While we were in San Francisco, we went out for sushi with one of my dearest, oldest friends Viktoria Ruchkan. Once upon a time, Viki and I shared a life in Boulder and on Grateful Dead Tour. During lunch, Viki gave the sweetest, simple doll to my daughter and a great kaleidoscope for my son. The doll is made by Israeli artist Merav Flem. According to 972 Club, "Manuella was established in 2001 by Ms. Merav Flam, a graduate of The Bezalel School of Art and Design in Jerusalem. Her designs reflect a longing for a more innocent world, before the age of electronic and digital games. Today, Manuella's products can be found in most kids' boutiques in Israel." The Yasmina Doll by Manuella is available at Piccolini. The doll comes with a simple dress that is easy for little hands to take on and off without buttons or zippers. Our doll came with her beautifully plaited, unlike the one in this picture. The thick pieces of fabric used for the hair are perfect for a doll, as they won't tangle and tear. The hair is ideal for little hands to style, unlike the horrible hair on plastic dolls. Check out the other great toys made by Manuella at Cute Little Me. The red elephant is especially cute and would make a great Valentine's gift. Thank you Viki!
31 January 2007
29 January 2007
Hugg-A-Planet makes this beautiful soft globe for your child. We have had our medium sized Hugg-A-Planet for four years, and it has held up beautifully. This toy is great for introducing your toddler and preschooler to geography, and is the kind of natural toy your child will not outgrow. My daughter's favorite activities are to find the various states our widely dispersed extended family lives in and the ocean her daddy fishes in. She also likes to point to countries and ask me if I know anyone living in them and what they are like. My son just likes to play catch with the soft globe. I have learned a lot about how our planet's political geography has changed in my lifetime from this toy. Hugg-A-Planet, made by Peace Toys, has won many awards and is a socially responsible company. According to their website, " Well to us producing products in a socially responsible manner means the following:
1. Using recycled materials whenever and wherever feasible.
2. Using organically or sustainably produced materials, when recycled are not feasible.
3. Constantly working with the manufacturers we get our products from to improve their production methods.
4. Creating toys that are non-violent and have a socially responsible message such as peace, protecting the environment and diversity.
5. Offsetting the non-environmental impact the materials in our toys whenever we can not find or produce these toys environmentally. We will set aside 20% of the revenues from the sale of these products. Use this to develop the toys in more environmental methods, donatations to environmental, educational, and social organizations or to purchase carbon, sulphur, and other offsets (like planting trees).The Hugg-A-Planet Line is another example of our philosophy at work. The planets are stuffed with recycled fibers and impart a positive caring message for the planet. We also carry a line of earth marbles made from recycled glass." When we purchased our Hugg-a-Planet, they were only available from green retailers. I am pleased to see Hugg-a-Planet offered in mainstream outlets now, including school catalogs. Hugg-a-Planet makes a great gift too!
Eco Child's Play will be offline for a few days. We have to take our son to the pediatric dental services at UCSF. Our regular posts should return Wednesday, unless immediate care is needed for our sweet boy. Please keep positive space and prayers for our son!
28 January 2007
The Waldorf Alphabet Book illustrated by Famke Zonneveld is a sweet way to introduce your child to the letters of our language. On each page, the letter is introduced with a painting of a main object/animal/etc. in the shape of the letter that also begins with the letter. Surrounding the main image are other images that also begin with the featured letter. For example, on the "S" page the main image is of swans in the shape of an "S" surrounded by other images of snow, squirrell, salamander, seal, sail boat, stars, sand dollar, etc all within a stained glass window. The artistry is rather simplistic and childlike but appropriate for a children's book. Using the arts to introduce children to the alpahbetic principle is part of the Waldorf philosophy. According to the afterword written by Waldorf teacher William Ward, "To start with, the Waldorf teacher will harness a child's "feeling life" by introducing the letters artistically and imaginatively, as in the Waldorf Alphabet Book. For each fairytale told, a consonant character will be derived from the picture drawn to illustrate the tale the following day."
For an early childhood computer class I took, I tried to embrace this approach using KidPix. I created the "A is for Angel" image, however I got frustrated with the limited abilities of KidPix compared to Photoshop.
I have always found it ironic that this imaginative and holistic educational philosophy began in the Waldorf cigarette factory of Stuttgart, Germany in 1919.
27 January 2007
Recently, my daughter rediscovered this treasured board book in our collection by Sylvia Long, one of my favorite author's and illustrators. Hush Little Baby by Sylvia Long is an adaptation of the traditional lullaby made famous by Carly Simon and James Taylor.
Included in the book is "A Note from Sylvia Long" explaining why she felt an adaptation was necessary. She writes, "As much as I love being an artist, my favorite and most important profession has been being a mother. I sang and read to my children, just as my mother sang and read to me. One of the songs that has bothered me as an adult is the original version of "Hush Little Baby." In it, a mama offers her baby comfort by promising to buy him or her all sorts of things (a mockingbird, a diamond ring, horse and cart, etc.). It seems much healthier to encourage children to find comfort in the natural things around them and the warmth of a mother's love. This belief was my inspiration for a new version, which I hope you will enjoy as much as I enjoyed creating it." I couldn't agree more with Sylvia! In today's culture of overconsumerism, our children do not need to be taught that making purchases will give them comfort. Here is an example of how Sylvia adapted this classic lullaby. The original version starts,
"Hush, little baby, don't say a word,
Mama's going to buy you a mockingbird.
