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Much of our formal education is taken up with logic and rational thought. The way children memorize vocabulary, mathematical equations, even the capitals of each state utilizes the left hemisphere of the brain.


And yet, the right-brained activities are what enthrall pre-verbal children: the contrast of black and white that a newborn sees, the music to which a baby wiggles his fingers and toes, and the grandmother’s lullaby that soothes a crying infant.

A line in A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books reads, “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” That quote can be said about a parents’ love for their newborn but also about a toddler’s love of music, singing, dancing and bright hues as they scribble, color and finger paint.

Much of our early arts education isn’t intentionally education; we as parent-educators are doing what comes to us naturally. Alyssa Herzog Melby, director of education and community engagement for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater said, “Your kids can’t be too young to introduce them to the arts. From the moment babies are born and in our arms, we sing songs and dance and move with them. We show them pictures in books and make animal noises. (Even from) birth to age five kids are sponges; it is great to get them out in the world looking at things.”

Introducing your child to music and dance

Suzanne Perrino, senior vice president of education and strategic implementation at the Pittsburgh Symphony, echoed Herzog Melby’s comments: “The best time to introduce music to your child is as early as possible, preferably before the child is born.”

When a mother reads or sings to her baby in utero, the baby hears the sounds partially through bone conduction. Dr. Henry Truby, Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics and Linguistics at the University of Miami, said that after the sixth month, the fetus moves in rhythm to the mother’s speech.

Finnish researchers at the University of Helsinki published a study in 2013 involving pregnant women whose babies listened to a one-minute CD of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”in utero for five weeks, an average of 170 times. Then at birth and at four months, the researchers did EEG tests as the children listened to the original tune and a slightly altered version.

The children who heard the music (as opposed to a control group who did not) had a larger response to the melody, which only proves, according to the lead researcher Eino Partanen, “A baby can be relaxed and soothed by melodies it hears before birth.” 

According to an article titled “Importance of Prenatal Sound and Music” by music therapist Giselle E. Whitwell, “Women all over the world have sung lullabies to their babies. These were very important because as we now know the fetus is having first language lessons in the womb. The inflections of the mother tongue are conveyed not only through speech, but most importantly through song.” So those silly little songs we sing like “The Wheels on the Bus,” “Frére Jacques,” and “Row, Row Your Boat” are actually teaching language skills.

Getting kids to imitate animals and move their bodies in space to music (and to follow directions) improves gross motor skills. This is why dance schools enroll toddlers and preschoolers. It isn’t to teach them formal ballet technique but to build a motor skill progression in a specific sequence.

If music is what you want to introduce your child to as opposed to, or in addition to dance, Perrino encourages parents, first and foremost, to sing with their children. “Often times, parents feel that their natural singing voice is ‘not good enough.’ They have been told by someone along the way that they don’t have perfect pitch or that they sing off key.”

However, she says, “A parent’s voice is the most treasured by a child… Interacting through music with your child in a positive, engaging way builds confidence, self-expression, and encourages experimentation with their natural instrument – their voice,” said Perrino.  

Introducing your child to theater 

Other musical opportunities for children and teenagers in most cities include going to performances at opera houses, attending musicals, or seeing live theatre. Theater Services Guide lists companies and playhouses that produce works for children throughout the United States. This website also has a link to puppet shows, too, many of which are for children. 

Many cities sponsor International Children’s Theater Festivals in the summer, such as this one in Cleveland, where children watch magic shows, plays, musicals, and interactive comedies. 

In order to prepare your children for successful attendance at a theater event, Musical Theater Kids recommends:

  • familiarizing children with the storylines and characters beforehand (and in the case of opera, the music, too)
  • explaining what good audience member behavior is and how it helps the actors on stage (including that a bathroom break during the show may not be possible)
  • emphasizing how fun the whole experience will be
  • making sure young children eat before going to the theater, but bringing quiet snacks and toys for intermissions and the waiting period before the show begins.

After the show is over and you’ve left the building, discuss what the child liked and didn’t like and why. This teaches critical thinking and also will give parents an idea of what kinds of theater experiences would be good in the future. 

Introducing your child to visual arts

Many cities possess a wealth of visual arts, from public art displays on corporate campuses to those on city buses or public transportation systems to a proliferation of art galleries and museums. For example, California has a mandate that corporate campuses must include public art. Portland, Oregon, has poetry and artwork around its river walk. And all bus shelters in the Seattle area feature artwork by school-aged children.

Art is everywhere and provides us opportunities to discuss what we see with our children.

