Hide and Seek Is Dangerous for Toddlers

Katherine - posted on 03/28/2011 ( 64 moms have responded )

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This past week, 4-year-old Bryce McCraken of Missouri went missing while playing hide-and-seek. More than 250 people searched for 12 hours, before he was finally found around 11 p.m. about an hour from his home. He thankfully was unharmed, but there's an important lesson to be learned from this story: Hide-and-seek is dangerous for toddlers.

The whole premise of the game is just asking for trouble: Go and hide somewhere creative and don't come out even when I call your name. Do you have any idea how creative toddlers can get?

In Auckland, the game got even more seriously dangerous. A prisoner there has recently admitted to multiple sex acts on children while playing the game of hide-and-seek. While the incidents happened years ago, it still highlights the potential for problems with such a secretive game.

Hide-and-seek isn't alone, there are plenty of other games ripe with dangers for toddlers:

London Bridges

Take the key and lock her up, lock her up. Planting the idea in a toddler's head of locking anyone up is asking for trouble.

Red Rover, Red Rover

You really want to encourage your toddler busting through things -- especially people? Beware the mall if you do.

Musical Chairs

Stitches waiting to happen.

Golf

I thought golf camp would be so cute for my 4-year-old. The first day he required stitches when another child's putter went way above putt level.

Pinatas

Oh, it's fun to watch them try and hit those colorful candy-containing devices ... until they hit someone else. A good rule to live by with toddlers: No sticks.

What games do you think are most dangerous for toddlers?


Image via ianmunroe/Flickr

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

Tara - posted on 03/28/2011

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Oh come on, have some sensibilities.

Did these parents not teach the basic rules of boundaries, limitations, end game words etc. before allowing their children to play this game?

Sure sometimes shit happens, once there was a kid who hid in his dad's SUV, he fell asleep waiting for his cousins etc. to find him and he died of heat exposure. Sad, but preventable.

Just like this case, had the parents laid down some rules and been around to enforce them, this wouldn't have happened.



What 4 year old goes wandering around the neighboorhood? Game or no game?

I don't think these games are dangerous for toddlers when they are taught how to play safely and why to play safely.



It is one thing to order your children to follow the rules or else...

But if they don't know why they are supposed to follow them, there is a greater likelihood of them testing the rules just to see for themselves.



Teaching consequences for breaking the rules are as important as the rules themselves.



edited to add a forgotten word and to try my hand at paragraphing cause I know I can be bad for that and that's just how I roll.... lol ;)

Amanda - posted on 03/28/2011

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Rolls eyes, children cant have fun now a days. Did the parent of that toddler that went missing teach their toddler that they cant leave the lawn, the house? Where boundarys set up for this child?? If we stop kids from playing "dangerous" things, why dont we just lock them up in a padded room instead of teaching children, safety and personal responsiblity (yes these life lessons should start during toddlerhood. Life is so much eaiser if we just lock all children into padded rooms until they are 21.

Stifler's - posted on 03/28/2011

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What a load of crap. No wonder kids are fat. No hide and seek, no running games, no climbing trees, no cooking in case they burn themselves, no craft in case they cut themselves, no water play in case they drown. The only thing left to do is play non violent, non sexual, non political video games. Usually the hiding place has to be like in the house or yard! Everyone knows that, this toddler just was naughty and left the yard because no one was watching what their kid was up to. Red Rover was banned from my primary school and I've heard that musical chairs has been ruined for everyone by sooks who didn't get a chair. LOLOLOLOL. My parents did never like the idea of a dizzy kid with a blindfold swinging aimlessly at a pinata though. We did had a treehouse 6 foot off the ground.

Brandi - posted on 03/28/2011

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haha, I know, Toni. Sorry. I got that a lot today. I know, I was just replying, I didn't take it aimed at me. I wasn't aiming mine at you I was agreeing with you, lol.

