All posts by Gina Russell

About Gina Russell

Gina Russell is a lover of Thai food, feminist prose, and music of the indie rock persuasion. When she’s not writing or reading up on health and education, she’s drinking coffee or binge watching “The Office."

Valentine's Day is the perfect day for crafting!

Valentine’s Day Crafts For Kids

Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to help your kids come up with some personalized, homemade crafts. After all, the day is all about letting people know how much they’re loved. Your child will enjoy the opportunity to make something special for the people in his or her life. Moreover, crafting is great for children. It helps them develop an appreciation for art and design, and improves their coordination and motor skills. Here are a few ideas for Valentine’s Day crafts to get you started:

Heart chains

This craft sits at the intersection of the two most important kid-crafting characteristics: easy to do and incredibly cool looking. To make a heart chain, start with a long, thin strip of paper. Fold the paper accordion style, until you’re holding a spring-like piece with many layers underneath.

You can do this with any shape that reaches the edge of the paper.
You can do this with any shape that reaches the edge of the paper.

Next, draw a heart on the topmost piece of paper. You want to draw it big enough that the left and right edges of the heart actually go off the paper. Then, cut the heart out, cutting through all the layers of the folded paper. Make sure you only cut on your lines, and leave the left and right edges alone. Once you’re done, release the folded paper to reveal your chain of hearts.

Veggie stamps

Believe it or not, your refrigerator might just hold the key to your child’s next great work of art. Veggie stamps are a fun and easy way to add quick designs to any number of things. For example, you could make a sweet Valentine’s tote bag with a green bell pepper. Slice the pepper in half horizontally, and remove the seeds and core. Have your child dip the remaining pepper into fabric paint, and use it to stamp on the tote bag. You’ll be left with picture-perfect little flowers, which your child can embellish with stems, blades of grass and clouds floating past. 

Decorated coffee mugs

If your child is old enough to handle permanent markers, you can make adorably decorated coffee mugs. This is the perfect Valentine’s gift for a caffeine-obsessed parent or family member. Simply give your child a plain white mug and permanent markers, and let him or her doodle away! Make sure the marker stays outside of the mug, however: Permanent markers are toxic, after all, and have no place mixing in with someone’s tea. 

“Create an everlasting bouquet!”

Cupcake liner flowers

If you have pipe cleaners and cupcake liners, you have a flower in the making. This is a super simple craft that will only need a little bit of parental help, if any at all. Start by using the pipe cleaner to poke a hole in one of the cupcake liners. This liner is going to be the center of your flower. Take the end of your pipe cleaner that’s on the inside of the liner, and fold about 1/4 an inch in on itself. Then, slide the liner all the way up so it’s stopped on the folded pipe cleaner.

At this point, all you have to do is add layers! You’ll need around five liners to get that fluffy flower look. Make a whole bunch to create an everlasting bouquet!

Closeup of early 30's couple making decisions about what color their walls should be. They are in empty bedroom brainstorming about the design and colors, many paint cans are on the floor next to them.

How To Create a Non Toxic Baby Nursery

Creating a nursery involves a roomful of new furnishings – and a lot of decisions. Bassinet or crib? Changing table or dresser? Then, you finally choose the perfect rug, unroll it and… wait, what’s that icky smell? Is that safe for my baby to breathe?

The substances that make modern living possible – strong wood glues, fire-engine red paint, comfy foam mattresses – add up to a long list of chemicals and other toxins that continue to off-gas into the environment long after your nose stops noticing. Babies’ small, developing bodies are more vulnerable to the potential effects of these chemicals. But thanks to the demands of thousands of concerned parents, manufacturers are getting the hint and are now selling safer versions of just about everything.

Read on for advice on how to eliminate toxins from your nursery. And breathe easy; even one small change – like an organic mattress – can make a big difference.

Baby Furniture: Simple and Safe

Back when you were a kid, the plywood and engineered woods (composite board, particle board, MDF or fiberboard) that were used to make your little tables and chairs were bound with toxic formaldehyde-based glues. Since the ‘80s, manufacturers have gradually reduced the level of VOCs in these products; they’ve also paid more attention to sealing the woods to minimize off-gassing. And today, some children’s furniture designers are using woods bound with new nontoxic glues. To avoid the formaldehyde, look for:

  • Vintage pieces made of solid wood (but make sure they comply with federal safety regulations).
  • Furniture made of natural woods, and nontoxic glues if the product has MDF or particleboard components.
  • Cribs finished with nontoxic paint or sealant since the top rail is likely to double as a teething aid.
  • Pieces made with a steel or wood frame and organic cotton.
  • If you’re up for investing for the long term, check out brands like Argington, DucDuc, Oeuf, Stokke and Nursery works.

