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SCOTUS legalizes same-sex marriage, and the world just got a little better for our kids

Today the Supreme Court of the United States declared states can no longer prevent same-sex couples from marrying and must recognize their unions. The decision was 5-4.


Credit: Christopher Goskopf / NPR

A flurry of rainbows filled my feeds while sitting at my laptop today. I burst into tears and let them flow for all the friends, family, colleagues, and students I’ve taught who’ve faced discrimination in their lives for their sexual orientation, gender or identity.

I thought of the parents who phoned my colleague and I to accuse us of turning their 15-year-old daughter into a lesbian after we taught a lesson about using gender inclusive language in the classroom. I remembered how she shined when we approved her project to educate middle school students about LGBTQQ (lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer, questioning) awareness for our humanities class final project, a far cry from her severe depression, falling grades and tears from earlier in the year when she came out as a lesbian and her parents would not accept her for who she was.

I took pause to mentally high-five all the students whose journal entries and personal essays spilled over with anger and hurt over the bullying and harassment their two dads or moms faced in this country.

I mentally hugged the teachers and colleagues I’ve worked with in both public and private schools, who’ve never come out in their professional settings because of fear of harassment from parents, students and other colleagues.

Today was a small victory in this fight for inclusion and equity in our country.

Credit: @whitehouse Instagram

On the other hand, I know despite this ruling we have much work to do to continue to create loving and supporting environments for the LGBTQQ youth in our country.

I’m a parent and educator. Wherever you stand of the spectrum of understanding and acceptance, I urge you to consider some facts about how LGBTQQ (lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer, questioning) children are treated in our schools.

The GLSEN surveyed LGBTQQ students between the ages of 13-18 across our country and discovered the following in their 2011 National School Climate Survey:

  • 84.9% heard the word “gay” used in a negative way, and 91.4% reported feeling stressed over hearing this language.
  • 71.3% heard other homophobic language and remarks frequently or often.
  • 61.4% reported hearing negative remarks about gender expression like (“not acting man enough” or “crying like a girl”) frequently or often.
  • 56.9% of students reported hearing homophobic remarks by teachers or other staff members in schools.
  • 63.5% of students felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation at school.
  • 81.9% were verbally harassed (called names or threatened) in the past year due to their sexual orientation.
  • 38.3% were physically harassed (pushed or shoved) in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
  • 18.3% were injured or physically assaulted (kicked, punched, harmed with a weapon) in the past year because of their sexual orientation.

According to the American Psychological Association, LGBTQQ youth have increased absences from school and are more likely to experience depression and anxiety. As parents and educators, we’re obligated to teach our kids to be more inclusive and accepting regardless of our beliefs. People are people, and love is love.

 

 

Here are some things you can do as a parent or educator to help create safer more supportive environments in schools.

1. Use Inclusive Language. You can do this when talking about relationships, love, book characters or movies. Avoid assumptive and generalized statements. Rather than saying to your daughter, “When you start dating boys when you’re older…” it’s as simple as saying “If you start dating when you’re older…” If you practice inclusive language with your kids, you’ll teach them to not marginalize others by the statements and assumptions they make about sexual orientation.

2. Be Inclusive in your Actions. Practice what your preach. For example, don’t divide boys and girls at a birthday party when playing a game or in the classroom for a competition. This can be very confusing and isolating for kids who question their gender. Don’t give all the girls pink party favors and all the boys blue party favors. Let kids choose their own colors.

3. Talk about LGBTQQ families with your kids. I remember when my daughter was in preschool there was a little girl with two moms in her class. She came home and said, “That’s weird. She has two moms.” My reply was, “No, it’s not. Everybody’s family is special and unique. Some kids have one mom or one dad. Others have two moms and two dads. Some have a mom and a dad. And some kids live with other grown-ups. Every family is special and unique.” She never questioned the sexual orientation of her peers’ parents again. The biggest mistake you can make is avoiding your kids’ questions about sexual orientation. By avoiding their questions, what do you teach them?

4. Find role models. Expose your kids to LGBTQQ characters in books, television shows and movies. I headed to my local library last summer and asked the librarian to help me find examples of picture books that had LGBTQQ families in them to read to my daughter. We also watch Modern Family with our daughter, which includes a family with two dads. Find real-life role models too. There are artists, musicians, politicians, doctors and other historical figures who are queer heroes. And you don’t have to go far to find friends, family members, teachers or other queer youth. Our seven-year-old daughter doesn’t question sexual orientation because she spends time with queer youth and adults on a regular basis.