Becky - posted on 03/28/2011

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If your child takes off out of the house and goes wandering around the neighborhood while you're playing hide and seek, the game is not the problem! Cole is barely 3 and he never leaves the house without us either coming or giving him permission. Well, he ran out the front door once when I'd opened it for something, but he's afraid of cars, so he'd never go beyond our front yard. (No sidewalks on our cul-de-sac.) I think restricting childhood games because of potential dangers is takng it too far. By her logic, parents who let their preschoolers play hockey or soccer (4 is a preschooler, by the way, not a toddler!) are just asking for injuries too. Sometimes we get hurt, it's a fact of life. As Cole told me the other day, "well, Mom, sometimes bad things happen to everyone!" We teach our kids appropriate boundaries and safety measures and to play by the rules, and then we trust that they are going to follow them, and we provide appropriate supervision. We can't bubble-wrap them!
The one horror story I have heard about hide and seek - and it's happened more than once - is kids hiding in those steamer trunks with hinged lids and suffocating.

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64 Comments

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Samantha - posted on 10/09/2012

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All these games are fine for toddlers if there are adequate rules and boundaries set, any toddler who does not or will not follow the rules cannot play (so what if its unfair, they need to learn somehow) and adult supervision, which is a given when you're dealing with toddlers. Hide-and-seek, can be an inside game. Musical chairs is awesome and fun, and pinatas? I've only seen it done where everyone else stands a few feet away to watch and an adult is with the toddler guiding them. London Bridges--I didn't know about the lock her up verse...we just do the "falling down" and it falls down on "my dear lady".

Merry - posted on 10/06/2012

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I have a tree climbing incident to share, my sister was about 5-6-7 or so and she fell out of a tree. She hit her head and was unconscious. We were all younger then her and I remember thinking, oh she's just taking a nap. So we left her to sleep and kept playing eventually she woke and resumed playing"not sure if we ever even told our mom!



Can you imagine! She could have died right then and there and no one would have known!

Momma - posted on 10/03/2012

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Yeah, a wee bit of crazy talk to me. I don't care what this crap says. I WILL play these fun games with my kids.



Now, LMCW, about the tree climbing. I hear ya. It is dangerous and I have never had an accident. It is just common sense that gravity is real and well, you only need to fall once. I am quite leery of allowing this. This is preventative. There are so many other activities to do. Same as sledding in a place where there are trees or other obstacles. I know kids that have had serious injury, one even died because they hit a tree while going down a hill. I will not allow my children to do this. They can sled but in an open area, only!



Riding your bike around with full gear and getting hit by a car or something else, is an accident. It is hard to prevent, you were cautious from the beginning.



Stopping fun kid games is just silly. All games have rules and limitations, teach them to your kids and play, play, play!



~Meme

Toni - posted on 10/03/2012

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I think you are going a bit over the top.

If you want to look for danger in children s games you ARE going to find it.

So are we not allowed to let children play games now? Everything is dangerous.

Children learn my doing, and sometimes what they do is dangerous. But they are built to bounce back from just about anything. It takes an adult almost twice as long to heal from a broken arm than it takes a child.

Susan - posted on 04/01/2011

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Man this world is full of dangers! I am going out tomorrow and buying a bubble for each of my kids!!!!

Alexis - posted on 03/31/2011

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@ christine, you were a strong willed little girl and probably still are! I know at the time those events werent too funny but looking back I bet your family has a laugh. When I was four my family was hiking in the mountains. My dad went for a hike by himself and I wanted to go but they wouldnt let me. When my mom wasnt looking I went to catch up with my dad. He was walking the rim which I knew was a circle and figured I could just cut across to catch up to him. Yeah right! I was lost for entire day until two hunters found me and offered me a ride back to the ranger station. You know what I told them? "no, that I don't take rides with strangers"...LOL I guess I walked next to their car for awhile before I said it would be ok for me to ride in the bed of their pickup truck...you can never be too safe and my mom had instilled in me stranger danger! LOL

Tinker1987 - posted on 03/31/2011

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wow that is scary.i never dreamed of a game like that going wrong. I agree i played alot of these games.but i was taught boundaries i wasnt allowed to leave the yard.Ect.

LadyJane - posted on 03/31/2011

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I see tons of parents today blaming others for their children's behavior including with some games they play. It's like the days of parental responsibility has now become the responsibility of the governmnent/schools.