Paint and Wallpaper: A Fresh Coat

A bevy of chemicals help paint flow smoothly, cover well, dry efficiently, look good, wipe clean and resist mold and mildew. But companies have started figuring out how to produce paints that get the job done without fuming us out of the house.

Paint cans, paint roller, and brushes on the old wooden background.
Oil-based paint is the biggest VOC culprit.

Low and no-VOC Paints

Oil-based paint is the biggest VOC culprit, so opt for latex instead – the newer low-VOC latex versions are capable of providing a hard, enamel-like coat, cost around the same as regular paint and come in a full range of colors. Better still – and as much as double the price – are zero-VOC paints. Look for the Green Seal stamp, a voluntary certification program that sets VOC-level standards. For nontoxic, washable interior paints in great nursery colors, check out Yolo Colorhouse’s Sprout Collection

Ceramic Paint

Made by suspending miniscule ceramic beads in a latex base, ceramic paint has a hard, scrubbable surface. Hand prints and crayon scribbles? No problem.

Organic Paint

Made with substances like milk protein, lime, beeswax and natural oils, organic paints are free not only from VOCs, but also from other chemicals, including those that contribute to good flow and coverage. Neither will you find a bubble-gum pink or lime green among them, since they’re pigmented with pure mineral dyes. Still, you can’t get much healthier than these paints.

Wallpapers and Decorations

If you’re into pattern or need to hide an ugly surface, you’ll be glad to know that the wallpaper industry has reduced the amount of solvents in its products, and a new low-VOC paste is available. Or you can use this recipe to make your own paste. Another option: use low-VOC chalkboard paint or whiteboard paint to make a large blank canvas on your baby’s wall. You can even get magnetic chalkboard paint!

Flooring: Good Foundations

What you might consider a surface made for feet is your kids-whole-body playground. So if you’re thinking about creating a healthy room, the floor’s not a bad place to start. Best of all is bare floor – carpet traps dust, mold and allergens that do children no good. But if you want your baby to play on a soft, warm surface, there are options.

Synthetic Carpet

Synthetic carpets release a toxic mix of formaldehyde, VOCs, benzyne and toluene into the air and trap dusts, molds and other allergens. Still, things are looking up for synthetics. Green Label Plus-certified carpeting uses lower-toxicity adhesives and padding. Some manufacturers are recycling old carpet and making new backings out of recycled materials – check out Flor, which has reasonably priced low-VOC carpet tiles. Another choice is carpet made from PET, the plastic created from recycled soda bottles. It’s soft, tough and naturally stain resistant; Mohawk has a line that costs $25-$30 per square yard.

Woman in nightgown and slippers walking upstairs
Wool is more eco-friendly than synthetic carpets.

Wool Carpets and Rugs

Wool is more eco-friendly than synthetic. At an average $40 per square yard, it’s a bigger investment, too. But it lives far longer, so you can save money in the long run. And wool is also warm and insulating. Look for carpet that’s undyed, uses natural vegetable dyes. Choose backings made of natural jute fiber or latex adhered with natural glues.


Soft and durable, cork is naturally non-allergenic and fire-resistant. You can find cork in a variety of colors and patterns from sources like Globus Choose no- or low-VOC water-based adhesives and urethanes for gluing and finishing your tiles.

Cotton Rugs

Cotton is known to be one of the most heavily sprayed crops, but environmentally friendly cotton products are going mainstream. Look for recycled or organic cotton, undyed or vegetable-dyed. Green your rug even more by using a natural rubber grip pad underneath

Bedding: Sweet Dreams

Babies spend at least 60 percent of their first year sleeping, breathing in whatever is emitted by her mattress, sheets, comforter, pad and other accoutrements. This fact alone has helped lead to changes in the bedding department, with a move toward natural and chemical-free fibers.


