Archive | Children and Play

Plastic Dolls For Christmas

Navigating through our standard list of no-no’s this time of year seems to all go out the window when we are trying to find that perfect gift at Christmas. As green minded parents we know that plastic is always a bad option for toys. But when I found myself in Toys R Us after not being there for probably a year, I was completely overwhelmed and fascinated with the obvious love the big box stores have for plastic. And why not? The perfect details on the faces of toys, the cheap prices, and the packaging that will make a child scream with excitement! However, there is a big downside to these plastic options and it’s simply ‘health’. Now I’ve got you thinking the health of who? The planet or our children?

There are many toys that even very environmentally minded parents will make exceptions; especially those that include building, constructing, and creating. Lego and Playmobil have long been favorites for one of my sons and I don’t mind when he asks for a special set at Christmas. The imagination and hours of play are a great pay off and these products are hardly cheap. They are also not made from vinyl. Now here is where vinyl gets interesting – all plastic dolls are. And these dolls will be the focus of this article. They are probably one of the hottest toys at Christmas because when you don’t know what else to buy a little girl – you can always guess ‘doll’ because you know the shrieks of delight will be heard when a doll is opened. It’s immediate gratification, where they grab the doll, release their mothering instincts, and pour their love into this little being. It’s a tough thing to not buy into. I was even curiously drawn to the new Disney Brave dolls that lined the shelves at Toys R Us – the plastic replicas look so much like the fiery tempered character that is a different role model from the usual princess role (shooting arrows, being physically and mentally strong, and brave) which we all love. But my long standing struggle with how all the huge toy makers like Mattel, Disney, etc. produce dolls is always disappointing and I believe, a health issue.

I started really thinking about dolls a month ago when I watched two girls during my son’s hockey game looking with pure love at their American Girls dolls. I had never seen these dolls up close before but heard lots from my nieces when they went through the phase a couple of years ago. They seem to be the perfect solution to keep older girls (Grade 2 and up) playing in the wonderful world of imagination and dolls. Apparently visiting an American Girl store in the US is quite the experience – you can even get the doll and your daughter’s ears pierced at the same time!  I asked the group of girls playing with these dolls to tell me about the dolls and they were so excited – the popularity for American Girls hasn’t gone away and I live in Canada! I like to prepare myself for when my own daughters see a toy like this – so I started researching immediately. I know the dolls are over $100 so I assumed the materials used to make the dolls are something other than vinyl. I was wrong – the plastic arms, legs and face of these dolls are vinyl plastic. Plus, do you want to guess where the American Girls are made?  China.  Why the hell are they made in China – they are American Girls!  And the Canadian version of these dolls Maplelea Dolls are also vinyl made in China and the ethnic option Karito Girls are also vinyl and made in China – which for Karito Girls might make sense since they represent the world collection. So I immediately asked my friends if anyone had an American Girl doll that I could see. I was trying to find out if the vinyl that they are made from is actually PVC. I checked the doll to see if there was a material listed on the plastic and no luck. I also took a deep smell of the plastic and it didn’t smell like 100% PVC normally does but since the company states they are made from vinyl – I would guess a mixed variety of plastics have been used. After all we are taught that vinyl almost always means PVC. I asked my friend Alicia from The Soft Landing for some input on this subject – it’s something she’s written about and her article ‘When Is Vinyl Not PVC‘ is awesome! She also let me use this quote regarding vinyl and dolls:

“Vinyl is PVC 99% of the time, and so far we haven’t found a single plastic baby doll made from PVC-free materials.”

After I read this quote from Alicia I found it so much easier to wrap my head around the fact that all, yes all dolls until proven otherwise, made from plastic are PVC. When we are buying to hear the shriek it’s selfish. I know if I picked up that Brave plastic doll for my daughters it would be played with and happily received but I’d rather give them one of the older doll designs from my friend Kellie at The Rice Babies. She’s combined a funky design with high fashion boots, funky hair accessories, and I even saw tattoos when I visited her beautiful display at a craft fair a few weeks ago.  There are options out there. I would have to say Christina from Bamboletta is my doll hero and after seeing Bamboletta dolls for so many years you simply can’t compare the quality and care that go into her creations. Read the story of Bamboletta here. Of course the fact that she hasn’t strayed from her first mission of keeping these dolls made with the safest of materials, by a group of sewing mamas, local to her community keeps her totally unique. And her magical dolls are truly unique in the world of Waldorf doll making. You might initially scream they are expensive but I say they are the safest toy on earth. No worries of off gassing, no worries that it will fall apart, no worries of asking questions to the manufacturer that can’t be answered. I say don’t buy the 10 plastic dolls you probably will before your daughter turns 2 years old and invest in a doll that’s been handmade with cloth, wool, and cotton. Don’t give them all the plastic, commercialized options  – only 1 or 2 dolls to love and appreciate with a story that is unique.

