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Looking for the perfect preschool gift or best pick for your kindergartner this year? We've got you, mama! From clothes to crafts to toys, here are some of our faves for the season.

WANT

1. eeBoo I Never Forget a Face Memory Matching Game

Memory games are a favorite at any age, but especially in the 4 to 7-year-old wheelhouse. Kids will love to test their memory skills as they match the bright, smiling faces of people from across the globe.

Never Forget a Face Matching Game, Amazon, $18.95

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2. Osmo Genius Kit

Osmo is seriously magic! This game system transforms your iPad into a hands-on learning tool that fosters creativity and problem solving skills through hands-on play. We so wish this was a thing when we were kids.

Osmo Genius Kit for iPad, Amazon, $89.99

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3. Learning Resources Microscope

Spark your kiddo's inner scientist with this hands-on toy perfect for new explorers. This microscope is durable enough to withstand little hands, but technical enough to feel like the real deal.

Learning Resources Primary Microscope, Amazon, $28.82

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4. Square Panda Phonics System

Designed for kids two and older, the newest 2.0 playset blends physical and digital STEM learning. Your littles will be kept entertained through age-appropriate learning games grounded in research-based curriculum. Plus, you can score this at a major discount before the holidays.

Square Panda Phonics System, starting at $47.00

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[In partnership with Square Panda]

5. Tree Hopper Toys First Drafting Set

Calling all future architects and engineers: this is the gift for you! This beautiful—and functional—set of basic drafting tools will inspire creativity in any kiddo.

First Draft Drafting Set, Tree Hopper Toys, $20.00

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NEED

6. OMY Giant Coloring Poster, Ocean

Take a dive deep into the ocean with this giant coloring poster, measuring over 2'x3. The incredible attention to detail and foot after foot of ocean critters will provide hours of artistic fun. Makes a great framed piece of art when it's completed!

OMY Design & Play Giant Coloring Poster, Amazon, $18.00

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7. Cubcoats

Doing double duty, a Cubcoat is a hoodie and a cozy friend to cuddle with. Your child can easily unzip it and roll out the hoodie, then tuck it back together for a snuggle friend. We love that it's machine washable and ethically made.

Cubcoats, $33.75

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8. Nutcase Little Nutty Bike Helmet

Keep that noggin safe and look cute while doing it. We love the style—and safety standards—of this awesome helmet.

Little Nutty Street Bike Helmet, Greggs Cycles, $69.99

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9. Colorfull Plates

These plates are designed to inspired the little in your life with a variety of designs and characters that look just like them. Plus, they're shatterproof and dishwasher safe so you don't have to worry about kids breaking your favorite set.

Colorfull Plates, Colorfull Plates, $9.95

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10. Swim Lessons

Swimming is a life skill that no little one should be without, and the gift of swim lessons is truly priceless. We love the YMCA's gentle, thoughtful approach and variety of youth programs.

YMCA Swim Lessons, YMCA, prices vary by location

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11. Klean Kanteen Kid Kanteen Classic Stainless Water Bottle

It's hard work being a kid—keep them happy and hydrated all day long! The interchangeable caps, stainless makeup, and durability (it can withstand lots of drops!) make this water bottle a standout fave.

Klean Kanteen Stainless Water Bottle, Amazon, $16.95

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WEAR

12.  Cabbages & Kings Leg/Arm Warmers

Leg warmers are back, and we couldn't be happier. These designs are so on point that you may find yourself trying to squeeze into them yourself! (It's okay, we won't tell.)

Hand-Knit Aplaca Leg Warmers, Cabbages & Kings NY, $49.00

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13. Hanna Andersson Pajamas

These comfy pjs are perfect for Christmas morning or those days when the entire family simply lounges. We see an Instagram-worthy sibling holiday pajama pic in your future!

Long John Pajamas in Organic Cotton, Hanna Andersson, $38.40

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14.  L.L. Bean Original Book Pack

It's a classic for a reason, guys. This iconic pack is high on functionality, durability, and style; it really can't be beat.