Many museums, art galleries, and schools have classes or drop-in session for kids. The Andy Warhol Museum, in Pittsburgh offers activities for middle school and high school students. Studio Programs Coordinator Paul O’Brien said that the Youth Open Studio is a weekly drop-in center for teens in grades eight through 12. “Educators from the Artists Image Resource and the Andy Warhol Museum supervise a cohort of teen shop techs that teach silkscreen printing to middle and high school students.” AWM also offers hands-on art demonstrations for toddlers through adults with paid museum admission.

If you take a child to see art at a museum or art gallery, ask question about what they are seeing. Do hands-on activities and continue the creativity and learning at home. Stock your house with paints and paper, brushes, crayons, markers, pens, pencils and erasers, modeling clay and Play-Doh, scraps of cloth and colored paper, and all other means and modes of creating. You can use Red Ted Arts activities for kids based on the works on 30 great artists to come up with creative ideas if your child runs out of his or her own.

You can continue your visit by viewing the art at the online galleries of The National Gallery of Art, The Museum of Modern Art and The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, all of which have phenomenal online interactive art collections. Also, draw your child’s attention to the fact that art isn’t just in a museum or gallery. It is all around. Play “I Spy” with an artwork theme.

Encourage your child to pursue any kind of art he or she wants. California Lieutenant Governor and parent of three Gavin Newsom said, “An arts education helps build academic skills and increase academic performance, while also providing alternative opportunities to reward the skills of children who learn differently.” And like the rest of our education, arts education starts at home with that first song that we sing or book that we read to our baby before she is born. 

British actor Sir Richard Eyre explained the importance of art this way, “Change begins with understanding, and understanding begins by identifying oneself with another person: in a word, empathy. The arts enable us to put ourselves in the minds, eyes, ears, and hearts of other human beings.”

And that is the best reason for parents to introduce their children to the arts in all of its many forms.

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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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Seeing your baby for the first time is an amazing experience for any parent. For most parents, the months preceding this meeting were probably spent imagining what the baby was experiencing inside the womb, trying to paint a realistic picture on top of that two-dimensional black and white ultrasound photo.

But thanks to Brazillian birth photographer Janaina Oliveira and a baby boy named Noah, parents around the world are now better able to imagine what their baby's world looked like between the ultrasound picture and their first breath.

While most babies are born without their amniotic sac intact, Noah entered the world (via C-section), still cocooned inside his. This is known as an en caul birth, and while it wasn't the first Oliveira has captured through her lens, it is likely now the most famous of her photographs.

After she posted Noah's birth photos to Instagram, Oliveira's photos went viral, making headlines around the world.

This slideshow is amazing.

In a Facebook post, Noah's mom Monyck Valasco explains that she had a tough pregnancy with Noah, and is so grateful that he did not arrive too early.

Noah is now something of a celebrity in his hometown of Vila Velha, Brazil, but local media reports he was actually one of three en caul babies born at the Praia da Costa Hospital in just one month. Birth photographer Janaina Oliveira actually captured all three en caul births on camera. Little Matais arrived before Noah, and baby Laura came afterward, both en caul.

These photographs are as breathtaking as the babies featured in them and remind mothers around the world that our bodies were once someone's whole world. And now they are ours.

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Alexis Ohanian has made a lot of important decisions in his life. The decision to co-found Reddit is a pretty big one. So was marrying Serena Williams. But right up there with changing internet culture and making a commitment to his partner, the venture capitalist lists taking time off after his daughter's birth as a significant, life-changing choice.

"My understanding of showing up and being present for my wife was taken to a whole new level when Olympia was born. I was able to take 16 weeks of paid leave from Reddit, and it was one of the most important decisions I've made," Ohanian says in an essay for Glamour.

A nearly four-month parental leave is something too few American mothers, let alone fathers, get to take. Even when fathers work for companies that offer generous parental leave packages, they often don't use the benefit for fear of being sidelined or seen as uncommitted. A recent survey by Talking Talent found fathers typically use only 32% of the time available to them.

In his essay, Ohanian recognizes that he is privileged in a way most parents aren't.

"It helped that I was a founder and didn't have to worry about what people might say about my 'commitment' to the company, but it was incredible to be able to spend quality time with Olympia. And it was perhaps even more meaningful to be there for my wife and to adjust to this new life we created together—especially after all the complications she had during and after the birth," he explains.

(The GOAT's husband is making the same points that we at Motherly make all the time.)

