Archive for December, 2011


Focus. It is so hard to hold onto it in the midst of sleep deprivation, constant interruption, and the piles of laundry that slowly compound over the course of a week.

So now, before the New Year celebrations begin and just after the crush of gift giving it’s a good time to focus on getting ahead of upcoming challenges. What would you like to tackle in 2012?

Are you hoping to begin a cloth diaper collection? Do you want to make your own household cleaners or whirl up batches of homemade baby food? Are you hoping to take your first camping trip with toddler? What are your wildest green dreams for 2012?

Here at Green Baby Guide, we’re laying out an editorial calendar for the year, and would love to get your input. What topics would best meet your needs right now? How can we help you overcome one hurdle at a time in your efforts to make life just a bit more manageable? What research would you like us to compile on your behalf?

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  • This is our third holiday season here at Greenbabyguide.com. Our first Christmas posts had a following of a dozen readers, most of them family members. Since then we’ve published our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, and increased our web traffic to about 50,000 unique users each month. Whew!

    Despite our modest fame, nothing much has changed for our families. This morning we finished untying our fabric gift bags and have spent the day playing, snacking and reading.

    After the crush of preparation and anxiety, there is such relief in just sitting in our toy-strewn living room and enjoying the kids. They aren’t sporting BPA-free bibs or chubby cloth diaper bums this year, but are rapidly leaving babyhood behind at 5 years and 2 years old.

    For all of you today, I hope that you have the chance to smell the top of your baby’s head, to get a nap, and to maybe just enjoy this incredibly fleeting (and grueling) era of parenthood. May your milk supply be incredible, your cloth diapers be absorbent, your laundry be minimal, and your sleep tonight be long and luxurious. Most of all, I hope you celebrate yourself as a hard working, green-minded parent!

    If you’d like to add to the stash of gifts for your tot, but can’t imagine totting her into the shopping fray, you’re in luck. There are several ultra-easy gifts that will delight your tot, cost nothing, and take very little time. And remember that toddlers often spend more time playing with boxes and ribbons than they do with their new toys.

    Doll sling. You can buy one of these (like the Ergo baby doll heart rose carrier above) for $46, or wrap a scarf around your toddler’s shoulder and call it a baby doll sling. It’s free, it’s elegant and if your toddler is at all interested in babies, he or she will love it. My daughter wears her baby doll in a scarf sling all day and insists upon having her sling adjusted first thing in the morning each day.

    Dollhouse from a box. The Make Do: Find & Make a Dollhouse featured above is made out of cardboard and costs just under seven dollars. But Rebecca came up with another glorious (free!) cardboard dollhouse that your child can help build. Get a simple box and a home catalogue (ikea is ideal) and then cut out a kitchen, a bedroom set, wall decorations and glue them in various “rooms.” It will be great fun for your toddler and won’t cost a dime. If you find a refrigerator box, let your tot turn it into a castle, playhouse, or spaceship.

    Sock puppets. You could buy the above Make Your Own Sock Puppet Kit for nearly $15, or just dig through your sock drawer for free. If you deck these babies out with yarn hair, button eyes, and even clothes made from scraps of fabric, your child will be delighted with the results. Add a cardboard theater and be prepared for hours of entertainment!

    Homemade play dough. All you’ll need is flour, water, cream of tarter, oil and salt to whip up a batch of homemade dough. Mix in the food coloring of your choice and refrigerate between uses. Check out an online recipe here.

    Noodle necklaces. Make up some of these as jewelry or let your child string his own to keep busy while you’re preparing for the holidays. If he eats a few noodles here and there, no harm done!

    What toys are you giving your toddler this holiday season? Will she have a huge stash or are you trying to minimize the influx of stuff? Does your tot seem to understand gifts yet?

    Surprise your tree-hugging Picasso with new, eco-friendly art supplies this holiday season!

    Alex Eco Craft ($12.99) comes with everything your child needs to create over twenty craft projects. Best for ages 6-8.

     

    Stockmar Beeswax Stick Crayons ($21.45). Set of sixteen crayons.