Some commercial manufacturers have started using naturally flame-resistant fibers like wool instead of chemicals to create retardant barriers in their mattresses. If you want to avoid synthetics altogether, splurge on a true eco-mattress has a selection; these are filled either with cotton and wool batting over steel coils, or natural latex from rubber trees. Latex is the firmest option and has anti-allergenic and mold-resistant properties.


Easy-care polyester and poly-cotton blends are totally last century; now everyone wants 100-percent cotton sheets for their children. But since manufacturers often give cotton a formaldehyde finish to prevent wrinkling, you might want to check out chemical-free linens. You’ll find traditional styles for kids on consumer sites devoted to allergy sufferers. Organic lines for babies are suddenly everywhere, from major retailers to young design companies like Argington and Q Collection Junior. Also check out the affordable BambooBaby sheet sets in breathable, naturally antibacterial bamboo jersey

Try light indoor exercises like yoga to stay active during your winter pregnancy.

How to Survive Winter While Pregnant


Different seasons bring new pregnancy risk concerns for women. This is as true for winter as it is for any other time of year; during these cold months, you’ll brave icy sidewalks, bitter winds and snow piles that threaten to keep you indoors indefinitely.

Being pregnant during the winter will come with its own challenges, but it’ll also come with some perks. Here’s what you can expect from a cold-weather pregnancy and how to prepare yourself:

Stay warm

One of the perks of being pregnant during the coldest months of the year is the fact that your growing belly is a heater in itself. Your internal thermostat has just been cranked up, and you’ll likely be feeling toasty, even in chilly rooms.

Layer your clothes for maximum comfort during the winter.Stock up on sweaters and other warm layers for your winter pregnancy.

However, that doesn’t mean you won’t have to dress for the weather. Invest in a maternity winter coat. Even though it’s outerwear you’ll only use for a few months, it’s well worth it. Additionally, layer up on sweaters, scarves and hats.

Prepare for ice

Everyone who has dealt with winter weather has taken at least one tumble on an icy sidewalk. But with baby on board, you’ll want to reduce the risks of a slippery spill. Skip the fancy footwear and opt for waterproof boots with good traction instead.

Boost your immune system

One year-round pregnancy risk relates to the fact that women’s immune system strength tends to drop during these nine months. It’s especially important to stay healthy during cold and flu season. Be sure to get a flu vaccination to ward off illness. Parents suggested getting this during the second or third trimester, because this is the time when your immune system will be at its weakest.

Be proactive about your health in other ways, too. Eat healthy and avoid too much junk food. Additionally, be sure to wash your hands frequently, and carry hand sanitizer just in case.

Keep hydrated

While you might associate dehydration with the dog days of summer, it’s actually a wintertime pregnancy risk, too. The air is colder, which also means dryer. Make sure you’re drinking enough water to stay healthy. Mix it up and enjoy a seasonal refreshment by testing new herbal teas, The Bump suggested. Just be sure to inquire about any new ingredients with your doctor first.

Stay active

When the weather outside is frightful, it’s tempting to stay inside, curled up in your favorite blanket. However, it’s typically a good idea to stay active and moving during your pregnancy. Go for walks or try some light exercises such as yoga. Or, start preparing your home for baby’s arrival: paint the nursery, set up the crib or put safety guards on all your outlets.

But don’t go downhill skiing

While staying active is important during the winter, there are some things to keep in mind. Don’t try to shovel or scoop snow, as this can cause strain to your back. Also, many winter sports have a certain level of intensity that isn’t ideal for pregnant women. Avoid sports like downhill skiing, snowboarding, hockey and sledding this season. Other fun winter activities like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing are perfectly fine to engage in though, according to Dr. Marjorie Greenfield, author of The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book.

Babies learn early on to self-soothe by sucking their thumbs.

When Should Babies Outgrow Thumb Sucking?

We’ve all seen it: The babies, toddlers, and children with fingers or a thumb in their mouths. We know it’s common, but it tends to worry parents anyway. Is this a bad habit? Is it harmful? Should I encourage my own child to stopand if so, at what age?

It’s normal for parents to have concerns about the habits their children are forming. Learning why kids suck their thumbs and whether or not it’s a bad idea can help you react appropriately the next time you see your baby stick his thumb in his mouth.

Why do babies suck their thumbs?