The first dolls my girls received were from me. I was so excited to purchase Corelle dolls but with my current awareness of plastic, I would lump these high-end dolls into the same vinyl category as the rest. Made from vinyl and what makes Corelle dolls even worse in my opinion is the fact they release scent when squeezed. Yes, we probably even pay extra for it. But will the company respond to questions asked about if the perfume being released is synthetic or not?  Of course not. And to me – unless you prove and market to me that your doll is something other than made from the cheapest form of plastic that starts polluting with carcinogenic dioxin from the moment it’s first made – then I won’t even entertain the thought that you’re different.

But do you want to see something different?  Check out Bamboletta’s magic. And just in case you think Christina forgot to add the hair to the dollies in the front – this upload of dolls was on it’s way to Ronald MacDonald House in Vancouver – the dolls in the front have lost their hair after going through chemo so you can guess who the recipients are for these bald dolls. All of the dolls in the photo below have been donated from this generous company that just keeps on giving back to the community. All the time. When you follow their updates on Facebook you feel like the world truly contains people with good hearts, doing good things with their talent. The team at Bamboletta is special and there is a good reason why it takes so long to actually purchase these dolls. If you are wanting to purchase a Bamboletta doll just remember that all magical things in life are worth waiting for but might take a little hard work – these are no exception.

And here is a photo I snapped from a recent table from The Rice Babies doll selections; hip, handmade, and perfect for the older crowd.  Way to go Kellie – I’ll be proud to say “I knew her when..”

 

Related Articles:

The Bamboletta Story

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Dilly Dally Kids – Wooden Wonders

I rarely get the treat of walking into a business to write a review – normally we focus on online stores. So while this article is more directed at Vancouver consumers, the rest of North America will meet an online Dilly Dally Kids later this year when they launch their online store. So bookmark them on Facebook and stay up to date on their beautiful sourcing. The wooden selection at this toy store caught my eye last Christmas where I picked up many wooden characters for stockings and rainbow stackers for gifts. This year at Dilly Dally Kids is no different and the wooden selections are hands down unique. Why? I’m convinced you could replace or never be tempted to purchase the plastic characters we buy purely for the detail and durability. Want to see an example? All kids of any age like staples and dinosaurs are one of these toys. Check out the below design of these hand painted wooden dinosaurs available at Dilly Dally – so bright and fun that a child won’t feel ‘forced’ into sustainable play. All of the wooden play figures ranging from woodland, farm, dinosaur, fairy tale, forest creatures have such great detail. The pictures below were all taken from my visit. . .I had a little too much fun setting up the toys!

Continuing on the wooden journey at Dilly Dally Kids – more wooden wonders kept jumping off the shelf. I think wooden toys are my favourite because at the end of their play life – they can be composted. Especially now with wooden toys covered in beeswax or orange oil, then painted with veggie based paints. Do we not all wish we could do away with the hoards of small plastic toys our children collect over the span of their childhood? There is nothing to do with these toys except continue to pass them down until someone finally puts them in the garbage. Knowing these toys will then outlive our grandchildren at the landfill is not a good feeling. It hurts to give plastic toy characters and receive them! So I’m just a huge fan of wood and a classic toy that all children love – BLOCKS. Normally I would give blocks an age rating of 5 and under but I was reminded by my 6 year old daughter and 8 year old son recently how awesome blocks are. Especially the spheres and different shaped blocks – kids will build and discover with a good quality set of blocks for a long time. Invest in a great set early and watch their play evolve over the years. I love the back wall of block at Dilly Dally Kids – it’s just a solid display of all the different classic block options.