     

    Eco Kids Natural Plant Dye Modeling Dough Made in the USA ($19.89)

     

    Artterro Art Dolls Kit ($19.95). Here’s Amazon’s product description:

    Eco-friendly art kits from Artterro have colorful, fun art supplies. No two kits are exactly alike, each features a unique assortment of colors and patterns. Craft four fun dolls with gorgeous handmade paper, glass beads, colorful 100% wool felt dresses and needle and thread. Turn them into bookmarks, decorations, scrapbook covers, friends to play with or even pins to wear! Ages 7 and up.

     

    Check out all the Arttero Art Kits for more ideas, all around $20: the Artterro Wire and Bead Art Kit, the Artterro Paint With Wool Portrait, the Artterro Handmade Paper Bookmaking Kit, and many more.

    Arttero Wool Felt Bug Kit

    Or keep it simple with the EcoPaper Art Pad 9×12 Tree Free Banana Paper for $12.95. This paper is made from a blend of post-consumer waste and agricultural waste.

    What art supplies are on your kid’s gift list this year?

    Gift Ideas for New Mothers

    New moms are acclimating to sleep loss, post-birth bodies, and a challenging role of parenting a newborn. They deserve some lovely holiday gifts. (And casseroles, and free babysitting, and any other support you can lend!)

    Baby Slings. I thought carriers were unnecessary before my baby arrived, but when I learned that I could slip my colicky baby into a Maya Wrap Sling and he would fall asleep in minutes, I was hooked. Beyond the soothing effects of baby carriers, they are infinitely practical. It’s suddenly possible to vacuum, cook dinner, and go for a walk without waking the baby! Many women love Hotslings as well. If you’re looking for a budget gift, there are even free patterns online for sewing a homemade sling that you can craft yourself.
    Ergo carriers. These sturdy carriers were built with your back in mind and balance the baby weight more centrally. Ergo Carriers adapt from newborns to toddlers and can be used as a front or back carrier. In addition to comfort, I loved the zip pockets to tote keys or lip balm when we headed out the door for a walk. They are a bit pricey, but you can often find gently used Ergo Carriers at consignment shops or on craistlist.

    Flannel pajamas. Many new mothers can attest to the fact that whole days are spent lounging in bed with a newborn. Elastic waistbands are especially friendly for a postpartum waistline and it’s nice to tuck baby against soft flannel while rocking. Think about getting a button down style if she is breastfeeding.

    Stainless Steel Water Bottle. To keep a mother’s milk supply at maximum capacity, she’ll need to be hydrating all day long. We love the Nathan Stainless Steel flip straw water bottle and found it to be incredibly convenient. (It flips up to sip while walking or driving, fits in most car cup holders, and is easy to clean. It also comes with four extra straws for those days when the one straw you had is hiding somewhere in the depths of your dishwasher.

    Healthy snacks. The hunger of nursing a newborn made my pregnancy hunger seem trivial. I was eating all day and all night long to keep up with the calories that were going to my baby. Handy, healthy snacks that can be munched in the middle of the night are a great gift. Why not some Roasted Edamame for protein and some Kashi TLC cookies as a healthy-ish treat? (Or make her a batch of “milk making cookies” using this recipe!)

    Although the above items can easily be tucked into a gift bag, I can’t emphasize enough the gift of human support. If you can possibly deliver a meal or hold the baby for a few hours while the mother naps, everyone will benefit. Why not load the dishwasher or throw some laundry in the dryer while you’re at it?

    Are you a new mother? Do you welcome support or do you wish people would let you just be with your baby? What are you hoping to receive this holiday season?

    Also, the winner of our Charlie Banana Cloth Diaper giveaway is Sascha W. Congratulations Sascha!

    I have experienced the joys of pregnancy (and the swollen ankles, back pain, and cravings.) And I remember the things I so longed for on a daily basis. On the whole they weren’t material items, but rather support. And the best news is that “gifts of service” are utterly eco-friendly, thoughtful and very low cost.

