Archive | Safer Products For Kids

West Coast Natural Toy Magic

My love of Waldorf, naturally handcrafted toys is more than just admiration of a person’s craft. When you see a toy that has tenderness infused into the stitches and wooden seams, you absorb the love that was given to make this special toy. Being a West Coaster that is connected to two of the leaders in the Waldorf play and education fields, I’m super honored to be hosting a contest with Bamboletta Dolls and Natural Pod.

I’ll start with Bamboletta. If you haven’t read their story, please click over and be ready to fall in love. The heart of Bamboletta is the founder Christina who has developed a business model that creates a better world. She has perfected a craft, taught others, and along the many years of hard work, never sold out with how the dolls are manufactured and what materials are used to make them.  Christina and her busy helpers have stayed where the dolls were created – right here on the West Coast making her magic bloom. What is new with Bamboletta since we last checked in? Over to Christina.

We’ve introduced 2 new styles last year that have been extremely popular. They are different then the traditional type of Waldorf doll as they are sewn to have more flexible limbs. Great for having a snuggle or a tea party! We will continue to do what we do, which is to create high quality dolls made with the best ‘ingredients’ we can find. I’m working hard to find more and more local sources my materials and have started working with a mill in Nova Scotia to get our yarn hair from. All our dolls are made right here in the Cowichan Valley by local moms creating a strong community of women working together with a lot of love hand crafting these dolls. They are infused with love in the stitches and will be an item that your child will eventually pass on to their child when they get older.

We are so excited to have our own Little Buddy doll from Bamboletta for this contest (her picture is in the contest box at the bottom of this article). She is so sweet and the beautiful touch at the front of her hair is a handspun yarn made by a local weaver from Cowichan Valley. Details are never left out with the Bamboletta ladies. Here is a picture of the Bamboletta shop. Doesn’t it look like Santa’s Workshop with magic and creativity bursting out the doors?

bamboletta doll shop

Over we go to Natural Pod who I’ve known for many years. They were one of the leaders in the naturally made toy movement 9 years ago and they haven’t slowed down with earth stewardship. With more of a global focus now, Natural Pod has shifted their expertise to help design and build beautiful, sustainable natural play spaces, furniture and open-ended play items that foster different learning environments for children. Their mission to foster how children can develop and learn from their environment when the focus is play is so important. They continue to inspire and ignite passion for teaching with the beautiful environments they create. I invite you to check out their Fan Page and look at the pictures of open-ended play spaces they’ve dreamed and delivered over the years. Very inspiring! More words from owner Bridgitte.

We serve educators and children in childcare, home-day, preschool, kindergarten, elementary and middle schools along with hospice and special needs students around the world. Raw materials for our products are sourced as close as the forests near our office on Vancouver Island and the wood we use is Forestry Stewardship Certified (FSC), supporting responsible forestry practices. Our other products are made of natural wood, wool or silk and finished in plant-based dyes, harmonic beeswax or in some cases are left naturally unfinished. The bulk of our product line is not only recyclable, but even 100% naturally compostable. Since our beginning, we have worked with over 500+ different learning organizations and have successfully delivered more than 27,000 products to our customers.

Check out how lovely this newly created classroom space is from Natural Pod.

newnaturalpod

Now over to the fun part of this feature – a contest!  Can you imagine winning a Bamboletta Little Buddy and Natural Pod Wooden Rocker? You could pretty much call Christmas shopping a wrap if you are the lucky winner! My thanks to Bamboletta and Natural Pod who are waiting to ship the lucky contest winner these two items. The contest runs from November 13, 2013 – November 20, 2013 – closing at midnight. This contest is open to North America. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Technology & Kids Going Back To School

What do I think is the most important conversation you can have with a child returning to school? Two issues I’m talking about daily with my older children are clean food/nutrition habits and how to manage technology responsibly.

Outside influences are constant and demanding when it comes to our children and technology so I reached out to Jesse Miller of Mediated Reality to ask him for advice and best practices to share with parents with children that live in the age of technology. He speaks in schools across North America educating on the use of technology, social media, cyber bullying, with blunt delivery for pre-teens and teenagers.  Here is Jesse’s advice for what you should know with technology and kids heading back to school.

Over to you Jesse…

The new school year is upon us and new learning and engagement activities are being developed by teachers who are eager to use the technology available inside schools and the tech your kids will most likely be bringing with them in the form of a mobile device or tablet. The excitement and novelty of a new school year is usually overwhelming, but the children with smart phones, tablets and computers are juggling with a number of education concerns especially as it applies to focus, constant communication with friends, and the chronic dialogues about cyber bullying. It’s a lot to maintain while trying to focus on learning.

