Top-Rated Green Gifts for Babies and Toddlers

This holiday season, I’ve been searching for the products that new parents are raving about in online reviews. It’s best to trust those currently in the trenches of early child-rearing for the gifts that children (and parents) will really love this holiday.

The Itzy Ritzy Snack Happened Snack Bag is an overwhelming favorite. Families love that it zips shut (unlike other reusable bags that seal with velcro), that it can easily contain an entire sandwich, and that it holds up well after several trips through the washing machine. The product would be perfect for baby finger foods and would easily transition to preschool within a few years. It’s a great stocking stuffer for a child too as parents are reporting that kids love the designs on the bags.

The Green Toys Fire Truck is another great value that parents rave about. It’s sturdy, adorable, made from recycled plastic and is currently on sale for just $20.22. (My son got the Green Toys Recycling Truck when he was two and is still playing with it as a six-year-old!)

The Melissa and Doug 60-Piece Standard Unit of Blocks is on sale for about $53, and is a great gift that will provide years of creative play for children. Parents recommend the product because of quality, durability, and the flexibility of the design options. These blocks are recommended for children above three years, but I can imagine my kids would have been chewing on them in their first year.

Chewbeads are a GENIUS gift for a new mother (and her baby!) The chic necklace is made from 100% silicone beads free from BPA, phthalates, cadmium, or any other scary stuff. The necklace can be tossed in the dishwasher to rinse off the baby drool and can be slipped over an adult’s head without having to deal with a clasp.

What gifts are you planning on buying for baby or other new parents this year? Help us share great products with our readers!

Family Cookbook Christmas Gift Ideas

Somewhere in the midst of laundry, errands, and picky eaters, I have lost my love for preparing the family dinner. And yet I yearn for mealtime perfection…the image of my children eagerly crowding around steaming dishes of nourishment. Are simple, healthy family dinners even a possibility?

The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time is on my Christmas list. It’s packed with tips, recipes, anecdotes and green tips for a better family dinner. Somehow the fact that Laurie David (producer of An Inconvenient Truth) manages to keep her teenage children at the dinner table is inspiration enough for me.


Dinner: A Love Story is a lovely combination of reality and ideology. Jenny Rosenstarch chronicles how her and her husband make dinner a priority, no matter how crazy their family life becomes. The recipes she shares are tried and true and her voice is like that of a good friend, full of encouragement and lacking in judgement.


My other favorite, simply because the humor and tone immediately seem to lessen my meal-making angst, is One Bite Won’t Kill You, By Ann Hodgman. The reviews are fantastic and seem to imply that both adults and children have enjoyed recipes in this book. It looks like it just might be a success with my picky crew!

I know Deceptively Delicious is quite popular, but I didn’t have tremendous success with the recipes. The garbanzo bean chocolate chip cookies were a whole lot of work, and were rejected by everyone, including me. If you have younger children and are pureeing foods anyway for the baby, it might be worth the effort. Otherwise the pre-blending of cooked veggies seems unrealistic.

What is your go-to family cookbook? Thanks for your ideas!

Is A Wooden Toy Kitchen Worth It?

For awhile my daughter was quite content to play on her adorable little Alex Wooden Cook Top Playstove. It was a great value at about $30 and also took up just a small corner of her room. Glorious! Now she’s dreaming of a bigger, more luxurious environment in which to whip up imaginary cupcakes. Have you invested in a wooden play kitchen? Was it worth the money and space in your home?

I like the simplicity of the Melissa and Doug Cook’s Corner Wooden Kitchen. It’s smaller than some and costs under $100, but I wonder if its size would limit the span of years she’d be interested in it. Have you tried this one?

Kidkraft’s Red Retro Kitchen seems like it might hold her interest for a few more years and it’s still under $150. It’s not exactly simple, but perhaps the details would lead to more options for play.

