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Shy, reserved, and anxious to the point of suffering from regular stomach aches, Payton Akers was not embracing fourth grade at Lusher Elementary School in Hazelwood, MO – at least not until her teacher helped her find her voice through the use of technology and journaling.

“Writing gives my students a voice and sometimes that’s all they need,” says Lesli Henderson, fourth-grade teacher at Lusher. “That voice helps them discover confidence, solve problems, and figure out what they think about things. Writing it versus saying it feels safe.”

Journaling isn’t a new concept but, despite its many benefits, it can be a difficult habit to establish, particularly in children and teens. Technology – including blogs and apps for phones, tablets and computers – offers another way for teachers, mental health professionals and parents to prompt kids to write more.

Henderson began using technology to get her students to express themselves through journaling in 2009 and every year she has seen children flourish in different ways through the process.

“I think kids need to be heard. They have things to say but they don’t think anyone is listening. Journaling or blogging empowers them,” she says.

That was certainly true for Payton, according to her mother, Rebecca Akers. “When she started school last year, she was meek and timid,” Akers says.


“She didn’t want to get out of her shell. But then she started posting some things on the blog, just little things that happened at home or that were exciting to her, and it led to conversations during class. She started opening up and making friends. I think the technology enables kids to put their feelings and their emotions out there, really letting their walls down, which leads to stronger interactions.”

Henderson uses a website called Kidblog where she pays a fee of about $39 to create a private blog for her classes each year. All the students have the ability to log on and write entries, post pictures or video, and comment on each other’s posts.

“I encourage them to use the blog for whatever they want – to talk about things we did in class, react to things we are reading, journal about their day, anything they want to share,” Henderson says.

Malissa Beecham, a 5th grade teacher at Willow Brook Elementary in Creve Coeur, MO, started using Kidblog last year with her classroom and she likes how the technology gets more students involved in discussions, both written and face-to-face.

“In a classroom, not everyone will raise their hand and answer a question,” Beecham says. “But on the blog, there is the opportunity for more kids to comment on something we discussed in class. The conversation goes back and forth sometimes on the blog, and I love it when I see a student comment, ‘I never thought of it like that before.’ The discussion on the blog opens them up to considering the ideas and opinions of others.”

Beecham says the biggest benefit she has seen from using the technology is the writing aspect. “They are learning to love writing. Even the kids who don’t like to write at all will write on the blog because they love getting feedback from their peers about what they are writing and thinking,” she says.

Journaling and Mental Health

Jonnell Patton, LPC, is a counselor in St. Louis, MO, who encourages journaling with most of her patients, regardless of their age. “Often emotions are hard to name and hard to put to words, especially for kids,” she says.  “Journaling helps get some of the emotions out in the open.”

She adds that journaling can be particularly useful in helping children deal with things like the death of a loved one, divorce,  depression and anxiety, nightmares and even bullying.

“It’s important to remember that you don’t have to write whole sentences when journaling; you don’t even have to use words,” Patton says. “Journaling can be pictures, and a picture offers a therapist or parent a chance to ask questions about the picture to get conversation started.”

Patton often has employed the drawing method for journaling to help children dealing with the death of a loved one. She has them draw pictures of memories they had with that person, both positive and negative. “Then, with either myself or their parent, I have them describe the picture. This helps them articulate what’s going on inside of them, and helps give the parents an idea of the emotions that are stirred up inside.”

She encourages the parents to keep the pictures to help the child remember. “They can even take a picture of the drawings to make a digital scrapbook so the child can have the book forever,” she says.

Terry Freerks, Ph.D., LPC, a marriage and family therapist in St. Louis, MO, calls journaling a “tool in her toolkit” and uses it to help patients in her practice, whether they are dealing with depression, anxiety or a host of other mental health issues.

“Journaling can help children, and adults, learn how they feel and discover where their triggers are,” she says. “It can also help us make some movement on a problem because once we can externalize something, that can lead to action.”

Technology Available for Journaling

Certainly, journaling can be done via old-fashioned paper and pen, and when it comes to very young children and picture journaling, it’s the best option. But technology like KidBlog and other platforms and apps, can help parents, teachers and counselors launch kids into a habit of capturing their thoughts and feelings via an electronic format.

One such app is Notability, available for Macs, iPads and iPhones.  Justin Brock, business development and marketing manager at Ginger Labs, the creator of Notability, says they have numerous English teachers using the app with their students to keep a daily journal.

“We designed Notability to help people create and capture information in a way that best suits their needs,” he says. “It really gives students the opportunity to express themselves in the way that’s best for them.”

