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I just returned from an exhilarating dragon expedition.


After picking up my children from their Swedish preschool, my son frantically dragged me to the woods they had explored earlier in the day, eager to show me what they had discovered. We came upon the “dragon” quickly enough and to my eyes it was an old felled tree but to my five-year-old son and two-year-old daughter, it was a massive, dangerous, and scaly sleeping dragon.

In Sweden, 80% of children between the ages of one to five years, attend Swedish daycare which promotes play, napping and eating meals outdoors. There are also some preschools that have no physical building as all of their learning occurs outdoors—in nature’s classroom. (1)

Conversely, in a recent cross-sectional study with a U.S. nationally representative sample, 44% of mothers and 24% of fathers reported taking their pre-school aged child outside to play at least once per day. Fifty-eight percent of children who were not in child care went outside daily. (2)

When we first moved to Sweden, I was surprised to see lines of children holding hands in pairs, trudging through a snowstorm, wearing neon orange vests with only two or three adults accompanying the group. They were walking to the nearest playground in the middle of winter without a care in the world.

Outdoor play offers not only physical benefits like increased balance, endurance, and hand-eye coordination but has also shown to improve cognitive and social/emotional development.

But are Scandinavian children that much tougher than U.S. kids because they play outside all of the time? No, my children dislike rainy weather as much any kid. However, they do have specific advantages over children who spend more time indoors.

Outdoor play offers not only physical benefits like increased balance, endurance, and hand-eye coordination but has also shown to improve cognitive and social/emotional development. When outdoors, children are more likely to invent games and understand why rules are necessary (3)—something that does not happen when playing a pre-programmed game on a tablet or the computer.

Swedish daycares also teach children all about edible and inedible plants, mushrooms, and berries. (Mushroom and berry picking is a large part of their culture.) One day, my son bent down and plucked a green stalk from the ground and offered it to me saying, “It’s good to eat, Mama.” I took a bite and lo and behold it was a stalk of green onion.

My kid knows botany better than I do and I studied the biology of plants at my university.

Here are five steps to help you raise your own little Viking through outdoor play:

1. Be creative and the world becomes magical

Even the most familiar and mundane playground can become an entryway to another world if you encourage your child’s creativity. That’s not a slide, it’s an elephant’s trunk. That swing is hanging above a deep ocean, and we need to keep out of the dangerous sharks’ reach.

Parents have the hardest time diving into this imaginary world, but that’s our limitation, not our children’s. See the trees as dragons, a flowing stream as a raging river requiring bravery to cross, and fairies living in the nooks of every tree. Unlock your child’s creativity by reviving your own.

2. Clothing makes a huge difference

Scandinavians love to quote, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing” by Sir Ranulph Fiennes and I chant that every winter morning as I pull on layers upon layers of clothing onto my wiggly kids before heading out into the snow.

Buying new sets of outdoor clothing will be expensive, it always is, but life outdoors is much more enjoyable when you are warm and dry. I shop secondhand stores regularly and scour local Facebook groups for cheap deals on rain boots, gloves, hats, jackets, snow pants, and whatever else I can find.

When your children are in the routine of going outside every day in horrible weather, it is a real joy to be outside when the weather is nice. Likewise in warmer seasons, stock up on brimmed hats, sunscreen, and reusable water bottles.

Don’t forget that you, as the parent/leader of these adventures, also need to be suitably dressed. You won’t last long on a dragon hunt if you are cold or uncomfortable.

Dressing improperly for the weather can lead to tears, exhaustion, and a bad experience for both children and parents alike.

3. Find a green space and explore it thoroughly

Purchase a field guide with local plants and animals and take your kids on a scavenger hunt where you look for particular birds or flowers in your backyard or neighborhood. It’s all about the thrill of the chase and before you know it, your children will be discovering things you normally wouldn’t notice.

For younger children, have them search for ladybugs, beetles, and other things that are at their lower height level for maximum success. Ask questions about how the animals move, what they look like, what they eat, and where they are headed? You don’t have to have all of the answers to ask all of the questions (something you should’ve learned by now from your children).

4. Incorporate the seasons into play

If you live in a place that has distinct seasons, it can be fun to teach your children the signs that the next season is approaching. Slugs and snails appear in the spring and sunset times creep earlier in the winter. Embrace each season with specific activities that get everyone outside regardless of the weather.

