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Four Daily Exercises That Illuminate Gratitude and Joy

When the holidays come around, we’re all experts at teaching our kids to be grateful. We make our kids write thank-you notes for their grandparents and list off what they appreciate before a Thanksgiving Feast. Then we drop all of those habits the second the holidays are over.

But teaching a child to be grateful might be the best thing we can do for them. We all want our kids to grow up happy, but happiness isn’t something we can buy them or teach them to win. It comes from how they see the world and whether they focus on all the bad in their lives or on the good.

A positive attitude is one of the most valuable gifts a parent can give their children. Not only will it make it them happier, but studies suggest it’ll even make them more successful. Here are some small habits we can practice every day that will help our kids see the good all around them.

1 | Write something you’re grateful for before bed

Every night before my son goes to bed, I make him write his favorite part of the day on a blackboard we keep in his room. Before he goes to sleep, he has to remember everything he did and think about what made him happy, and it’s worked wonders for making him more grateful.

Now that he’s in the habit of doing it, our son automatically starts listing off things he appreciates before he goes to sleep. It’s not just him; a study on a similar idea found that kids became happier and more optimistic after just three weeks of writing down what they’re grateful for.

This practice also improves spelling, handwriting, and phonetics, especially in younger children. My son is four years old but he can already write some of the things that regularly make the board, like “playing with toys” and “playing outside,” without any help. Young kids can get a head-start on sounding out words and learn to focus on what’s good in life in the process.

2 | Make them help around the house

When children don’t have to do anything, they take everything for granted. If food simply appears on their table, they’ll accept that it’s something they’re owed. If their rooms magically become clean, they’ll accept that cleaning is not their responsibility.

Getting kids involved in every part of what makes life possible is one of the best ways to teach them to appreciate it. Get kids to help make the meals and help clean the house. They’ll begin to understand the work that goes into all these things and start appreciating that it’s been done.

We saw a huge change when our son started cooking, which he did when he was three years old. Before, he’d cry about what was on his plate and complain if food took more than a minute to cook. When we let him make rice in the rice cooker and put together some peanut butter sandwiches, he started to appreciate what was involved. Now he gushes over the meals we make and begs for the chance to cook for us.

3 | Bring back saying grace before a meal

If you’re religious, there’s a chance you already spend a few seconds before every meal listing off everything you’re grateful for. But even if you’re not, there’s no reason why you can’t.

Sitting down before a meal and listing off some of the things you’re grateful for is a great habit, whether you’re religious or not. Any family with a belief system can work a mini-Thanksgiving into their meal habits, and it’s worth it. Saying grace makes people more grateful and helps them appreciate what they have.

There are a few parts that make it work, and one of the big ones is being thankful for food. The old ritual has some great points coded into it, like making people acknowledge that they’re lucky to have food and shelter. It gets kids in the habit of understanding how much they have and appreciating your work for making it happen.

4 | Point out the good things in the world

You can tell your kids what to do, but they also see your actions. What you do affects them a lot more than what you say.

There’s a way my wife and I talked before we got married. I would rely on self-deprecating jokes – pokes at my growing belly and at my natural clumsiness. My wife would point out the things she wanted to improve, ever pushing herself toward her ambitions. For us, it wasn’t harmful, it was how we talked. It was a part of our dynamic and who we were. But when we saw it reflected in our child, we realized the effect it was really having.

Our son began to mimick us. He’d tease men the way I teased myself, poking at their bellies and laughing when someone stumbled. He’d complain about the things he’d heard his mother talk about changing, even by collapsing onto the ground.

When we started being more careful with what we said around him, his whole attitude changed. We made it a point to comment on the beauty of the day or a fun activity. We praised each other whenever we worked hard, and he started copying it.

Now, every time he sees someone draw a picture or sing a song, he rushes over to tell them how great they did. He points out beautiful days and when people do nice things for him, because it’s what he’s seen us do.