I played all those games and more as a child. There were specific rules to follow. Do NOT leave the yard, do not hide for more than 1 hour, unless it is a sleep over. Don't stand too close to the pinata while hitting it. ( We had to be the stick's length away to avoid hitting any other child. In some cases it was an adult who held the pinata if it wasn't hung on something. ) Even books like Mother Goose were deemed dangerous because of what the words meant. Little children don't know what those words mean when they're little. They also don't really care unless it is drilled by their parents. There were tons of movies, TV shows I wasn't allowed to watch even if they were "safe". Of course I'd watch them as an adult and still can't figure out why my mom didn't like some of them. Oh well! It's all about parental responsibility. Make sure your child knows their boundaries. Sure some will just want to test those anyhow, but if you explain why some of those rules are in place, they might not try to find out why in some cases.

Some children find out the hard way why some rules were put in place and their punishment is hearing their parents say. "I told you so!" I see too many parents become more and more paranoid over things they actually can control if they didn't put the responsibility onto anyone but themselves.

Alexis - posted on 03/31/2011

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Its all in how you play. I play hide and seek with my son 18 mo but I do the hiding, and I hide where I still have an eye on him, and we only play inside. There are base rules to every game, when I was younger my mom said that if she called us we had to come period, and there were boundaries that we could hide in, like only the house or yard.

Emily - posted on 03/31/2011

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The blogger does seem a wee bit paranoid. The problem isn't the game, it's the fact that your toddler would leave your property. (I have a nephew that, as a toddler will just wander off down the street and wind up inside strangers' houses. Now THAT'S scary and dangerous. But it's lack of supervision and training.)

That said, I restricted hide-and-seek to an indoor game when my boys were little, unfortunately. I loved the game dearly, as a child. But we live in a different place, and kidnapping (by pedophiles) is quite a real possibility here, and I need to be able to find my child at all times.

Now that they're older, I've modified the game so that no one is "missing" for long. (I played it this way when I was a kid, and it was more fun anyway.) It's become "Run, Hide, and Seek". You hide, but you can't stay there for more than a few minutes, then you have to find another spot. To be "found" you have to get tagged... otherwise, if you get away behind something, you can hide again. It's more exciting for kids, since they have to try to sneak around from hiding spot to hiding spot.

Tracey - posted on 03/31/2011

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How did a 4 year old end up an hour away from his house? According to Wikipedia the average walking speed is 5.5 km per hour so even if we halve that for a child it is 2.7km or 1.5 miles away from home.

[deleted account]

ohh lord! here comes the cotton wool parents! my son and i play hide and seek all the time mainly in the house with locked doors so there are limited places...if you set limits nobody gets lost!

[deleted account]

With guidelines, rules, and limits kids can play all the listed games safely! Pfft i hate those pinatas with the pull strings i get the point but its lame lol and my daughter will have the real ones!! if a kid manages to get hit after setting up rules ill just have to be even more careful the next year. Im not a fan of hide and seek just cuz i never got into that but if she wanted to then i would just set up parameters and then tell her if i call her name or say a certain word she must come out immediately or that means the game is over. Its so easy to prevent these things rather than just banning our kids from having fun!

Veronique - posted on 03/29/2011

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Ok, come on! First how old was the kid? Didi the parents teach that kid that he cannot leave the yard or house? I mean come on, how many kids play hide and seek and are just fine. There are rules that you need to teachthe kid for sure but to say it's dangerous, no i don't think so.......

America3437 - posted on 03/29/2011

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COME ON PEOPLE!!!!! The responsiblity, of the saftey of our children,is OURS!! Sure sometimes bad things happen but in all accidents there is fault. Where were the parent's of these "toddlers" that were playing hide-and-seek?When are the parent's going to start taking responsiblity for their children!?! Toddlers should NEVER be left alone outside!!! How can we be scared of sending our young adults into this so called "big bad world", but leave our toddlars alone in "it"!!!!

Elfrieda - posted on 03/29/2011

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Emma's right - Sardines is way better than Hide and Seek! But you need a few kids for that to work.