And if that mockingbird don't sing,
Mama's going to buy you a diamond ring."
Sylvia changes it to,
"Hush little baby, don't say a word,
Mama's going to show you a hummingbird.
If that hummingbird should fly,
Mama's going to show you the evening sky."
Thank you Sylvia Long for these beautiful lyrics and amazing illustrations.
25 January 2007
Here at Eco Child's Play, we have just discovered Ideal Bite. What is Ideal Bite? Ideal Bite is a daily dose of green tips to your email inbox. According to their website, "We know that you would just love to "do the right thing" for yourself and the planet if it were convenient, fun, inexpensive, and made you feel good. But until now you have lacked a good source of advice for real people leading busy lives." Ideal Bite does not preach to you about eco-living, but the message is simple and entertaining. Here's an example of a bite for icy windshields, "DIY Bite: For windshields, mix a 50/50 water and white vinegar solution in a spray bottle. Spray it on the night before. Voila! No ice the next morning." I'll have to try it!
An article in the New York Times got me thinking about my family's clothing consumption and recycling. "Can Polyester Save the World?" discusses the trend of first world people to overconsume inexpensive clothing. Elisabeth Rosenthal writes,
"With rainbow piles of sweaters and T-shirts that often cost less than a sandwich, stores like Primark are leaders in the quick-growing “fast fashion” industry, selling cheap garments that can be used and discarded without a second thought. Consumers, especially teenagers, love the concept, pioneered also by stores like H&M internationally and by Old Navy and Target in the United States, since it allows them to shift styles with speed on a low budget.
But clothes — and fast clothes in particular — are a large and worsening source of the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming, because of how they are both produced and cared for, concludes a new report from researchers at Cambridge University titled “Well Dressed?”.....
In their efforts to buy green, customers tend to focus on packaging and chemicals, issues that do not factor in with clothing. Likewise, they purchase “natural” fibers like cotton, believing they are good for the environment.
But that is not always the case: while so-called organic cotton is exemplary in the way it avoids pesticides, cotton garments squander energy because they must be washed frequently at high temperatures, and generally require tumble-drying and ironing. Sixty percent of the carbon emissions generated by a simple cotton T-shirt comes from the 25 washes and machine dryings it will require, the Cambridge study found.
A polyester blouse, by contrast, takes more energy to make, since synthetic fabric comes from materials like wood and oil. But upkeep is far more fuel-efficient, since polyester cleans more easily and dries faster.
Over a lifetime, a polyester blouse uses less energy than a cotton T-shirt."
Sorry, but I am not going to switch to polyester clothing. However, the concept of "fast fashion" is one that cannot be ignored. I admit to being drawn buy cheap prices when clothing my children, as they grow so fast and their clothing has to be replaced often. Everytime I gaze upon our mountain of laundry, I wonder....Do we have too many clothes? If we had less clothes, the laundry pile would be smaller and more manageable. President Bush's request that American's reduce their energy consumption by 20% got me thinking about laundry. First, I thought about how I could reduce my gasoline consumption and found the only way would be able to is by keeping my daughter home from school one day a week (until Toyota comes out with a hybrid, plug-in 4wd). But with compulsory attendance laws we would get in trouble, and the school has already shut down my idea of a hybrid homeschool/regular school program. We live off the grid and wash all our clothes in cold water (with the exception of those stinky cloth diapers). Our laundry downfall is the propane dryer (living off the grid eliminates the possiblity of an electric dryer). Winter rains and temperatures inhibit outdoor drying, but perhaps I could hang every fifth load of laundry by the woodstove on an indoor drying rack.
I googled recyled clothing to see what was available for families. The sites I found were about gently used clothing or projects you could do with your children's old clothing (like quilts and pillows). I have woven rag rugs before from old clothing, but this is time consuming. We do pass on our gently worn clothes to friends; however, my kids are hard on clothes and this is not possible 100% of the time.
What about organic cotton? I found this information on clothesmadefromscrap:
"The organic cotton movement is based primarily on one often-repeated statistic: One-quarter of all insecticides used globally are applied to cotton crops. Organic cotton products come from farms that eschew insecticides and other chemicals. Several dot-com retailers advertise clothing items made of organic cotton.
Clothes Made From Scrap, Inc. is a company that is committed to protecting our environment. We manufacture and market a line of clothing and accessories made from recycled plastic soda bottles and reclaimed cotton. We also offer 100% US made US fabric organic cotton T-shirts in natural. Every product that CMFS manufactures has a direct impact on safeguarding our environment.
While we think that protecting our earth is a priority we don't think it's more important than quality and durability. You won't sacrifice comfort either, our fabric breathes, it keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
How much of a difference does buying recycled products really make? According to the EPA plastic accounts for one fifth of the total volume of waste we produce. By recycling plastic we can lower air, water, and land pollution. However, the act of recycling is only half of the battle. In order to make a difference we must purchase products made of recycled material.
