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For a while, I thought letting my son watch PBS shows on our tablet was a great choice.  We had control over what he was watching because we knew the menu of available shows; and we trusted these shows because of their educational value.  I mean, what parent wouldn’t be proud that their son preferred learning about “creature powers” (on Wild Kratts) to playing video games?

But somehow, despite the high quality of these shows, tablet time was not going well in our house.  No matter how clear we thought we were being, our rules (the tablet could only be used two days per week, only for educational shows, and only for a limited time period), each time we took the tablet away from our son his behavior was surprisingly challenging.  He whined or yelled about having to stop, didn’t know how to listen to our directions on what he should do next, and often misbehaved physically or had trouble controlling his body.

Recently, we took the tablet away completely for a few weeks.  Yet, in the back of our minds we knew this drastic approach also wasn’t really the answer.  Kids need to learn about technology; would we be putting him at a disadvantage by keeping him away from it?  Would we evoke equally bad behavior by saying no every time he asked about the tablet?

My gut told me watching TV shows wasn’t the way to go, so we started telling him he could only use the tablet for activities that kept him active or helped him learn.  We got an account on gonoodle.com, a site for exercise, dance, and even meditation and yoga videos all designed for kids.  We downloaded an app for him to create his own books using photos and voice recording.  And we occasionally let him play a simple video game that requires him to build and race Lego vehicles.

We also started paying more attention.  Instead of using the tablet as a babysitter while we tried to get other things done, we were attentive to what he was doing (even if we also did dishes), we gave him plenty of time warnings and worked with him to decide when would be a good stopping point (“ok, so you have three minutes left – do you think you have time to build another vehicle or do you think you should stop now and just use the coloring app?”).   I even did a few Go Noodle exercise routines with him – not a bad thing for this busy mom who never has time for exercise!

Not surprisingly, this new approach has led to much more positive experiences with the tablet and much smoother transitions from tablet time to the next activity.

As it turns out, there’s research to back up what we’re finding to be useful in our household.

There is a great deal of research in the education field showing that children sometimes struggle with transitions from one activity to another and that “children may engage in challenging behavior when they do not understand the expectations for their transition” (Hemmeter et al, 2008).  While much of this research focuses on how day care providers or teachers can plan for transitions in the classroom, especially with larger groups of kids, the concept that transitions can be challenging for kids is just as useful for parents.  For children who have significant challenges transitioning from one activity to the next, Hemmeter et al (2008) suggest things like giving a signal before the transition is coming (a time limit warning for example); modeling transitions; and being prepared for the next activity before starting the transition.

Dr. Laurel Bongiorno, Dean of the Division of Education and Human Studies at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont is often asked about how kids should use technology and was inspired by these conversations to write 10 Technology Tips for Preschool Parents.  I had the opportunity to talk with her as I researched this topic.  Bongiorno noted that whenever kids are really focused, whether that be in building a block structure or watching something on the tablet, you have to give them time to switch gears.  “Think about how you would feel,” she said, “if someone walked in and turned out the lights in the middle of what you were doing and said, ‘time’s up’.”  In fact, Bongiorno watched parents who used tablets to entertain children at restaurants and realized that often those who had been given tablets actually ended up behaving worse than those who had been “passed from person to person until the food arrived”; she suggests that this may be because children who had the tablet taken out of their hands weren’t able to continue what they were doing (listen to her podcast on this topic).

Bongiorno noted we can help children transition away from screen time more smoothly by choosing activities that have some sort of predictable end or pausing point.  For example, she recommends choosing games for kids that can be broken up into levels or episodes to which they can return to the next time they use the tablet.  She also suggests that we create a ritual or routine about putting the technology away.  “When a child has reached his or her time limit,” she suggests, “walk them through putting the tablet away in its case or plugging it in so it can get recharged for the next time.”  If we want our child to put their technology away, she noted, we also have to look at our own use of technology; are you checking your phone at dinner, checking your email every five minutes while you cook?  As with many things we want our children to do, we have to practice what we preach.

Dr. Alexandra Samuel translated these tips for transition directly to the concept of screen time in her 2015 article “How to end Screen Time Without Tears” – a must read if you too are dealing with this issue.  I was pleased that Samuel’s tips aligned with the things we had been trying, like giving warnings on time limits (or even using a visual timer) and staying nearby.  Samuel suggests scheduling screen time right before another desirable or planned activity.  She also notes that we should “observe our children’s reactions” and “remove meltdown triggers” – in other words, if we notice that certain activities lead to worse behavior in our children we should try eliminating those types of activities.  This is just what we had discovered in switching from television shows to active and educational tools.

Some researchers worry about even more extreme long-term impacts of screen time.  In 2015, Dr. Victoria Dunkley published a book called Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-TimeThe first thing she promises after completing this four week plan?  Fewer meltdowns.  Dunkley summarizes her claims and findings in an article titled “Screentime is Making our Kids Moody, Crazy, and Lazy.”  While Dunkley’s claims may be more applicable to higher levels of screen time than my family allows, the links she proposes to impacts on children’s brains and to their ability to interact socially are important areas for further study.

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees that we should be cautious on screen time, and has advised parents to limit screen time and offer non-electronic formats in their updated recommendations on Media and Children.  Among their recommendations: limiting screen time for children over 2 and teens to no more than two hours a day of high quality content and establishing “screen-free” zones at home.

As tempting as it is to use technology as a source of entertainment while we get other things done, I’ve realized this isn’t doing us any favors if it leads to worse behavior in the short term or even longer-term impacts on mental health or brain functioning.  Technology should not be off limits, but it should “used for good” just like any other super power.  Parents have to take responsibility for teaching that.  We can start by being more engaged with our kids when they are using technology and being more intentional about the ways they (and we!) are using it.

PS – We still love the Wild Kratts.  My son and I now try to watch it together on the big screen about once or twice a month, talking throughout and after the episode about what we’re learning.

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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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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