Does anybody remember Kick the Can? It was like a mixture of hide-and-seek, tag, and capture the flag. I remember waiting desperately for the next family gathering so I could play that with my cousins. Who am I kidding? I'm desperately waiting for my son and future kids to grow up enough to play Kick the Can with me! :)

I once was able to convince/bully several of my brothers and sisters in law to play Fox and Goose in the snow. We were laughing and running around like little kids. It seems like as we grow up we lose some of that joy of running just because it's fun to run. I wonder why? Maybe we're just too tired.

Vegemite - posted on 03/29/2011

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Yes i once hid in the fridge. Lucky my mum new me well and started with the most obscure places first. That was the end of hide and seek until i was old enough to know better.

Then there was the time i was meant to be having a nap and found some change so I took the 20 min walk to the corner store to get fish and chips. When I got home everyone was franticly looking for me, I said I was hungry and wanted fish and chips so I got them.

Or when we were camping on an Island and I'd collected pippies and left them on my boogy board, I wanted to go back to get them but noone would come with me so eventually I went by my self and they'd gone. I was upset about that and didn't think anyone cared they'd gone so I decided I would swim home. About on hour by boat. I was found by my Dad at 3 in the morning in a shark feeding ground after SES and coast guard rescue with their infrared cameras had stopped looking.

This was all before 6. Then how about when I was in grade 1 and was fed up waiting for the bus at school to go home so I walked, it would probably now take me 1hour.

Some kids will just do as they please and the extra precautions that normally work don't.

Stifler's - posted on 03/28/2011

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by the way, hide and seek is no fun. SARDINES is fun, where the first person to find the one person hides with them and then everyone else has to hide with them and they're all hiding from one person. It was the best game when I was a kid and finding room for everyone was the hard bit.

Elfrieda - posted on 03/28/2011

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Cats can scratch the toddler. And forget about dogs! They could maul and kill a toddler.

Other kids can hurt the toddler.

Paper books can give the toddler a papercut, and board books can be used as a weapon.

Coffeetables and other furniture can cause bumps and bruises when the toddler runs into them.

Food can cause allergies when introduced too early.

I guess the only right thing to do is to imprison them in a soft round room with nothing to do and nowhere to go and no way to learn. :P

Casey - posted on 03/28/2011

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I don't think that hide and seek is a dangerous game I just think you have to be sensible about it I mean who lets their 4 year old child out of the house/yard to play a game anyways thats just stupid and when we play it here at our house we have a word that we use to end the game if I am getting worried and once he hears that word he comes out, but you should never allow young children to wander around the neighbourhood playing any games.
As for musical chairs I can see how it can be dangerous and it's one of those party games we try to avoid but when I was a kid we used to play it at parties and I don't remember anyone getting hurt badly.
Lol @ pinatas those things are a death trap lol, we always watch The funniest home video show and the amount of pinata videos they have is hilarious I think they're a bit dangerous for a kids party but still funny to watch (providing your not standing to close).
I think most games are fine so long as you are sensible about it and providing children are always supervised by an adult, and you have to just use common sense when deciding what games are appropriate for a child depending on their age and ability.

Caitlin - posted on 03/28/2011

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My daughter doesn't have the attention span or the ability to stay quiet enough to play hide and seek.

I'm not going to ban any games, that's stupid in my opinion, if your kid doens't play them in a safe way, either you teach them how to properly, or you don't play them at all.. simple solution.. I even think knee pads for bike riding are kind of stupid, so i'm really not a bubble wrap kind of mom...

Meghan - posted on 03/28/2011

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I love it! J will sit in the closet for 10 minutes before he notices I have stopped looking for him lol!

Jodi - posted on 03/28/2011

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"there's an important lesson to be learned from this story: Hide-and-seek is dangerous for toddlers."

Um, no, the lesson is, know how to keep your toddler from getting outside on their own? As soon as Taylah was able to reach the door handles, we put chains and bolts on the external doors. It's called common sense.

There are so many things our kids do that are dangerous, but if we hold them back it will backfire on us! Yep, definitely written by a paranoid mother.