In the winter, take water-based paints and paint in the snow. In the fall, collect leaves, add paint and make a leaf print collage. In the spring, weave together wildflowers for a fashionable headband, or find and name your neighborhood snails. (Snail races aren’t as exciting as you might expect.) In the summer, “paint” dry surfaces with brushes and buckets of water. When in doubt, you can always refer to Pinterest for endless ideas.

5. Release your inner child and forgive your own

Enjoyable time outdoors means that you may need to act like a kid yourself in order to unleash your child’s inhibitions. Forget about the endless laundry piling up at home and encourage them to get muddy, throw sticks, and splash in puddles. How else is your child going to learn that s/he is a master chef of dirt cakes, cookies, and pies? Stock up on laundry soap and don’t look back.

If you employ each of these five steps, I’m confident that your child’s confidence, physical capabilities, and imagination will significantly improve. Going outside won’t be seen as a punishment but an opportunity for a great adventure. The lessons and memories you will build together through unstructured play will make your child a little more Viking-ish and will get the whole family enjoying the outdoors in all types of weather.

References
1.  Play is Key in Preschool. Updated 4 Jan 2016. 
 
2. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2012 Aug;166(8):707-12. 
 
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

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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

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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

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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

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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
$199.95, Nuna

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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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Parents in New Jersey will soon get more money and more time for parental leave after welcoming a baby.

This week New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed off on legislation that extends New Jersey's paid family leave from six weeks to 12.

It also increases the benefit cap from 53% of the average weekly wage to 70%, meaning the maximum benefit for a parent on family leave will be $860 a week, up from $650.

It might not seem like a huge difference, but by raising the benefit from two-thirds of a parent's pay to 85%, lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to encourage more parents to actually take leave, which is good for the parents, their baby and their family. "Especially for that new mom and dad, we know that more time spent bonding with a child can lead to a better long-term outcome for that child," Murphy said at a press conference this week.

The law will also make it easier for people to take time off when a family member is sick.

Because NJ's paid leave is funded through payroll deductions, workers could see an increase in those deductions, but Murphy is betting that workers and businesses will see the benefits in increasing paid leave benefits. "Morale goes up, productivity goes up, and more money goes into the system," Murphy said. "And increasingly, companies big and small realize that a happy workforce and a secure workforce is a key ingredient to their success."

The new benefits will go into effect in July 2020 (making next Halloween a good time to get pregnant in the Garden State).

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Whether you just need to stock up on diapers or you've had your eye on a specific piece of baby gear, you might want to swing by your local Walmart this Saturday, February 23rd.

Walmart's big "Baby Savings Day" is happening from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at participating Walmarts (but more deals can be found online at Walmart.com already and the website deals are happening for the rest of the month).

About 3,000 of the 3,570 Supercenter locations are participating in the sale (check here to see if your local Walmart is).

The deals vary, but in general you can expect up to 30% off on items like cribs, strollers, car seats, wipes, diapers and formula.

Some items, like this Graco Modes 3 Lite Travel System have been marked down by more than $100. Other hot items include this Lille Baby Complete Carrier (It's usually $119, going for $99 during the sale) and the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (for as low as $199).

So if you're in need of baby gear, you should check out this sale. Travel gear isn't the only category that's been marked down, there are some steep discounts on breast pumps, too.

Many of the Walmart locations will also be offering samples and expert demos of certain products on Saturday so it's worth checking out!

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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Any Schumer has not had an easy pregnancy. She intended to keep working, but if you follow her on social media you know she's been very sick through each trimester.

And now in her final trimester she's had to cancel her tour due to hyperemesis gravidarum, also known as HG. It's a rare but very serious form of extreme morning sickness, and on Friday evening Schumer announced she is canceling the rest of her tour because of it.

“I vomit every time [I] ride in a car even for 5 minutes," Schumer explained in an Instagram post.

Due to the constant vomiting she's not cleared to fly and just can't continue to the tour.

This is not the first time Schumer has had to make an announcement about HG. Back in November, just weeks after announcing her pregnancy, she had to cancel shows and again broke the news via Instagram.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.


Schumer probably knows all about that drug. It looks she is getting the medical help she obviously needs, and she was totally right to cancel the tour in order to stay as healthy as possible.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

[A version of this post was published November 15, 2018. It has been updated.]

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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