L.L. Bean Original Book Pack, L.L. Bean, $39.95

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15. PLAE Sneakers

These sneakers are some of the most kid-friendly around. They're designed specifically with the biomechanics of kids' feet and movements in mind, and they're durable, washable, and customizable.

PLAE Sneakers, Zappos, $54.95

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READ

16. Audible Subscription

Audiobooks are the perfect solution to long car rides, bedtime, or even reluctant readers. An unlimited subscription is the gift that will keep on giving! Plus, this link will get you two free audiobooks.

Audible Subscription, Amazon, $14.95/month after 30 days

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17.  My Crazy Inventions Sketchbook: 50 Awesome Drawing Activities for Young Inventors

We are big fans of anything that sparks imagination, and this book really delivers. Filled with prompts and lots of room to draw and create, it's the ideal outlet for budding inventors.

My Crazy Inventions Sketchbook: 50 Awesome Drawing Activities for Young Inventors, Amazon, $14.35

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18. Me: A Compendium: A Fill-in Journal for Kids

This fill-in journal will capture everything that's unique about your little one—and is sure to be a priceless keepsake when they look back on it in 20 years!

Me: A Compendium: A Fill-in Journal for Kids, Amazon, $12.99

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19. 50 Cities of the U.S.A.

Packed with over 2,000 facts about the great cities of America, this A-Z guide will captivate your kiddo with its lavish illustrations and little-known trivia.

50 Cities of the U.S.A., Amazon, $19.84

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Rachel McAdams didn't talk publicly about her pregnancy or her birth story. There are some things this working mama wants to keep to herself, but the fact that she needs to pump at work isn't one of them.

McAdams was recently doing a photo shoot with photographer Claire Rothstein of Girls Girls Girls magazine when she needed to take a pump break. Wearing Versace and a neck full of diamonds McAdmans did what mamas all over the world do every day, and Rothstein snapped a pic that is now going viral.

In an Instagram post, Rothstein explains that she and McAdams had a "mutual appreciation disagreement about who's idea it was to take this picture," but the photographer says she remembers it being McAdams' idea, "which makes me love her even more."

In her caption of the amazing photograph, Rothstein writes: "Breastfeeding is the most normal thing in the world and I can't for the life of me imagine why or how it is ever frowned upon or scared of."

The photographer added that she wanted to put the image out there to change perceptions about breastfeeding, pumping, and working motherhood.

McAdams decision to normalize pumping through this glamorous image is especially cool when you consider that she's not really a social media person, and spends a lot of days in much less glam attire.

She recently arrived for her first interview since welcoming her son in the spring wearing a grey shirt, baggy pants and sneakers, reportedly telling the interviewer (Helena de Bertodano for The Sunday Times U.K.), "I don't even know what I'm wearing today. The shoes are held together with glue. Isn't that sad? I need to get a life."

"I have clothes on and that's a good thing," McAdams told Bertodano during that chat. Her attire for that newspaper interview was a world away from the clothes she wore for the Girls Girls Girls shoot.

During her Sunday Times interview McAdams declined to discuss her son's name or birthdate.

"I want to keep his life private, even if mine isn't," she explained. "But I'm having more fun being a mum than I've ever had. Everything about it is interesting and exciting and inspiring to me. Even the tough days — there's something delightful about them."

Most of us will never look the way McAdams does in this photo while we're pumping, but we can totally understand that sometimes, motherhood means you're wearing sweats and sometimes it means you're pumping in your work clothes (even if for most of us, that doesn't mean Versace).

McAdams may be keeping some parts of her motherhood experience private, but by showing the world this part of her day, she's normalizing something that desperately needs normalizing.

Some mamas pump, and the world needs to know (and accommodate) that.

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To my children,

It's the New Year, and I have been doing a lot of thinking. I want to say, with all of my heart and all of my soul, that I am sorry. I want apologize for anything (and everything) I have said or done that made you feel less-than or sad or small.

I regret, so deeply, the hurt I delivered through harsh words or sideways glances, for steely eyes you didn't deserve and sarcastic replies you didn't understand. I'm sorry for being upset when I should have been more understanding, for resorting to frustration when I should have found more patience, for pulling away when I should have drawn near.