He continues: "There is a lot of research about the benefits of taking leave, not only for the cognitive and emotional development of the child but for the couple. However, many fathers in this country are not afforded the privilege of parental leave. And even when they are, there is often a stigma that prevents them from doing so. I see taking leave as one of the most fundamental ways to 'show up' for your partner and your family, and I cherished all 16 weeks I was able to take."

👏👏👏

By first taking his leave and then speaking out about the ways in which it benefited his family, Ohanian is using his privileged position to de-stigmatize fathers taking leave, and advocate for more robust parental leave policies for all parents, and his influence doesn't end there. He's trying to show the world that parents shouldn't have to cut off the parent part of themselves in order to be successful in their careers.

He says that when his parental leave finished he transitioned from being a full-time dad to a "business dad."


"I'm fortunate to be my own boss, which comes with the freedoms of doing things like bringing my daughter into the office, or working remotely from virtually anywhere Serena competes. My partners at Initialized are used to seeing Olympia jump on camera—along with her doll Qai Qai—or hearing her babbling on a call. I tell them with pride, 'Olympia's at work today!' And I'll post some photos on Instagram or Twitter so my followers can see it too," Ohanian explains.

"The more we normalize this, on social media and in real life, the better, because I know this kind of dynamic makes a lot of men uncomfortable (and selfishly I want Olympia to hear me talking about start-ups!)," he says.

This is the future of family-friendly work culture. Take it from a guy who created an entire internet culture.

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Trigger warning: Some of these responses describe a women's experiences with child loss.

Anxiety is one of those concepts you can never truly grasp until you face it yourself. And, each person's anxiety can announce itself in different ways—for some, it's postpartum anger, while for others, it's an overwhelming feeling of worry about a pregnancy. This can be especially prevalent if you're at high risk, concerned about telling your boss or undergoing medical issues. If you suffer from anxiety, know you're not alone in this mama. In fact, women are twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder than men.

These mamas shared how they manage and cope with their anxiety on Chairman Mom:

1. Hypnobirthing class

"I took a hynobirthing class at a nearby parents resource center—it was phenomenal. The class changed my emotional forecast for both the pregnancy and delivery. I uncovered a calm existence that lived dormant inside a very anxious body. For quick help at my fingertips, I love the Headspace app. My favorite quote pops up on the screen before I tap to complete a meditation 'Rather than the mind leading the breath, allow the breath to lead the mind. Keep glowing!'" —Jenny

2. Journaling

"It took my husband and I three years to have our IVF miracle baby after a devastating miscarriage last summer. I was wracked with anxiety for the entire duration of my pregnancy and it got worse as I got closer to his due date. The one thing that helped me was to journal. I wrote to the baby constantly about every step of the process and was very raw and real about the emotions I was experiencing each step of the way."—Anonymous

3. Set some ground rules

"[While I was on strict bedrest for 10 weeks] I tried to set ground rules for myself—I 'indulged' in worst case scenario/message board/Googling for exactly 30 minutes each day, and had to fill the rest of the bedrest time with other positive activities. I controlled for the factors I could, and just tried to chill out about everything else. Easier said than done, but I forced myself to breath deeply and try to limit the physical effects of my anxiety."—Milo

4. Therapy

"I feel like this could be my answer for many questions, but I say get to therapy. Anxiety can be a normal part of parenthood and it's a good idea to take the time before baby comes to build your tool kit and to feel like, even though it is full of unknowns, you have prepared your heart for the wild ride that is motherhood. I am an anxious person by nature, a worrier, a big feeler— learning that this is okay and that I can use it to my advantage has been empowering beyond measure. You are not alone and you will get through this. Hugs to you. If you are an "action person" and can't/won't get into therapy right now, this workbook has a lot of good, practical exercises."—Stratton

5. Reading this book

"I found a book called Finding Calm for the Expectant Mom useful. The major anxiety reducer for me during pregnancy was walking, because it was the only time I didn't feel sick early on and then later it was the only time the baby wasn't kicking me (which is supremely comforting and yet not). I found going with a mid-wife rather than a doctor helped alleviate a lot of anxiety. In Ontario (Canada) this is covered by OHIP (provincial health insurance). Midwives have way more time and patience. All appointments are booked for 30 minutes, so you never feel rushed."—Sian