Thumb sucking is a natural habit for babies to form because there are several benefits to it. First, it’s often the infant’s first method of self-coping in stressful situations. Second, it can also help with digestion by encouraging the flow of saliva. Babies quickly learn they can help tame upset tummies by sucking their thumbs.

What are the benefits of thumb sucking?

Being able to self-soothe is a good skill for babies to develop. Plus, this ability will likely be welcomed by parents who don’t mind when their baby is calmly sucking his thumb instead of crying.

Some parents prefer their baby be a thumbsucker and not dependent on a pacifier. Thumbs can’t get lost under the couch or thrown onto the dirty grocery store floor. They’re always on-hand (literally) and you don’t need to worry about fastening one to your child’s outfit with a string they can get tangled up in.

Additionally, when your baby’s first teeth start coming in, sucking on a thumb or finger can help manage painful gums.

How harmful is thumb sucking?

At a young age, there’s rarely any harm to thumb sucking. However, as teeth start to grow in, excessive sucking can alter their growth patterns, according to the Mayo Clinic. This may not be too damaging for baby teeth, but the habit is best broken before adult teeth begin to emerge. Prolonged thumb sucking can also cause changes to the roof of the mouth.

Some kids are passive suckers, letting their fingers or thumb casually rest in their mouth. These children are less likely to experience negative consequences as a result of sucking. Others are more aggressive in their thumb sucking; you might hear a “pop” when she takes her thumb out of her mouth. This is more likely to skew tooth growth and cause changes to the gums or palate of the mouth.

How can I break my child’s thumb sucking habit?

Many parents who fret about this find they may not need to worry about how to stop thumb sucking after all. Children often let this habit fall to the wayside along with their bottles and blankies. Others who hold onto this soothing solution past toddlerhood often note that none of their playmates suck their thumbs anymore and take the initiative to stop. Teasing from classmates is also a common deterrent, Mayo Clinic pointed out.

However, if you notice your 4-, 5- or 6-year-old is still sucking his thumb, you may feel it’s time to bring up the topic on your own. Don’t scold, though; if the habit is a means to manage tension, sounding punitive or upset might make the situation worse.

It might be helpful to note what situations cause your child to suck his thumb:

  • Is it stress? You could teach your child other stress-management techniques to cope or get to the root of the tension.
  • Is it boredom? Give your child something to keep her hands busy instead of thumb sucking.
  • Is it sleepiness? Hand your child a stuffed animal to snuggle with instead.

Encouraging your child’s dentist to talk about the harmful effects thumb sucking can cause might also be helpful in convincing him to stop.

Amazed pregnant woman watching media content in a smart phone sitting on a sofa in the living room in a house interior

7 Pregnancy Diet Myths: What’s Actually OK to Eat and What to Avoid

As soon as your pregnancy test came back positive, you knew you wanted to do everything you could to make your baby healthy. One of the most important factors in your baby’s well-being is maintaining a healthy pregnancy diet. However, with so much information out there – and you’ll likely receive your fair share of unsolicited advice – it’s hard to know what’s actually wise to do and what’s just old wives’ tales.

Let’s take a look at some common pieces of wisdom to determine what to consider for your pregnancy diet plan:

Myth No. 1: You’re eating for two, so you should eat twice as much.

Fact: While it’s true you’re taking in calories and nutrients for your infant as well as yourself, this phrase shouldn’t be taken too literally. During your first trimester, your baby doesn’t require you to take in any extra calories. During the second trimester, add about 340 calories per day to your diet, BabyCenter advised. During the final trimester, an extra 450 calories per day should keep your baby healthy and fed.

Myth No. 2: Your baby will only take in the good nutrients and ignore the junk.

Fact: While scientists haven’t quite figured out how nutrients are divided up between mom and fetus, you can generally count on your baby taking in some qualities from all the foods you eat. This means that if you eat a diet lacking in certain nutrients, your baby’s health could suffer. What’s more, poor health before birth could have lifelong effects on the baby.

Myth No. 3: Fish is off-limits during pregnancy.

Fact: It’s not the fish that’s the problem – it’s the mercury often found in it. Mercury is a toxin that can damage your kidneys, nervous system and immune system. It’s also linked to brain damage and developmental delays in infants, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

Salmon and other low-mercury fish may be OK to eat during pregnancy.Salmon can actually be a part of a healthy pregnancy diet.