There were the times when you needed more from me, when you asked for more, and I simply couldn't provide. There were the moments when you wanted less of me, needed less from me, and I couldn't—or perhaps I just wouldn't—back away.

I start every day with a hope, a hope that I will be better than the day before.

Sometimes I succeed, but many times, I fail. Every so often, I fail in spectacular fashion. I think about all the times when I wasn't gentle enough or kind enough or attentive enough to you, about all the moments when I was too quick to anger and not quick enough to forgive.

You don't need me to tell you that I'm not perfect. Lord knows, you know far too well.

But I will say it to you, because I think it helps to hear me say it: I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I am human. I have flaws and cracks and blemishes; they are a part of me, just as they are a part of you.

Sometimes, my dear ones, my mistakes are small—like forgetting to pack your lunch or mixing up the dates for Tot Shabbat, or picking you up an hour late from a play date or accidentally switching your piano primer with your brother's, or sending a snack I know you dislike because I didn't have time to go grocery shopping and have no other food in the refrigerator. But sometimes, they aren't so minor.

Sometimes, my mistakes have to do with the way I've behaved, and the words I have said, and the way I have said them. For those times, and for all the times I failed to support you the way I should, or help you in the way you deserve, and love you in the best way I can, I am sorry.

I wish I didn't make so many mistakes. I'm a perfectionist at heart, but when it comes to parenting, there's still so much I haven't mastered. Even after almost a decade of doing this day in and day out, I still feel like a novice in so many regards and as green as I did on day one.

Precious ones, I've come to realize, no matter how hard I try, that I just can't get it right all of the time. I hope you can forgive my failings.

The older I get, the more I realize that life is a jumble of hits and misses. As many times as we try and succeed, we also try and fail. As much as we hope to do right, we often end up doing wrong. It is the story of the human condition—this mix of losses and gains, triumphs and defeats. It's all very messy (think sloppy joes and pancakes dripping with syrup kind of messy), and yet, it's all we know.

My darling ones, I want nothing more than to do right by you and be the best mother I can be for you. I want to love you unconditionally, support you unreservedly, and be present unambiguously.

In the New Year, I resolve to do better for you, to be better with you, and to act as if God is watching. You mean the world to me. You are everything to me. I love you, always and forever.

All my love,

Mommy


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People often say that having a second child doesn't much add to the workload of parenting. There's no steep learning curve: You already know how to make a bottle, install a car seat and when to call the pediatrician. And you're already doing laundry, making lunches and supervising bath time—so throwing a second kid in the tub isn't a big deal.

Except that it is. Having a second child doesn't just mean attaching a second seat to your stroller. Adding a whole new person to your family is more complicated than that, and it's okay to say that it is hard.

A new study out of Australia disputes the popular idea that after making the transition from people to parents, making the jump from one child to two is easy. The researchers found that having a second child puts a lot of pressure on parents' time and their mental health, and mothers bear the brunt of the burden.

When looking at heterosexual couples, the researchers found that before a first child is born both partners feel equal amounts of "time pressure," but once the child is born, that pressure grows, more so for mothers than fathers.

Basically, parents feel psychological stress when they feel they don't have enough time to do all they need to. One baby makes both parents feel more stress, but mom's increase is more than dad's. When a second baby comes, that time pressure doubles for both parents, and since mom already had more than dad, there's now a gulf between them.

The researchers behind this study—Leah Ruppanner, Francisco Perales and Janeen Baxter—say that after a first child is born, a mother's mental health improves, but after a second child, it declines.

Writing for The Conversation, the trio explains:

"Second children intensify mothers' feelings of time pressure. We showed that if mothers did not have such intense time pressures following second children, their mental health would actually improve with motherhood. Fathers get a mental health boost with their first child, but also see their mental health decline with the second child. But, unlike mothers, fathers' mental health plateaus over time. Clearly, fathers aren't facing the same chronic time pressure as mothers over the long-term."