My absolute favorite kitchen, is the Camden Rose Childs Cherry Wood Play Kitchen. It’s a heirloom piece of furniture that would surely last for several generations, but it is quite a bit more at about $350.

What has your experience been with toy kitchens. Did they hold your child’s attention? Did you find a glorious deal on Craigslist? Thanks for your advice!

Great Maternity Halloween Costumes

The pregnant skeleton maternity costume is one of my favorites, showing the skeleton of the fetus tucked inside of the mother. My friend made her own a few years ago, but Amazon is selling these Halloween Non-Maternity Pullover Hoodie Costumes for just 34.50. Since they aren’t specifically made to accomodate pregnant women, you’ll have to be early enough in your pregnancy for these to fit well.

If you’re showing a bit more, you can go for the maternity-sized skeleton and baby t-shirt, which is equally clever and a bit roomier in the belly region.

Of course thrift shops have incredible options beyond just the costume section. Rebecca scored this “Pregnant Eighties Lady” item in the dollar bin of her local secondhand store. Doesn’t she look dashing?

Some women paint their pregnant bellies as basketballs or pumpkins, but I happen to love these t-shirts by Cafe Press. They don’t require preparation of any kind, and you still come off as rather clever. I suppose that instead of buying anything you could just write any of these slogans on a white t-shirt with a sharpie or maybe make an iron-on decal. It will just get used once, right? The one below reads, “I’m dressed up as my mom.”

I love the dark humor of this last maternity t-shirt. It reflects how I felt about anything festive in those last grueling months of pregnancy. It reads, “I don’t do costumes. (now step aside, you’re standing on my invisible dog.)”

Do you have any creative costume plans that involve your pregnancy? We’d love to hear them!

Halloween-themed Baby Swag: Orange Diapers, Ghost Onesies, Skull Diaper Bags—and more!

I’ve been seeing babies around town sporting floral and sailboat prints–and it’s well after Labor Day. That’s just embarrassing. Everyone knows that October is the month to dress your little monster in orange and black. Let’s get started:

Planetwise Hanging Wet/Dry Bag Orange Woods ($29.99). It’s orange and festooned with cute little trees.

Planetwise Wet/Dry Bag with Carnival Skulls ($24.95) Spooky!

Rockabilly Mom Punk Rock Skull Tattoo Design Diaper Bag ($39.99). Most diaper bags just aren’t cool enough, amirite? You definitely need the Rockabilly Punkrock diaper bag.

Dadgear Backpack Diaper Bag (on sale for $88). I’m not sure this qualifies as an eco-friendly product, but how could I exclude an orange and black diaper bag in this round-up?

Belvah Quilted Damask Diaper Bag ($19.95). It’s one of the most affordable Halloween-themed diaper bags I found—yet so fancy!

Patricia Ann Designs sweet skull burpcloth ($17.00).

JJ Cole Diapers and Wipes Pod ($34.49). This BPA-free, phthalate-free tote attaches to your stroller or car seat.

Ghost onesie ($21.00). Your baby really needs this organic ghost onesie.

Green pirate princess design baby one piece bodysuit ($10.99). Printed with “eco-friendly ink”!

Happy Heinys one for all one size cloth diaper black ($18.95). Basic black diaper, suitable for Halloween and black tie formal events.

Blueberry by Swaddlebees 6 piece baby cloth wipes orange ($12.95). If you don’t have orange cloth wipes, you won’t match your new Halloween-themed diaper bags!

Motherease duo all-in-two cloth diaper cover ($18.75). Not a Halloween print, but it is orange. Close enough!

Now you and your little goblin are ready to parade around town with pride. Happy haunting!

Happy Holidays from Green Baby Guide

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!

Last Minute Homemade Gift Ideas for Toddlers: All Free and All Fun!

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?

Eco-friendly Art Supplies for Your Budding Artiste

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?

Green Holiday Gift Ideas for Pregnant Women

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…

The Pre-Holiday Household Clutter Purge: Making Space for Gifts

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!