5. Be an Ally. If your child is in school, he or she may witness microaggressions or bullying and harassment of LGBTQQ youth. Talk to your child about not being a bystander and standing up and advocating for others. If your child comes out to you about being LGBTQQ, you can help support them with resources and your acceptance and love.

6. Educate yourself. Times have changed and terminology has changed. This guide from the University of Michigan is a good place to educate yourself on vocabulary you may not have heard in your education.

I, for one, am over the moon about today’s Supreme Court Ruling. It’s one step closer to making this world a better place for my students and kids in this world. But we have an obligation to keep making this world a better place for LGBTQQ youth every single day in our homes and classrooms too. Let’s continue the work of the SCOTUS and start now.

Also read: Recognition for same-sex parents (or as we call them, parents)

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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

BUY


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

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Losing a pregnancy hurts on many levels. It can be physically uncomfortable to downright painful, but the emotional aspects of a miscarriage are far more profound, multifaceted, and often require more time for resolution. Whether a woman is newly pregnant or farther along at the time of miscarriage is irrelevant—loss is loss. And with any loss, comes grief.

Once the OB provides a due date, we naturally construct a mental image of what life with a baby will look like, and thoughts about a new family flood our minds. Then when the pregnancy ends prematurely, a woman is left to grieve the actual loss along with this theoretical future family that will never be. It's a double whammy.

Grief after miscarriage is similar to any other form of loss, and it conforms to the well-known Kubler-Ross Grief steps, with a few alterations. Women often progress forwards and then take steps back before moving forward again and eventually feeling relatively comfortable with the past and the new normal. It can be difficult to process feelings about miscarriage because partners often experience grief at different speeds and may express their feelings in different ways.

Furthermore, it can be hard to talk about a loss with friends and family, many of whom will likely be unsure what to say and, with good intentions at heart, will end up saying something that feels disingenuous or preachy that inadvertently can be irritating or even hurtful to a woman who recently miscarried.

As a result, women often report feeling highly isolated and alone in their grief, which is unfortunate and unnecessary considering that one in two women have miscarried. Finding other women who have similarly suffered a miscarriage and can be there for you to empathize and provide a shoulder to cry on is incredibly helpful. Grief-based support groups in person and online often function to provide a safe place for women to open up about their feelings and begin to process and heal.

If you or someone you know have recently gone through a miscarriage, it's important to understand the chain of reactions that may follow in order for the healing to begin.

1. Shock and denial

Being told there is no heartbeat on ultrasound or that miscarriage is inevitable often feels like a punch in the gut, followed by a sense of disbelief. How is it possible? Just a moment ago this pregnancy was real, and now my world is crashing down. Why? This can't be right.

Feeling as though one's head is spinning or that you're in a cloud is normal, as is the desire to confirm the doctor's finding once or twice or more times because of disbelief. Many women continue to experience transient nausea until hormone levels drop, making it hard to believe the pregnancy has ended. If a pregnancy is far enough along, women may misattribute gas or cramping to phantom kicks, which also reinforce this sense of denial.

2. Anger

Why my pregnancy? Why my baby? Some women externalize anger: 'I did everything right, I took my prenatal vitamins and I ate well. This isn't fair…' Others may be angry at themselves, wishing they had done things differently, despite being told and knowing on some level that miscarriage is not her fault.

Women may be irritable and angry with their partners for not understanding their experience or for not having the same degree of reaction or response as they are. They may also be angry at her friends who have had babies despite realizing this is not logical.

Even the most rational woman may be very easily angered and hostile at those around her, seemingly without cause because she is angry at the situation. Miscarriage is not fair, it doesn't make sense, and it is a good reason to be angry—so when a woman is mad, it's okay. Don't try to stifle the anger, just understand that it's because a wanted pregnancy is gone and not really directed at the people who are trying to be supportive and loving and are grieving also.

3. Bargaining

'If I eat only organic foods, remove all chemicals from my makeup and skin care products, and keep all toxins out of my house, then my next pregnancy will be okay, right?' This period is notable for looking for ways to right the wrong, to find a reason and to remedy it. The notion that a miscarriage can occur without cause or that one cannot prevent it is highly upsetting, and this stage is focused on fixing things.

This is a time where women search for answers and try to make it all better. In fact, it's not uncommon to try to conceive right away during this time while all is seemingly perfect, and then to be incredibly frustrated if things don't go as planned.

4. Depression or deep sadness

This time is characterized by awareness of the magnitude of the loss and that nothing can change the past or can inherently ensure the future. Women frequently isolate themselves, even from those who want to help, and feel as if they are the only ones who have ever experienced such grief. They often have low energy and little motivation during that time.

