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The Safest (and Coolest!) New Car Features and 5 Fresh Rides That Have Them

Purchasing a new family vehicle is no small undertaking. It’s a significant investment and one that impacts your family’s quality of life. This year, automobile manufacturers brought their A-game to the family table with a variety of cars, trucks, and SUVs designed to make family time on the road safer and parents’ lives easier. Many of the new 2017/2018 models come loaded with life-saving features and technology designed to help Mom and Dad so everyone can enjoy the ride.


The following are some of the features you should know about before buying your next automobile.

Safety features

Safety is at the top of every parent’s list. These features – some old and some new – have the ability stop a collision or minimize the impact when one occurs.

Airbag weight sensors

Airbags are the first thing most parents think of when it comes to automobile safety, but they pose a risk for young children. The weight sensors solve this conundrum by determining the size and age of the front passenger seat’s occupant. It only deploys the airbag if an adult is riding shotgun during a collision.

Blind spot monitors and cross-traffic alert

There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than changing lanes in traffic with a car full of kids. The blind spot monitor detects vehicles approaching or positioned in the adjacent lanes and warns the driver so they can maneuver with confidence.

Lane departure alert

Tired or distracted drivers receive an alert when they begin to leave their lane without using the turn signal in advance. Some versions of this feature will apply corrective steering.

Braking technology and collision alert

Any feature that helps minimize the chances of getting in a wreck is a bonus, but did you know that some vehicles can stop themselves when they sense an impending collision? Low-speed forward automatic braking and brake assist technology automatically apply the brakes when it detects imminent impact.

Another feature that gives you a chance to act is forward collision alert, which provides audible and visual signals to let you know that a collision may be approaching.

Safety alert seat

While most kids are angels in the car, there is the occasional screaming or crying fit that takes place. If you’re unable to hear your alerts or too distracted to see the visual aid, a safety alert seat comes in handy. These seats provide haptic feedback when activated so you can feel the alert.

Post-collision braking system

Designed on the premise that a collision consists of a series of events that follow the initial impact, automatic post-collision braking applies the brakes when it detects the first impact. This reduces the energy and damage that takes place after.

Park assist features

From parallel parking to backing in and out of perpendicular parking spaces, park assist features make bringing your ride to a stop easy. With young kids aboard, sometimes you need to get out of the car fast!

Front and rear park assist activates at speeds below five miles per hour. It uses ultrasonic sensors mounted on the front and rear bumpers to detect nearby objects (up to four feet from the front bumper and up to eight feet from the rear). It delivers distance-to-object alerts on the dashboard monitor via seat pulses and with a beeping sound.

When nearing an object, the bars in front or back of a small car icon on the monitor illuminate and change from yellow to amber to red to indicate distance (red being the least distance). The system also delivers seat pulses and beeps when the vehicle is in the “close zone,” which is one foot from the front and two feet from the back.

Park assist with rear vision camera

When equipped with both park assist and a rear vision camera, a warning triangle appears on the vehicle’s screen revealing the object’s location and distance.

Rear seat reminder

Weary parents get forgetful, and that’s why the rear seat reminder is an ideal feature in every family’s vehicle. Never forget a bag of groceries or car seat again. This reminder creates an audible and visible alert that reads “Rear Seat Reminder/Look in Rear Seat,” encouraging the driver to look back.

Make-life-easier features

Safety always comes first when it comes to making big purchases, but every parent deserves a little help. The following features make life easier for Mom and Dad in the driveway and on the road.

Keyless unlock

While this may not be one of the newest features on the market, for most parents it’s a must. Whether you are hauling groceries, clothes, or kids from the car to the house or vice versa, chances are your hands aren’t free. Keyless unlock via exterior door handles with extended range remote keyless entry means you won’t need to set stuff down or take extra trips to get into or secure your vehicle.

Push button start

No more digging in your purse, man bag, or pockets for the key, just push a button and go. Simple but wonderful – it’s the little things that count.

App-connect

Use your phone to lock and unlock your automobile, start the engine, check your tire pressure, and perform diagnostics from anywhere. This feature is a dream come true for multi-taskers. That’s right, some new models come with the ability to stay connected to your mobile device via an app – a convenience that also offers peace of mind.