[deleted account]

Brandi you do know I wasn't aiming my post at anyone...well I was but not you (I was thinking about helicopter mums who bubble wrap their kids) :-)

Brandi - posted on 03/28/2011

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Ah, my kids aren't bubble wrapped. I agree, children should be playing games. Yes, they can be dangerous, like the story I posted, but if you keep boundaries then it can be safe. Teach your kids the rules and teach them dangers.

My boys are 4 and 6, and my step son is 4. All are in sports. My 4 year old plays soccer, my stepson plays t-ball, and my 6 year old plays football. Yes, they can get hurt, but they are also building friendships, discipline, self-esteem, and having a great time, on top of all the running around and exercise.

I just think keep boundaries and all these "dangerous" games can be safe and fun for everyone.

[deleted account]

We play hide and seek with my 17 month old but like others kids he just doesn't understand it - he usually has his bum or his head sticking up so we always know where he is lol.

ANY game can be dangerous if you really examine them but like every other person here has said as long as boundaries are set and children (particularly young children) are suprvised while playing the risks are minimal. We have to let our children explore and learn about the world and in doing that they WILL get hurt and injured it is a normal part of growing up. I will not bubble wrap my son, as his many bruises show :-)

Brandi - posted on 03/28/2011

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I know, I cried when I read it. I just put myself in his place and just couldn't imagine how that poor boy felt. You know he had to be screaming for someone to help him, and no one came. I just can't imagine. My heart goes out to that poor boy, and his family who was playing with him. I am sure they felt they had a part in his death, but it was just an unfortunate accident.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 03/28/2011

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Julianne, that is hysterical, and horrifying all at the same time. I used to do kinda the same thing...I would take off running as soon as anyone let my hand go. I was missing for quite sometime once...I clearly remember walking around the mall all by myself. I don't know if you all remember Woolworths, but it was huge...that is where my family was...and I took off into the rest of the mall. I eventually found my way back...but i could not have been more than 4. They were looking for me in the store...didn't even think to check in the mall....it was connected of course.

[deleted account]

Once i went to the mall with my family, i was about 4. I decided to play hide and seek with my mom. She didn't know i was hiding of course. So i crawled in the clothing rack, pulled my feet up, and waited. They ended up closing down the mall calling the cops and had a search party looking for me. She thought i was kidnapped since i was missing for hours. When she did find me...i got in a heap of trouble.

Amy - posted on 03/28/2011

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We didn't do hide and seek with bodies - but even if we did, the LOUD giggles they can't contain would give them away. Why do hide and seek outside? Dad would have us pick out three toys, close our eyes and he'd hide them in the room then we'd "find them". Our kids love this too. Toddlers as in...under a certain age, sure pinata maybe bad idea. My 4 year old loves london bridge, ring around the rosie and red rover. All that we play with her 2 year old brother. When he gets "caught" and if doesn't like it I let her know it's time to let him go, he doesn't like it. TEaches her to listen and pay attention to others and not just keep doing what she WANTS to.

Getting on a stool to brush teeth could result in stitches. My son tripped over his own feet and ended up with a bloody lip just walking across the kitchen. If it's gonna happen, it's gonna happen. Not saying to give your kids swords and send them to the backyard to play pirates, but you know.

Lindsay - posted on 03/28/2011

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I echo what has already been said here. Wrapping kids in cotton wool so they will never get hurt, lose, whatever is doing nothing but setting them up for failure in life, not to mention a very boring childhood.

Laura - posted on 03/28/2011

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My 2 year old will follow the 4 year old where ever he is and then my 4 year old talks the whole time saying "Come find me!!". Hasn't really grasped the entire concept yet. :)

Geez I'm surprised I survived childhood, climbing trees, playing in the loft of my cousins barn, on their old threshing machine, etc. I have never even owned a bike helmet and took many many tumbles. We can't protect our children from everything but that still doesn't change the lump in my throat when I see my 4year old climb the rock wall at the park.

Rosie - posted on 03/28/2011

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i was totally gonna say that too teresa!! once he's got his "spot," that's it, he's there everytime, laughing away!! lol!

[deleted account]

My son will find a spot in the house to 'hide' (like under my sheet on my bed) and through the WHOLE time we play the game.... he hides in the SAME spot each time.