The severity of the depression depends on a woman's experience and likely on if she is otherwise prone to depression and other psychiatric illnesses. If this stage is severe enough to negatively impact daily life for more than several days or if there's any thought of self-harm, please reach out for help from a trained mental professional.

Ask your OBGYN for a referral or go to postpartum.net to connect with a local coordinator who can help you find a perinatal and reproductive psychiatry trained clinician in your area.

5. Acceptance

The magnitude of the grief begins to lessen over time. Eventually, days will pass without thinking of the miscarriage, which can cause guilt. This sometimes throws a woman back to a lower step such as anger or depression. But, that's okay—the idea is to move forwards along the process at your own pace.

Eventually, this loss will be a part of your story without defining your life or being the focus of your thoughts, day in and day out. The memory never goes away, but the sharp pain fades with time.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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We asked #TeamMotherly to submit their children's Halloween costumes—and you all didn't disappoint!

Here are a few of our favorites.

Superwoman, submitted by Bibianna Rocha

Snow White, submitted by Keshia Williams

Flamingo, submitted by Crystal Mijailovic Quayle

Peter Pan, submitted by Kaitlee Fenno

Scarecrow, submitted by Tiffany Casper

Robot, submitted by Jennifer Neff

Octopus and mermaid, submitted by Julianna Drinan

Cinderella, submitted by Chelle Zellers

Troll and jack-o-lantern, submitted by Rima Ivy

Lobster, submitted by Holly Simon

Chicken, submitted by Jacklyn Kate

Max from Where The Wild Things Are, submitted by Nicolle Mallinson

Baby Elvis, submitted by Brittany Lara Pilcher

Starry Night, submitted by Cierra Joy Wortman

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, submitted by Anna Kirschbaum Frary

Old Lady, submitted by Kristen Poat

Clown, submitted by Dha Muyalde

Mummy, submitted by Marieke Ayoub

Dinosaur, submitted by Christel Jameson

Sushi roll, submitted by Chelsea Druso

Monopoly, submitted by Allanah Bryant

Crayon, submitted by April Nixon

Frappucino, submitted by Courtney Richards

Belle from Beauty and the Beast, submitted by Brittany Baez

Skunk, submitted by Kelsey Maier

Strawberry Kiss, submitted by Jam My

Unicorn, submitted by Tyler and Hilda Dunford

Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, submitted by Kelsey Berry

Deer, submitted by Carrie Arias

Tangled and Frozen characters, submitted by Lindsey Whitworth

Firefighter and dalmatian, submitted by Kate Zylinski

Mickey Mouse, submitted by Victoria X Yang

Harry Potter, submitted by Karisa Seamans

Baby giraffe, submitted by Heather Dorman

Baby bear, submitted by Kristen Reay

Cookie Monster, submitted by McKenzie Ruttner

Moana and Pua, submitted by Clare Kennedy

Butterfly, submitted by Eni Dan

Luigi and Peach from Mario Brothers, submitted by Lisa Coker

Police officer, submitted by Pamela Zavaleta

Power Ranger, submitted by Danielle Groff

“All of her favorite things," submitted by Gillian Bell Weeks

Prince Gristle from Trolls, submitted by Alicia Hooper

Chucky, submitted by Kim Butcher

Bananas and monkey, submitted by Taylor Zuiderveen

Batman and Robin, submitted by Stephanie Maiden

Dobby the House Elf from Harry Potter, submitted by Emily Whiteley

Puppy, submitted by Brooke Shemer Zweig

Paper Bag Princess, submitted by Heather Cameron

Little Red Riding Hood, submitted by Kimberly Steward

The Big Bad Wolf, submitted by Nicole Monk

Pink Super Girl and Wall-E, submitted by Jasen Melinda Eairheart

Home Alone characters, submitted by Molly Anderson Caton

Luke Skywalker and Jedi Knight from Star Wars, submitted by Wolf Pup Threads

Marty McFly from Back to the Future, submitted by Carla Bermudez-Rivera

I look forward to Halloween every fall—not just for the candy and treats that come with it, but because of the costume making. Oh, how I love to get creative with costumes!

As a kid, my mom would always whip up a super creative design for my sister and me, so I knew I wanted to carry on that tradition with my little ones. And, let's be honest, this is basically the Golden Age of DIY. Between sources like Pinterest, Facebook and the internet at large, there are so many great ideas for DIY kids' Halloween costumes out there.

