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Preschool Play At Home

I’ve often said that if I spent everyday at my childrens’ preschool, I’d be writing daily for Mommy Footprint. The inspiration and wonderful ideas that come from this play-based, magical school have been a wonderful experience for my family over the last 6 years. Two of my favorite ideas that come from preschool have been around forever, but since I setup both in my house last week, I’m reminded just what great ideas they are from the amount of time all of my kids spend playing with them. And both are very low cost to setup!

Wooden Stump & Nails

Ever drive by a house that has cut down a tree and is offering the stumps/logs for free?  Well next time, stop and pick one up because your children will love to hammer nails into the stump. Both my boys and daughters have loved this activity at preschool and we’ve recently picked up a stump and ball pein hammer that I picked up at my local hardware store. The ball pein hammer is normally smaller, lighter and has a ball and opposite flat face..much easier for small children. And by small children I mean 3 years olds and up. They are more than able at that age to hammer nails into wood and the stumps help the nails slide in so easily!  It will keep them busy for hours and teach them great motor skills. You can teach children to hammer thin pieces of wood to attach to the stump or even cardboard once they get bored of just hammering nails. Also, pickup nails of all sizes to further encourage fine motor skill development.

If you are nervous and think your toddler or child is too young to use real nails,  find golf tees and left over Styrofoam packing from large appliances. Using the ball pein hammer, kids can hammer golf tees into the packing material and you don’t have to worry about them using real nails.

Sand Table

It’s a standard in any preschool and there’s a good reason why – sand tables are wonderful. When I received my package of safe sand from Santastik, I knew what I was going to use it for….creating an indoor sand table. The sand is amazing and kids love to play with it. We added some animals, scoops, cups, and the sand into a long flat plastic container and all my kids have enjoyed playing with it. I just put the container on top of their play table and voila…they are all very happy. And unlike the bean table I set up years ago (my husband still curses that idea), the sand table is very easy to clean up. Yes, kids get excited and throw the sand around, but the Sandtastik sand is super easy to vacuum so the mess is a non-issue. To find out why I’m recommending the Sandtastik brand of play sand – check out this article. This sand is made without carcinogens or asbestos which might be found in other brands of sand.

I love my kid’s preschool. We’ve been there 6 consecutive years because of the close ages of our 4 children and although I’m very sad this time is coming to an end this Spring, I’m grateful for the many lessons the teachers have taught me.   A parent participation/play based preschool will not only bring your children great memories – but you’ll be surprised how much as parents you will learn.

Related Articles:

Finding Non-Toxic Sand For Kid’s Sandbox

The Perfect Home Made Play Dough Recipe!

Walnut Boats Made By Joel – Great Craft!

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Stinky? Home-made Natural Deodorant Recipe Can Help

A few years ago I read something that prompted me to stop using deodorant. It was a quick little post from a mom on a website that she stopped using deodorant when breastfeeding because the thought of chemicals entering her body in the area where her baby was nursing made her uncomfortable. Since at the time I was tandem nursing twins ~ I felt the power of that statement and decided to go ‘au natural’! There of course, are also the rampant rumors of the connection between underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the link to breast cancer.  As I’m not a scientist, I checked with the National Cancer Institute’s website and they go on the record saying they haven’t received conclusive evidence of this fact.  Although they do point out an interesting fact about what scientists do know about the ingredients in deodorants and antiperspirants. Here is the quote about aluminum-based compounds and parabans:

Aluminum-based compounds are used as the active ingredient in antiperspirants. These compounds form a temporary plug within the sweat duct that stops the flow of sweat to the skin’s surface. Some research suggests that aluminum-based compounds, which are applied frequently and left on the skin near the breast, may be absorbed by the skin and cause estrogen-like (hormonal) effects. Because estrogen has the ability to promote the growth of breast cancer cells, some scientists have suggested that the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may contribute to the development of breast cancer. Some research has focused on parabens, which are preservatives used in some deodorants and antiperspirants that have been shown to mimic the activity of estrogen in the body’s cells.

