Print Friendly and PDF

As I watch iridescent orbs float through the sunset sky I think, “Wow.”


In the age of iPads, iPhones, and numerous other electronic devices, something as simple as blowing bubbles can still stir up so much excitement. Although we live in a world of overstimulation, kids really do love the simple things in life and I think deep down, so do adults.

The peace and joy that comes from reconnecting with nature and loved ones; the feeling we get every time we leave our busy lives behind and embark on a new adventure. With travel we aren’t only creating awesome memories – we’re giving the gift of a childhood unplugged.

FEATURED VIDEO

A mama friend made a comment recently about noticing an improvement in her child’s behavior when given less time on his video games. This made me realize that I’ve observed this change too, including when I reduce my daughter’s time on YouTube due to her high-levels of sass. Then I asked myself, “Why?”

I’ll admit, sometimes gadgets are a total lifesaver. I’m a big fan of iPads during family travel because they hold so much entertainment during plane, train, and road trips. Was it really just the electronics causing attitude issues or something else?

I started thinking about my travels and how I use electronics on the road versus at home, and how the day is spent in between uses. I also started thinking about how my kids seem better- behaved on the road versus at home, which is probably why I like to travel so much. 

Then it hit me: the great outdoors! Numerous studies have shown that there are many benefits to being outside, especially for kids, and when we travel we spend a significant amount of time outside exploring. I began to think that maybe the combination of extra time in nature combined with the lack of electronics was the answer. I did some investigating and what I found is quite interesting.

Benefits to playing outside:

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.

1 | Improves mental health.

There’s a lot of research to demonstrate that people who live near green spaces have improved mental health. Taking it a step further, a 2000 study by Nancy Wells in the Journal of Environment and Behavior shows that children’s stress levels reduce within minutes of seeing green spaces. There is a drastic change in children when removed from highly urban areas to more open spaces.

The Episcopal Center for Children explains that outdoor play reduces stress and lowers a child’s risk for anxiety and depression. It can also ease some symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This is something to think about for parents with children who have special needs. Incorporating time in nature into everyday life, as well as family travel, can have great results. 

Dirt is good too! I don’t know about you, but my kids love to wallow in the dirt and it makes me cringe. Well, I’m going to start embracing my kids need to be dirty, because the mycobacterium vaccae in soil mirrors Prozac’s effect on neurons.

When kids are feeling at ease, they tend to behave much better. With outdoor play children are not only improving their physical skills, but overcoming obstacles and building self-confidence. 

2 | Improves social and motor skills.

So self-confidence builds self-esteem, but the confidence is gained by overcoming challenges. When kids explore outdoors they have to use their imaginations, acquire new skills and learn to problem solve. By playing outside children are also gaining attention and working memory benefits.

Here is where the difference between video games verses outdoor play is best demonstrated. Video games have pre-programmed rules and kids just follow along, never really understanding why the rule exists. According to a report by Rae Pica in Early Childhood News, when children play outside they have to create their own games and rules, creating a deeper level of understanding.

This also plays into improved social skills, because with these invented games comes learning to work together, dealing with conflict and problem-solving. Remember grassy areas reduce stress, so we are all good!

3 | Improves physical health.

Playing outside requires kids to use their bodies. The physicality of outdoor play by nature improves flexibility, muscle strength, and coordination. They become aware of their bodies in space which benefits motor skills and balance. And running around helps kids stay fitter and leaner. 

In addition to physical fitness, nature does wonders for the general health of the body. For instance, being outside is a great immune booster. Yes, kids get sick less the more time they spend outside.

How Family Travel Promotes Outdoor Play

Travel takes us out of our routine and, depending where we travel, we tend to spend more time outdoors than we would normally at home. Sure, the use of iPads comes in handy during long- haul flights, but it is not the day’s main form of entertainment.

When we arrive at our destination the exploration begins. With no one rushing off to work or school, we awake each morning excited for what the day holds, what adventure lies ahead.

Family travel comes in all shapes and sizes. Travels may last a weekend, a week, a month, maybe longer. Whether our travels take us into the wild or the wilds of urban sprawls, there is always opportunity for considerable time outdoors.

Botanical Gardens and Parks

Traveling to big cities one might question where outdoor play would enter the equation, but cities have many options to spend time in the open-air. The key here is the travel mindset, nothing on the agenda but to explore. Not only is there a lot of time spent walking around the city, but there are usually great city parks to enjoy as well as beautiful botanical gardens.

