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Science Explains Why Your Kids Love Watching Unboxing Videos

Without fail, each time I set up my kids to watch a children’s video on YouTube, they navigate to videos of kids and adults unboxing and playing with toys. And every time, I’m shocked at how many views these kinds of videos get – often in the millions, sometimes in the tens of millions, even over 100 million.

This style of video was originally geared toward adults, with unboxers opening tech gadgets to provide a realistic preview and review of expensive products. But it found a more lucrative audience in toddlers. Top unboxers can earn six or seven figure incomes from ad revenue and appearance fees.

Why do kids find these videos so fascinating?

Personally, I equate them to the infomercials that I used to watch as a kid. I was fascinated by the transformation of a plain old jean jacket into a bedazzled beauty and intrigued by every kitchen gadget that Ron Popeil hawked. I marveled at how Ginsu knives and the Miracle Blade glided through a ripe tomato after hacking through shoe leather. In essence, the element of reveal that these infomercials offered entranced me. This is partly what makes unboxing videos so interesting to today’s youngest generation.

There appear to be a few other reasons, too.

The videos are the right speed for toddlers

The pace is slow and focused on a single task, like opening a Kinder Egg or shaping Play Doh into a princess dress. The simplicity is appealing to young children who are processing so much new information each day.

It’s the same reason kids love repetition and why pauses in shows like Blue’s Clues, which are meant to solicit responses from the kids watching at home, feel a few beats too long to adults. Toddlers need a little extra time to make sense of the world. Unboxing videos are their equivalent to listening to smooth jazz and sipping an espresso.

The videos are the right length: short

A typical video is three to five minutes long, which is perfect for a young child’s attention span, so children stay interested from start to finish. At the same time, YouTube queues up related videos, making it easy for kids to watch them continuously. And, trust me, they do keep watching.

The videos have a hypnotic effect

Based on my personal experience, I know this to be true. If I let her (and sometimes I do), my three-year-old will zone out for over an hour, watching perfectly manicured hands open brightly colored boxes, listening to the crinkle of packaging, and being lulled by the narration of a pleasant off-camera voice.

One hypothesis: These videos trigger the pleasure centers in a child’s brain, which may have various effects. Some enjoy them because it mimics the experience of opening the toys themselves, and what kid doesn’t love to open a present?

Another idea is that the set-up of these videos – the focused attention on a mundane task, the narration, the ambient sounds of clicks and crackles as toys are unboxed and assembled – trigger an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) for certain children. This induces feelings of relaxation, the same way watching Bob Ross paint happy trees is so boring, yet also wonderful.

The videos feature popular and familiar characters

This point is obvious, but no less important. Each video features mainstream characters, and this is not by accident. Toy marketers send their products to unboxers to open because this form of advertising is inexpensive, but effective. The familiarity of the toys plays up on children’s fantasies to actually own them.

The videos are stimulating

As much as unboxing videos may invoke immediate feelings of relaxation for the children watching them, they may also prompt kids to imagine how they might play with the toys.

This is true for my daughter. Her favorite videos are of Disney Princess Magiclip dolls because she already has a few (okay, six). After watching a video, she’ll sometimes mimic what she’s seen by lining up her dolls and talking aloud as she swaps their dresses.

So is it safe for kids to watch these videos? I couldn’t find any studies saying it isn’t. It is up to us parents to use our judgment to regulate their consumption. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises setting screen time limits based on your child’s age and to take the time to watch what they’re watching. If that’s not always possible, activate parental controls on YouTube to prevent kids from navigating to less appropriate videos.

If you’re about to Google how you, too, can earn millions of dollars by opening toys for a living, stop and think about all the toys already cluttering your home. Then, slowly back away from the search box.

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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This month isn't just the start of a new year, but the start of a new life for those due in 2019. If you're expecting a baby this year you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama.

Here are some fellow mamas-to-be expecting in 2019:

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega 

The Spy Kids actress and mom to 2-year-old Ocean will soon have to get herself a double stroller because PenaVega and her husband Carlos are expecting again.

"Holy Moly!!! Guys!!! We are having another baby!!!!" captioned an Instagram post. "Do we wake Ocean up and tell him??!! Beyond blessed and excited to continue growing this family!!! Get ready for a whole new set of adventures!!!"

Over on Carlos' IG the proud dad made a good point: " This year we will officially be able to say we have 'kids!' Our minds are blown," he write.

Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald

In January Counting On Jessa Seewald (formerly Jessa Duggar) announced via Instagram that she is pregnant with her third child with husband Ben Seewald.

We love that she was able to make the announcement in her own time, not worrying about speculation about her midsection. She's been over that for a while.

[Update: January 18, added PenaVega]

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The shape appeals to kids and the organic and gluten-free labels appeal to parents in the freezer aisle, but if you've got a bag of Perdue's Simply Smart Organics Gluten Free Chicken Breast Nuggets, don't cook them.

The company is recalling 49,632 bags of the frozen, fully cooked Simply Smart Organics Gluten Free Chicken Breast Nuggets because they might be contaminated with wood.

According to the USDA, Perdue received three complaints about wood In the nuggets, but no one has been hurt.

The nuggets were manufactured on October 25, 2018 with a "Best By" date of October 25, 2019. The UPC code is 72745-80656. (The USDA provides an example of the packaging here so you'll know where to look for the code).

In a statement on the Perdue website the company's Vice President for Quality Assurance, Jeff Shaw, explains that "After a thorough investigation, we strongly believe this to be an isolated incident, as only a minimal amount of these packages has the potential to contain pieces of wood."

If you have these nuggets in your freezer you can call Perdue 877-727-3447 to ask for a refund.

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