Notability offers the opportunity to write using text (keyboard or touch screen) and by hand using a stylus or even their finger. Likewise, the option to draw sketches or illustrations using different colors is offered, and users can even insert digital pictures and audio into their note.

Notability costs $7.99 for a license that covers the iPad and iPhone, and $5.99 for the Mac. Notes will sync across all devices using a cloud service.

There are dozens of apps and websites that are free, as well, and Henderson encourages parents to explore what’s out there if they think the technology will get their children writing more.  Commonsensemedia.org offers a list of options, but a few that are free and are not listed on Commonsensemedia.org are Journaley and Evernote.

“I have students who continue to write on the blog from their classroom years after they were in my class,” Henderson says. “I even have one girl who went onto middle school and started writing book chapters and posting them on the blog for kids to read and give her feedback.”

Payton is one of the students who still writes on the blog even though she’s moved onto fifth grade. “It helps me express myself more,” she says.

Her mom adds that Payton also has started journaling at home separate from the blog. “She increased her self esteem so much from this that she tried out for and made a competitive dance team,” Akers said.

Journaling Tips for Parents

Parents who want their children to take up the habit of journaling should consider the following tips:

1 | Avoid the word ‘journaling.’

That word can put too many limits on the activity, according to Patton. “It sounds like they have to sit down and write sentences. Leave it open for drawing pictures, writing phrases or single words.”

2 | Set a time limit.

Patton says to keep the activity from feeling overwhelming, set a timer for 10 minutes. “If that feels like too much, do five minutes,” she says. “The goal is to get them doing it and increase it over time.”

3 | Do a word association or give them a topic.

“If they are dealing with a bully or a divorce, put the word “bully” or “divorce” at the top of the page and tell them to write all the words that come to mind,” Patton says.

4 | Agree to “no rules.”

It’s important for kids to feel like there’s no right or wrong when it comes to their journaling, according to Patton. “Forget grammar and spelling and sentences. It’s more important about getting what’s on the inside to the outside so you’re not alone with it.”

5 | Discuss privacy. 

Freerks says that parameters regarding privacy need to be part of the conversation, especially with older children. “If something is bothering your child, you can offer to let him/her write it down and leave it with you to read because that might be easier than verbalizing their feelings,” Freerks says. “But if they don’t want to share, you can tell them that you will respect their privacy as long as you are not fearful that something really bad is going on. “

6 | Address social media issues.

Freerks says that electronic journaling can be a great tool, but parents need to help children and teens understand the potential impact and consequences of sharing personal information on social media and through email.

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Sometimes it can feel like toys are a mama's frenemy. While we love the idea of entertaining our children and want to give them items that make them happy, toys can end up taking the joy out of our own motherhood experience. For every child begging for another plastic figurine, there's a mama who spends her post-bedtime hours digging toys out from under the couch, dining room table and probably her own bed.

Like so many other moms, I've often found myself between this rock and hard place in parenting. I want to encourage toys that help with developmental milestones, but struggle to control the mess. Is there a middle ground between clutter and creative play?

Enter: Lovevery.

lovevery toys

Lovevery Play Kits are like the care packages you wish your child's grandparent would send every month. Expertly curated by child development specialists, each kit is crafted to encourage your child's current developmental milestones with beautiful toys and insightful activity ideas for parents. A flip book of how-tos and recommendations accompanies each box, giving parents not only tips for making the most of each developmental stage, but also explaining how the games and activities benefit those growing brains.

Even better, the toys are legitimately beautiful. Made from eco-friendly, sustainable materials materials and artfully designed, I even find myself less bothered when my toddler leaves hers strewn across the living room floor.

What I really love, though, is that the kits are about so much more than toys. Each box is like a springboard of imaginative, open-ended play that starts with the included playthings and expands into daily activities we can do during breakfast or while driving to and from lessons. For the first time, I feel like a company isn't just trying to sell me more toys―they're providing expert guidance on how to engage in educational play with my child. And with baby kits that range from age 0 to 12 months and toddler kits for ages 13 to 24 months, the kits are there for me during every major step of development I'll encounter as a new mama.

So maybe I'll never love toys―but I will always love spending time with my children. And with Lovevery's unique products, mixing those worlds has become child's play.

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

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Summertime is here, mamas! And while we couldn't be more thrilled about beach outings and pool days, both of those activities require one major thing—getting into a bathing suit. No easy feat when you're not pregnant (FYI: we tested many and these are our favorite five), but it's even tougher when you are prego and your body is changing daily.