Outdoor outfitter Patagonia's Synchilla fleece uses recycled soda bottles as its base material. Since 1993, the company has diverted more than 40 million 2-liter plastic bottles from landfills and saved about 11,000 barrels of oil."
Patagonia is a great company! Sure the prices are more expensive than the "fast fashion" stores; however, Patagonia purchases come with the piece of mind that you are buying from an ethical company. According to their website,
"Our definition of quality includes a mandate for building products and working with processes that cause the least harm to the environment. We evaluate raw materials, invest in innovative technologies, rigorously police our waste and use a portion of our sales to support groups working to make a real difference. We acknowledge that the wild world we love best is disappearing. That is why those of us who work here share a strong commitment to protecting undomesticated lands and waters. We believe in using business to inspire solutions to the environmental crisis."
Patagonia also offers their own recycling program for their capilene products.
"Common Threads Garment Recycling
Research shows that the environmental impact of recycling worn-out Capilene base layers into one new polyester fiber is significantly lower than making that same fiber from virgin materials. Taking into account that worn-out garments are diverted from trash incinerators, making new polyester fiber from recycled garments results in an energy savings of 76% and a CO2 emissions [greenhouse gasses] reduction of 71%, versus creating that fiber from new raw material."
We have purchased a few recycled and organic clothing products from Patagonia for our children. If you pass by an outlet, you can save loads of money on this great line of clothing.
Another solution to the "fast fashion" problem is to buy products made by small companies and cottage industries. For more informatin on one such company, please visit my previous post on original clothing.
You can download the 84 page Cambridge report "Well Dressed?" by clicking here.
24 January 2007
I won't pretend to be an expert on Waldorf education; however, I have done some research. Some of the ideas I agree with, and some of the ideas I question. The emphasis on natural toys and natural materials is obviously an attractive one to me. Another idea I love is the story of Rainbow Bridge. On each child's birthday, their story of crossing the rainbow bridge at birth is told. Each story is unique to the child.
When searching for a meaningful gift for my children's birthdays, I came across this tradition. There's a company called Crossing the Bridge Books that will write your child their very own picture book about their birth story with details you provide. You can even view sample stories on their website. These books are truly beautiful! Here is a quote about Waldorf birthday stories from Crossing the Bridge Books:
"The story follows the life of the child, beginning in the heavens to their journey on earth. Each story is different and unique. This is not a “fill in the blank” type story. Although all the stories have the same general flow and carry some of the same elements, each is individually written. Much thought, reflection, and the family’s intention go into every book.
Each story speaks of a spiritual being, or a “little angel” who finds her way to earth by choosing earthly parents and receiving gifts from the heavens before crossing over the rainbow bridge to join humanity. It then gives expression to the child, the child’s family and their life. The ending includes mention of the child’s present birthday."
One drawback to Crossing the Bridge Books is the price! For two books, I would need to spend about $100! I knew that we could create a very nice photo book with Shutterfly for about $30, so I decided to work with my daughter to write and illustrate our own version of the Rainbow Bridge Story. Besides, creating our own book would be an authentic task and more meaningful. Since my children's birthdays are only two days apart, we decided to write one book that includes both of their stories. After completing a rough draft of the story, I had my friend and neighbor Marilyn read it and give me some feedback. Her sensitive comments and suggestions helped me to polish the story into one that would form a lasting birthday ritual for our family. Next, we created watercolor illustrations with a permanent marker and salt, in addition to the watercolors. I scanned the pictures into the computer and uploaded them to Shutterfly. Then we added the text to each page in the story's layout. Here is our story:
Crossing the Rainbow Bridge
Two angels were drawn together in spirit and love. One was a boy angel, and one was a girl angel. They flew from star to star together, collecting light, love, and warmth. The angels voyaged to the brightest star. This radiant sun bestowed the gift of compassion to the angels. Next, they traveled to the Moon. The Moon bestowed the gift of wisdom to the angels. On the moon, the two angels heard the calling from humanity to start their lives on earth and share the celestial gifts they had gathered. Gazing at the planet from the Moon, they beheld the beauties of the oceans and forests. Together, they searched earth’s population for the perfect parents, humans who could show them love and kindness and wisdom in exchange for the love and kindness and wisdom of the angels. Floating on the waters of Earth, they discovered the perfect father. Walking amongst the tall trees, they found the perfect mother. Together, this couple would welcome the angels with open arms and hearts. Now they were ready for the journey across the rainbow bridge.
The girl angel decided to go first, while the boy angel would wait for the Earth to travel three times around the Sun before joining her. The girl angel set out for her journey across the rainbow bridge. As she soared down the colorful spectrum through the clouds and sky, she took human form inside her mother’s womb. For 40 weeks, the angel grew inside her mommy’s body, always letting her mother know her presence was there. Then one day in the summer, she made her entrance into the outside world, born into water. The angel was given the earthly name M, a gift meaning in the likeness of God. She was a big, beautiful, healthy baby who hungrily drank from the nectar of her mother’s milk. She opened her eyes, turned her head, and looked around at her father, grandmother, and magical midwives. They joyously sang to her,
We all came to welcome you, we all came to your birth
We all came to welcome you, to welcome you to Earth
And I was there to love you, I was there to love you,
I was there to love you and lend my body for
Your safe and gentle journey here
Through heaven’s open door.