As a parent, you can use this opportunity at the start of a school year to keep your kids safe and online aware while allowing them the freedom to enjoy technology by introducing the topics of social media use, Internet gaming, texting, and online behavioural expectations by setting the tone in September.

Start by considering how you would control use of the Internet at home.

You’re saying you can’t control the Internet?

Well you are right, and you can’t. The Internet is omnipresent and seems overwhelming to many parents when it comes to the expertise of the kids but you can take steps to monitor how the Internet is accessed in your house.

I never recommend filters or monitoring software unless your child has given you previous reasons to not trust their online activities but by requiring laptops, tablets, and computers to be in open areas of the home, you are preventing your child from isolating themselves when they are online. Explore control of the Internet in a number of ways with the following ideas around communication and expectations of use.

  1. Consider limiting the amount of time to use the Internet for your kids and the parents in the home. Reduce “double screen” time where they watch television and look at their iPod or phone. Consider setting the standard for the family by establishing the tone for when the phones go down, not just for the kids, but for all family members.
  2. How about disabling the WiFi or locking out the router at certain times of the day to restrict Internet access? You don’t know how to? The kid knows more than you? Why not learn how the Internet is coming into your home? Especially after bedtime – many kids find that their mobile device is a chronic distraction at night while sleeping, if you control the Internet as it comes into your home, you have a better sense of when it is usually accessed. Google is your friend on this – there are plenty of YouTube videos available. If your child has a mobile device with Internet access provided by a cellular carrier, set up a home charging area so that all phones sit overnight – this area might need to be in your bedroom if you believe your child will want to bypass the rule and sneak a peek.
  3. Do not hesitate to set rules for mobile devices. Reflect on when you were a child and the fear you had when a friend called past 8PM – your parents were guardians of communications in your childhood home and it was rude to call past a certain hour – let’s not move too far from that value of respect just because your child has their own communication tool. Set the rules as you expect the devices to be used – they will mimic your use.
  4. Is your child texting on their phone or mobile device? Have they downloaded multiple applications to text for free (parents love free) but you don’t know which? Look at the download history and don’t hesitate to ask your child about every application they use. Google that application and look at reviews, news stories and other parents reviews. Encourage your kids to read their most recent text messages out loud to encourage communication based on your expectation of appropriate use. I would highly suggest against snooping through the messages (unless you can defend the reasons to your child) as it is similar to your parents reading your diary or journal as a child – privacy trust is key when it comes to online communication but don’t hesitate to parent that communication based on the values of your home.
  5. Learn about the trends. Kids love photographs these days and send them with the eagerness of a flyer campaign. Set a value to the photos your children are placing online, ask them what the world needs to see before they post and try to encourage a sense of self as it applies to giving pictures away to the Internet – would they post the same photo if it cost $1? If the answer is no, remind them that a photo of your child is priceless to you, no stranger online needs it for likes. The current trend of Instagram or Snapchat encourages kids to post pictures online to share for fun, likes, followers, or the perception that it deletes. Users, including unknown adults, rate, and solicit these pictures and flirtatiously or without mercy comment. This can lead to a number of social media issues including bullying and digital footprint/reputation concerns as your child moves through school.
  6. Pay attention to warning signs! If phones are placed screen side down on a chronic basis and held close to the chest like a poker player with a good hand, you might have an issue around how your child is shielding communications with peers. Maybe your kid is afraid of your response to language or topic but never chastise based on emotion for what you discover. Open dialogues and set expectations of access and use -discipline as needed and always encourage appropriate use.

Going back to school is a busy and exciting time of the year. Parents, teachers and those connected kids are busy Texting, taking “selfies” on Snapchat, filtering on Instagram, posting to Facebook, Tweeting class events on Twitter, and sharing a lot of information. Keep this time safer, secure, and aware by encouraging your kids and yourself to share the minimum amount of personalized information with the online world and communicate as if the world is listening – because with social media in hand, everyone is eager for a good story to post about someone else.

Jesse Miller @mediatedreality
Jesse Miller is a social media safety educator based in Vancouver, BC – information about his work and programs available for schools & parents is available at www.mediatedreality.com

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How To Find Safer Sunscreen For Kids

Okay guys – we’ve got this! The confusion seems to grow every year with how to pick a safe, mineral based sunscreen for your family. I’ve realized it’s easier to explain what ingredients you want IN the sunscreen rather than explain which ones you don’t want in the sunscreen. I could tell you for another year to avoid oxybenzone, Vitamin A (called retinyl palmitate or retinol) and all these ingredients you can’t pronounce but instead it’s going to get really easy. If you want the safest sunscreen (in my opinion) look for one ingredient in the active ingredient list: Zinc Oxide. What does that mean? You’ll get the whitish tinge to your skin but for me, I don’t mind this trade-off because having only Zinc Oxide listed in the active ingredients mean that UVA/B rays are effectively blocked at the skin’s surface.

