Play, the Natural Family Way

The value and significance of childhood play has been broadly documented. Once believed to be an activity of indulgence, play is now understood to be a vital component of a healthful childhood and a springboard for adaptive and positive functioning in adulthood. It promotes emotional and cognitive development, cultivates social skills such as conflict resolution and cooperation, and stokes creativity. In my social work education and career, I have even studied and observed the brilliant, skilled use of play as a means of therapy for children. Play is powerful stuff!

I’ve learned in my relatively short parenthood journey that it is ridiculously easy to get pulled in by the promise of “educational” toys, music, and DVDs. Our love and dedication as parents makes us vulnerable; we lovingly want to give our babes every possible advantage towards becoming well-thought, kind, creatures. Studies have revealed, though, that those blinging, singing educational toys actually fail to deliver on their marketed promises. And others now recognize what we as attached parents have always understood: the best, most influential toy your child can have is  you.

We’ve tried hard to stem the surge of those kinds of toys into our home. We don’t buy them. Usually these toys have been given us to as thoughtful, well-intentioned gifts, and we’re grateful that someone cares enough to think of our son in this way. We pull those toys out as a matter of exception, usually for specific circumstances (like, for example, a long road trip), and as we rotate one in we rotate another out.

We’ve visited the homes of friends where shelves bulge and erupt with toys, where even I feel a bit overstimulated by the bounty of bright, loud, plastic playthings. In our home we’ve deliberately chosen to limit not just the types of toys, but also the amount of toys present. I especially love this perspective on why having fewer toys actually benefits your children. (Really, if you click on only one link from this post, make it this one. It’s an insightful read. And if you are interested in ways to cull your current toy stockpile, here are some pointers.)

We focus, instead, on time spent and activities enjoyed together as a family. Play is darn fun and can serve to expend our little ones’ bottomless energy, but it can also be a delightfully effective way to enrich attachment. And, you know what? These kinds of activities are often free or awesomely inexpensive–just one more example of how natural parents are richer.

Taking walks is a huge hit for us right now. We live just blocks away from a sprawling park with towering old trees, winding walking paths, and a safe playground. We collect leaves, smell flowers, pet moss on tree trunks, wave to robins and count squirrels. We take our shoes off and kick balls in the grass. Nature is free and wild, and little ones benefit from time spent outdoors with their caregivers.

Looking for other ideas for easy, mostly inexpensive ways to play with your toddler? Here are some fun ideas. Or perhaps other nifty ways to get your nature on with your half-pint? Here is a good place to start.

What kinds of toys does your child dig the most? What kind of activities do you enjoy doing with your kiddos? Have any favorite resources for natural play?

Best play space Rhianna ever made for her 17-month-old son? Dedicating a whole kitchen cabinet to him and filling it with random inexpensive kitchen related items like egg cartons, empty spice containers, herbal tea boxes, wooden spoons, and play food. She lives in St. Louis and spends a good deal of time in Tower Grove Park, where her toddler enthusiastically gifts her with sweetgum balls, chunks of mulch, pebbles, and beheaded flowers.

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Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!
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Empty Nester

What do you think of when you hear Empty Nest?  For me I think of middle-aged couples converting the last kid’s room into a hobby room (and maybe having a resurgence of friskiness in celebration of their new aloneness?).

A few nights ago, with everyone else asleep, I found myself clicking around a custom bunk bed website.  Oh man they were awesome. I would have loved any of them as a kid- twins over queens, fulls over fulls, L-shaped, low ones with trundles, and loft beds over hideouts.

There’s really nothing weird about me fantasizing about furniture when I should be zonked. My husband and I bought our first home last April and my inner home decorating junkie has been jonesing to make this place shine.   But since we moved here with a 2-year-old and a 6-week-old, eh, the decopage headboards and any other overly ambitious DIY projects have had to wait.

Anyway, as I was imagining how I would arrange the coolness from this site in our home, I was struck by what that signified.  That some day soon I’ll be facing an Empty Nest of my own — no more children in my bedroom.  Wow.  Even writing that just now stirred up all sorts of fluttery stomach stuff.

