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It’s easy to worry about your child’s health. As a generation that fills its hours on iPads instead of outdoors, it’s hard not to imagine our children growing into round, unhealthy bodies that struggle to move away from their computer screens.

We worry, though, because we care. We’re a generation of parents that have prioritized health in a way our parents didn’t – and, as it turns out, it’s actually working.

When it comes to eating, our kids are making better choices than children have in a long time. Studies show that our children are picking more healthy foods with every year, and it’s having a major effect. From 2004 to 2014, childhood obesity dropped 43% — the first major drop we’ve seen in obesity rates since we started recording them.


We’re doing a great job. We’ve focused on our children’s health, and we’re raising them with better eating habits.

That doesn’t mean it’s always easy, though. There are still times when getting a vegetable from the plate to your child’s mouth still seems like a battle.

It doesn’t have to be, though. There are a few tricks you might never have thought of that have been proven to get kids to eat healthier food – and that start before your child even sits down to dinner.

Let them play before dinner.

When we take our son out for a picnic, something strange happens. When we sit down to eat, he’ll nibble on a few pieces of bread like he’s rushing his way through a chore. Then he’ll ask, “Okay, I ate. Can I please go play now?”

When he comes back, though, he’s a completely different boy. We could put anything in front of him, from broccoli to spinach, and he’d gobble it up like it was a bag of candy.

As it turns out, it’s not just our son who does this, it’s everyone – and it makes a huge difference. One study testing the effects of putting recess before school lunches found that kids who play before a meal eat 54% more vegetables than kids who play after eating.

So, just let your kids run around a bit before they eat, and you’ll see those vegetables disappear.

Teach them to cook.

Our son cooked his first meal when he was 3 years old. Sure, the meal he served us was cold cut vegetables, ham sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs, and he got a little help from daddy – but it made him prouder than he’d ever been.

Kids can start helping in the kitchen young, and it makes a huge difference on their eating habits. Even toddlers can slice vegetables with a plastic knife, or fill a pot with eggs and water – and it does more than just get them ready to work in the kitchen.

One study found that kids who entered cooking classes started eating more fruits and vegetables after they enrolled. Another in Alberta found that cooking even changed their tastes. The more kids helped out in the kitchen, they learned, the more they liked the taste of vegetables.

Our son eats every bite of everything he cooks, because he’s proud that he made it.

When he made his first meal, he was beaming with pride. “Do you know why I’m giving myself a thumbs up?” he asked us. “Because I cooked it!”

Put a smiley face on their food.

We’ve all labored over trying to make those beautiful carrot-and-cucumber smiley face arrangements we see on Pinterest. Let’s be honest – it takes hours, and it never comes out looking quite as good as it does online.

As it turns out, you don’t really need to go to all that effort to get kids to eat veggies. You can just put a sticker on it.

A group of schools experimented with putting happy face stickers on its healthy choices and frowny faces on high-calorie, low nutrition snacks, and it made an incredible difference. The kids all chose at least one extra healthy food choice if it had a smiley face on it.

Partly, this works because the sticker makes it more attractive – but partly, it’s because the kids get to make a choice in their decision. So, give your kids a little autonomy with a system they can understand. They’ll make better choices on their own.

Don’t praise them for eating.

When your kid takes a bite of broccoli, it’s kind of tempting to applaud. It’s so exciting that you might find yourself blurting out, “I’m so proud of you!” the second it hits their mouth. As it turns out, though, praising kids for trying new food actually hurts more than it helps.

Researchers gave kids a new type of yogurt and asked them to taste-test it. Some of the kids just ate the yogurt and went home, but another group was told how great they were every time they took a bite.  When the study was over, the kids who weren’t praised had developed a taste for it and liked it more – but the kids who were praised liked it less and less every time they tried it.

When you praise your kids for their eating habits, they think you’re manipulating them. They think you’re trying to get them to do a job, and that makes the food taste terrible.

Make it look like a happy meal.

McDonalds is absolutely brilliant at marketing. Kids all around the world recognize the golden arches, and more than a few will break into tantrums if their parents don’t let them in. It’s hard to beat them – so why not copy them?

When researchers packaged healthy food in bright, cartoon-filled boxes and paired it with a little toy or a sticker, it made a huge difference in kids’ food selection. Kids chose nutritious meals three times as often when they came with a little toy, and milk sales went up 500% when it came with a sticker.

This can be an absolute life-saver when you go out to eat. Bring a colorful box a dollar store toy when you go to the healthy restaurant, and suddenly eating McDonalds won’t strike your child as such a life-or-death necessity.

Give them more time to eat.

Sometimes, I push my son to try a new food a little bit too hard. We’ll spend the first five minutes of dinner coercing, arguing, and even trying to bribe our boy into taking a taste and get nowhere. Then, ten minutes after I’ve given up and let it drop, he’ll pick up his fork and say, “Alright! I’ll try it.”

It’s not abnormal – it’s something we’ve seen in schools, too. Students in schools that give a longer lunch break usually eat healthier. If fact, when kids have to rush through a meal, they eat 12% less vegetables compared to kids who get to take their time.

Kids need time to adjust to different foods. If a food’s still strange and scary, they don’t always want to jump on it right away. If dinner lingers a little longer, though, they often find their way to the new food on their own.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.

Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

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

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Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"

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During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)


Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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