Entertainment packages

While keeping the kids unplugged as much as possible is a goal that most parents try to meet, long rides and road trips are the perfect excuses for some screen time and great tunes. Many of the newest automobiles come equipped with entertainment packages that have everything from rear seat DVD/Blu-Ray players to wireless headphones so your kids can watch their favorite flick while you enjoy singing along to your favorite band.

4G Wi-Fi hotspot

In the case of emergency or when on-call at work, it’s nice to know you’re connected. Lots of new vehicles come with a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot so you never have to worry about missing that important message.

OnStar (or similar net-connected services)

This feature offers parents all kinds of peace of mind. Many new automobiles come with the OnStar button, giving drivers instant access to a suite of services including 24/7 emergency response, security, turn-by-turn navigation, Wi-Fi, and diagnostics.

Choose your ride

Vehicles have come a long way and now you know some of the life-saving (and life-enhancing) features to look for when shopping for your next automobile. The following are some of the newest wheels to hit the road. While each is different from the other, they’re all designed with families in mind. Discover the one fits your unique needs the best.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica (Hybrid)

If your clan has grown in numbers or is into activities that demand travel and hauling gear, this minivan is your dream come true. It is the only plug-in hybrid minivan on the market, so you can feel good about your time on the road. The Pacifica’s spacious interior gives everyone room to relax and the fixed glass pane over the third-row seating area means even the back passengers stay comfortable for long periods of time.

Additionally, the Pacifica comes with the following features:|

  • Park assist with camera
  • Cruise control with stop and hold to maintain the distance from other vehicles and bring itself to a controlled stop in set circumstances
  • Forward collision warning
  • Brake assist
  • Lane departure warning
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • U-Connect theater entertainment system
  • Keyless entry and push button start
  • Remote start

The Chrysler Hybrid Pacifica starts at $41,995.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

This vehicle doesn’t go on sale until the fall, but it’s worth the wait. Buick pulled out all of the stops in an effort to exceed the needs of the modern family with this mid-sized SUV. The three rows of seating mean you can haul your kids and their friends around town. A packed vehicle doesn’t have to mean stale air as this ride comes equipped with an ionizer that cleans the air by attracting airborne contaminants and reducing bacteria, viruses, dust, pollen, and more, without filters or maintenance!

The Enclave’s athletic appearance is only one of its many exceptional features. It will keep your family safe and relaxed with the following:

  • Blind spot cross traffic alert
  • Safety alert seat
  • Brake assist
  • Lane departure warning
  • Park assist
  • Keyless entry and push button start
  • OnStar
  • 4G Wi-Fi hotspot

Pricing for the Buick Enclave Avenir will be announced later this year.

2017 VW Golf Alltrack

The family wagon just got rugged. The Alltrack is deceptively sleek-looking and designed to navigate rough terrains and all types of weather conditions. If your family likes the outdoors, they’ll love this ride. With a five-person capacity, plenty of cargo room, and a roof rack, you can take your family on the adventures they’ve been dreaming of. Regardless of where your passengers sit, no one misses a thing with the panoramic sunroof that tilts and slides. Road trips don’t just look better in the Alltrack, they feel better with these additional features:

  • Forward collision alert
  • Brake assist
  • Park assist with camera
  • Lane departure warning
  • Automatic crash notification system (automatically notifies an operator)
  • Post-collision braking system
  • App-connect
  • Keyless entry and push button start
  • Discover Media navigation

The VW Golf Alltrack starts at $25,850.

2017 Lexus GX 460

The Lexus GX is an SUV designed with families in mind. Its chiseled looking exterior matches the thoughtful approach to the interior design and seating arrangement. This ride comes with second-row captain’s seats, which means each of the kids (or teens) have their own space and zero reasons to complain about one another. With three rows available, this is a spacious ride packed with features including:

  • Airbag weight sensors
  • Lexus Enform Safety Connect (for roadside emergency assistance)
  • Blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert
  • Brake assist
  • Lane departure warning
  • Park assist
  • Collision alert (*This vehicle also has a driver attention monitor which warns you when it detects an obstacle if you are facing away from the road)
  • Dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system
  • Navigation
  • App-connect
  • Keyless entry and push button start
  • Added bonus feature: subscription-free weather and traffic

The Lexus GX 460 starts at $51,680.

