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.
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?
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…
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?
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!
And I just saw that there’s a David Christmas book! It’s Christmas, David!
Olivia (Warning: some parents do not appreciate Olivia’s strong-willed personality!)
What are (or were) your preschooler’s favorites?
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!
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:
Coming up this Thursday: The Best Books for Preschoolers. Stay tuned!
Do kids even play with wooden toys? Do they always get more fun out of the battery powered plastic gizmos? Will you end up investing a chunk of your holiday budget in something that your child won’t even touch?
(Speaking of your holiday budget, don’t forget to enter our Charlie Banana Hybrid Diaper giveaway! The contest ends on Wednesday and you can enter up to four times!)
I cannot totally guarantee that your tot will love the following toys, but I can attest to the fact that my children have played with them vigorously for hundreds of hours spanning years of their lives. For us, they were worth the investment!
I wrote an entire post about how much we love our daughter’s Green Toys Tea Set. Made from recycled plastic, this sturdy and cute little set has already been thoroughly enjoyed just in the last few months. I love the simple design, interchangeable lids, and lovely colors in this little ensemble. (The Green Toys Recycling Truck was my son’s favorite vehicle for a full year.)
Grandma and Grandpa purchased this Melissa and Doug shopping cart for my daughter, but I wasn’t sure it would be worth the hefty price early on. I was entirely wrong! Both my kids push it around the house on a daily basis and it doubles as a doll stroller and block transporter as well.
Something about the shape and size of City Blocks makes them a staple building tool at our house. The kids have made pirate ships, bridges, and complex skyscrapers over hours of playtime.
I love that the Alex Toys in My Kitchen Set is small and colorful. It’s glorious being able to avoid a giant plastic kitchen while still enjoying hours of imaginative play over those bright burners.
Many of the hand crafted wooden vehicles we have been given have sat neglected over the years, but Automoblox are a grand exception. The fact that each vehicle comes apart and can be combined with other vehicles has made them hugely popular around here. My son received a set when he was two and is still messing with them three years later.
If all of us had a limitless holiday budget, we might buy dozens of sustainably crafted heirloom toys for our little ones. But if you can only buy a few, which ones will you be purchasing? Will you end up buying used or possibly even making some of your gifts by hand this year? What’s on your gift list?
Since we’re nestled here in the Pacific Northwest where our biggest complaint is rain, I can’t quite imagine toting my newborn home in sub-zero weather. We’ve hit a patch of chilly days here lately and it had me wondering what mothers in cold climates do to keep their infants warm on winter walks. After all, part of maintaining the motivation to live a green lifestyle is simply getting outside and connecting with nature–which can be challenging in places like Northern Alaska. Finally, I can across an image of a car seat cover.
So just what is this contraption? It fits around the outside of the car seat to provide a cozy cocoon for a newborn or infant. The one pictured above is a JJ Cole Carseat Cover and costs just under $30.
The Jolly Jumper Sneak-a-Peak Infant Carseat Cover keeps baby entirely enclosed within the car seat, providing just a tiny window for peering out. It’s also water repellant and is elasticized for a snug fit with any car seat.
Babbaco’s Babbacover Snuggle Fleece Beepbeep wins the prize for being being utterly adorable, but it’s also one of the pricier covers at $61.00. It’s nice that it does have a flip down window so that you can cover baby if she’s napping.
Are car seat covers really worth buying? It depends entirely on your geographic location and your personal values. If you live in an incredibly cold climate and are feeling desperate to get outside, it might warrant the cost. You can clip the carseat into a travel system stroller with the cover and take baby out for a walk on a freezing day without feeling like you’re risking her health. (Would you then need to put the stroller on skis? Hmm….)
Or you may just want to purchase some ultra warm baby clothing and skip the car seat cover altogether. Of course, if you only experience severe winter cold for a few weeks out of the year, it’s probably not worth worrying about car seat covers or extreme winter clothing for baby.
Have you ever even seen an infant car seat cover in use? Are they common where you live? Do you use one?
The glider rocker that has been dutifully serving our family for the last two years has broken into shards in the midst of a lullaby. It was the third in a series of used gliders that fell apart, one by one. On the journey to their demise, they squeaked and groaned just as our babies were falling into a deep slumber–usually between midnight and 3am.
We don’t really need a rocking chair at this point, but I have to wonder if we’d have been better off with a traditional rocking chair to begin with. I was adamant about buying a glider with a rocking ottoman. Why? My sister-in-law had one and I was sure it would be far more comfortable than the antiquated version.
But old rocking chairs become antiques simply because of their simple design and sturdy build. Why mess with a design that has worked for the last 300+ years? (Napolean actually had the above rocking chair in his bedroom way back in the 1800’s.)
Perhaps high quality glider rockers will eventually become antiques of sorts, but if you’re buying secondhand, which is both green and thrifty, it might be worth it to go for a traditional rocker. If you’re buying new, the greenest option is to purchase a piece of high quality furniture that will last for generations. Or, if you’re anything like Rebecca, you’ll skip the rocking chair altogether and opt to slow dance to lullabies for the first few years.
My son, who helped to inspire our book The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, just turned five. Did he request reclaimed wood toys or organic cotton garments for his birthday? Nope. He’s in the midst of a feverish obsession with monster trucks, which are just about as ungreen as you can possibly be.
On the other end of the gender spectrum is my two-year-old daughter Jovi who must wear the finest dresses available (purchased at thrift stores), jewels, and purses on a daily basis. For her brother’s fifth birthday party (which included “pin the wheels on the monster truck”), Jovi received one special gift: A Green Toys Tea Set.
My thrift shopping habit has wildly skewed my price perception, so spending over twenty bucks on a plastic tea set was slightly painful, but I was happily surprised with the quality of the product. And when I did some research on the company, I was glad that I shelled out a bit more. All Green Toys are made in the U.S. from recycled milk containers. The whole process happens in California which saves the carbon cost of having raw materials shipped into the factory from overseas. They’re BPA free and meet the strict toy safety and environmental laws for the state of California.
I love the practical heft of the plastic, the colors, the simple design, and the fact that all lids are completely interchangeable. Since she got the set two weeks ago, we have had dozens of tea parties, and I think there are hundreds more to come. With a quality product like Green Toys, you get an heirloom toy that is made of recycled materials and costs just a bit more cheap plastic sets made in China. I’d definitely recommend it!
Do you own any Green Toys? Have you been satisfied with their quality?