And that, after all, is the most important part – what your kids see. When our kids see us make self-deprecating jokes and complain about every little frustration, they copy that attitude. But when they see us appreciating the little parts of life, they learn to appreciate life too – and they get to spend the rest of their lives with that positive attitude.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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With two babies in tow, getting out the door often becomes doubly challenging. From the extra things to carry to the extra space needed in your backseat, it can be easy to feel daunted at the prospect of a day out. But before you resign yourself to life indoors, try incorporating these five genius products from Nuna to get you and the littles out the door. (Because Vitamin D is important, mama!)

1. A brilliant double stroller

You've got more to carry—and this stroller gets it. The DEMI™ grow stroller from Nuna easily converts from a single ride to a double stroller thanks to a few easy-to-install accessories. And with 23 potential configurations, you're ready to hit the road no matter what life throws at you.

DEMI™ grow stroller
$799.95, Nuna


2. A light car seat

Lugging a heavy car seat is the last thing a mama of two needs to have on her hands. Instead, pick up the PIPA™ lite, a safe, svelte design that weighs in at just 5.3 pounds (not counting the canopy or insert)—that's less than the average newborn! When you need to transition from car to stroller, this little beauty works seamlessly with Nuna's DEMI™ grow.

PIPA™ lite car seat
$349.95, Nuna


3. A super safe car seat base

The thing new moms of multiples really need to get out the door? A little peace of mind. The PIPA™ base features a steel stability leg for maximum security that helps to minimize forward rotation during impact by up to 90% (compared to non-stability leg systems) and 5-second installation for busy mamas.

PIPA™ base
(included with purchase of PIPA™ series car seat or) Nuna, $159.95


4. A diaper bag you want to carry

It's hard to find an accessory that's as stylish as it is functional. But the Nuna diaper bag pulls out all the stops with a sleek design that perfectly conceals a deceptively roomy interior (that safely stores everything from extra diapers to your laptop!). And with three ways to wear it, even Dad will want to take this one to the park.

Diaper bag
$179.95, Nuna


5. A crib that travels

Getting a new baby on a nap schedule—while still getting out of the house—is hard. But with the SENA™ aire mini, you can have a crib ready no matter where your day takes you. It folds down and pops up easily for sleepovers at grandma's or unexpected naps at your friend's house, and the 360-degree ventilation ensures a comfortable sleep.

SENA aire mini
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With 5 essentials that are as flexible as you need to be, the only thing we're left asking is, where are you going to go, mama?

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

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Baby stuff comes in such cute prints these days. Gone are the days when everything was pink and blue and covered in ducks or teddy bears. Today's baby gear features stylish prints that appeal to mom.

That's why it's totally understandable how a mama could mistake a car seat cover for a cute midi skirt. It happened to Lori Farrell, and when she shared her mishap on Facebook she went viral before she was even home from work. Fellow moms can totally see the humor in Farrell's mishap, and thankfully, so can she.

As for how a car seat cover could be mistaken for a skirt—it's pretty simple, Farrell tells Motherly.

"A friend of mine had given me a huge lot of baby stuff, from clothes to baby carriers to a rocker and blankets and when I pulled it out I was not sure what it was," she explains. "I debated it but washed it anyway then decided because of the way it pulled on the side it must be a maternity skirt."

Farrell still wasn't 100% sure if she was right by the time she headed out the door to work, but she rocked the ambiguous attire anyway.

"When I got to work I googled the brand and realized not only do they not sell clothing but it was a car seat cover."

The brand, Itzy Ritzy, finds the whole thing pretty funny too, sharing Farell's viral moment to its official Instagram.

It may be a car seat cover, but that print looks really good on this mama.

And if you want to copy Farell's style, the Itzy Ritzy 4-in-1 Nursing Cover, Car Seat Cover, Shopping Cart Cover and Infinity Scarf (and skirt!) is available on Amazon for $24.94.

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.

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Daycare for infants is expensive across the country, and California has one of the worst states for parents seeking care for a baby. Putting an infant in daycare in California costs $2,914 more than in-state tuition for four years of college, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Paying north of $1,000 for daycare each month is an incredible burden, especially on single-parent families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing no more than 10% of a family's income—by that definition, less than 29% of families in California can afford infant care. Some single parents spend half their income on day care. It is an incredible burden on working parents.

But that burden may soon get lighter. CBS Sacramento reports California may put between $25 and $35 million into child care programs to make day care more affordable for parents with kids under 3 years old.