However, aside from the mercury – which isn’t naturally found in fish but is rather a result of pollutants in the water – there are plenty of great nutrients in this aquatic protein that can promote healthy growth and brain development in babies, such as omega-3s and iron, the American Pregnancy Association explained. Here’s a general break-down of which fish are OK to include in your pregnancy diet and which to leave out.

Healthy fish to eat during pregnancy:

  • Salmon.
  • Shrimp.
  • Tilapia.
  • Cod.
  • Catfish.
  • Light canned tuna.

Mercury-heavy fish to avoid during pregnancy:

  • King mackerel.
  • Swordfish.
  • Shark.
  • Tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Albacore tuna.

Additionally, fish from your town’s streams or lakes might be OK to eat, but it’s best to check with authorities to see their recommendations. Your local lake might be more polluted than it seems.

Myth No. 4: Organ meat should be a pregnancy diet staple.

Fact: Organ meat is packed with iron, copper and vitamins A and B12, all of which are excellent for a healthy mom and baby. Considering this, it’s no wonder many people recommend increasing organ meat intake during pregnancy. However, in some cases, too much of a good thing can turn bad. Pregnant women who eat organ meat more than once a week could wind up with toxic levels of vitamin A and copper, increasing the risk of birth defects and liver toxicity, Healthline explained.

Myth No. 5: Your normal cup of coffee during pregnancy is harmless.

Fact: Coffee and other caffeinated beverages are at the center of many culinary controversies. Some say caffeine is healthy; others say it should be avoided. When speaking about pregnancy in particular, the claims are endless; some say it can cause infertility, miscarriages, birth defects and more. The fact is, scientists haven’t found enough correlation between studies to say any of these things are unquestionably true or false, the American Pregnancy Association concluded.

That said, there are some things about caffeine we do know for sure:

  • Caffeine crosses the placenta, which means that when you drink a cup of coffee, your baby is also taking in this drug. And, just like you, your baby may have trouble sleeping when he’s had too much caffeine.
  • Babies’ metabolisms aren’t mature enough to properly process caffeine.
  • Caffeine increases your blood pressure and heart rate, and it’s generally advised to keep these lower during pregnancy.
  • Caffeine is a diuretic, which can lead to dehydration – another thing to avoid during pregnancy.

Given all this information, it may be best to cut back on your caffeine intake, or just cut it out completely.

Caffeine is best avoided during pregnancy.Consider replacing your daily cup of coffee with herbal tea for a healthy alternative.

Myth No. 6: Pregnant women shouldn’t eat cheese.

Fact: Some soft cheeses may contain listeria, salmonella, E. coli or other harmful bacteria. It all comes down to whether the cheese was made with pasteurized or unpasteurized milk.

Cheese made in the U.S. is typically made with pasteurized milk. Pasteurization is the process of heating up the milk hot enough to kill off those harmful bacteria, which means any product made after this process is completely fine to eat during pregnancy. However, it’s always important to read your label; if it doesn’t specifically list “pasteurized milk” as an ingredient, it might be best to skip it to be safe.

In general, be cautious around imported soft cheeses such as:

  • Camembert.
  • Feta.
  • Brie.
  • Roquefort.
  • Gorgonzola.
  • Queso blanco.
  • Queso fresco.

Myth No. 7: Deli meat should always be avoided during pregnancy.

Fact: Deli meat may have listeria, a harmful bacteria associated with miscarriage, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Dangerous though it might be, there’s one thing listeria can’t survive: heat. If you’re tempted to make yourself a turkey or ham sandwich, go right ahead – just be sure to heat up your cold cuts until they’re steaming first.

Your baby's first birthday is a celebration you'll never forget.

What To Consider When Throwing Baby’s First Birthday Party

The time has finally arrived. One year ago, you welcomed home your new bundle of joy, and now it’s time to celebrate your baby’s first birthday.

A first birthday party is as much of a celebration for you as it is for your little one. Many parents want to plan a big bash to mark the occasion, but planning a baby birthday party is a little different than planning a blowout for an adult.

Here are a few first birthday party ideas to get you started:

Time it right

The ideal time of day to host a baby’s birthday party is 10:00 a.m., The Kitchn proclaims.

It’s not too early and not too late. The only food you’ll need to serve are late-morning snacks, and the party will be over before naptime.

