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Fred Rogers, Alice Munro, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Ella Fitzgerald. The list of quotable men and women who know success comes from creativity is long.


But if we focus on just their products, innovations, or music our memories become short. We might become intimidated and resentful of the intellectual and financial success of others, forgetting that their success started with the same tools we all have access to: curiosity and imagination.

I am not suggesting that my children or yours will become the next Nobel Prize winner, but if we want our kids to be successful, we need to give them space to be creative. I am also not suggesting that success should be measured in terms of prizes won, money made, or notoriety. We should all be considered grateful if we raise kids who are happy, healthy, and passionate about something. Where there is passion there is curiosity. And if kids are curious, they will want to learn.

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” – Fred Rogers

 

When kids are given the time to play, even if that time initially starts as cries of boredom, they will create something.

My daughter will spend hours engaged in fantasy play, and if she isn’t given time before school to dwell in whatever world she has created in her mind for the day, she is a bear of a child to get out of the door.

I’d like to say that her creativity is a result of my fine parenting skills, but it is more likely a result of her personality, a love of storytelling, and my inability to spend as much time with her as she would like. My daughter has younger twin brothers she is competing with for my and my partner’s attention. Mama needs to get stuff done. I play with my kids, but I often tell them to go play by themselves.

Boxes become boats, ribbons become leashes on stuffed animals, and blocks become kingdoms.

Oh, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. There is fighting, stealing, crying, and negotiating during open-ended playtime, but I can’t micromanage everything. I trust they will figure it out. They are learning how to solve problems, how to interact with other human beings, and how to speak in a way that allows them to be heard. They are learning critical social skills through play.

In a recent article published on NPR Ed, Erika Christakis, author of The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need From Grownups, stated this about unscheduled play time at home:

“I think boredom can be a friend to the imagination. Sometimes when kids appear to be bored, actually they haven’t had enough time to engage in something. We quickly whisk it away and move them along to the next thing. And that’s when you say, ‘How can I help the child to look at this in a new way? To try something new, to be patient.’”

Christakis reminds us that less is more when it comes to shuttling our kids to lessons and sports practices. Kids are perfectly capable of filling their time and space with creativity. Let them.

“Logic will get you from A-B. Imagination will get you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein

A point made in the Wiley Handbook of Genius reminds us that while child prodigies may grow up to be successful adults, their time mastering an instrument, mathematical equations, or scientific theories may fail them in other areas. They lose the ability to be original. The children who become adults capable of using their knowledge to create new insights are the ones who never lost their ability to be creative.

Einstein, Steve Jobs, and Agnes de Mille were not only masters of their crafts but were able to transform them into something new and unique. Without playing by the rules, or at least without being suffocated by the external pressure of society’s rules, these geniuses were artists.

I am a firm believer that kids need expectations on how to behave; rules can create boundaries that produce responsible individuals. I am also a believer that kids need to think for themselves, allowing independent thinking and natural consequences to guide them toward success. As a parent, the balance between these two beliefs can be difficult.

One place where this isn’t difficult is at Wildflowers Studio, a multi-sensory creative playspace for children in South Burlington, Vermont. The studio was started by Lyndsy Blais, a mother of four with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Education from Muhlenberg College and a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Vermont, and business partner Samantha, who earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science at the College of Brockport.

Their matched passion for giving children safe and nurturing environments to explore their creativity and curiosity has allowed me to focus on the benefits of messy play instead of the mess.

I struggle with the pressure to create Pinterest perfect crafts with my kids. I struggle with what feels like litter all over the house after an art project. I struggle with remembering that the process is what is important, not the product. I talked to Blais about this. Here is what she had to say:

“We [at the studio] set out invitations for play, exploration, and discovery just by placing interesting materials within the child’s reach. Adults may take a look at the materials and have an idea about how they should be used. [Sometimes] parents or caregivers look at the materials and ask, ‘Now….what are they supposed to do here?’ Usually the child has already dived deep into the materials, sorting through, taking out for inspection, putting together and taking apart. And what is so intriguing is how every child’s approach is completely unique. This idea that they should simply play, experiment and discover according to their own plan gets lost sometimes on some adults.

We have been trained to acquire an answer, to seek perfection. But there is such value in the open-ended-ness—the loosening of expectations, the letting go of should. There is joy and freedom in the process without stressing the need for a perfect end product, or any end product at all. This is the true meaning of mindfulness that we are attempting to teach.”

I then thanked Blais for giving my kids and myself permission to be imperfect, messy, and creative.

“To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.”

– Georgia O’Keefe

For some, just creating a safe place in the world takes courage.

The arts are therapeutic hand holders, giving children and adults the safety net to think, act, and create freely. Art therapy has been used to help patients express themselves, allowing therapists to assist in the healing process. Parents of children with special needs, autism, and sensory issues have turned to art studios for the freedom and comfort they provide their children to explore the world.

A mother of a two year old with Sensory Processing Disorder admitted that her child can be unruly at times, but described her child as ‘completely different’ when he was engaged in the sensory and art activities within the walls of Wildflowers Studio. Another parent of a daughter with unique learning and health needs, and also a visitor of the Vermont studio, said this:

“Kayla was able to roam freely and explore things at her own pace. She explored the wall station where she put colorful glue on paper and made a collage out of bits of wrapping paper. An old bathtub filled with sand allowed her to shovel and build. And she loved the wall of old machines: a pencil sharpener, old phone, old door locks, heating thermometer, fishing reel, and old jacket zippers. This place is occupational therapy central!”

Studies have proven the therapeutic benefits of creativity. An article on The American Art Therapy Association’s website references this particular finding: “Engagement with making visual art has recently been shown to increase functional connectivity in the brain and is correlated with increased resilience or stress hardiness.” That is more than a beneficial side effect; that is a necessary survival skill. Other known skills gained from open-ended sensory and imaginative play include problem solving, critical thinking, fine and gross motor movement, and language development.

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try.”– Dr. Seuss

Our kids don’t need expensive toys, fancy schools, or an abundance of extracurricular activities.

They need our ability to see their interests and then help them explore them through play and creativity. Their interests may lead them to particular classes, colleges, and careers but they shouldn’t be seen as the only paths to learning. We shouldn’t restrict our children’s ability to learn new things just because one day they are interested in something completely different.

Curiosity keeps our kids engaged and creativity keeps them curious. If we can raise children with creative literacy, we will raise kids who will change the world. We need to give them the space to try.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

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

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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