To help, we've rounded up 15 super-cute maternity bathing suit options for you. From sweet one-pieces (like Old Navy's watermelon-pattered cutie that has matching options for dads, toddlers and girls!) to color-blocked bikinis that will ensure your bump gets nice and tan, we've got something to fit every mama's personal style and body. Because we want you to love your pregnant body and celebrate it—you know the saying: Suns out… bumps out!

The best part? They start at just $22! Happy shopping, mamas.

Motherhood Maternity ruffle front one-shoulder swimsuit with UPF 50+

Motherhood Maternity One-Shoulder Swim

Super flattering with a ruffle and in navy polka dots, this suit will be your go-to all summer long.

Price: $39.98


Hatch Antigua maillot

Hatch Antigua

Did we mention we love ruffles? This beauty from Hatch is sweet as can be, and while it's on the pricier side, the quality is there and it will last you multiple pregnancies.

Price: $218


ASOS Design maternity recycled glam high-neck swimsuit

Asos maternity high neck swim

Who says you need to be in a boring black bathing suit all summer? Let's embrace color (and some sexy drama!) with this high-neck suit that will have everyone asking where on Earth you found such a fun maternity look.

Price: Sale $33.50 (Regularly $48.00)


Motherhood Maternity 'Beach Bump' maternity one-piece swimsuit with UPF 50+

Beach Bump Swim

This suit is anything but plain with it's adorable "beach bump" sign.

Price: $39.98


H&M Mama swimsuit

H&M Mama Swim

Spice up your pool days with this super fun pattern that is also super flattering—after all, it's hard to spot flaws with all that leopard going on. The wrapped top, low-cut back and ruched siding all add to why we love this one so much.

Price: $29.99


Hatch color-block bikini frutto

Hatch Colorblock Bikini

Show off the bump in this color-blocked bikini that looks like something straight out of the 1950s.

Price: $208.00


H&M Mama swimsuit with ruffles

H&M Mama Swim

Bohemian perfection, this suit is perfectly on-trend for the season.

Price: Sale $24.99 (Regularly $34.99)


A Pea in a Pod rib knit striped maternity one-piece swimsuit

A Pea in a Pod Striped Swim

Preppy but also a little bit sexy thanks to the cleavage-baring peephole, this suit screams "summer" in the best way possible.

Price: $98.00


Summersalt Maternity ribbed voyager bikini top + bottom

Summersalt Maternity Ribbed Voyager Bikini

Summersalt is one of our favorite swimwear brands and they just released maternity options! Giving their ubiquitous high-waisted bikini bottoms the prego treatment, this is one suit that will grow with you from first to third trimester.

Bikini top price: $50.00


Bikini bottom price: $45.00


Pez D’or stripe one-piece maternity swimsuit for Nordstrom

Pez D'or Stripe Swim

Love you some stripes? Then you can't go wrong with this halter-neck option that is flattering and cute all at once.

Price: $98.00


Old Navy Maternity halter v-neck swimsuit with UPF 40

Old Navy Maternity Halter V-Neck Swimsuit

We're obsessed with this suite for two reasons: One, that crazy cute watermelon pattern! Two, the halter cut with tiny peephole is perfection and there's lots of support thanks to an extra strap at mid-back.

Price: Sale $22.50 (Regularly $44.99)


Gap Maternity tie-back print one-piece suit

Gap Maternity Tie-Back Print One-Piece Suit

This one-piece is as pretty as can be with it's tiny floral print! We love that the straps criss-cross in the back and that the sweetheart neckline drawcord is adjustable.

Price: Sale $58.99 (Regularly $69.99)


Pink Blush ruffle trim ruched one-piece maternity swimsuit

Pink Blush Light Blue Ruffle Trim Ruched One-Piece Maternity Swimsuit

Oversized ruffle? Check. Removable straps? Check. Ruched siding? Check. Adorable baby blue hue? Check.

Price: $46.00


Jojo Maman Bebe flamingo halterneck maternity tankini

Jojo Maman Bebe Flamingo Halterneck Maternity Tankini

Tankinis for the win! Perfect for pulling up when you want the bump to get some sun, but tugging down when you don't want to show some skin.

Price: $59.00


PregO Maternity Wear roll waist dot bikini set

PregO Maternity Wear Women's Maternity Roll Waist Dot Bikini Set

We love how sporty chic this suit is and that you can wear it after pregnancy, too.

Price: $68.00-$72.00


Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Babies love it when their mamas sing to them, and Carrie Underwood's son is no exception. But does he love his dad's singing? Not so much.

If your mom has a voice like Carrie Underwood's, chances are your lullaby standards are a bit higher than most. And, if a recent video from the singer is any indication, even Dad's singing may not quite make the grade.

