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5 Ways to Get Your Teenager Out of Their Room This Summer

Is your teen in the running for the “Laziest Kid on the Planet” award?


Are sightings of your teen largely limited to fleeting glances of a skulking, bleary-eyed, pajama-clad figure on a nightly run to the fridge for pudding cups and energy drinks? Have you had to take your child to the ER to safely pry a smartphone from a hand that had seemingly curled permanently around it? Have you found yourself wondering, perhaps around noon time, if your sleeping child could have lapsed into a coma?

Don’t make space on that trophy shelf just yet. Science says that your teen has a lot of competition for that Laziest Kid award, and stiff competition at that.

In a study that will surprise exactly zero parents, teenagers were found to be at exceptionally high risk of leading a far too sedentary lifestyle. One particularly gasp-worthy finding was that sixty-year-olds and nineteen-year-olds get about the same amount of exercise, and that amount could fairly be described as “little to none.”

The good news is that you can take action to ensure that the empty space on your mantle waiting for that “Laziest Kid” trophy remains unoccupied. Help your teen buck the trend by choosing one or more of these suggestions to get them moving this summer.

Summer jobs (paid)

Forget retail and fast food. Lounging behind a cash register at the mall isn’t going to help much. Fried temptations at their fingertips at a quick service restaurant are often counter-productive, as well. Though it would seem like lifeguarding is a good option, a great deal of time is spent the same way teens often spend time at home: sitting.

Instead, encourage your teen to pursue employment that demands physical activity. Schlepping groceries or working as stock clerks are great for teens who want to get fit or want to develop their physical strength. Landscaping and yard mowing not only get them outdoors, but provide a lot of valuable cardio over the course of a shift. Running after children as a babysitter or camp counselor may be more up your teen’s alley, and can be a good source of physical activity as well.

Dog walking, car washing, swim instruction – even a gig as a shopping cart rounder-upper at the local Wally World or home improvement store can mean that your teen is meeting or beating the CDC’s recommendation of 60 minutes a day of moderate to strenuous physical activity. As an extra bonus, your teen will have more money in his or her pocket to blow on that $150 pair of jeans, the purchase of which they believe is the only move that can possibly save them from a tragic fate as an instant social pariah.

Unsure of your state’s laws regarding at what age kids are allowed to work or what permits he may require? You can find the scoop on ages, paperwork, and other work-related information specific to teens at the Department of Labor’s website here.

Summer jobs (unpaid)

As much as they claim to loathe it, working around the house during the summer is not deadly, nor does it mean your child will be doomed to a life of indentured servitude. Summer projects around the house can actually be fun and fruitful.

Choose something for which your teen actually derives a benefit. It’s up to you whether that benefit is monetary (i.e., you literally pay them) or non-monetary. Whether they get cash for it or not, you’ll have an easier time selling this idea to your teen if they can easily see that they will derive a personal, direct, quick benefit from it.

Does your teen want to use the car? Try an hour-for-hour trade of car-related (even loosely related) duties for time they may spend using the car. If they clock two hours cleaning the garage, that’s two hours’ worth of time they can have the car for their own purposes. Wash and wax Mom’s truck for an hour, get an hour of truck use in exchange.

Does your teen complain about a boring room or lack of privacy? Get them a bucket of paint in the color of their choosing and have them paint their own room. Have a particularly ambitious teen with some woodworking skills? Offer partial “ownership” of a backyard shed they build themselves over the summer. Here are some drool-worthy examples for inspiration. Once completed, let your teen use it as a space for band practice, a private getaway from the siblings, or safe storage for their stuff if they’re soon leaving for college.

Summer sports

Participation in organized sports offer a number of benefits, but its ability to get teens moving is one of the most important. Practices have set times, and failure to perform has set consequences. For kids with a competitive spirit, sports can provide the perfect way to channel it.

Some teens flounder over the summer due largely to the season’s stark lack of structure. During the school year, there is literally a reason for teens to get up in the morning and a reason to get to bed at a reasonable hour at night. Over the summer, the structure of the school day and the associated academic demands disappear. Including team practices in a teen’s summer schedule can give them the structure they need to not only to get themselves moving, but to manage their time from a more general standpoint.