In the first year of her life, she thrived, learning to crawl and then walk. In her second year of life, she learned how talk and express her wishes. In her third year of life, she learned how to form friendships and anxiously awaited the arrival of the boy angel, ever hopeful, ever loving, ever kind, as part of the angel remained strong in the girl.
One night in her dream, the girl called out to the boy angel and told him it was his time to come to earth and take human form. He made his way across the rainbow bridge to his mother’s womb. He thrived in her body, gently reminding her of his presence for 41 weeks. Then one summer day, he made his entrance into the outside world, born into water. The angel was given the earthly name D, a gift meaning of the sea. His father, mother, sister, grandmother, and magical midwives sang out in joy
We all came to welcome you, we all came to your birth
We all came to welcome you, to welcome you to Earth
And I was there to love you, I was there to love you,
I was there to love you and lend my body for
Your safe and gentle journey here
Through heaven’s open door.
The little boy’s heart was not strong enough to hold all the love. He kept his eyes closed, shutting out the material world. He slept and slept, hoping to return to the security of his mother’s womb. He would not drink from the nectar of his mother’s milk. The baby boy was exhausted from bringing so much love into the human world. For three days, his family prayed for strength, begging him to thrive and teach them the wisdom he had brought to share. He felt their love and answered their prayers. A magical healer with large, gentle hands made his heart stronger to hold all the love. So, in the first year of his life, this beautiful boy healed his human body. In the second year of his life, he learned to crawl and walk, ever cautious, ever loving, ever filled with sweetness, as part of the angel remained strong in the boy.
The family was whole and filled with light and warmth. The angels brought joy and love to the Earth, as well as each other. They played together, enjoying their renewed companionship as humans. Their bond was special, beginning in times before the journey across the rainbow bridge.
Here's another quote from Sacred Centers about Crossing the Rainbow Bridge:
"Crossing the Rainbow Bridge is a mythic metaphor for the evolution of consciousness. Historically the rainbow has always been a sign of hope, a colorful arc of beauty that connects Earth to Heaven and humans to the Gods. To walk the Rainbow Bridge is to reclaim our own divinity and bring Heaven down to Earth, where it is so desperately needed at this time."
Shutterfly stores your projects in your account, so you can go back and order additional copies easily. I gave my elderly grandmother a copy of our book, and it is her most prized possession.
23 January 2007
Melissa and Doug's Pound and Roll toy is a very affordable, great gift for a toddler. My children began to play with this natural toy around two years of age. The Pound and Roll is a variation of the classic pounding toy you probably grew up with, only this toy has the added bonus of balls rolling down chutes. Do watch those fingers! Most children will inevitably hit their fingers when using the hammer for the first time...but hey, what a great lesson in cause and effect! Also, the hammer is made of wood and will dent other furniture. Young children are quite capable of learning the appropriate use of this tool and avoiding this destructive problem. It takes several square hits to get the ball to roll down the chute, which is great practice for eye/hand coordination. The brightly colored balls are also great for learning color names.
22 January 2007
GiveBackAmerica.org has announced a program called Six Degrees of Giving based on the theory that every person on the planet is separated from one another by a chain of six people. According to their website, the program works like this:
"Please tell your friends about GiveBackAmerica.org! Refer six friends to GiveBackAmerica.org and give your favorite charity Featured Points. Featured points help your favorite charity gain more exposure. For every friend you refer using our Six Degrees of Giving Program your favorite charity will earn a point. These points will add up and give your favorite charity added bonuses on GiveBackAmerica.org."
As I wrote about in a previous post, GiveBackAmerica.org is a relatively easy way to give to charities via online shopping, with no additional cost to you! GiveBackAmerica.org is also looking for charities to support. There is a place on the website for charities to join this great online charity mall, just click the question mark in the left sidebar.
21 January 2007
One morning, I recently filmed my children playing with A Maze and Marbles available through Young Explorers. The description of this awesome natural toy from Young Explorers is:
"When children make a marble maze with A Maze and Marbles, it’s a different creation every time. As they design chutes, bridges, and drops, they’ll be developing organization, visualization, coordination, and spatial skills. What’s more, it’s an activity all ages can enjoy together. 100-piece set is made of quality, safe, non-toxic hardwoods. Includes standard-size marbles. Ages 5+."
As you can see from the video, my two-year-old son loves this toy, even though it is rated for five -year-olds. We have been impressed with the stability of the towers my daughter builds with the Maze and Marbles. But you don't need to buy any expensive toys to explore gravity with marbles. At my preschool, my coteacher came up with the idea of using pipes with our existing block collection to create our own maze of marbles. If you would like more information, please visit my earlier post on this ecological toy. This is one of the few wooden toys I have seen that actually certifies it comes from ecologically harvested hardwoods.
Magic Cabin also offers two marble runs, one made of 30 pieces and the other made of 60 pieces. These marble runs are less expensive than the Young Explorer's version; however, they do consist of fewer pieces. They are made in the USA and rated for four-year-olds. The Magic Cabin description reads, "These amazing marble maze toys are classic favorites! Working with special trough-shaped wooden pieces, kids can erect endless combinations of paths for marbles to meander down, through and around." For an entertaining review of Magic Cabin, please read Retrocrush's MAGIC CABIN: A review of the most interesting children's toy catalog in the world.