So – although I’m no longer breast feeding, I’ve continued my journey in life not wearing deodorant. I have never tried an all-natural deodorant before; partially because nobody I know has been able to recommend a brand that actually works and until lately I didn’t think I needed any help. However in the last few months I think my body chemistry has changed and regulated to the fact I’m not using anything and I find myself needing some help. Particularly on the days I’m running around like a mad-woman with 4 kids in tow. No wonder I’m sweaty and stinky!

But being a creature set in my ways..I refused to go back to traditional deodorant. I’ve simply become wary of any mainstream beauty products. So I put out my question to the many people I connect with via Twitter and my answer came from Tanya @islandregency. She has been using the recipe from Passionate Homemaking. I finally tried the recipe with a few tweaks thanks to the comments on the recipe and Tanya’s agreement on the modifications ~ I’m very happy with the results. I can use this homemade deodorant and it not only lasts until I take a bath and wash it away, but it stops any underarm odor. I had my husband try it too since I’d like him to be a little more chemical sensitive, but he thinks it wore off by the end of the day for him. I can only speak for myself and since I found out the hard way after using his deodorant when we attended a Christmas party with dancing..that his does not work on me. So maybe the case can be made that women and men sweat and react to deodorants differently. I thought that women’s antiperspirants were rumored to be more toxic anyway with the aluminum agent so I encourage all my Mommy Footrprint readers to give this recipe a try! Thank you to Passionate Homemaking for posting and Tanya for sharing!

Ingredients:

5-6 Tbsp Coconut oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch

Combine equal portions of baking soda & arrowroot powder. Then slowly add coconut oil and work it in with a spoon until it maintains the substance you desire. The modifications to this recipe that Tanya suggested (and that I followed) are using 1/8 cup baking soda and 1/4 + 2 tbsp cornstarch instead of the half and half ratio that’s called for in the recipe. I keep the ball of deodorant in a sealed jar, wrapped in parchment paper so I don’t get my hands sticky when applying. Also, when it got a little melted in texture from our hot bathroom, I put it in the fridge to harden for a few hours.

As a side note to this article, a very cool tip was offered from Crystal Di Domizio via the Mommy Footprint facebook fan page. Crystal is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Prenatal Wellness Coach and Birth Doula and wrote an article about the many benefits of coconut oil. I had no idea that cooking with unrefined coconut oil is much healthier than olive oil. Crystal pointed out that olive oil should be used in low temperature recipes (salad dressings, etc.) and coconut oil is great to cook with because it doesn’t become damaged with heat. She wrote a great article that I’d like to share about coconut oil. I’ve since been using my coconut oil to cook with and it’s much kinder to the ‘sticking’ on my stainless steel pans than olive oil and you cannot taste a difference. Thank you for posting Crystal!

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Top Organic Sunscreens for 2010 & Tips For Purchasing

Please note: In May 2010 the EWG strengthened their safe sunscreen requirements so the top list has now changed in the EWG sunscreen database. To read more on these new recommendations, please read the latest Mommy Footprint article called EWG Sunscreen Guide & Surprising Truths Parents Need To Read.

Drum roll please.  Every year we excitedly wait to see the results for top organic sunscreens recommended by EWG (Environmental Working Group).  I’ve listed the top 5 results below and asked Gwen, owner of Nayla Natural Care to put together some sunscreen tips for Mommy Footprint readers. Her online store is carrying 3 of the top 5 brands recommended by EWG which shows Gwen’s depth for sourcing great products.  Check out the Badger Sunscreen, SPF 30 and the new Thinkbaby and Thinksport SPF 30+.  Nayla Natural Care has kindly offered a prize pack of Badger products to kickoff our series of safer sunscreen (more information on the contest at end of this article).