Don’t try to draw the party out beyond two hours, Parents magazine suggested. Any longer and you risk your young guests getting cranky.

Pick a theme

There are countless first birthday party themes to base your party on.

Choose a classic children’s book to base your decorations off of, like “Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter, Kara’s Party Ideas suggested. Include vines and other greenery for decorations. Set tables with white vases of delicate flowers like baby’s breath or lavender. Send guests home with a growing seedling.

Choose party favors that match your theme.Seedlings make a simple and on-theme party favor for a Peter Rabbit party.

Or, consider basing your party theme off in-season produce. That way, you can get the food, snacks and decorations you need from the farmer’s market. Kara’s Party Ideas showed how an “apple of our eye” birthday party can come together. Decorate your tables with the apples, serve caramel covered apples for dessert, and have a supply of delicious apple juice on hand.

Stock up on supplies

You’ll need a few basic first birthday party supplies like party favors, plates and utensils and decorations.

Party favors don’t need to be anything big. Choose a cute paper bag or box and include a small toy that matches the theme. Throw in a few snacks, too.

Paper plates and plasticware are usually go-tos for children’s birthday parties. There’s no risk of breakage, they’re a breeze to clean up and it’s usually easy to find them in the same colors as your theme. Eco-conscious parents can seek out biodegradable items or things made from recycled materials.

Some people love to decorate; others don’t want to deal with the mess. One thing to know about a baby’s first birthday party: It’s OK to not decorate if you don’t want to. It’s also OK to go all out.

If you’re leaning toward a minimalist approach, opt for Mylar helium filled balloons; Parents magazine pointed out that babies are less likely to try chewing on these than the simple latex ones you blow up yourself.

If you’re more inclined to put your interior decorating skills to the test, choose tablecloths and centerpieces that match your theme. Place a few photos of your little one on the dessert and gift tables, and make sure your cake is on-theme too.

Your child’s first birthday is a milestone you’ll always remember, but it’s not something your baby will recall. Feel free to plan as much or as little as you like.

Light exercise during pregnancy can keep you and your baby healthy.

How To Exercise When You’re Expecting


Mothers-to-be often find themselves wondering and worrying about how they’re treating their own body for the sake of the baby. The long-held belief is that pregnant women should rest as much as possible to avoid strain that could cause harm. However, experts and expectant mothers today are singing a different tune – one of activity and fitness.

Is it OK to exercise while pregnant?

In most cases, it’s perfectly fine and even encouraged to exercise while pregnant. The American Pregnancy Association pointed out that regular exercise will keep you fit and healthy, reducing weight gain and the risk of gestational diabetes. It can also improve your posture, mood and energy.

If you’re already a habitual exerciser, you can probably carry on as you were while regularly checking in with your body. Ask yourself if you’re feeling pain or discomfort, light-headedness or overheating. If so, you may need to dial back the speed, weight or reps.

If you’ve never been much of an athlete, now is just as good a time as any to bring some healthy exercise into your routine. Start slow and steady. Try a regular walk or some yoga.

How safe is my baby when I exercise while pregnant?

Your growing baby is encircled by the fluid in the amniotic sac, tucked securely inside your uterus. This is surrounded by your organs, muscles and the rest of your body. Considering all this, it’s much easier to imagine that your baby is safe and sound inside you.

What exercises should I avoid while pregnant?

While your developing fetus is in a generally safe environment in your womb, it’s important to not test this protection. Here are some types of exercise to steer clear of:

Fall risks

Your center of gravity changes as your baby grows. Don’t attempt exercises where you’re likely to take a fall, like gymnastics or horseback riding.

High impact

As satisfying as it is to ace your kickboxing or judo classes, take these nine months off. You wouldn’t want to take a punch going in the wrong direction. The same goes for sports like lacrosse, football or soccer.

High intensity

Some professional athletes have continued to exercise and even compete during their pregnancies. Serena Williams was two months pregnant when she won the Australian Open in January 2017. Olympic beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings was 5 weeks pregnant when she won her third gold medal in 2012. However, for most women, it’s best to stay away from these types of events. Wayward tennis rackets and volleyballs can do some serious damage to a pregnant mother.

If you’re thinking about starting or continuing to exercise, consult your doctor for advice that will keep you healthy and your baby safe.

Parentese can be helpful with baby language development.

Does Baby Talk Help or Hinder Your Baby?