20 January 2007
In follow up to the Magic Cabin Mini Kitchen post, it was suggested by Jeremiah McNichols of Z Recs that I review other dramatic play kitchen items that are less expensive. Our cabin is small, and we do not have room for a separate play kitchen. By purchasing a few natural toy kitchen items for pretend play, we have been able to foster our children's natural instinct to cook and prepare meals. Many of Melissa and Doug's play food comes with pieces that are attached with velcro. Children can use the wooden knives to cut apart the food, and the velcro allows them to reassemble the food into different meals. The only drawback is that the velcro will get plugged with dog hair, fuzz, etc., and the pieces will not hold together very well. We have had our slicing food set 4 years, before we noticed this problem. It is possible to clean out the velcro, and then the toy is as good as new. It is very easy to extend kitchen play into a restaurant theme by creating a menu. This is a favorite activity at our preschool. You don't have to spend a lot of money on a play kitchen in order for your child to enjoy dramatic food play. For more great pretend play food items, please visit ecochildsplay online store, in which we have hand-selected items from Amazon.com.
19 January 2007
I am so excited to have found a non-leaching, safe sippy cup made by Klean Kanteen, the stainless steel alternative to plastic. Klean Kanteen makes the best stainless steel water bottles. They are odor free and do not taste like metal. We have tried other stainless steel bottles that smell horribly and are lined with epoxy. Plastic/polycarbonate bottles leach bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical that mimics the hormone estrogen, and can cause chromosonal abnormalities. An article a friend gave me stated that baby bottles are made of the worst kind of plastic, as well as the Nalgene bottles I have used for decades. Any Klean Kanteen bottle can be turned into a sippy cup by buying the adaptor and spouts. Of course the Klean Kanteen sippy cup costs more than plastic versions, but the cost is small when you consider the benefit to your child's health. Besides, as my daughter said, now my son is the coolest kid in preschool with his shiny Klean Kanteen sippy cup.
Here are a couple links to articles discussing the dangers of plastic food and beverage containers:
Hazards of Hydration (Sierra Club)
Bottle Racket (Grist)
The only drawback to the Klean Kanteen sippy cup is it is made in China. The company states it is "responsibly made in China", but for a few of my friends boycotting Chinese products, this may be a tough decision. I have pledged to boycott Chinese products due to their human rights violations (especially in regards to Tibet), however I have found it almost impossible to completely avoid Chinese products. Even Melissa and Doug toys are made in China! Since signing the pledge to boycott Chinese products, I have become more aware of where the products I buy are made. On many occassions, I have decided not to buy something because it was made in China; however, the Klean Kanteen sippy cup offers the only alternative to plastic sippy cups I have found. Thus, I decided to violate my pledge by purchasing this safe, sippy cup. For more information on boycotting China, please visit Access to Awareness.
18 January 2007
I asked a good friend of mine Teri Elfrink, The Web Savant's wife, to write a guest post on Magic Cabin's Mini Kitchen. Teri's oldest daughter attends a Waldorf School in Wisconsin, and she has two other little ones. Teri writes:
After searching for a play kitchen for my children (ages 2 and 4) I finally settled on this mini-kitchen from Magic Cabin. I loved that it contained everything that would be needed in one small unit that can easily be moved around. The kitchen comes complete with food, pots and pans, and utensils. Though my 4 year-old daughter felt that it was too small for her, she's made many meals for us in her kitchen. My son still enjoys playing with it, and I will pass it down to my 3rd child. Any toy that makes it through 3 kids is a good buy in my book! This sturdy little unit is made of birch and requires simply assembly.
Thank you Teri!
17 January 2007
There was an interesting editorial in the NY Times yesterday written by Ken Caldeira, a scientist at the Carnegie Institution’s department of global ecology. He writes about the current trend of companies (like Dell) to plant trees in an effort to offset carbon emissions made during the production of goods. Yes, tree planting is not enough to save us from global warming, however it is a great activity to do with kids. Every spring, we receive overstock trees from the US Forest Service to plant. Last year, our family planted over 500 trees!
Click here to read the full editorial.
You may be wondering what carbon emissions has to do with natural toys. Besides assuming readers interested in natural toys are also interested in ecological issues, the production of natural toys as opposed to plastic toys is better for our earth. Plastic is made from petrochemicals, and petrochemicals are made from oil. According to plasticresource.com, "The plastic manufacturing process begins by heating the hydrocarbons in a "cracking process." Here, in the presence of a catalyst, larger molecules are broken down into smaller ones such as ethylene (ethene) C2H4, propylene (propene) C3H6, and butene C4H8 and other hydrocarbons. The yield of ethylene is controlled by the cracking temperature and is more than 30% at 850°C and such products as styrene and vinylchloride can be produced in subsequent reactions. These are then the starting materials for several other types of plastics. Therefore, this process results in the conversion of the natural gas or crude oil components into monomers such as ethylene, propylene, butene and styrene." Doesn't sound like something I want my child playing with and putting in their mouth!