2017 GMC Sierra Denali

Who says trucks aren’t family vehicles? The Sierra Denali is proof to the contrary and demonstrates how this type of automobile can accommodate everyone in your crew while taking care of your more rugged work and play needs. The bold-looking Sierra seats six comfortably and its spacious cab makes passengers forget that they aren’t in a car or SUV.

With a large cargo area to boot, there is plenty of room for luggage, gear, or anything at all you might want to bring along. The 2017 Sierra comes with:

  • Forward collision alert
  • Front and rear park assist
  • Lane departure warning
  • Safety alert seat
  • Brake assist
  • Rear seat reminder
  • Airbag weight sensing
  • Rear seat entertainment
  • Navigation
  • Keyless entry and push button start
  • Remote start
  • OnStar
  • 4G Wi-Fi and built-in hotspot

The GMC Sierra Denali start as $52,605.

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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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As we head into cold and flu season, parents are once again looking down at their little ones and wondering, Is this symptom serious?

One British mom, blogger and broadcaster Charlie O'Brien, has accidentally ensured that many parents can now identify a very serious symptom after a video of her daughter Luna (shot last year) went viral.

In the video Luna (then four weeks old) is breathing in a funny way. "Her breathing was quite fast and her nostrils were flaring," O'Brien explains in a statement to Motherly. With her onesie open, you can see that her ribs seem to be sucking in further than they should be. O'Brien says she now knows that Luna was showing signs of serious respiratory distress.

Experts who've viewed the video for Motherly agree.

"The breathing pattern shown in the video is known as retractions. This occurs when a baby has to use muscles between the ribs or in the neck to breathe and is a sign that a baby is having to work harder than normal to breathe," Dr. Kristin Dean, Associate Medical Director at Doctor On Demand tells Motherly.

O'Brien didn't know exactly what was going on with her daughter when she shot the video, but she knew something wasn't right. Two days earlier O'Brien had noticed Luna wasn't feeling well during a newborn photo shoot and had taken her to the hospital.

She was "concerned about Bronchiolitis as our son had previously had it," she says, adding that the medical staff "kept us in for a few hours but then discharged Luna without treatment as she was much better."

Two days later, the day the video was taken, O'Brien noticed that Luna had been uncharacteristically quiet all day. When she unbuttoned her outfit she saw the sucking in at the ribs, and knew it wasn't right. "I was watching her sleep next to me and realized it didn't look right. I unbuttoned her [outfit] and this is what i saw," she wrote in the caption for the video.

In her statement to Motherly, O'Brien explains why she took the video in the first place. "I called 111 [a telephone service provided by Britain's National Health Service to help people with medical issues] and awaited a call back and during that time I took the short video clip, to show the doctors in the hospital if necessary. In hindsight we perhaps should have called 999 [similar to 911 in the United States] or gone straight to A&E [the accident and emergency department, or ER] without waiting for a call back," she explains.

Because of her mother's call Luna was given priority admission to the pediatric department, where she spent the night on oxygen. She made a full recovery and is now a healthy 1-year-old.

Courtesy Charlie O'Brien



Experts say O'Brien was right to keep a cool head when she noticed her baby's strange breathing. "Although retractions should be taken seriously, it is best for parents not to panic if this is noticed. Instead, parents should take their child to see a doctor immediately. Retractions can occur between the ribs, below the sternum or in the area surrounding the collar bone and appear as a sucking in of the skin as seen in this video," says Dr. Dean.

Diana Spalding is a pediatric nurse and Motherly's Digital Education Editor. She agrees that parents should not panic, and suggests that "for serious respiratory concerns, like severe retractions or wheezing, gasping, or color changes, call 911."

Spalding notes that O'Brien didn't just keep calm and listen to the medical professionals she called, she also listened to herself, which is so important. "The mom trusted her gut," says Spalding. "Parents have a deep and trustworthy sense about when things are off with their children, and I always encourage them to act on that intuition."