No matter how amazing the destination, the highlight for my kids is always the playground. We were recently in Glasgow, Scotland and ended up spending a lot of time in the botanical garden. The kids loved running in grass, exploring the paths along the Kelvingrove River and playing on the playground so much that it became a good bargaining chip for good behavior later. If they behaved at the restaurants and tours, they were rewarded with extra play time at the botanical gardens.

The great thing about city parks is that it may require very little travel for many of you. Be a tourist in your hometown and enjoy the nature around the corner. “Make sure your child gets at least 15-30 minutes of outdoor play each day,” says Dodd White, president and CEO of Episcopal Center for Children. “If you live in an apartment building or don’t have a yard, try to get to a neighborhood park a few times a week, and leave your technology at home or turned off.” 

Camping and RVing

It doesn’t get more outdoors than camping. We often take RV trips with the family, and the kids are probably the best-behaved on these trips. When camping there is not a lot on the itinerary that isn’t outdoor related, so the time spent playing outdoors is pretty much endless.

The kids love the RV trips, because they’re relaxing and no one is rushing off somewhere. Camping gives us time to just be. We get to fully enjoy all the elements. Play among the earth, feeling the wind in our hair, roasting marshmallows and telling stories by the camp fire, frolicking in the water.

The slow-paced nature immersion that camping provides is not only fun, but is actually really good for our brains. David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University Utah, discussed the three-day affect in National Geographic. Believe it or not, our brains do become fatigued and three days absorbed in nature acts as a mental cleansing.

Beach Vacations

Beach camping or staying at a fun beach resort provides fun in the sun and is extremely beneficial for physical and mental health. All that running in the sand and splashing in the waves is sure to be a blast and burn up lots of energy, but a study by J. Aaron Hipp in the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows that there are actual health benefits to a trip to the beach, including a shot of vitamin D and increased endorphins.

Salty seas have many benefits as well. The sea contains many minerals like magnesium, potassium, and iodine that help provide a healing effect as well as a detox for the human body. Salmon showed in a 2001 study in Clinical Psychology Review that swimming actually reduces stress and anxiety in addition to the physical health effects of non-impact exercise.

The beach is where our family spends the most time outdoors. Not only do we live near local beaches, but we also do a lot of beach camping and traveling to other prime beach resort destinations. Surprisingly enough, there are usually grassy areas near the beach, which really is the best of both worlds.

The takeaway from all this information is that everyone can benefit from time outdoors among nature. Do you have to travel far to get out of the concrete jungle? No, but our day-to-day lives are very busy and we usually don’t make time for decompressing outside.

When we travel we’re in a different mindset, a semi-relaxed state already. We aren’t rushing to work, getting kids to school, finishing homework, and making dinner. Routine, routine, routine; it’s driving us crazy and our kids are growing up too fast. Travel provides us the opportunity and time to reconnect with our family and nature, leaving you and your kids feeling refreshed. A childhood unplugged is often a happy one.   

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

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

Our Partners

There's a lot of discussion about the importance of early education—but what about soft skills like respect and kindness? How can mamas teach children important values like cooperation, gratitude, empathy or politeness?

These values are basic, foundational beliefs that help us know right from wrong, that give balance and meaning to life and that enable us to form community bonds with one another. These soft skills are crucial for kids to learn at any age, and it's important for them to be reinforced, both in the classroom and at home, throughout their childhood.

Here are fundamental ways to build character in your young children:

Kindness

Performing random acts of kindness can have a positive influence on both the individual showing and receiving the kindness. As a family, think of ways that each one of you can show kindness to others. Some ideas may include baking cookies for the mail carrier, donating an unopened toy to a local charity, purchasing canned goods for a homeless shelter or leaving notes and drawings for the neighbors. Include your child in the process so they can see firsthand the joy that kindness can bring to others.

FEATURED VIDEO

Responsibility

Children have a strong desire to mimic adult family members. Encourage your child to help complete simple chores in and around the house. Children feel a great sense of accomplishment when they can do their share and feel that sense of responsibility. Two-year-olds will enjoy folding towels, putting books away, putting paper in the recycling box and tending to the garden. Older children may enjoy helping out in the kitchen or with yard work.