Wikipedia states, "Although plastics have had a remarkable impact globally, it has become increasingly obvious that there is a price to be paid for their use. Plastics are durable and degrade very slowly. In some cases, burning plastic can release toxic fumes. Also, the manufacturing of plastics often creates large quantities of chemical pollutants.One of the great appeals of plastics have been their low price as compared to other materials. However, in recent years the cost of plastics has been rising dramatically. The cause of the increase is the sharply rising cost of petroleum, the raw material that is chemically altered to form commercial plastics. As the cost of plastic hinges on the cost of petroleum, should petroleum prices continue to rise, so will the cost of plastic. In 2005, the higher price of plastic drove a number of plastic-toy manufacturers out of business." You can do your part to help decrease our dependence on foreign oil by buying natural toys!
16 January 2007
The Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagon is the most stable walker toy I have found. Made almost entirely of wood, this mostly natural toy doubles as a wagon and a walker. Young children love to put their cherished toys in the wagon and take it for a spin. We were given our wagon from a friend who's child had out grown it. There was a recall on the toy for a chokeable part that could fall off, but it only affects models sold before May 2005. We have never had this problem with our wagon. Click here for information about the recall. A nut fell off once, but that was easy to repair. One very nice feature of the wagon is the front bumper. If your child rams the wagon into furniture or the wall, the padded bumper prevents any damage from occurring.
15 January 2007
Puzzabilitites/Small World Toys Sounds on the Go is a nice puzzle for your toddler because of the large wooden knobs on each piece. Large knobs are easier to grasp for young children, who are developing their fine motor skills. There are four wooden pieces featuring a different vehicle on this natural toy. When a piece is placed in the puzzle, a corresponding vehicle sound plays. Personally, I do not think it is necessary for toys to make noise (other than musical instruments), however children do seem to enjoy the noises. Unfortunately, this Sounds on the Go puzzle has a mind of its own! Vehicle sounds emerge from the wooden puzzle when it is sitting idle and no one is playing with it. On a few occassions, we've had to put the toy outside at night in order that it wouldn't keep us awake in our small cabin. A friend of mine had the same problem with this puzzle. This problem was more prevalent when the toy was new and seems to work have worked itself out now that the wooden puzzle is a year old.
14 January 2007
Ecochildsplay has been blessed to be featured in another wonderful blog. Z Recommends consists of well written posts about toddler recommendations, from toys to music and films. All proceeds raised from Z Recs is set aside for her college fund. We have enjoyed reading this blog and think you will too. Please click here to read the ecochildsplay's featured post on Z Recommends!
There is an interesting article in today's New York Times about DHA (a vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acid), and whether it should be added to our food. It is already in infant formula. Here is an excerpt from the article.
Magical or Overrated? A Food Additive in a Swirl
by Gary Rivlin
For a long time, the typical American diet contained plenty of omega-3, DHA included. But that was when cattle were not trapped in pens and actually roamed the prairies and grazed on grass, which is a good source of omega-3s, rather than eating feed-lot corn and soy, which are not. Eggs, too, used to be a strong source, but chickens have undergone a similar lifestyle change.
Click here to read to the full article.
Thank you Melissa and Doug for saving us from those plastic magnetic refrigerator letters. These wooden magnetic letters are great. The entire back of each letter is covered in one solid magnet, unlike the little chokeable pieces of magnets that always fall out of the plastic kind. Melissa and Doug's wooden letters consist of 52 letters, including both upper and lower case letters. In my experience as an early childhood educator, it is best to introduce young children to upper case and lower case letters at the same time. When they are learned separately, I have observed more confusion from the children. This product has been rated for children ages 3-8 years old, however I have used them in my home with children as young as one year old. The magnet is securely fixed the back, however I would make sure that young children do not put the letters in their mouth. The paint can come off, and it is probably not wise to chew on magnets. Thank you Melissa and Doug for another great natural toy!
13 January 2007
Access to Awareness is great blog featuring an eclectic mix of postings, from boycotting China to Shamans of the Amazon.
Access to Awareness
A resource for those who are searching beyond the status-quo. Information on Buddhist philosophy, psychedelics, alternative energy, permaculture, green building, organic food, conscious music and communities. A general resource for those who are awakening or who have awakened. OM
We feel blessed to be included on this great site. Click on this posting's title or here to read the feature on ecochildsplay.
Every baby should wear cloth diapers. The benefits to you, your family, your baby, and the environment are endless. A friend of mine who used disposable diapers (my midwife calls them LANDFILL DIAPERS) figured she spent over $5000 to diaper both of her children. In contrast, I have spent under $200 during two children's diapering years. My second child is using the same diapers and covers I used with his sister. I store the dirty diapers in a plastic action packer container and wash them in warm water. I do not use bleach, but I do use vinegar in the rinse cycle to remove any laundry soap that may remain on the diapers. I also add a little Bi-O-Kleen Bac-Out Stain and Odor Eliminator in with the detergent to eliminate odors. A little squirt of this product in the diaper pail also helps eliminate odors when you open the lid. The most economical covers I have found are the Bummis Super Whisper Wrap. This product is adjustable, so the covers last as your child grows reducing the need to buy many different sizes. Both of my babies were big, so we skipped the newborn size. Cotton Babies has a lot of great products, resources, and even a forum you can join regarding cloth diapering. You can read about the Joy of Cloth Diapers in Mothering magazine. Do the right thing.....USE CLOTH DIAPERS!
