided quickly w/ our family that we wouldn't be led by fear. We refuse to sacrifice the freedom to live authentically becuz we are afraid of what ppl might say. U have the ability to learn & evolve."

Zaya's big brother is also on her side. Newly 18-year-old Zaire posted the cutest throwback pic from when he and Zaya were just little kids, noting how the siblings were and are best friends.

"Man, I remember bugging my mom as a kid telling her I wanted a brother so bad. I was the only child looking for company and someone to look after and take care of," Zaire began his caption. "I have been blessed to have my best friend, Zaya with me for 12 years. We did everything together … we fought, we played, we laughed and we cried. But the one thing we never did was leave each other behind."

Zaire continued: "I've told you that I would lay my life down to make sure you are ten toes down and happy on this earth," he told his younger sibling. "I don't care what they think Z, you are my best friend and I love you kid, and if it means anything, just know there's no love lost on this side ✊🏾"

We are so impressed and inspired by the love Zaya's family is showing her (and other kids by sharing this story publicly). You've got this Zaya!

[A version of this story was posted February 12, 2020. It has been updated.]

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Back in August the the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Contigo announced the recall of millions of Contigo Kids Cleanable water bottles—about 5.7 million of them.

Now, the CPSC and Contigo are recalling millions of water bottles and the replacement lids that were given to consumers as part of the August 2019 recall.

"Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled water bottles and the replacement lids provided in the previous recall, take them away from children, and contact Contigo for a free water bottle. Consumers who received replacement lids in the previous recall should contact Contigo for the new water bottle," the CPSC states.

Millions of Contigo Kids Cleanable water bottles were originally recalled after it became clear the silicone spout could pose a choking hazard.

"Contigo identified that the water bottle's clear silicone spout in some cases may detach from the lid of the water bottle," Contigo stated in a notice posted to its Facebook page back in August.

According to the CPSC, "Contigo [had] received 149 reports of the spout detaching including 18 spouts found in children's mouths" before the original recall.

Now, the CPSC reports "Contigo has received a total of 427 reports of the spout detaching including 27 spouts found in children's mouths."

All of the recalled water bottles have a black color spout base and spout cover.

This week Contigo expanded the recall. The original date range was for Contigo Kids Cleanable Water Bottle from April 2018 through June 2019. Now it is for bottles purchased through February 2020, and all the replacement lids.

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If you are looking for some alternative water bottles, here are a few of our favorites:

Hydro Flask

Hydro Flask features an easy-to-drink (and clean) top, a silicone bottom that won't scratch your furniture.

Motherly has tested these with a two-year-old and an eight-year-old and found these bottles are perfect for Pre-K to elementary school.

$29.95

CamelBak

The CamelBak is a big hit with little kids as it is easy to maneuver and it's a big hit with moms because it is easy to clean in the top rack of the dishwasher. CamelBak Eddy 12 oz Kids Vacuum Stainless Water Bottle

$14.99

Skip Hop

The designs on the Skip Hop stainless steel bottle keep kids happy and the silicone sleeve keeps the bottle from falling out of little hands! Bonus points for a flexible straw that is easy to clean!

$17.99


Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

{A version of this story was originally posted August 27, 2019. It has been updated.]

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