With the explosion in so many new mineral (organic) based sunscreens on the market, there are actually very few that only have the Zinc Oxide as the only active ingredient. That is why this little tip is going to save you hours of time and research.  Do you have a fussy teen or husband that doesn’t like the whitened look of Zinc? Hold tight there is a solution for them too!

So for little kids, in order of importance for sun care the preference would be to cover up – stay in the shade and wear protective clothing to block UVA/B rays. This was pretty effective when my kids were younger but now we spend our days at pools, water slides and my oldest is going to camp and all of my kids are refusing to wear sun shirts this year. My girls want to show off their bathing suits and my sons are self conscience of wearing sun shirts this year. So while this was a great form of defense against the sun in previous years, this year it’s not working. Thankfully for this summer, they are so happy to not have to wear the protective clothing, they aren’t complaining about the whitening sunscreen they’ve been wearing. I use Badger sunscreen. But I can see the whitening issue becoming a problem with my pre-teen next summer so I’m sensitive to this problem if you’ve got family members that don’t like the look of only having a zinc based sunscreen. Your loophole around this is using a sunscreen that has both Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide in the active ingredients. The Titanium Dioxide mineral soaks through the skin to deliver sun protection for UVA/B rays through the skin (not all UVA rays unless Zinc Oxide is also an ingredient). It’s important to mention you need both the Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide minerals because Titanium on it’s own won’t block all UVA/B rays. But this is a good alternative for anyone who still wants solid sun protection, without the whitened look on the skin.

So this is easier right?  And for me, I just like what Badger does with education and transparency. They also re-formulated and produced non-nano sunscreens last year so they get my vote. Check out My Little Green Shop if you need sunscreen to finish up this hot summer!  They always have great shipping deals & are a trusted sponsor of Mommy Footprint.

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Sext Up Kids

I’ve become a bit of a documentary person since I watch so little TV so I discover information important to my life online. One documentary that we had great discussions via Facebook but I didn’t write an article about was Sext Up Kids  produced by CBC DocZone. I was honored to preview the documentary a few days before it aired on TV and I have not stopped talking about it since first watching it. I immediately took to social media to encourage parents to watch it (even parents with young children). I also mentioned the incredible resources listed in the documentary to our Premier Christy Clark back in October. When I see the reemergence of concerned parents with social media profiling or reading the letter written to Victoria Secret from a concerned dad about their new clothing line called “Bright Young Things” aimed at young teenagers I think of the information all parents need to know if their kids participate with adult tools like social media or devices that connect to the Internet.

The main concern of DocZone experts is our children are moving from toddler-hood to teenagers – the middle gap of childhood seems to be lost with the intense pressure of sexuality.  And the surprising (for me) reality for our sons? That they are using their widely accessible electronic devices to access porn. This is where they are learning how to treat our daughters and the amount of time spent watching porn is causing desensitization to violence by watching sex in such an aggressive forum. I can see both sides of this documentary having both sons and daughters but I have to say the learning curve on how I need to parent my sons really was a surprise to me. But it’s not hard to believe that this happens. It crossed my mind as a reality when I recently hosted a play date for my oldest son and an electronic device that couldn’t connect to the internet (only because we don’t have a wi-fi password) was  brought over to the playdate. If the ipod could connect to the Internet – what would they be watching? I still think of my 10 year old son as my sweet innocent baby, but kids profiled in this documentary say they started watching porn in Grades 4-7. ** Yes, mouth is on the floor **

And the flip side to the pornography issue with boys watching it? Girls feel pressure to become the characters portrayed online – from how to act, look, and perform. Phones and social media only intensify these online relationships with children producing images, texts via sexting, and videos with horrible, horrible consequences. We’ve all heard about children that have been tormented and bullied online from mistakes they have made sending pictures or actions over a phone or Facebook.

On the West Coast,  iGirl workshops are one proactive answer to addressing the feeling of not being enough for the pressures of society. Saleema Noon talks about the huge problem of young children receiving adult toys (Smart phones, etc.) and not fully understanding what is private and public. Teens are sending approx. 135 texts per day and social media is re-packaging their image on a daily basis. The documentary also states that girls that text the most, often are most sexually active.

Another BC expert in the fight against online bullying is Jessie Miller who talks to kids about the downside of the sexy side of social media. He tries to educate that just because kids can easily access technology doesn’t mean what they are using it for is right. His no nonsense approach with kids using social media is smart – they need to be educated if they are going to be using these grown up mediums. My favourite part of his speech to teenagers is when he tells them if anyone has a picture of a person under the age of 18 wearing less than a bathing suit on their laptop, iphone, or ipod they are in possession of child pornography. . . which is a crime. Why are we scared to educate our children about this? If we are going to give them adult tools to communicate, they need to be educated on how not to use these tools.