Patience

Patience is the ability to demonstrate self-control while waiting for an event to occur. It also refers to the ability to remain calm in the face of frustration. This is a skill which develops in children as they mature. While it is important to practice patience, adults should also be realistic in their expectations, evaluate daily routines and eliminate long periods of wait time from the schedule.

Politeness

Schedule a time when the whole family can sit down together for dinner. Model good manners and encourage older siblings and other members of the family to do the same. Use phrases such as, "Can you please pass the potatoes?" or "Thank you." Be sure to provide your child with guidance, by explaining what to do as opposed to what not to do.

Flexibility

Change your routines at home to encourage children to be flexible in their thinking and to try new things. Try being flexible in the small things: enjoy breakfast for dinner, eat ice cream with a fork, have your child read a bedtime story to you or have a picnic in the living room. Let your child know it is okay to do things in a different way.

Empathy

Children are beginning to understand different emotions and that others have feelings. Throughout their childhood, talk about their feelings and share one's own feeling with them as well. By taking the time to listen to how children are feeling, you will demonstrate to them that you care and reinforce with them that you fully understand how they are feeling.

Cooperation

Coordinate playdates or take your children to events where they can practice introducing themselves to other children, and potentially with adults. Find games and other activities that require turn-taking and sharing.

Gratitude

Encourage your child to spend five minutes every day listing the things they are grateful for. This could be done together just before bedtime or after dinner.

Respect

As parents, our goal is to teach children to recognize that even though people have different likes and dislikes or beliefs and ideas, they must treat each other with manners and positivity. Respect should be shown when sharing, cleaning up, and listening to others. Always teach and model the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Also remind children that respect can be shown towards things in the classroom. Treating materials and toys correctly shows appreciation for the things we have.
Learn + Play

Medical researchers and providers consider a woman's postpartum period to be up to 12 months after the delivery of baby, but too often, health insurance doesn't see it the same way. Nearly half of the births in the United States are covered by Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and while the babies who are born during these births are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP for a year, their mothers often lose their coverage 60 days after delivering their child. There is clear data showing 70% of new moms will have at least one health complication within a year of giving birth.

FEATURED VIDEO

This week, members of Congress' Subcommittee on Health met to mark up H.R. 4996, the "Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act of 2019, and it was favorably forwarded to the full Committee.

What does this mean? It means that while this bill still has a ways to go before it potentially becomes law, its success would see states get the option to provide 12 months of continuous coverage postpartum coverage to mothers on Medicaid. This would save lives.

As we at Motherly have said many times, it takes a considerable amount of time and energy to heal from birth. A mother may not be healed 60 days out from delivering. She may still require medical care for perinatal mood disorders, breast issues like thrush and mastitis, diabetes, and the consequences of traumatic births, like severe vaginal tearing.

Cutting off Medicaid when her baby is only 2 months old makes mom and baby vulnerable, and the Helping Moms Act could protect families from dire consequences.

The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and according to the CDC, "about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications." This is not okay, and while H.R. 4996 is not yet signed into law this bill could help change this. It could help address the racial disparities that see so many Black mothers and Native American mothers dying from preventable causes in the first year of motherhood.

A report from nine American maternal mortality review committees found that there were three leading causes of death that occurred between 43 days and one year postpartum: cardiomyopathy (32.4%), mental health conditions (16.2%), and embolism (10.8%) and multiple state maternal mortality review committees have recommended extending Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum in order to prevent these deaths.

Basically, making sure that moms have have continuous access to health care the year after a birth means doctors can spot issues with things like depression, heart disease and high blood pressure at regular check-ups and treat these conditions before they become fatal.

The Helping Moms Act is a step forward in the fight for maternal health and it proves that maternal health is truly a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the value in providing support for mothers during the postpartum period.

The Helping MOMS Act was was introduced by Democratic Congresswoman Robin Kelly of Illinois, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. It was co-lead by Texas Republican Michael Burgess (who is also a medical doctor), as well as Georgia Republican Buddy Carter, Washington Republicans Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusettes and Lauren Underwood of Illinois (both Democrats).

"Incentivizing postpartum Medicaid expansion is a critical first step in preventing maternal deaths by ensuring new moms can see their doctor. I'm proud that my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, came together to put an end to the sad reality of American moms dying while growing their families," said Kelly. "We can't allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. This is a good, bipartisan first step, but it must be the first of many."

It doesn't matter what your political stripes, reducing America's maternal mortality stats should be a priority.