Introducing the Ecochildspay Amazon Store! In this online store, you will find products we have handpicked from Amazon.com. The store is divided into six categories: wooden toys, plush and puppets, organic toys, parenting and pregnancy books, dramatic play, and favorite children's books. We will be adding more items to our categories and adding new categories in the coming week. Each category features natural toys we have personally selected based on our own experience with the toy itself or the company that makes it. All of the toys feature natural materials, with the exception of the plush and puppet category. I have read every recommended book with children, either my own children or with my preschool class. Some books have an environmental theme, whereas others are simply great stories. Please visit ecochildsplay online store!
12 January 2007
The Gift of 30 Minutes refers to the tremendous advantages of reading aloud to your child. Here is an excerpt from the article:
Reading aloud, with active participation from your child, helps children learn new words, learn about written language, and see the connection between words that are written and words that are spoken. Evidence from research says that reading and talking to your infant and/or toddler may be the single most important thing in determining your child’s intellectual, economic and social success. Just 30 minutes a day and your child’s life will be changed forever!
For further information, please read this article on ezine.
Kiva is a great place in which you can help empower an entrepeneur in a third world country. You lend small amounts of money (as low as $25) to a specific entrepeneur, helping end global poverty one person at a time. You will receieve email update messages about the businesses you are supporting. A typical loan lasts 6-12 months. Kiva will send you updates when your entrepeneur begins to repay the loan. I received this message today:
The business you have loaned to, Ventas de Ropa Martha , has made a repayment of $63.00. The total amount repaid up to now is $63.00. The payment was collected and deposited by MIFEX. This repayment will be divided amongst all the lenders who helped to fund this business, depending upon the percentage each lender contributed. Note that you cannot actually withdraw or reloan these funds until after the loan term is complete.
This information was sent to me by another blogger about a great company. Baby Maya makes original kid's clothing products. I do not have any personal experience with this line yet, but I believe it is important to support small businesses. The prices are affordable and give you the peace of mind that your child's clothing was not made in a sweatshop by third world children. You may click on this post title or the following link to view Jeremiah McNichol's post on Baby Maya.
What does a natural sponge have to do with ecofriendly, natural toys? For young children, everything is a toy. If your children are like mine, the only way I can get anything done is to include them in the task. Washing dishes/water play is a favorite activity of my two year old son. Recently, I discovered this great sponge made by Natural Value. The scrubber/abrasive side is made of ORGANIC walnut shells! The sponge side is made from 50% post consumer recycled materials. I don't have to worry about my young children handling this walnut scrubber sponge and being exposed to fungicides/biocides. Green scrubber sponges contain small amounts of fungicides/biocides that are harmful pollutants for waterways and sewage systems. Living with a grey water system, this is a concern for our family. Many cities use marsh water treatment systems, such as Arcata, or dump waste water into bodies of water. Using the walnut scrubber sponge gives you peace of mind that your family and environment are safe from the pollutants found in regular scrubber sponges. Ask your local health food store to stock Natural Value Organic Walnut Sponges.
11 January 2007
This quote from Luther Burbank speaks to the importance of childhood exploration of the natural world. In my opinion, the best natural toy is a garden. There are many tiny creatures to explore and the wonders of plant life never cease to amaze a child. Our strawberry and raspberry patch are amongst my children favorite haunts. They also love to explore the garden with their friends. I have also found that children are more prone to try and like foods they have grown themselves. For example, my daughter's favorite vegetable is kale! Of course, organic gardening is best.
10 January 2007
Melissa and Doug/Lights, Camera, Interaction! make several wooden bed jewelry sets. These sets come with everything you need to make great jewelry. The hole size in the beads is large enough for little hands, and beading is great for buiding fine motor control. The alphabet beads are great for learning to spell your name, gifts, and other projects. My daughter made a garland for our live Christmas tree by stringing madrone berries we had collected on a hike with the letters spelling "Merry Christmas." These jewelry sets make great gifts too! The best part about homemade jewelry made from wooden beads is you don't have worry about lead content!
09 January 2007
From the Sierra Club:
Good news over the holidays as the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in response to a petition from the Sierra Club, voted unanimously to move forward with a regulation that could ultimately ban children's jewelry that was more than 0.06% lead by weight. Children have died after swallowing such jewelry in the past.
From the Associated Press:
Regulators move on ban of children's jewelry containing lead
By NATASHA T. METZLER, Associated Press Writer
Thursday, December 28, 2006
A government regulatory agency has taken steps toward banning children's jewelry containing small amounts of lead, which was responsible for more than a dozen product recalls in the past two years.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted unanimously to move forward in a process that could ultimately lead to a ban on children's jewelry containing more than .06 percent lead by weight.
To read the full article click on this post title or the link below.
More from the Sierra Club:
Nearly 300,000 young American children have blood lead levels high enough to cause irreversible damage according to the Centers for Disease Control. Every one of these cases is avoidable. While many young children have been affected by lead from paint in older homes, other children are being exposed to the toxin through toys, especially toy jewelry, they love. These toys are identifiable and should not be purchased, played with, or even produced.