There was more magic to discover and I urge you to checkout Dilly Dally on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. They have classic games, work books, stories, stocking stuffers, Waldorf inspired, and traditional toys. I’ll be sharing more of their selections via Facebook, but the last picture I want to share is the fleet of wooden bath toys that are water safe. I also love wood in a child’s bathtub – although it’s trickier to ensure the toy dries properly; tip the boat over and you shouldn’t have any problems. You’ll find less mold on wood toys than plastic ones with holes in the bottom and you don’t need to worry about anything leaching from the plastic. With many of the wooden toys made in Europe at Dilly Dally Kids – these boats are made in Canada. Great sourcing Dilly Dally and check out their holiday gift guide to view more of their amazing toys!

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Book To Engage Children With Nature

Over the years I’ve read some wonderful children’s books, but recently with a renewed dedication to visiting our local library each week, we’ve discovered books that really capture the essence of bringing children closer to nature. I love hearing about favorite books so I’d like to share my new discoveries. To make the list fun and more complete, I thought I’d select a book from each age bracket starting from babies until mid-elementary. After this age, chapter books enter the picture with bed time routine, so this list is for the under age 10 crowd.

Babies Pick:

When I think about books to read to babies I always think Dr. Suess. Since you won’t get the immediate gratification or feedback when reading to a baby – pick books that are fun to read, flow easily, and have a message for you to understand and remember once that baby starts to grow. The Lorax and The Giving Tree have two of the strongest messages and are books that can be read all throughout your child’s development. The Lorax is the type of book that you take away a new message each time you visit the pages. Long before your child discovers the movie, they should experience the strong messages on helping the environment from hearing the words read by their parent.

Preschool Pick:

Kiss The Cow – I was smitten by the book cover before even opening the book! The story is wonderful and current in today’s world of appreciating and respecting the work that goes into producing food.  Kiss The Cow is about a curious little girl named Annalisa and her cow named Luella. When the little girl milks the cow and forgets the kiss – who will be the first to back down? A magic cow who demands a kiss on the nose to keep milk flowing is a message of thanking our food supply, explained in a light and funny way! As you’ll see from the book cover (via Candlewick Press) this book is precious for both parents and younger children to read!

 

Kindergarten – Grade 2 Pick:

We keep renewing Seal Song from the library because it is such a refreshing change in children’s literature. Seal Song is a story about a boy that helps his father fish in a small town and secretly swims with seals in a secret cove. When he rescues a seal tangled in netting, he makes a wish that the seal could live on land. That night the seals sing and a mysterious girl arrives on the docks. The main character Finn and this girl immediately start a friendship but there is unease that she is a magical selkie until the seals sing again. Andrea Spalding did a great job writing this book and I love the special messages about our connection and rewards for helping nature.

Grade 2 – Grade 4 Pick:

Eagle Boy has another amazing book cover and is published by Random House. This story is based on a popular Northwest Coast Native tale and tells the story of ‘Eagle Boy’ who is born an orphan and grows up to love his eagle friends, despite the fact the rest of his tribe distrusts these birds. He is eventually outcast for his love of eagles, but after the tribe can’t find a food source, both the boy and tribe are saved from starvation by the eagles. A great book about individuality, standing up for what you believe in, and humanity. The pictures are also stunning!

Here is a variety of book picks from mom contributors via Mommy Footprint fan page. Here are their suggestions on books that engage children with nature! I know I’ll be adding a few of these to my Christmas list – what about you?

– Hey Little Ant

– Owl Moon

– The Last Wild Witch

– The Salamander Room

– We Planted A Tree

– A Log’s Life

– The Nature Corner

– Bear Hug

– The Whale and the Snail

– Jessie’s Island

 

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Beeswax & Leaves – Preserving Fall Memories

If you ask me what my favorite smell is – I will say beeswax. So thinking of a Fall craft that includes melted beeswax really appealed to me. I’ve also been trying to find a way to preserve pieces of nature we collect on our various outings. Fall is especially magical because of the leaves, pinecones, acorns, etc. that are everywhere you look! When there are beautiful pieces of nature constantly around us – there is rarely time I’m tempted to purchase keepsake items after visiting a new farm, pumpkin patch, etc. A rock or leaf is more of a precious memory holder than new toy or gadget.  Here are the steps to preserving nature with the memory written on the back with beeswax. Have a little swoon at the trail (below picture) we collected the 10K leaf from and then we’ll start with the ‘how to’.