This is the list I provided the Premier when she reached out to local bloggers concerned about online bullying in BC. I told her our Province is already filled with experts – why not gather a team to go into schools and educate on this huge problem with a taskforce? I didn’t hear back about my suggestions. I’ve listed them again to help parents:

iGirl Empowerment Workshops created by respected sex educator Saleema Noon: http://www.saleemanoon.com/igirl/

Mediated Reality created by Jessie Miller: http://www.mediatedreality.com/ I would love Jessie to speak at my children’s school – the no nonsense approach to social media is fantastic.

Author Peggy Orenstein wrote ‘Cinderella Ate My Daughter’ award winning writer about issues affecting girls and women: http://peggyorenstein.com/

And other great resources quoted in Sext Up Kids documentary can be found here. I make lots of mistakes with parenting but I prefer to do it with my eyes wide open. Watching this documentary is important for parents to watch – even parents with young children. There are lots of examples of how to curb accelerated behavior and modelling at a young age. I talked about this documentary when it first aired and I keep referring to it. The world has changed and here is a lesson in how we can adapt.

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Eco Easter Ideas

It seems like most things these days, making something yourself is the best way to avoid toxic nasties. Easter is no different and so I’m excited to share some DIY projects inspired by the Dilly Dally Kids display window (for DIY Easter decorating), egg dying, and Easter egg hunt ideas that minimize waste and traditional Easter junk.

Let’s start with the display window ideas that got me excited to write this article. When it comes to the wonderful world of Pinterest and DIY I try hard not to take on projects that just aren’t obtainable. So when I saw pictures of this feather garland made by Dilly Dally Kids – I knew I wanted to photograph it, write about it and try it. Owners Tyler and Claire hung feathers to twine with clothespins – don’t you love the effect? I even collected a  few feathers from the beach with the kids so that a memory and real feathers could be included in this decoration.

Also displayed by DDK (Dilly Dally Kids) store owners are beautiful paper mache eggs. And for parents looking to minimize or eliminate purchasing more plastic eggs this year to hold treasures, paper mache eggs would be a great addition to an egg hunt. I found an easy DIY tutorial for this using hodgepodge & tissue paper via Pinterest. Here is the inspiration from DDK’s window and look how beautiful the paper mache eggs look nestled in gorgeous nests made from willow branches and a sprinkle of feathers. Imagine a forest walk to collect all of these treasures?  This is so inspiring to discover and decorate with pieces of nature gathered to create unique Easter decor!

Can we talk about Easter morning and one easy, Eco way to reduce plastic crap? Get your kids moving and working for their Easter treasures! The hunt my kids have loved over the last few years didn’t include little trinkets in each egg for the kids; rather a clue to where the next egg could be found. And at the end of the hunt my kids would find one sustainable gift from the Easter Bunny. Last year the kids found fishing rods and I think this year it will be tennis rackets. Anything that promotes keeping them active and playing outdoors I’m all in favour for. For the younger crowd that still delight in discovering toys – check out these adorable wooden bunnies & chicks from DDK. This line of wooden toys is from Europe, each one handmade and painted. You could create a nest similar to the one featured above (in mini form) and arrange these little friends for your sweeties to find.

Now that my sons are a little older (ages 9 and 10) the Easter Bunny sends them all over the neighborhood Easter morning. Pictures taken from a camera or handwritten clues leading kids from egg to egg to a figure in a neighbor’s garden, traffic sign, unique fence/door/garden decoration in the neighborhood is really fun and awesome for the kids. They go running from clue to clue – not thinking about chocolate or candy. They are on the hunt and using their mind, body, and energy to uncover each clue. This is the part of Easter my kids talk about every year and I love it. For my younger kids, the Easter Bunny sets up their hunt in a forest trail. It keeps them safe from traffic and the eggs are scattered along the forest floor and they also lead the kids to a more sustainable Easter gift rather than lots of little trinkets.

My last Easter tip is for parents that have the traditional egg dying craft with kids. With my new found love of using beets to dye icing, play dough, and to eat – I find it easy to dye using vegetables from my fridge. But one drawback to organic colours is sometimes they are not as bright or exciting as artificial. If you are looking for a kit to give you more of a colour spectrum, but still keep the process natural – check out these great egg dying kits! Lucky locals to Vancouver still have lots of time to stop by Dilly Dally Kids on Commercial Drive to pickup thoughtful selections of chocolate, toys, egg dye kits and totally adorable Easter books!

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