Call it whatever you like–family bed, cosleeping, sleep sharing; for me this has been my favorite and simplest of the famous Baby Bs.  I definitely never planned it; we had a gorgeous nursery right across the hall like most expectant couples.  But from bassinet to twin and several funny iterations in between (I’ve heard this lovingly called “musical beds”) , this scenario has worked for our family, and I will mourn it when it ends.

I’m going to enjoy it for now.  My 14-month-old giggles in his sleep sometimes. I need to file that away for later. Some nights, when he is restless, he will throw an arm out, and when that fat fist makes contact with me I feel his whole body relax and his breathing slow.  My 3-year-old talks about his working Dad all day, and I know that having his bed pushed up beside  Dad at night reconnects them.  These days, and nights, are short.

Our relationships will evolve and change again and again.  Soon I will honor their nighttime needs in a different way by creating a new nest, a bedroom for them to share.  Perhaps I’ll let them choose some novelty sheets with Buzz Lightyear on them that do not in any way fit into my fantasy design aesthetic, and I’ll smile anyway.

Rebecca is a wife and mother living in a town brimming with to-die-for antiques and home decor… which she admires from the sidewalk while she wheels her enormous double stroller past. 

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Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!
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A Nursery Free Home

Our shared bedroom, 13 months later

The parental practices we follow in the West are merely cultural constructions that have little to do with what is “natural” for our babies.  (Adapted  from the introduction of “Our Babies, Ourselves” by Meredith Small)

When I first found out that I was pregnant, I shrieked with joy, cried, and mostly freaked out at how overwhelmingly life-changing that moment was. But it didn’t take long for my mind to shift gears and immediately focus on THE NURSERY. You know what I’m talking about, right? The perfect one on Pinterest or maybe Ohdeedoh, complete with a rocking chair, matching crib set, and totally trendy, but of course learning appropriate, art on the walls. Yes, indeed, the nesting hormones were kicking in, and I was ready to dive right in.

Without a doubt, nurseries are totally the norm in American culture but, from a biological standpoint, aren’t really necessary. Babies are not designed for solitary sleep, but rather thrive through constant connection from their mother. And holy mackerel, there are some majorly awesome benefits to co-sleeping or even room-sharing. Although I wasn’t quite sure about this whole co-sleeping thing, I knew I wanted my baby near.

To top it off, I had no idea that newborn babies prefer to nurse at least every two hours (and more like continuously for the first few weeks). And my husband, drawing on his background in communication sciences, encouraged me to reject any notion of the baby being capable of “independence,” but rather to respond quickly to her needs so that we might create a trusting, loving environment.

Suddenly, the separate nursery didn’t seem to be the necessity that I had originally thought. I realized that Baby and I would be together ALL. OF. THE. TIME. Did I really want to walk down the hall to a nursery? Family and friends would be visiting from out-of-state, and I anticipated really needing their help. Did I want to use our only extra bedroom (in a small apartment) as a nursery or leave it as a guest room for our visitors?

In the end,  it was a no brainer. We saved a lot of money by setting up a mini-nursery in our bedroom, and our daughter was always within arm’s reach. At 13 months, she still sleeps in our bedroom, albeit in a crib (although occasionally I convince her to cuddle with us, but she tends to prefer her own space. Sigh.) Our situation may not be the cultural norm in the U.S. (or even among any of our friends), but it feels right for us. And there are still times that I wish I had had the opportunity to welcome our daughter home to a beautiful nursery created just for her.

But when the time is right, I’ll dig back through all of the DREAM nursery photos patiently waiting on my computer desktop, and create the perfect bedroom for my newly independent little girl. But thankfully, not just yet.

Kate loves watching HGTV, planning for her dream home, and stealing cuddles from her  sweet little girl. Read more about her family’s adventures and dreams at Boomerang Mama.

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Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!

Sustainability in our home!