Assembly Bill 452, introduced this week, could see $10 million dollars funneled into Early Head Start (which currently gets no money from the state but does get federal funding) and tens of millions more would be spent on childcare for kids under three.

The bill seeks to rectify a broken childcare system. Right now, only about 14% of eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in subsidized programs in California, and in 2017, only 7% of eligible children younger than three years of age accessed Early Head Start.

An influx of between $25 to $35 million dollars could see more spaces open up for kids under three, as Bill 452, if passed, would see the creation of "grants to develop childcare facilities that serve children from birth to three years of age."

This piece of proposed legislation comes weeks after California's governor announced an ambitious plan for paid parental leave, and as another bill, AB 123, seeks to strengthen the state's pre-kindergarten program.

Right now, it is difficult for some working parents to make a life in California, but by investing in families, the state's lawmakers could change that and change California's future for the better.

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When a mama gets married, in most cases she wants her children to be part of her big day. Photographers are used to hearing bride-to-be moms request lots of pictures of their big day, but when wedding photographer Laura Schaefer of Fire and Gold Photography heard her client Dalton Mort planned to wear her 2-year-old daughter Ellora instead of a veil, she was thrilled.

A fellow mama who understands the benefits of baby-wearing, Schaefer was keen to capture the photos Mort requested. "When I asked Dalton about what some of her 'must get' shots would be for her wedding, she specifically asked for ones of her wearing Ellie, kneeling and praying in the church before the tabernacle," Schaefer tells Motherly.

She got those shots and so many more, and now Mort's toddler-wearing wedding day pics are going viral.

"Dalton wore Ellie down the aisle and nursed her to sleep during the readings," Schaefer wrote on her blog, explaining that Ellie then slept through the whole wedding mass.

"As a fellow mother of an active toddler, this is a HUGE win! Dalton told me after that she was SO grateful that Ellie slept the whole time because she was able to focus and really pray through the Mass," Schaefer explains.

Dalton was able to concentrate on her wedding day because she made her baby girl a part of it (and that obviously tired Ellie right out).

Ellie was part of the commitment and family Dalton if forging with her husband, Jimmy Joe. "There is no better behaved toddler than a sleeping toddler, and she was still involved, even though I ended up unwrapping her to nurse her. I held her in my arms while my husband and I said our vows. It was really special for us," Dalton told POPSUGAR.

This is a wedding trend we are totally here for!

Congrats to Dalton and Jimmy Joe (and to Ellie)! 🎉

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The internet is freaking out about how Peppa Pig is changing the way toddlers speak, but parents don't need to be too worried.

As Romper first reported, plenty of American parents have noticed that preschoolers are picking up a bit of a British accent thanks to Peppa. Romper's Janet Manley calls it "the Peppa effect," noting that her daughter started calling her "Mummy" after an in-flight Peppa marathon.

Plenty of other parents report sharing Manley's experience, but the British accent is not likely to stick, experts say.

Toronto-based speech and language pathologist Melissa James says this isn't a new thing—kids have always been testing out the accents they hear on TV and in the real world, long before Peppa oinked her way into our Netflix queues.

"Kids have this amazing ability to pick up language," James told Global News. "Their brains are ripe for the learning of language and it's a special window of opportunity that adults don't possess."

Global News reports that back in the day there were concerns about Dora The Explorer potentially teaching kids Spanish words before the kids had learned the English counterparts, and over in the U.K., parents have noticed British babies picking up American accents from TV, too.

But it's not a bad thing, James explains. When an American adult hears "Mummy" their brain translates it to "Mommy," but little kids don't yet make as concrete a connection. "When a child, two, three or four, is watching a show with a British accent and hears [words] for the first time, they are mapping out the speech and sound for that word in the British way."

So if your baby is oinking at you, calling you "Mummy" or testing out a new pronunciation of "toh-mah-toe," know that this is totally natural, and they're not going to end up with a life-long British pig accent.

As Dr, Susannah Levi, associate professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University, tells The Guardian, "it's really unlikely that they'd be acquiring an entire second dialect from just watching a TV show."

It sure is cute though.

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