Here are some easy-peasy Halloween costumes (including a few tried-and-true ones from me) that you can definitely pull off this fall:

1. Stop sign 

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No joke: When my oldest was two, he requested to be a stop sign for Halloween. All it took on my end was some grey pants, a red top, a handmade cardboard sign shaped like an octagon with the letters S-T-O-P on it and some felt hot glued to his socks to mimic grass and—voila!—we had a walking stop sign.

2. It's raining cats and dogs 

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This may seem a little off the wall, but it's actually a great use of those excess stuffed animals strewn around the house. All you need is an umbrella with hanging stuffed cats and dogs, a simple solid tee and pants and rain boots.

3. Campfire 

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Make some felt logs (fabric glue should do the trick if you're averse to sewing), add a little felt fire and put a marshmallow on the end of a stick. That gives you the perfect costume for your budding outdoorsman or woman!

4. Beehive

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Save a few yellow pool noodles from the clearance section at the store and tape them together to make the shape of a beehive around your little one. Put a pair of yellow or black pajamas underneath them and add a headband with antennas on top! The whole neighborhood will be buzzing about this costume! (Bonus points if you want to add some plastic bees!)

5. Unicorn

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Unicorns are all the craze right now—and making an on-trend costume is really easy! All you need to do is put your little one in a solid white or pastel outfit, make a rainbow colored tail with different colors of yarn and then make a horn using Styrofoam and glitter.

6. Jellyfish

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Similar to the raining cats and dogs costume, use a clear or white umbrella to make a jellyfish. All you need is two large eyes and some streamers to hang around the umbrella. Pair with a coordinating outfit of choice and you've got yourself a sea creature!

7. A planet 

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Last year, my oldest went as Jupiter. I ended up gluing two large circles together, painting them to mimic the planet with fabric paint, tying them together and putting black shorts and a tee (complete with fabric painted stars) to mimic the universe. He might have gotten called a jelly donut a few times, but it was a total hit!

8. Skunk 

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I don't think there is anything cuter than a baby skunk! Take a black onesie, put white felt on the front and add a matching hat. You've got yourself a Pepe Le Pew.

9. Wolf

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Take a grey outfit, pair with a fuzzy bonnet and add a faux fur tail. What a match for Little Red Riding Hood!

10.  Gnome

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Use grey or navy pants, a blue long-sleeved tee, a makeshift felt belt, a red hat made from construction paper and brown shoes. For boys, it's fun to add a big ol' white beard. Easy and adorable!

11.  Flamingo

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Using a pink feather boa and a pink onesie, glue the boa to the bottom portion of the onesie. Add a matching pink cap on top with a black felt beak. Pair with pink leggings and black shoes!

12.  Volkswagen Van

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I never in a million years thought I'd be able to come up with a VW van costume for my little guy, but an empty cardboard box, felt, string and some reflective paper did the trick. He was a hit Halloween night!

13.  Corn

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Take a yellow onesie or tee, add some green to the sides and some cut some felt kernels to go on the belly area. Add a headband with some yarn to make it look like "silk" and you've got a corn costume!

14.  Pencil or Crayon

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Dress your kiddo in yellow, blue, red, green, orange or whatever color you desire—and top with a cone-shaped hat. You can make a pencil top or crayon top fairly easy with construction paper.

15.  Bubble bath

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Take a white outfit, tape some balloons onto it and put a shower cap on your little one's head. You could even add a scrub brush to the costume!

16.  Snail

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Take packing paper, wrinkle it up and roll it into the shape of a snail shell (a swirl-like pattern). Add an antenna headband and a green or brown pj set and you have a snail costume!

17.  Pineapple

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Use a yellow onesie or tee, draw a pineapple pattern onto it and make a headband with the stem to mimic the top of a pineapple. You can do the same for many other fruits as well!

18.  Fisherman

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Dress your little one in khaki pants, a khaki vest, (safe) fishing lures, a matching hat and a fishing pole! Easy and adorable!

19.  Candy corn

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Using a white onesie, cut orange and yellow felt to cover the parts that would make the onesie resemble a piece of candy corn. Yellow on the bottom, orange in the middle and a small portion of white at the top. Using white felt, make a headband for the top portion of the candy corn. Then just pair with white or orange pants.

20.  Spider 

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If you are baby-wearing this Halloween, making baby a spider is a great costume to incorporate your carrier. Using streamers, construction paper or felt, make eight legs to attach to the back of your carrier. Add a black cap to the little baby and you've got a baby spider!

21.  Care Bear 

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Use a solid color onesie or tee and make the care bear (of your choice) belly sign to attach to the top. Pair with matching leggings or pants, add some ears and paint a bear nose. You've got a cute, cuddly Care Bear!

Have fun getting crafty and creative, mama! ✂️

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