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This is what our one bag of garbage per week looks like.  Most weeks.  Unless it’s spring cleaning time, in which case all bets are off.

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And this is our trash can.  We once went a month and a half without putting it out at the curb, just to see how long it would take.  We ended up filling it up with carpet scraps after that month and a half, because a nesting soon-to-be-daddy named Ben suddenly decided that we needed to re-carpet our sunroom.  Haha.

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Now, this is a photo of our recycling bin after one week. Unfortunately, in our neighborhood, recycling is only picked up every other week.  Which means that we occasionally borrow our neighbor’s recycling bins and throw our stuff in.  This idea of non-sorted recycling is fairly new to Boise and we LOVE it.  Just throw everything into the bin and put it on the curb.  Simple.

Now, you may have noticed that we don’t have any cans in our recycling bin.  This is because we put them all in our garage!  Yes, we are soda junkies in this household.  Mostly Ben, but I will admit that I can’t say no to a good cream soda. I really need to do something about my diet, it’s just . . . so . . . difficult . . .

At any rate.  Keeping our cans in the garage is a new development here.  Apparently, we can sell them back? I’m not entirely certain about that one, but I do know that we are pretty tight on money in this house and any place we can pinch a penny, we do so.

These are the trash cans that we have in our kitchen.  We used to have the white one for recycling and the blue for trash, but we were emptying our recycling bin multiple times per day, so we gave up on that idea and just made them both into recycling bins.  Much better.  These get emptied about once a day, maybe every other day.

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These are our compost buckets.  We keep these on the counter next to the stove and empty them in our large, outdoor compost pit about once a week.  Unless something smelly is in there, but unless we’ve dumped fruit, it’s generally odorless.  Or at least enough so that we don’t notice it.  I am not including a photo of our compost pile outside because it’s mostly frozen at the moment (weird Idaho weather this year) and not very attractive looking.  So imagine a giant hole in the ground filled with the contents of those buckets.  And leaves.  Lots of mulched leaves. If Ben were writing this article, he would probably go into a lengthy explanation of carbon and nitrates.  All I know is that he says those words a lot and they have something to do with yard work and composting.  But we split duties like this, so if you want to know more, leave a comment and I’ll have him reply.

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This is the last photo of how we try to stay sustainable around the house.  We have two trash cans every place that there is a trash can around our house–one for recycling and one for trash. It works alright, though it certainly seems to confuse guests.  Oh well.  We aren’t that social, anyway.

So, this is how we stay sustainable.  Or at least try to.  But we have several areas that could use a lot of improving! Did you notice that the majority of our trash seems to be paper products?  We both would like to move toward family cloth (I guess that’s the term for replacing toilet paper, paper towels and napkins with cloth wipes/handkerchiefs) but it seems like such a daunting goal to undertake.

Do any of you use family cloth?  How do you explain this to house guests?

Also, you may have noticed the recycle can from my bathroom has sanitary napkin wrappers in it.  I debated a long time before posting this photo, but I decided that since the majority of our readers are mothers, a period is nothing to shy away from.  I am looking for a way to nudge my menstruation into the sustainable category as well, but dh thinks that cloth pads sound disgusting.  And I don’t know anybody who has ever used them.  Also, they seem to have a very high start-up cost, and (as I before mentioned) money is very tight around here. So I’m trying to come up with some other options.

I would love to hear any comments that you, our readers have!  How do you stay sustainable?  What is the majority of your waste? Let me know!

Find more from Geneva and her sustainable household at www.themommydialogues.com.

Are you my Mother (Role Model)?

I love the idea of a Role Model.  Do you have one? I especially love the Hollywood version-  usually elderly, kindly, brilliant and Morgan Freeman.

I admire the parenting of many people.  Like Caillou’s parents.  Holy cow, they are the most amazing Gentle Discipline cartoon characters ever. How do they remain so cool?  Actually there is this one where Rosie is teething and for a brief moment the Mom is about to lose her marbles  until Caillou volunteers to sing Rosie the worst lullaby in the world.  But that’s it.  Normally they redirect and employ playful parenting like champs.