    A bottle of The Naked Bee Green Tea Lotion and a free coupon for regular foot massages. The lotion is made from organic ingredients that will nourish her itchy, stretching skin. Husband alert: She will LOVE this! (I would love this, and I’m not even currently pregnant…) If a partner is attentive enough, foot massages could be delivered on a daily basis.

    A Hamilton Beach Half Pint Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker and a promise to whip up a batch of butter brickel at a moment’s notice. I’m convinced that in the late stages of pregnancy I needed ice cream as a nutritional supplement. An ice cream maker allows you to whip up mango sorbet or mint chocolate chip without climbing into the car. And the fact that this one only makes a half pint can help limit those late pregnancy scarfings.

    A copy of our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, along with a gift certificate to a consignment shop or green baby boutique. Our masterpiece will give her everything she needs to know about cloth diapering, buying secondhand gear, and saving money while going green. She can use that gift certificate to buy maternity clothes, baby gear, and heaps of onesies before baby arrives.

    A Pyrex Storage 10 Piece Set filled with homemade spaghetti, vegetable curries, and brownies. After all, why wait until the baby arrives to support an exhausted woman in the third trimester of pregnancy? You can (and should) always bring her more food in a few months.

    Are you currently pregnant? What are you hoping to receive this holiday season? What was the best gift you ever received during your pregnancy? (For me, it has always been, and will always be, food.) Sigh…

    If you are expecting an influx of toys, clothes, and other household gifts this season, why not clear a space for them before they arrive? Thrift stores are often inundated with donations just after the holidays, when other shoppers are no longer hunting for gifts. Giving early ensures that your unwanted stuff can make it into holiday packages while making room for what is coming.

    Start small. Taking inventory of all your earthly possessions and eliminating unnecessary clutter is a daunting task any time of the year, let alone during the holiday crush. You might just want to pick one room to focus on and set aside an hour to attack. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

    Categorize. Make a pile for charitable donation (or perhaps for a community toy swap), a pile of hand-me-downs for friends, and a pile to recycle. You don’t want to donate a sweater with a gaping hole or a truck missing all its wheels to a thrift shop. Consider that the biggest expense for most charitable resale shops is disposing of trashed goods that people misguidedly donate.

    Let it go. When packing up those onesies and footy pajamas, I would sometimes fall into a paralyzing state of nostalgia that had me thinking of just how quickly my children’s babyhood was whirring by. At the end of the hour, the floor would be strewn with baby garments, I’d be sad and discouraged, and nothing would get done. It helped me to imagine a lovely little babe (like the one pictured above) being toted into the resale shop and then dressed in the adorable old clothes my child would never again fit into. I’d take a few pictures of my favorite garments, and bravely stuff them in grocery bags destined for the thrift store.

    Box up your undecided items. Does it pain you to place certain toys in the thrift store box? Are you worried your child might want to play with it in a few months when it is more developmentally appropriate? Toss it into a storage bin and put it in the garage with the date on top. Some slow afternoon in February you can pull it out again and see what happens. If the toy is again ignored, you know it’s time to pass it on.

    You may just find that momentum builds when you have success with just one zone of your home. If you can dedicate just an hour a day to this mission, you can even make your way to cluttered kitchen drawers or start pulling the maternity clothes out of your closet. (I know you probably don’t have a full hour on a daily basis, so you may need to just get rid of three things every day instead of setting aside such a big chunk of time.)

    Is it worth it? Yes! People who regularly purge never end up on episodes of “Hoarders,” have more conscious awareness of their stuff, and feel good about sharing unwanted items instead of having to look at them on a daily basis. How nice that being generous with your unwanted stuff can lead to a more peaceful household environment!

    Dolls are a new play item in our household. Although we encouraged my son to embrace his nurturing side, he wasn’t the least bit interested. My daughter, on the other hand, is fully engaged in rocking, walking, and caring for her dolls. A comment by one of our readers early this week sparked my search for eco-friendly fabric dolls. My mission was to find an organic doll that was inexpensive, cute, and cuddly.

