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Are extracurricular activities enriching or distracting?

As we head back into the school year there's a sense of new beginnings and achievable aspirations. It's easy to be swept away by high pressure, busy communities and enroll our children in any and every after-school activity. However, there's a fine line between enriching extracurricular activities and distracting obligations.

I consider myself the antithesis of a helicopter parent. I encourage my children to engage in their own activities and play. Fortunately, they are three creative and autonomous individuals. But, I also worry that I'm not involving them in enough structured activities.

Societal pressures lead us to believe that the more organized activities our children participate in, the more well-rounded they are, and the better parents we are. I beg to differ. Being cognizant of how we fill our time is key.

School-aged children are already inundated with responsibilities before the introduction of after-school activities. CNN reported on a study from the American Journal of Family Therapy on students and homework. Their findings showed that early elementary students get significantly more homework than the amount recommended by education leaders.

Kindergarten students should not have homework and the National Education Association and the Parent-Teacher Association suggest 10 minutes per grade level per night. If there are recommendations limiting homework, perhaps there should also be limits on structured extracurricular activities. Thus allowing for kids to be kids, free to explore, play outside, imagine, and dream.

Often when I express how hard it is juggling three little ones, my friends with older children say they feel like chauffeurs driving their kids from one activity to the next. Do we want to remember our children's youth with thoughts of rushing, traffic, and stress? Or do we want to slow down and take time to relish the moments in between our busy scheduled activities? These moments when everyone piles on the bed for tickles and cuddles before bedtime or the lazy weekend mornings eating pancakes, faces and fingers sticky with syrup. We need to make more time for these in-between moments.

These in-between moments are bursting with value and significance. They're the moments worth remembering. In a Washington Post interview, University of Houston professor and renowned author Brené Brown explains, “'Crazy-busy' is a great armor, and it's a great way for numbing. What a lot of us do is that we stay so busy, and so out in front of our life, that the truth of how we're feeling and what we really need can't catch up with us."

This quote is specifically aimed at adult behavior but I fear that there's a trickle-down effect impacting our children. Unlike many European cultures, where siesta or pausa are cultural norms, we value being busy. But what if our busy status and our children's busy schedules are actually a form of escapism, robbing us of being present and mindful in our every day life? What if our children's multitude of activities is actually detracting from their ability to achieve their goals as opposed to enhancing them?

Rearing our children in such a way that encourages them to reach their dreams is a profound responsibility. In John Lennon's song “Beautiful Boy" he sings, “Before you cross the street, take my hand. Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." This quote makes two important points. First, we figuratively and literally hold our children's hands. We are their guides, ensuring they are safe and leading them to paths of greatness. We strive to make smart choices for them, exposing them to wonderful opportunities and enriching experiences.

Secondly, life is short and we must work hard to stay present and appreciate the humdrum of it all. Otherwise we may blink and miss our children's youth. Scheduling after-school play dates, driving our kids from sport's practice, to tutoring, to scouts is all peripheral noise, drowning out what matters. The serenity of downtime is where connections are made and creativity is unearthed. The raw spontaneous moments are truly the building blocks of life.

Spontaneity may not sit well with many. I'm an organized person and therefore schedules and plans are my preferred modus operandi. I love to organize; it helps me attempt to control the ambiguity of life. Marie Kondo, the New York Times Best Selling Author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" teaches how to de-clutter and organize. She believes that de-cluttering your belongings can transform your life.

I propose that de-cluttering our schedules, including after-school activities, can enhance our lives. I'm not suggesting your children abstain from the activities they love. Extracurricular activities are as important as school. But, to borrow Ms. Kondo's words, “We must ask ourselves, does it spark joy?" This simple reminder is useful in gaging the worthiness of our chosen extra curricular activities.

I believe in simplifying parenting and I'm constantly striving to be mindful of the organic moments in life. Children are inquisitive, insightful, and eager to learn. As parents, let's remember to learn from them and listen to what they need. Staying busy to the point of distraction is harmful to adults and just as detrimental to our children.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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