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!

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?

Best Books for Baby

We’ve always maintained that books make excellent baby gifts, which is why I plan to devote the next few posts to my daughter’s favorites through the years. Let’s start with best baby books:

Goodnight Moon is always a classic. (On a related note, I tried to take Audrey to a stage production of Goodnight Moon when she was three and she cried all the way through it.)

Owl Babies. She still reads this one!

Goodnight Gorilla.

Hush Little Baby illustrated by Marla Frazee. Audrey still pages through and sings the songs as a part of her bedtime ritual. She’s done this most of her life now, so I think it qualifies as Audrey’s favorite book of all time!

Hush Little Baby by Sylvia Long. Another “Hush Little Baby” book with alternative lyrics.

I’ll throw in a couple holiday books, too, for good measure:

Snowmen at Christmas

Snowmen at Night

Coming up this Thursday: The Best Books for Preschoolers. Stay tuned!

Our Favorite DIY Costume Ideas for Babies and Kids

Maybe one of these years I’ll think of a truly creative Halloween costume idea for my child and spend my whole summer putting it together. But not this year. Audrey has decided to be a princess (again). At our favorite consignment store, I found this dress for $4.50. After mending a torn ruffle and safety-pinning a piece of Velcro back in place, it’s ready for some serious trick-or-treating.


Need more of our favorite eco-friendly Halloween costume ideas for babies and kids? Look no further!

Our Favorite DIY Halloween Costumes of 2010

Last-minute DIY Halloween Costume Ideas for Babies and Kids

DIY Halloween Costume Ideas for Kids and Babies

What are Your DIY Halloween Costume Ideas?

Family Themed Halloween Costume Ideas

The Saturday Question: What are Your Best DIY Halloween Costume Ideas for Baby?

The Two Dollar Halloween Costume

Halloween Decoration Ideas

Just what do you need for a green halloween? Very little! Construction paper, lunch bags, and string can quickly transform into jack-o-lanterns, candle-light luminaries, and spider webs. The fruits of fall harvest also provide delightful decoration options with pumpkins, acorns, gourds, and apples.

Not spooky enough for you? Hit up your local thrift store for creepy treasures at cut-rate prices. You’ll be recycling, supporting a local charity, and getting gently used decorations that will work for years.

Are there any eco-friendly Halloween products worth buying? Eco Green Crafts Witchy Halloween Stamps are made from recycled rubber and have a lovely vintage appeal.

You can also use your food to spruce up the atmosphere. Think orange and black items such as carrot sticks and olives or licorice sticks and pumpkin bars.

Or decorate yourself! Become a fashion-forward green advocate by dressing up in a recycling bin costume. (Which could easily be homemade!)

If you’d like to creatively craft your own decorations, check out some of our best Halloween decoration posts:

Healthier Halloween Treats

What are you giving for Halloween this year? There are options outside of the traditional candy wrapper and sometimes kids actually prefer them. Our readers have shared time and again that children love having choices.

Some of my favorite ideas are simple and time tested. A bowl of pennies, Halloween stickers, and Halloween pencils is a fun alternative to pure sugar and kids get the chance to choose a few of their favorites. You can even throw in marbles or beads, as long as you make sure to tell the children that they aren’t edible!

I’m tempted to order a 72 pack of Halloween Glitter Tattoos for just $6.50. They’d be a spectacular addition to that bowl of prizes and end up costing less than ten cents each. (And even our teenage trick-or-treaters would love them.)

If you would like to have a few snacks thrown into the mix, there are some healthy options that beat out mainstream treats.

Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks make a nice snack, but they end up costing about 80 cents a bag. Still, if you’re going with the “big bowl of goodies” theme, you can throw a few of these in without breaking the bank.

On the other end of the cost spectrum, Sun-Maid Raisin Mini Snacks cost approximately 5 cents a box when you buy them in bulk on amazon. (A 9 pack of bags with 14 mini-boxes comes in at 21.39, which provides you with 126 mini boxes.)

Stretch Island Summer Strawberry Fruit Leatheris all natural, 100% fruit and costs $12.80 for a 30 pack.

Have I missed any simple Halloween treat options? What are you planning on offering your costumed visitors this year? I’m going to have more trick-or-treators than ever so I’d better start stocking up!

***This post was accidentally published early on Friday before I had finished, but when I read Larisa’s comment I was thrilled. Clean out your kids’ random plastic loot while stocking your goodie bowl! Genius!

I was also thinking of ransacking my huge collection of foreign coins that are currently buried at the bottom of our junk drawer. Kids would be thrilled to get a japanese yen, and since they’re about 100 yen to a dollar, it’s maybe even worth going to a bank to get a few rolls. We could pass out beautiful coins with a hole in the middle to fascinated kids. That would be the treasure they’d cherish most all evening! (Especially once their blood sugar levels out and the candy wrappers all end up in the trash….)