6. Find a super knowledgeable OB

"I'm currently pregnant (second trimester) with two complications one of which can cause stillbirth. I found the best way to reduce anxiety was finding a super knowledgeable OB that I could talk to about treatments and milestones. Ask them about what kind of monitoring they'll do for you in the third trimester (NST/BPPs). Talk about contingency plans. I also found a doula that has been wonderful to talk with about the process of birth and the potential of NICU time and emergency c-sections (both not that uncommon with other women that have the same condition I do.) I whole heartedly recommend finding a therapist that you can talk with about your fears and anxieties. Look for ones who specialize in new moms. If there are any support groups for mamas with your high risk condition I also urge you to seek them out. Setting a limit for how much time you spend there is also extremely wise. And know that there are women who will experience loss in those groups. That doesn't mean you will." —Anonymous

7. Yoga, working out + meditation

"[After a miscarriage] what I've learned is that all that worrying didn't make a difference. It didn't make me feel any more prepared or okay once I lost the baby. And it limited how much I enjoyed those three months that I was pregnant. Next time I'm not going to read anything or Google anything or read any odds. I'm just going to take everyday as a gift. I know that's easier said than done. Yoga, working out, meditation. Being around people who don't know because then you can't talk about it or obsess about it. Warm baths, tea. Just be super super nice to yourself. Don't worry about what you should be eating or shouldn't be eating, etc."—Anonymous

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Having a new baby is incredibly hard. And beautiful and fulfilling and rewarding, of course—but definitely, definitely hard.

Especially the nights.

Watching the last rays of sunlight disappear would make my heart race. My 3-week-old baby didn't sleep for more than an hour and a half at a time and had zero regard for what time it was.

She was so tiny and helpless—and it was my responsibility to keep her safe and fed and healthy. For me, that was easier during the day. Because at night, it felt unfair knowing my husband and toddler were fast asleep a few rooms over.

The minute our newborn would wake, I would spring to action. Bottle, breast, pacing the floor, bouncing on an exercise ball, loud shushing into her tiny ear—I would do whatever it would take to get her to quiet down so she wouldn't wake the rest of the house.

The evenings also started to feel very isolating. It's hardly appropriate to call your mom or friend or sister at 1 a.m. when your baby starts spitting up a curdled milk mixture so hard it comes out of her nose. And even if I did call anyway, it wouldn't matter because they wouldn't answer because they'd be sleeping.

I was used to anticipating a lack of sleep each night, which was terrifying. I felt such dread knowing I would only get a collective two and a half hours of sleep before my toddler would wake up at 5:30 a.m, ready for his morning dance party.

Fear would strike me at night, too. An incapacitating, all-consuming fear that something might happen to my sweet baby girl while she was lying peacefully in her safe crib, in her baby-proofed nursery. I often wondered how I was even supposed to sleep with such intense worry on my mind.

I would stare for hours into the pitch black night, half of me thankful my baby was healthy, the other half of me terrified something would happen to her.

I'd feel irrational in the late hours of the night (or more likely, the wee, wee hours of the early morning) often reacting with full-on annoyance because as soon as she'd started to fall asleep I'd think, this is it—I can finally get some rest, only for her to wake up a few minutes later. I'd snap, "Seriously? All you do is eat!" at my tiny baby, which would automatically trigger intense guilt over what felt like such an uncontrolled emotional response.

"It gets better" and "sleep when the baby sleeps" are two sentiments I hope never to hear again in my life because—does it get better? Well, yes it does. Children don't usually turn into adults who only sleep for 90 minutes at a time. And sleeping when the baby sleeps sounds good in theory but it's impractical. Plus, neither statement helps at 3 a.m., TBH.

I went to extreme measures to quell my anxiety. I sent my husband to Walmart in the middle of a tropical depression to buy a rock 'n play. Then I sent him back when he returned with the version that didn't vibrate. I put a $300 Owlet monitor on a credit card. I used Amazon one-day shipping to obtain a copy of Dr. Harvey Karp's The Happiest Baby on the Block.

I eventually found there's no magic solution to aid in this season of parenting. It helps to find a community of women going through the same struggles. Prioritizing self-care and spending time connecting with your significant other are also healthy ways of dealing.

But I'm going to level with you—for the first three months of my baby's life, I didn't have time to seek out a support group, wash my hair or converse about one meaningful thing with my spouse.

I was in survival mode and the only thing that helped me was time passing and binge watching Downton Abbey.

And walks around the block. And coffee.

If you loved the newborn stage and came through it with fond memories—I applaud you.

If you gave it all you had and emerged on the other side with a baby who (mainly) sleeps through the night and is somewhat happy, most of the time—you deserve a standing ovation.

You managed to prevail in a time that required intense mental and physical stamina, and you nailed it. Great job, mama.

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