For some people, it’s impossible to hold back the baby talk when they see an infant. They need to squeal and exclaim how cute the “iddle-widdle bay-bee” is. For others, the sing-song voice and intentional mispronunciations are just obnoxious.

But when communicating with a baby, it doesn’t matter what other adults’ opinions are; all that’s important is that the speaker is helping the infant’s language development – or at least not hurting it. Some say that repetition and using that high-pitched tone that many parents turn to when speaking to their small child – often called “parentese” – are actually a good thing; others argue that it teaches them bad language habits.

When baby talk is OK

For babies, listening to adults speak sounds a lot like when you hear someone talking in a foreign language. It’s hard to pick up on where words end and begin. Speaking slowly, drawing out syllables and emphasizing certain sounds helps them identify word breaks and develop context, Today’s Parent reported.

That sing-songy tone has another benefit, too: Your baby probably finds it captivating. Parents discover this method is effective in holding their baby’s attention.

Baby talk isn't all bad.Babies respond to people speaking to them in sing-song tones.

Talking to your baby and responding to your baby’s coos will teach the basics of conversational back and forth. Even if your baby doesn’t understand each word, he or she will pick up on some vocabulary, learn context and begin to understand that, in conversations, people take turns talking.

Babies who hear baby talk typically babble more, which is associated with greater language development early on. Two-year-olds who babbled a lot as infants typically have a bigger vocabulary than those who babbled less often or who heard fewer words.

When baby talk is bad

As it’s true that over-pronunciation may be helpful in demonstrating where words end and begin, it’s also common for parents to muddle their pronunciation when speaking baby talk. Two studies conducted in France and Japan found that mothers tend to speak less clearly when using baby talk, blending sounds like “bo” and “po,” according to the Association for Psychological Science.

However, the researchers noted that this doesn’t indicate whether this is harmful, helpful or neutral to language development.

“Our results suggest that, at least for learning sound contrasts, the secret to infants’ language-learning genius may be in the infants themselves – the fact that they are able pick up sounds from input that is less clear than that used by adults with each other makes this accomplishment all the more remarkable,” said Andrew Martin, who was a part of the study in Japan.

Melinda Wenner Moyer, Slate’s parenting advice columnist, pointed out that small children might not like certain forms of baby talk, like repeating mispronounced words back to them. While it might be cute for a toddler to say “yo-gwet” instead of “yogurt,” the mispronunciation comes from undeveloped motor skills – not a misunderstanding of how to say the word. The child can hear the difference and knows when you say the word wrong.

In the end, what’s really important is that parents talk to their babies. If baby talk comes naturally, go ahead and coo away. If it doesn’t, don’t force it – your baby will learn words from your regular speech as well.

Help your preschooler live a healthy and happy life!

How to Help Your Overweight Preschooler


When it comes to rolls, the more the merrier – both in bakeries and on babies. There’s something irresistible about an infant with chubby cheeks and thighs to match. (Why do you think baby rompers are all the rage?)

As infants age and their activity levels increase, the baby fat tends to melt away. For some tots, however, baby fat becomes a stubborn houseguest who refuses to evacuate the premises. And while these youngsters may look as adorable as ever, carrying extra pounds can have detrimental consequences. It’s no wonder you want to help your child lose weight!

If you’re a parent of an overweight preschooler, you have a challenge in front of you: How do you encourage your child to lose weight without damaging his or her self-esteem?

Is my preschooler overweight?

Before you make a decision on how to address your child’s weight problem, it’s wise to determine whether or not your child has a weight problem to begin with. Sometimes the number on the scale doesn’t paint a clear picture.

Super strong, atypically muscular children might measure on growth charts as overweight even though they are lean and fit.Super strong, atypically muscular children might measure on growth charts as overweight even though they are lean and fit.

For example, let’s pretend there are two preschoolers of the same age, weight, height and gender. Both children fall into the 90th percentile on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts used by most doctors and are therefore considered “overweight.” However, while child A appears a bit pudgy and soft, child B is lean and muscular. How can this be?

The reason these children can weigh the same amount but have markedly different body composition is muscle density. Put simply, while one pound of muscle weighs exactly as much as one pound of fat, muscle is denser than fat and occupies less space in the body, as Weight Watchers explained. Therefore, kids who are atypically muscular can have a high BMI but no excess body fat.