News

Whether you're having a low-key Friendsgiving with your closest friends or prepping to host your first big Thanksgiving dinner with both families, figuring out all of the menu details can be the most overwhelming step. How much should I cook? What ingredients do I need? How does one actually cook a turkey this big?

But, don't worry, mama—HelloFresh is lending a helping hand this year with their Thanksgiving box in collaboration with Jessica Alba. Because you already have enough on your plate (and we're not talking stuffing).


Here are the details. You can choose from two Thanksgiving boxes: Turkey ($152) or beef tenderloin ($132). The turkey box serves 8-10 people while the beef one will serve 4-6 and both are $6.99 to ship. We got to try both and they're equally delicious so you can't go wrong with either one, but the turkey does require a 4-day thaw period so keep that in mind. And if you're wondering what the sides are, here's a sneak peek:

FEATURED VIDEO
  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Green bean casserole with crispy onions
  • Ciabatta stuffing with chick sausage and cranberries
  • Cranberry sauce with orange, ginger and cinnamon
  • Apple ginger crisp with cinnamon pecan crumble

While someone still has to do the actual cooking, it's designed to take the stress out of Thanksgiving dinner so you can focus on spending time with your loved ones (or watching Hallmark Christmas movies). You don't have to worry about grocery shopping, portion sizes, recipe curation or forgetting that essential thing you needed to make the meal perfect. Everything is super simple to make from start to finish—it even comes with a cooking timeline.

Orders are open through November 21 and can be delivered anytime through November 24. Even better? You don't need a subscription to order.


ORDER A BOX

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

My mother's death propelled me to start the process of becoming a parent as a 43-year-old single woman. As my connection to her remained strong in spirit after her death, I was ready to experience the same bond with my own child. I began the journey with Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI), and after three failed attempts at getting pregnant, I decided to adopt.

The adoption process is a lengthy and humbling one—one that includes fingerprints, background checks, references, classes, doing a profile of yourself and your life that birth parents eventually use to choose adoptive families.

After my application was approved, a young couple chose me just a month later. I couldn't believe my fortune. But I had to get to work and prepare the house for my baby's arrival. I bought the best of everything—bassinets, clothes, diapers, car seats… the list goes on. I told close friends and family that it was finally happening.

FEATURED VIDEO

But all of this was in vain. The day I was supposed to pick my daughter up, I learned that the birth parents had changed their minds. They no longer wanted to give their daughter up for adoption. As time passed, it was difficult to endure no interest from potential parents but the faith in believing what is meant to be continued. To increase my potential, I enrolled with a second adoption agency.

A few months later, as I was getting ready to try IVF for the first time, I received a phone call to let me know that a woman had selected me to adopt her child. So I opted out of IVF and found myself in a hospital delivery room with the birth mother, assisting her in the delivery of MY child. It was a boy! I was so thrilled, and he was just adorable.

After six years of losses and disappointments, I was able to bring him home and awaited the final word that the mother and father have given the needed consent. I was getting ready to watch the Super Bowl with him dressed in football gear, I got a phone call.

Once again, the adoption agency informed me that the birth mother had changed her mind. That evening, I had to return the baby to his birth mom. I was heartbroken, and my hopes were shattered.

What now? Going back to IVF meant starting from scratch, and that would take a minimum of six months before being able to really start getting pregnant. I was 49 years old, and the clock was ticking. I really wanted to be a mom by the age of 50.

I was in Chicago, recovering from a collapsed lung, when I received yet another phone call from the adoption agency. An expecting mom had chosen me and had already signed over all of her rights. This little girl was mine. For real, this time. But I had to get to Southern New Jersey by Thursday to pick her up from the hospital.

After negotiating with my doctor to give me the green light to leave while recovering from my condition, I hopped on a train, and 22 hours later, I arrived to New York City in a massive snow storm. I took longer than expected to get to her, but after navigating the icy roads of New Jersey, I met my daughter!

She is now 2 years old, and she has changed my life in ways that just can't be fully described. What I can say is that I now understand my mother's love even more and her devotion to me and my siblings, and as I am sharing the same with my daughter, my bond to my mother keeps on growing.

Becoming a mom at 49 was never what I had envisioned. But whether you are trying to conceive or have decided to adopt a child, the road to becoming a parent is rarely easy. I know that inner strength and believing in what was meant to be kept me moving forward.

Life
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.