Rosie - posted on 03/28/2011

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um, ridiculous! my toddler can't hide to save his life, and when he does find a halfway decent spot, he's laughing so hard he ruins it. where the hell are these people that lose their kids in their own HOUSE playing hide and seek?
pinatas? WTF? helicopter parenting at it's finest.

[deleted account]

Ditto the general consensus on this post.

I wouldn't have my kids wearing a helmet while climbing trees though. What if they fall and the helmet gets caught on a branch? You'd end up w/ a dead kid over a broken arm/leg.... Same reason all those playground thingys tell you NOT to have a helmet on while playing on them.

My girls are climbers. I have pictures that would probably give some of you heart attacks. lol

Katherine - posted on 03/28/2011

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I think the blogger is paranoid IMO. I play ring around the rosy all the time!!
And hide and seek. My daughter (2) can't even unlock doors.

Bonnie - posted on 03/28/2011

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Hide and seek is not dangerous if played normally. Why would a child leave the property? That doesn't make sense to me. If the child can open locks to get out of the house or backyard, I think it's time they get new locks, like a latch at the top or a dead bolt or something.

I can't even play hide and seek with my 2.5 year old properly. Either I can hear where he is hiding because he is loud when doing it or he talks.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 03/28/2011

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You are exactly right Tara. I would encourage my son to climb trees if he wanted, I would just not want him to climb ten feet off the ground. Precautions are just that...trying to be cautious.

My friends son was on a bike ride, helmet everything. they had a wonderful day, and it was on a bike path. his mom and him were walking across the path (as wide as a road on) and he got hit by another biker that came flying out of nowhere. He broke his femur, was even poking otu of the skin. He wasn't even on his bike. Terrible things happen, but we all strive to have healthy happy uninjured children.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 03/28/2011

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You are a ways from worrying yet Lisa. Once they start on point at 11, usually about 12 and up when they start really developing and becoming competetive is when the body images start coming into play.

Tara - posted on 03/28/2011

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It's true Marina, accidents do happen regardless of all the precautions put in place, I'm just saying that if we stop allowing things like safe tree climbing, safe hide and seek, safe bike riding based on accidents then we run the risk of turning our children into insecure, somewhat disabled in a way, and sheltered.
That was all I really meant. Tree climbing of course seems more dangerous to you, because you had an accident. Just like bike riding seems more dangerous to me cause my friends kid was hit and run over on his cul de sac, wearing a helmet, knee pads, etc.
Accidents happen despite our best attempts at prevention. But prevention is better than eliminating all threats of danger.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 03/28/2011

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I find tree climbing dangerous with even all those precautions. Back in the day, we did not use helmets...that is a good idea...but it wouldn't have helped me any.

I was very good at climbing trees...we had a perfect on for it. Plenty of strong branches, I climbed it all the time. I felt out regardless, landing directly onto my back. I was pretty high up, and fell so hard I knocked the air out of me. I literally could not breath. I was rushed to the emergency room becouse the nurse across the street thought I collapsed a lung. Thankfully I did not. I bruised my diaphram... didn't even know that could get bruised, bruised all of my entire back, and could barely walk for like a week. You can be as careful as you want....accidents happen. I climbed that tree all the time..all the kids in the neighborhood did. I got hurt pretty badly, but could have been so much worse. Thank goodness I did not break any bones.

Tara - posted on 03/28/2011

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Again with everything else when we teach proper safety, give proper and age appropriate instructions and limitations we create a safer environment for our children to grow up. Tree climbing is so much fun and can be done from an early age, (in small trees of course) and as a child grows and gains the skill and ability to go higher, you allow it. We always taught our kids about safe climbing, mainly because I like to climb things, lol.
Never climb wet or frozen trees or poles etc.
Never climb with shoes on, climbing barefoot allows you to use your toes the way you're supposed to.
Always make sure you can go down again before going higher.
Never climb alone.
Always wear a snug fitting helmet.
Don't climb over water.
etc. etc.
Our toddlers climbed our apple tree when they were two, sometimes to pick apples, sometimes just to sit in the "groovy spot" (where a little groove had developed on the main branch that made a little seat.)

Tree climbing is actually safer than biking around a populated residential or commercial area.

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