If you’re still unsure whether or not your preschooler is overweight, a quick visit to the pediatrician should help you sort it out.

If you're asking, "Is my preschooler overweight?" you might want to consult your pediatrician.If you’re asking, “is my preschooler overweight?” you might want to consult your pediatrician.

How to help your chubby preschooler

Carrying extra weight in childhood can lead to problems down the road such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Additionally, overweight and obese children are more likely to be overweight adults. Did you know that, according to the Obesity Action Coalition, obese adults are at a 20 percent greater risk of depression?

Of course, you hope that your child will live a happy and healthy life, so it’s only natural you’re interested in helping him or her develop better eating and exercise habits. Still, you might be worried about damaging your preschooler’s self-esteem in the process. After all, one study, published in Eating and Weight Disorders, showed that women “who remembered their parents’ comments about their weight were less satisfied with their size as adults.” This finding might also explain the correlation between childhood diets and eating disorder development. In other words, you must tread carefully.

“Hold silly contests: Who can make up the best dance move?”

The best way to encourage healthy habits is to model them yourself. Make it a family effort by taking these steps together:

  • Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and fill at least 3/4 of your cart with fresh produce and protein.
  • Spring clean your cabinets and pantry. Ditch any processed foods that are high in sugar and/or fat and low in nutrients.
  • Cook meals together – try out new recipes featuring nutrient-dense whole foods such as quinoa and beans.
  • Try family fun activities that encourage everyone to be physical (bowling, laser tag, hiking, jumping on a trampoline, geocaching).
  • Hold silly contests: Who can make up the best dance move? Who can jump the furthest? Who can drink a green smoothie the quickest?

It’s crucial that you keep the focus off of your child’s physical appearance – instead, facilitate open discussions about how to be healthy and happy. Remember, your child’s sense of self and self-worth starts with you.

These tips will make your children excited to eat their vegetables.

4 No-Fuss Tips for Hiding Vegetables

Getting kids to eat more vegetables is a chore for any parent. Children eat candy, soda and chips with gusto but stubbornly turn their noses up at a plate of peas and carrots. Yet as a parent, you know vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. Luckily, we’ve got four easy tips to sneak vegetables into your kids’ meals:

Tip 1: Swap normal carbs for healthy veggies

Kids love calorie-filled, carbalicious treats like chips, Tater Tots and dinner rolls. With a little creative thinking, you can replace these starches with healthy vegetable choices. Swap white rice, spaghetti and burger buns for cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles and sweet potato buns. For inspiration, start with Hungry Girl’s Fully Loaded Burrito Bowl, which includes cauliflower, bell pepper and black beans.

Tip 2: Add green veggies to fruit smoothies for a burst of nutrients

Nothing cools you down like a smoothie in the summertime, but most store-bought options are loaded with corn syrup. Make your own using combinations of almond milk, frozen vegetables and other assorted goodies. Throw in some kale, spinach or collards for a frozen treat that’s chock-full of iron, calcium, fiber and vitamin C. Your smoothie options are unlimited, but if you don’t know where to start, try the Peanut Butter and Banana Green Smoothie recipe from Eat This, Not That!

A green smoothie in a mason jar next to a bundle of spinach.Blend smoothies with leafy green veggies and other treats.

Tip 3: Ditch the bland, boring and boiled

Unfortunately, most people think throwing a bag of frozen peas into the microwave is the height of cooking vegetables. That, or they boil everything until what’s left is a mushy mess. No wonder kids make a face! Add some excitement by lightly cooking your veggies and mixing in a variety of spices. Huffington Post suggested some great, sodium-free spice options. Follow the instructions, add the spice to a stir fry and relax as your kids chow down.

Tip 4: Make vegetables the star of the show

Science proves it: Kids are more likely to choose vegetables on their own if these foods are often served as their only option. Researchers from the University of Minnesota conducted a lunchroom study where they observed kids’ responses to food and choice. When children lining up for lunch were given carrots to snack on while they waited, they were more likely to choose a second serving of vegetables later on.

Try this in your own kitchen by letting your kids munch low-calorie green veggies like celery or romaine lettuce while you cook. Alternatively, make a meal where vegetables are the entree. You can adapt this risotto recipe from Dr. Orlena Kerek to use cauliflower rice and experiment with different vegetables.