    Global Green Pals has a line of dolls that I utterly love. They’re adorable but look sturdy enough to stand up to hours of active play. They’re made of 100% certified organic cotton and stuffed with post consumer plastic PET bottle stuffing. The clothes are removable, the dolls are machine washable, and they’re all under $25.

    In our personal search for dolls, I’m always keeping an eye out for one that looks like my daughter. There are so many blond, blue-eyed options, but not always dolls with cinnamon skin and chocolate eyes. For that reason Global Green Pals Pani Rani is my favorite and the one I will probably get my daughter. (I have to add that I am disappointed that Global Green Pals has only one doll of color and hope that they start adding some more diversity to their collection soon.)

    Of course, if my daughter had her choice, she would opt for whichever doll was wearing more pink, which would be Global Green Pals Coral Laurel.

    Global Green Pals Carbon Offset Chet is rather spiffy in his doll glasses too. (or are they goggles…Hmmm…)

    Global Green Pals Organic Kate looks hip–and ready to stir the compost. I love that she’s feminine without ribbon or lace.

    If your child is wild about fairies, he or she may love the MiYim Good Earth Simply Organic Good Earth Fairy. The MiYim line of organic dolls are made from fully organic materials and dyed with natural plant extracts.

    The MiYim Good Earth Ballerina is similarly adorable and would work well for my ballet-obsessed two-year old.

    I have to add that Etsy has some beautiful hand-made dolls that are crafted by other mothers. It’s a great way to support a mom and find something unique for your child. Or you can hit the local craft fairs in your area and find something created by a local artisan. I’m always a big fan of secondhand toys, but haven’t had much luck with fabric dolls. Have you?

    The Best Books for Preschoolers

    My daughter (now age 5) loves books. She can spend hours paging through them. We typically have at least 40 books checked out of the library for her. During the preschool years, here were some of her very favorites:

    Mary Engelbreit’s Nursery Tales. We own this one.  Hours of amusement!

    Mary Engelbreit’s Mother Goose. We own this one, too.

    Audrey can’t get enough of naughty David’s antics. No, David!

    David Goes to School

    David Gets in Trouble

    And I just saw that there’s a David Christmas book! It’s Christmas, David!

    Napping House

    I Took the Moon for a Walk

    Something from Nothing

    Olivia (Warning: some parents do not appreciate Olivia’s strong-willed personality!)

    What are (or were) your preschooler’s favorites?

    There have been a few eco-friendly toys we’ve invested in over the years that have turned out to be duds. Just so you don’t make the same mistake this holiday season, we’ll share our failed purchases. (Let me add that my kids have a much longer list of green toys they have loved. Check out Monday’s post for details.)

    Melissa and Doug is a company that makes beautiful, quality products out of sustainable materials. When we invested ninety dollars at a local toy store for the Melissa and Doug Deluxe Parking Garage, we didn’t realize that it would be quickly abandoned in the closet for the next few years. The elevator (operated with a string and winding knob) sticks and something about the stacked layout just didn’t jive with our vehicle obsessed son. (On the other hand he LOVES his friend’s Plan Toys City Series Wooden Parking Garage. Go figure!)

    We received the Plan Toy Tower Pounding for our young toddler, but it received almost no attention from either of our children. The ball was easy to lose and hard to pound into the hole in the tower.

    I LOVED the Natural Wooden Baby Shaker Rattle by Earnest Efforts, but both my children couldn’t be bothered to play with it. It’s made locally out of Oregon hardwoods remnants, hand sanded, and finished with bees wax. My children didn’t seem to appreciate its quality or beauty and discarded it every time I playfully shook it just a few centimeters from their nose in an effort to gain their interest. In the end, I had more fun with it than they did.

    Have you had similar, or totally different experiences with natural toys you’ve purchased? Have your children been willing to bypass the plastic to go after more eco-friendly playthings? (I must add that today is the LAST DAY of our Charlie Banana hybrid diaper giveaway. There are four ways to enter so get those comments in to win!)

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