I love leaves. I’m one of those people that stops and swoons while walking and during this Fall season the abundance of beautiful colors, shapes, and types of leaves is stunning – especially here on the West Coast. I recently started telling the kids to collect a special leaf on our Fall outings. I’ve seen crafts for making leaf mobiles or wreaths by dipping the leaves in melted beeswax and I thought putting a spin on it with marking memories with the leaves would be special. We’ve managed three really special events recently and for each we collected leaves: 1) a visit to our local pumpkin patch with friends 2) a trip to Aldor Acres farm that has baby bunnies, kittens, piglets and many more farm animals and fun activities 3) walk-a-thon at our school. The walk-a-thon is actually quite special because my 8 year old son signed himself up to run the 10k with the older kids. I had to volunteer to run too because we weren’t sure if he could make the entire 10k being his first time. Like many amazing memories that I have from life – my son Angelo and I completed the 10k together and it was a big milestone for him, really showing that he can do anything he puts his mind to. As we entered the 9th k of the run, it started to get tough and I told Angelo to collect a leaf from the trail. (above picture) He did and that is why you see a leaf in the last picture marked 10k. A special way to preserve that memory and a keepsake for him that won’t crumple when the leaf dries.

How to preserve leaves in beeswax

It’s recommend to use a crock pot or double boiler to melt your block of beeswax. Being that I’m a renegade ‘crafter’ of sorts, I did this a little differently. I collected an aluminum can from the recycling and placed it in boiling water in a pot on the stove. I then purchased 2 thick, large beeswax candles from my local organics store. I also had little bits of beeswax from leftover birthday candles that I also melted down. I removed the wick from all of the candles by cutting them in pieces and placed all of the hard beeswax into the can. It would be much easier if you have a local source to purchase a block or brick of beeswax!

Your leaves do not have to be perfectly flat unless you want them to. Flatten them in a book for a couple of days if you want a flat look. I wanted a natural look and was fine with my leaves already curling – it looks really cool actually! Have your leaves already labed by a Jiffy pen with the memory you want to preserve. e.g. date and location (Pumpkin Patch Oct /12), etc.


I watched the beeswax and once it melted I started dipping leaves. I placed the leaves on cardboard from recycling to dry or you can use wax/parchment paper. Try not to use too much beeswax when coating your leaves or it might pool and will harden quickly on the leaves. You want a thin but thorough coating and you can just hold the leaf stem and dip. I wouldn’t let kids do this part. It’s really not necessary and could result in a burn. Here is my aluminum can in a boiling pot setup:

The scent in my house was heavenly from the beeswax! The leaves look gorgeous and I can’t think of a more magical Fall activity. We will make more leaves and thread yard through the stems to create a fall wreath or mobile of memories by the end of October. Every Fall outing have kids pickup leaves and write their memories on the back while the leave are still fresh. Preserve the memory through their eyes and you’ve got a magical keepsake to remember and save.

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The Great Big Boo (Vancouver Show)

I’m very excited to be writing about The Great Big Boo!  This theatrical musical show is a great way to celebrate Halloween with fun characters including Vinnie The Vampire, Frankie The Lounge Singer (Frankenstein), Wolfgang the Werewolf, Cranium The Mad Scientist, Wendella The Witch, and Priscilla The Princess . We attended the show a few years ago and will be going in a few weeks to revisit these fun characters. My sons can still remember Wolfgang the Werewolf (the rockstar) running up on stage throwing popcorn everywhere – they’ve been very excited telling their younger sisters about the show. Kids love the singing and dancing and getting to wear their costumes before Halloween is actually here!  The show is designed with the 2-12 year old crowd in mind and they try to keep things light with characters like Vinnie the Vampire who’s afraid of the dark or Frankie who dreams of becoming a lounge singer!  If you are unsure for young children – show your kids the video below as they are usually a good judge of what they find scary. Show and character bios can be read via The Great Big Boo website.

The atmosphere is fun, energetic, and filled with excitement while you follow the children Justin, Zoe and their zany character friends from Boo Alley as they sing and dance their way through a maze of wacky adventures to save Halloween! Check out this clip of the show and order tickets via www.ticketleader.ca.

There are 5 shows to select from over 2 days at the PNE forum October 20th and 21st. Tickets are $19.50 or inquire about group rates (birthday party or organize a large group) via info@TheGreatBigBoo.com .

Dates and Times:    Saturday, October 20th at 11:00am, 2:00pm and 5:00pm

Sunday, October 21st at 2:00pm and 5:00pm

Get into the Halloween spirit early this year and start a new tradition with your family. This show is only available for Vancouver families.

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