The country singer shared a cute video clip of her son, Jacob, reacting as her husband, Mike Fisher, sings him a song. Let's just say the little guy isn't having it: Jacob cries throughout his father's mini-performance...That is until Mama steps in to sing the same song.

The clip shows little Jacob calm immediately when he hears his mom's voice (relatable, right?). Mike takes that opportunity to step back in and resume his vocals...but Jacob begins to cry again. "Everyone's a critic," Carrie captions the adorable video.

But don't take this to mean you have to be a recording artist in order to sing to your children! Even the most tone-deaf among us can (and should!) sing to our babies—not just because it's fun, but also because singing to your babe comes with some pretty awesome benefits. The act may even improve your baby's attention span and increase positive their reactions towards you, as we've previously reported.


While Carrie and Mike opt to belt out the song "I Still Believe" by singer Vince Gill, you don't have to get too fancy. Singing a good old-fashioned lullaby to your kids is a great idea (they work for a pretty good reason). We are fairly certain that most babies out there love the sound of their mama's voice more than just about any sound (with the possible exception of the "Baby Shark" video), so keep up the family singing sessions even if you don't have a hit song on the charts.

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I am generally not considered a sentimental person, and I do not keep a lot of junk. When I moved to college, everything that wasn't part of my closet fit into a single trunk. By the time I got married, I had shrunk those keepsakes down to a single box. When I got pregnant, the box had shrunk down to a tiny container I shoved under my bed.

Then we had kids.

The sheer amount of stuff we received from well-wishers was overwhelming. I figured that we needed most of it—babies are high maintenance, right?—and took comfort in the fact that when our child got bigger, we could ditch the bassinet and the bottles and shrink down our lives again.

I could not have been more wrong. The stuff continued to pour in, and it became impossible to throw anything out. Some of it was useful and consumable, like diapers, and some of it was thoughtful and small, like a special stuffed animal, but most of it was simply too much…like the 1,398 toys that began a procession through our lives over the next three years.

It was nobody's fault. My children have four grandparents, two great-grandparents, and five aunts and uncles within a 20-mile radius. Many of them express their love through purchases. Constant purchases. For Christmas, birthdays, Easter, St. Patrick's Day, your regular Saturday. There was bound to be a build-up.


The problem was that my children received so many presents the gift-giving itself began to lose meaning. Every time a family member came by the house, my 3-year-old expected a treat.

The amount of stuff piling up in our house started to grate on me, but I didn't know what to do. My oldest child has the memory of an elephant: the other day he cried because he couldn't find a specific drawing that he made in preschool 12 months ago. And my family was constantly checking up on their gifts: "Where's the special bear I gave you, little guy? Do you play with it a lot?" I didn't want to offend anyone.

Then I had an evening that changed my life as a mom. We went to a friend's house for dinner; they had young kids too, about a year or so ahead of us. We walked in and I was shocked at how completely their house had been taken over by their kids' belongings. You couldn't see the living room floor because there were toys everywhere—not in use but stacked up to the ceiling. They apologized for the mess, and it didn't seem to bother them, but I was panicking on the inside.

Was this what was in store for me as a parent? Were my children going to accumulate so much that I wouldn't be able to find my own life under all the mess?

We went home that night and put the kids to bed. And I ransacked. Three years of accumulated playthings, old "special" clothes, and my concerns and ideas about disappointing our relatives, were all ruthlessly sorted through.

If I was going to be a good mom, it would have to be on my terms, and my terms included the right to dispose of accumulation. It included the right to gently but firmly inform relatives that we may not have room for the stuffed bear as big as a house as a Christmas present this year, could there be a special place at their house to keep it? It included the right to shape my family's values, even when they clash a little with those closest to us.

I love our extended family very much, and I am glad they shower my children with affection, including gifts. But every mom has her own way of keeping her sanity, right? And for me, the key to a happy household now includes the occasional purge, when the kids are looking away, and knowing inside that your family will love you anyway.

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If you buy Parent's Choice baby formula at Walmart you need to check to see if your product is being recalled.

The manufacturer of Walmart's Parent's Choice Advantage Infant Formula Milk-Based Powder with Iron, Perrigo Company, is recalling the product because it may be contained with metal. There are no reports of babies experiencing adverse effects, but the company says it is proceeding with the recall out of an "abundance of caution stemming from a consumer report."

If you buy this formula look on the bottom of the tub to check the lot code and use by date. If it is lot Code C26EVFV with a "use by" date of February 26, 2021, it is part of the recall. Don't use it and take it back to Walmart for a refund.

These tubs retail for just under $20.

The FDA suggests "consumers with any health-related questions should contact their healthcare provider", and you can also call Perrigo Consumer Affairs at 866-629-6181.

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