The researchers say that even when mothers reduce their work time, the time pressure is still there and that "mothers cannot shoulder the time demands of children alone."

Adding a second child to the family isn't just a matter of throwing a few more socks in the laundry: It means a schedule that is already stretched is now filling up with twice as many appointments, twice as many school functions. Mothers only have 24 hours in the day, and as much as we wish we could add a couple extra hours per child, we can't.

Time simply can't change to help us, but society can. As the researchers noted, when time pressure is removed, motherhood actually improves mental health.

We love our lives, we love our kids, we love parenting, but there is only so much of our day to go around.

Ruppanner, Perales and Baxter suggest that if society were to help mothers out more, our mental health (and therefore our children's wellbeing as well) would improve even after two or three kids. "Collectivising childcare – for example, through school buses, lunch programs and flexible work policies that allow fathers' involvement – may help improve maternal mental health," the researchers explain, adding that "it is in the national interest to reduce stressors so that mothers, children and families can thrive."

Whether you're talking about Australia or America, that last bit is so true, but this research proves that the myth about second-time parenthood isn't. Even if you already have the skills and the hand-me-downs, having a second child isn't as easy as it is sometimes made out to be.

We can love our children and our lives and still admit when things aren't easy.

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We know life gets a little (okay, a lot) busy around this time of year so if you haven't crossed off everyone on your Christmas list just yet, here's your reminder that you've still got time. Fortunately, that Amazon Prime membership of yours comes in handy... especially for the holidays.

Here are some of the best last-minute gifts to get on Amazon. Also, that extra couple of dollars for gift wrapping is *so* worth it if it's available. 😉

1. Tape Activity Book

So your little can create just about anywhere—on the go, in the car or hanging out at home.

Melissa & Doug Tape Activity Book, $6.47

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2. Instant Pot

Mama, meet your new best friend. 4.5 stars with nearly 30K reviews.

Instant Pot 8-qt, $89.95

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3. Silicone Teething Mitt

Offer relief to your teething one with a mitt that stays in place.

Itzy Ritzy Silicone Teething Mitt, $8.99

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4. Roomba

Give the gift of never having to manually vacuum again.

iRobot Roomba 690, $279.00

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5. Magnetic Tiles

These are always a favorite for kids of all ages. Build endless possibilities and work on fine motor skills—win-win!

Magnetic Tiles Building Blocks Set, $31.99

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6. DryBar Triple Sec

Perfect addition to mama's stocking, or paired with a salon or blowout gift card. Adds *so* much texture and volume.

DryBar Triple Sec 3-in-1, $35.99

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7. Plush Animated Bunny

Plays peek-a-boo and sings for baby.

Animated Plush Stuffed Animal, $32.97

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8. 23andMe

Learn everything you want to know about your family history, where you came from, and even information about your genetics.

23andMe DNA Test, $67.99

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9. Boon Bath Pipes

Make bath time more fun. They suction to the wall and can be played with individually or altogether in a chain.

Boon Building Bath Pipes, $14.99

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10. HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer

For printing all of those adorable Instagram moments—and for getting *all* of the photos off your phone.

HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer, $99.95

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11. Board Blocks

Kids can sort, learn colors and shapes, and work on their hand-eye coordination.

Wooden Educational Geometric Board Block, $6.39

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12. Ring Doorbell + Echo Dot

A great bundle for the techie in your life.

Ring Doorbell 2 and Echo Dot, $169.00

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13. Pai Technology Circuit Conductor

For the little who wants to learn to code, this offers endless learning fun.

Pai Technology Circuit Conductor Learning Kit, $69.99

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14. Kindle Paperwhite, Audible + Headphones Bundle

Bookworms will love this bundle. Enjoy a new Kindle Paperwhite, wireless bluetooth stereo headphones, and 3 month free trial for Audible for new users.

Kindle Paperwhite Bundle, $139.00

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15. Wooden Grocery Store

We love this imaginative play grocery store, complete with a beeping scanner and hand-cranked conveyor belt.

Melissa & Doug Freestanding Wooden Fresh Mart Grocery Store, $179.99

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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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