Community “rec” teams are a possibility for some younger teens, but those tend to disappear quickly as a teen gets older and sports become more intense and more serious. If rec teams aren’t really an option in your area, consider encouraging your teen to volunteer as an assistant coach, trainer, or referee for younger kids’ teams.

Summer hobbies and volunteering

For kids who are either too young to work or are not well-suited for a structured employment environment, cultivating an interest in active hobbies may be just the ticket. Active hobbies include can include anything from community volunteering to training for a 5k to fun apps for gamers that get players out of the house and moving.

Habitat for Humanity, for example, sponsors a youth program that provides volunteering opportunities for kids aged five and up. Houses of worship of nearly every faith regularly offer summer programing for young children for which they actively seek teenage chaperones/volunteers. The United Way offers yet another source for parents seeking active volunteering opportunities for teenagers.

Teens who are tightly tethered to their devices may balk the idea of being separated from their precious [insert Gollum-esque growl here]. Even these teens can be coaxed, but you might need to be sneaky about it.

Consider suggesting activities or apps that encourage device-dependent teens to get outdoors and get moving. Geocaching, an activity that has recently seen a massive increase in numbers of devoted adherents, is one such activity. Teens can use their phone’s GPS to search for caches. It’s fun, it’s educational (shh – maybe don’t mention that bit), and it demands plenty of walking. Triple win.

Gamer teens might enjoy apps like Pokemon Go. While very clearly a game, it also requires, by its very nature, a great deal of walking. As an extra bonus, teens can explore parts of their communities they might otherwise never visit. Other games based on the Pokemon Go concept include Ingress (by Niantic, the same company that delivered Pokemon Go), Temple Treasure Hunt, and Resources.

Summer bonding

A treasured rite of passage, you can’t beat summer camp for motivating teens to get outdoors and get active. Younger teens will enjoy their time as campers and older teens can take advantage of (often paid) opportunities to serve as counselors. The variety of camp types available boggles the mind. If kids and teens have an interest in it, there’s probably a camp devoted to it.

Whether your kid is into music, basketball, horses, or just plain old friendship, finding a camp to suit his or her interests is often a Google search away. In addition to having fun and getting moving, participating in summer camp also gives kids a chance to form lifelong bonds with children from outside their usual social spheres (school, church, or neighborhood).

Bonding with peers is an important part of adolescence, but family bonding is crucial during this developmental phase as well. Consider some activities your teen might enjoy doing with you, your spouse, his or her siblings, or even the entire family.

Is your teen developing an interest in cooking or has she decided to explore veganism? How about making a family project of creating a backyard vegetable garden? Plenty of outdoor gardening time plus fresh vegetables at your fingertips is a winning combination. The sense of accomplishment for a teen serving up a meal she literally created from start to finish is unmatched.

Consider investing in fitness trackers for the whole family, and set a family goal of collectively achieving a certain number of steps by summer’s end. Plan an extra special celebration or purchase of a mutually appealing item for the whole family to enjoy (e.g., weekend trip to an amusement park, a pool table, a trampoline) if you achieve your goal.

Whether via a job, volunteer opportunity, hobbies, camps, or family projects, today’s teens needn’t be saddled with the health problems that accompany a sedentary lifestyle. By modeling healthy levels of activity yourself and encouraging your teen to pursue an active lifestyle, you are setting your teen up to develop lifelong, life-extending habits. Mark this summer as the one when you took action to ensure your mantle never sports a “World’s Laziest Kid” trophy.

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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

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

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Mamas have a hard time carving out time for themselves. Our families almost always take priority, meaning things like skincare can easily fall by the wayside. Even though studies have shown the benefits of caring for ourselves also benefit our babies benefit our babies, it often feels just one more task to add to our to-do list.

Fortunately, it's possible to skip extensive routines and start small. If you have just five minutes (or more!) to spare for yourself this week, try these self-care products you can sneak during nap time or after you finally get the little ones down for the night.

If you only have 5 minutes: Remove your makeup

One of the most important ways to care for your skin at the end of the day is removing your makeup. Start with a cleansing towelette to easily wipe away even stubborn mascara and eyeliner so you can go to bed with a clean slate.

Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, Amazon, 2-pk $8.97

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If you have 10 minutes (or more): Use a jade facial roller

After cleansing, use this jade roller to gently massage your face to boost collagen, flush out toxins and improve circulation in your skin.

Jade Facial Roller, Amazon, $11.99

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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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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Chrissy Teigen has been very open about the ways pregnancy has changed her body. Mom to 2-year-old Luna and 4-month-old Miles, Teigen—a former swimsuit model—has famously embraced her postpartum body (stretchies and all), while noting that she's still, at times, insecure about it, but she's not ashamed.

That's why, when a man on Twitter commented on a photo of Teigen's red carpet look for the Emmy's to ask the whole wide world (and Teigen herself, he tagged her) if she was pregnant again, Teigen was quick to shut down the shamer.

"I'm asking this with the utmost respectful [sic], but is @chrissyteigen pregnant again?" The man wrote.

"I just had a baby but thank you for being soooo respectful," Teigen replied (from the Emmys).


Fellow moms were quick to jump to Teigen's defense. Many pointed out that Teigen actually looks incredible for any human, let alone one who is four months postpartum. Other mamas were quick to chime in with stories about their own lingering baby bumps.

For a lot of women, our bodies are different after having a baby. Sometimes that means we're a little rounder in the middle than we used to be. It happens to almost everyone, even red carpet-walking A-listers, like Teigen and actress Jennifer Garner, who once told Ellen Degeneres that she would have a bump forever.

"I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump," Garner explained in 2014, after paparazzi photographs fueled speculation that she and Ben Affleck were expecting a fourth child. "Forever and ever, not another baby. Just a bump like a camel. But just in reverse," Garner jokes.

Like Garner, Teigen dealt with the pregnancy question with a sense of humor, but she shouldn't have had to defend her body from the Emmys. As many, many Twitter users pointed out to the man who asked, it's never cool to ask a woman if she is pregnant.

It's not polite to ask, and it's no one's business whether a woman's bump is a pregnancy, some fabric, a burrito, a weird shadow or (as in Teigen's case) basically a figment of someone's imagination.

A lot of mamas online last night chimed in to say that while Teigen's stomach doesn't look like it did in her Sports Illustrated days, it still looks pretty freaking amazing.

Yes, after two kids, Chrissy Teigen doesn't look like a swimsuit model. But she shouldn't have to. She's not a swimsuit model anymore. She is a cookbook author with her own Target line and she hosts a hilarious TV show. She's also a mother. She is so much more than her midsection.

"Honestly, I don't ever have to be in a swimsuit again," she recently told Women's Health. "Since I was 20 years old, I had this weight in my mind that I am, or that I'm supposed to be. I've been so used to that number for 10 years now. And then I started realizing it was a swimsuit-model weight. There's a very big difference between wanting to be that kind of fit and wanting to be happy-fit."

Teigen is happy with her body, and we're happy she spent Emmy night educating the internet about respecting women.

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As parents, we often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make sure our babies' brains are developing as quickly as possible. But the irony is, for many years the best way our little ones can learn and grow is through play. In fact, research has shown that reading stories, playing simple games, and engaging with toys is one of the best ways to boost baby's brain development for years to come.

It's those kind of findings that fuels the work at People Toy Company, a Japanese-based toy company that believes in encouraging the natural development of children through research-backed toys. Every toy in their line is developed to make playtime engaging for parents and children alike while helping little ones achieve developmental milestones through play.

Here are 10 of our favorite toys for engaging little minds and encouraging motor development from baby's first weeks and beyond.

TOYS TO STIMULATE LITTLE BRAINS BEFORE 6 MONTHS

1. Mochi Double Pendant Necklace (newborn on)

It's a fact of life that babies love to explore their world with their mouths. Save your jewelry by swapping in this teething necklace made from rice. Babies will love the easy-to-hold shape and textured design—you'll love the neutral color palette that goes with any outfit.

Mochi Double Pendant Necklace, Amazon, $15.99

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TOYS TO STIMULATE LITTLE BRAINS AFTER 6 MONTHS

1. Magic Reflection Ball (6 month)

Encourage independent play from six months on with this constantly changing reflection ball. Use the suction cup to attach it to different smooth surfaces to encourage pulling up and standing later on.

People Magic Reflection Ball, Amazon, $8.99

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

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