Click on the link below for information about ways to protect your child and the effects of lead on young children.
08 January 2007
A friend sent me this New Year's blessing by Edward Abbey. It reminds me of the beauty of children's imaginative play.
Benedicto: May your trails be crooked,
winding, lonesome, dangerous,
leading to the most amazing
May your rivers flow without end,
meandering through pastoral valleys
tinkling with bells,
past temples and castles and poets' towers
into a dark primeval forest where tigers
belch and monkeys howl,
through miasmal and mysterious swamps
and down into a desert of red rock,
blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and
grottos of endless stone,
and down again into a deep vast ancient
where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled
where deer walk across the white sand
where storms come and go
as lightning clangs upon the high crags,
where something strange and more beautiful
and more full of wonder than your deepest
waits for you -
beyond the next turning of the canyon
- Edward Abbey
This is an all time favorite toy in our home! Both of my children love to play with these blocks. My daughter builds high towers using the largest block as the foundation all the way up to the tiniest block. My son loves to place the blocks within each other in the correct order, which is a tidy way of storing them nested together. The farm animals on the sides are great for teaching animal names and sounds. We have had these blocks for over a year and have needed to glue one of the sides on one block back together, otherwise they are very durable. The nice thing about wooden toys is they are easily repaired with wood glue, whereas once a plastic toy breaks it can be difficult to repair. Another great toy from Melissa and Doug!
07 January 2007
You can't grow up in Ohio and not be a Buckeye fan!
As my daughter has grown older, I have struggled with her interests in "girly" things. It was easy when she was two to buy her a bulldozer and watch her explore the garden dirt with her new toy. She still enjoys gardening, but now she wears her pink crocs and daisy work gloves. She definitely favors pink, princesses, and cheerleading. I use to blame her friends for influencing her, but now I wonder what is the harm as long as she does not feel boxed in by her gender. Let her pretend play flow naturally from her interests. She knows that her possiblities in life are endless and not defined by her sex. In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with being a girl or being a boy, as long as you are being true to yourself and not limited by society's stereotypes. An interesting article recently appeared in the New York Times regarding the princess phenomena titled "What's Wrong With Cinderella?".
Chewing on plastic toys may be harmful to children, so what are the alternatives? All young children explore new toys with their mouths and chewing/biting relieves some of the teething strain in infants. What your child puts into their mouth is very important, and Under the Nile offers organic fruit and vegetables toys that are perfect! The fruit and vegetables can be purchased individually or in a group crate. Made in Egypt of organic materials, you do not need to worry about your child placing this toy in their mouth. One of my best friends from high school gave me the carrot when my first child was five months old. The organic carrot quickly became her favorite toy, and we all laughed about this simple toy that was favored above all the other ones she had received for Christmas. The carrot went everywhere with us and because it is made of natural materials, the carrot is easily and quickly washed by hand. Later, we added the banana to our collection of Under the Nile organic fruit and vegetables. These toys are affordable and give parents the peace of mind needed during the difficult teething times.
06 January 2007
Sunday, November 19, 2006 (SF Chronicle)
TOXIC TOYS/San Francisco prepares to ban certain chemicals in products for kids, but enforcement will be tough -- and toymakers question necessity
Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer
Widely used chemicals with suspected links to cancer and developmental
problems in humans are present in common baby products like the yellow
rubber ducky, bath books and clear plastic bottles, a Chronicle analysis
The toxic chemicals, which are used to harden or soften plastics, can
leach out each time a baby sucks on a favorite doll or gnaws on a cool
teething ring, scientists say.
Starting Dec. 1, a first-in-the-nation ban goes into effect in San
Francisco, prohibiting the sale, distribution and manufacture of baby
products containing any level of bisphenol A and certain levels of
The law, modeled on a European Union ban that started this year, reflects
emerging concerns by environmental health scientists over the buildup of
industrial chemicals in humans, particularly young children. Especially
under scrutiny are chemicals that mimic estrogen, possibly disrupting the
hormonal system and altering the normal workings of genes.
Yet the trouble is that no one knows for sure how many baby products
contain the chemicals. Stores, many of which are still unaware of the
pending ban, will be unable to decide what to take off the shelves because
manufacturers aren't required to disclose what chemicals go into a
product. For that reason, The Chronicle set out to test several common
baby toys and found that most of them -- even ones labeled "safe,
non-toxic" -- contained the chemicals.
To read the full article click on this post title or the link below.
05 January 2007
The Germans know how to build high quality, natural toys. The Selecta Pontino wooden baby gym is the best toy for your young child. Baby's love to lie under the wooden arch and kick their legs or reach their arms for the dangling bird, bells, and rings. As your baby grows, the sturdy base allows the child to pull themselves to standing without toppling the Pontino baby gym over. This wooden baby gym is more expensive than the commonly sold cloth versions, however this toy grows with your child and is the kind of toy you will want to save for your grandchildren. I would rather spend more money on fewer, high quality toys rather than fill my home with lots of inexpensive toys that will end up in the landfill. I had trouble finding the Selecta Pontino baby gym and had to have it custom ordered through a Selecta dealer in Oregon. There are a few US websites now in which you can purchase this amazing toy.