Top 5 Beach & Sport Sunscreens EWG – Skin Deep

1. Loving Naturals Sunscreen 30+ SPF

2. Heiko Kids 40 SPF

3. Thinkbaby and Thinksport Thinkbaby Sunscreen SPF 30+

4. Badger Sunscreen SPF 30

5. Trukid Sunny Days Facestick Mineral Sunscreen UVA/UVB Broad Spectrum, SPF 30+

I link to the online store Nayla frequently because I trust Gwen’s excellent product knowledge and customer service. I’d like to thank Gwen for taking the time to write these awesome sunscreen tips – I learned a lot from her article.  I especially love the handy SPF calculator!

Tips for Purchasing Sunscreen, by Gwen Leron

It is that time of year again, when we all start to look at purchasing sun block/screen for the upcoming sunny days of summer. With all of the products on the market and the abundance of information out there, Suzanne and I thought it would be a great idea to lay out all of the things you need to know before purchasing a sun block/screen for your family.

This is Part 1 of what we have put together and here, we will present the basics on sun block/screen, and the terms you should know.

What is SPF? SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The most common SPF factors are 15, 30 and 45. The SPF tells you approximately how long your sun block/screen will protect you from the sun. For example, if you normally burn after 10 minutes in the sun, multiply 10 minutes by the SPF. Therefore, an SPF15 will protect you for 150 minutes (2 hours 30 minutes) before you have to re-apply. It is important not to go exactly by the SPF calculation though. Sweating, clothing rubbing against the skin and water can all reduce the “safe time” so it is always a good idea to re-apply well before the calculated SPF time. A good rule is to apply once every hour.

What is the difference between sunscreen and sun block?

A chemical based sunscreen is known as a chemical block. These types of sunscreens do not leave a white film on the skin and rub in as a regular lotion would. The chemicals in these sunscreens filter sunlight and reduce the ultraviolet penetration to the skin. Chemical sunscreens usually contain chemical preservatives such as parabens to lengthen shelf life. It is a good idea to stay away from chemical ingredients and preservatives because they easily absorb into the skin and can cause a multitude of problems.

A sun block that is not chemical based is known as a physical block. These types of blocks contain an active natural mineral ingredient, either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. After applying, the sun block physically blocks the ultraviolet penetration to the skin and do not use any chemicals to do so. Physical blocks usually leave a whitish tinge to the skin after application and contain natural preservatives that in turn give them a shorter shelf life than their chemical based equivalents. To combat the unappealing look of the “white sunscreen” sitting on the skin, some companies turn to nano-particles in sunscreen, which we will discuss in Part 2.

What is broad spectrum? A sun block/screen is broad spectrum if it protects against Ultraviolet-A (UVA) and Ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays. UVA and UVB rays together cause skin cancer, premature aging, sunburn and more, so always be sure that the sun block/screen you choose is labeled broad spectrum.

Note: The sun also emits Ultraviolet-C (UVC) rays but they are of little concern because the majority of UVC rays are filtered by the earth’s ozone layer before it reaches us (a little bit more incentive to protect the environment).

What is the difference between water resistant and waterproof?

Water resistant means that that the sun block/screen will retain its SPF after 40 minutes of any type of moisture exposure. Keep in mind that water exposure also includes sweating.

Waterproof means that the product will retain its SPF after 80 minutes of water exposure.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series. We will dive a bit deeper into the more technical terms that you may come across when trying to decipher sun block/screen ingredients.

If you would like to enter the Badger sunscreen contest, click onto the Nayla Natural Care site, pick your favorite product, then post that product to the Mommy Footprint fan page. The lucky winner will receive a bottle of 2.9oz of Badger SPF 30 sunscreen. If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can use our traditional method of entering a contest by using our referral form. This contest is open to all residents in North America and will close on April 17th. This prize package includes 1 Badger SPF 30 sunscreen, Badger SPF 15 lip balm, and Badger Bali Balm after sun care.

badger sunscreen SPF 30+

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