Since posting the video, which has now been viewed more than 2.6 million times, O'Brien has heard from parents who have noticed similar symptoms in their own children, and trusted their gut as she did, seeking medical help quickly because they remembered O'Brien's video.

"I'm so pleased I shared the clip - if it means just one baby or family is helped," she says.


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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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If you've got hamburger in your freezer you might want to check it before making dinner.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Cargill Meat Solutions is recalling approximately 132,606 pounds of ground beef products for possible Escherichia coli O26 (aka E.coli).

The beef was sold at various retailers, including Target, Meijer, Safeway and Sam's Club, as well as Save Mart in California. This comes after a previous recall involving ground beef sold at Publix.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service notes the recalls are the result of an investigation into 17 illnesses and one death in recent months, and that children under 5, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are the most at risk for a type of kidney failure common in people with E.coli infections.

"It is marked by easy bruising, pallor and decreased urine output. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately," the agency notes.


Cargill has issued a statement on its website that reads, in part: "We were distressed to learn a fatality may be related to an E.coli contamination of one of our products. Our hearts go out to the families and individuals affected by this issue."

The recalled beef products were produced and packaged on June 21, 2018. They have a use or freeze by date of July 11.


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To my firstborn baby,
We were overjoyed when we found out we were pregnant with your brother. We were so excited to give you a sibling to play with; someone to love and grow up with. Someone who will be your buddy for life.

But our excitement quickly turned to worry as we thought about how this would affect you. You were the only grandchild, on both sides. The only nephew, on both sides. Basically, the king of the castle. And you relished in that title.

We took special care to wait as long as possible to tell you. We waited until 20 weeks when we knew you were going to be getting a brother. We felt it would be easier for you to wrap your head around and also shorter for you to wait for his arrival.

I still watch the video of you cutting into the gender reveal cake. You were SO excited to see blue—because that meant you were getting a brother. You were overjoyed with telling everyone the news because you were the first to know.

From there your love for him grew every day. YOU too had a baby in your belly. I was carrying YOUR baby. You told everyone who would listen that you were going to be a big brother. We wondered if your love for him would quickly fade when he was actually here. When you realized that you would have to share time and attention...

But we were wrong. Your heart grew a million times bigger the day your brother arrived.

You came to visit me in the hospital wearing your doctor uniform, to check on both of us. You made friends with the nurses. You wanted to make sure I was okay. You wanted to take care of me and were so proud to wear your "Big Brother" shirt your aunt made you.

You were such a trooper during his two-week stay in the NICU. You were too young to go in to visit him. So, for you, it meant you had this mysterious brother you could only see in pictures and videos.

You drew him cards and colored pictures for his isolette (which you so playfully called his aquarium). You told everyone at school you had a new brother and that he would be home soon—even though you didn't know when exactly. Your heart ached as much as ours did. You wanted him home as much, if not more, than we did. You wanted your new family of four.

Sometimes I feel like you are wise beyond your years. A little old man trapped in a pint-sized body.

You were the best helper for Mom and Dad in those first days and months of welcoming your baby brother into our family. You would tell everyone to use hand sanitizer, and check to see if anyone was sick before they walked through the door to our house.

You would tell everyone how to hold your baby. And then them the proper way. You would tell everyone to line up their shoes at the door. You just wanted to keep your brother healthy and safe, ever the protector.

I worried the honeymoon period would wear off, that you would wonder how long he was staying here.

But, I was wrong. It's almost a year later and you are still so in love with your brother. Truly in love. On your obligatory "first day of school sign" you listed your favorite things as: Star Wars, basketball and my brother.

You tell everyone that you love him more than anyone. The way you both laugh hysterically together during peek-a-boo in the back seat of the car literally makes my heart explode into a million pieces, in the best way possible. It is a joy and an admiration I never knew possible as I watch my two precious boys interact and love each other.

My wish is that you will always be best friends. That you always look out for each other. Continue to be each other's biggest fans. Root each other on, even when it's hard, or you don't want to. Because, my sweet, sweet boy, I want you to remember—your brother looks up to you. You are his role model for life. And I thank you for taking that role so seriously.

Love,
Your Mommy

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