They are drawings.

I toyed with the idea of homeschooling for about 1 minute a few months ago, and found myself salivating over these blogs where the Moms were slim, tan and hot, the children were straight out of a toothpaste commercial ,and the playrooms were centerfolds from Elle Decor.  I need to find  that cyborg Mom and get her to teach me everything.

So without further adieu, I am accepting resumes.

Qualifications to be my Role Model:
Look like an Ivory girl.
Sing and strum like Fraulein Maria.
Rock an Ergo on back, Moby on front. and heels.
Never raise your voice or hide from your kids in the bathroom or get mad when they grab your phone during an important Words w Friends power play.
Do projects like beading and felt boards (I really don’t know what these are).
Make amazing meals with nothing from the hot dog or nugget food group.

Your house:
Immaculate, cozy and inviting.
Smells like baking bread and not eau de diaper pail.
One can walk from front door to back door without stepping on a Cheerio, lego or matchbox.
Nothing from IKEA.

Your offspring:
Charming, well dressed, polite, clean, well rested children who love sharing, who eat only nutritious food, love brushing teeth, going to bed, wean themselves and are neither sticky nor stinky.

Oh and this is a volunteer job.  Because my role model should be mad altruistic.

Rebecca is the daughter of an Ivory Girl and loves IKEA.  Her children share so well that she is considering super yards for every room. 

Simple Green Giveaway

Anabella, loving her carob flavored yogurt

Are you ready for Spring Cleaning?

Does the thought of dusting off the windowsills make you run for cover or are you itching to bust out the rags and buckets?

Some people clean more when kids are on the scene. Some clean less. But it’s pretty certain we all clean differently.

I move between categories but usually camp out in “I think about cleaning more, but don’t actually do it.” I should probably give a little disclosure. For many years, I didn’t really clean much at all, because I was so afraid of all the toxic chemicals in modern cleaning supplies. I found a few “green” cleaners, but they didn’t work well. Finally, I learned to make my own, and had quite a bit of fun. The book The Naturally Clean Home: 150 Super-Easy Herbal Formulas for Green Cleaning was key in helping me find recipes that worked.

However, my days of making cleaning supplies have been put on hold while I chase Anabella around and work on The Other Baby Book. So what to do? I know most cleaners are poisonous if ingested, and can be dangerous if inhaled or touched. According to the U.S. Poison Control Center, toxic exposures from cleaning products accounted for 206,636 calls in 2005. More than half involved children under six.

Now that I have a mobile baby experimenting with throwing food on the floor and mashing it into her hair, it’s not exactly practical to ignore the mess.  Enter: Simple Green.

Simple Green’s website touts their Naturals line:

“Simple Green Naturals are 100% naturally derived, with ingredients originating from nature: chicory, coconut, corn, palm, naturally occurring minerals, salt and sugar, and water. Nothing else.”

We sampled the whole line, from floor to glass to bath. Things are now a little less sticky, and I don’t worry about Anabella touching even a clean surface, since none of the ingredients are toxic. When I spray one of their products, I appreciate that there is no nasty chemical or fake flowery scent. Even the bathroom cleaner smells like rosemary and mint. It takes just a few seconds to pump a few sprays of the cleaner in the tub, and I love knowing it’s not leaving any yucky residues that will linger when Anabella takes her bath!

Guess what – Simple Green has offered a complete line of Naturals Cleaners to one lucky Other Baby Book fan. You’ll get a bathroom cleaner, glass cleaner, hand soap, carpet care, multi-surface cleaner, dish washing liquid, and floor care. But you may want to think twice about entering. You’ll have no excuses not to clean if you win.

The rules:

Please remember to leave separate comments for each entry. There are a total of six possible entries.

1. The contest ends on Thursday, April 7th at 11:59pm.

2. Mandatory: Take a peek at Simple Green’s site and then leave a comment below with your least favorite place to clean.

3. One extra entry: “Like” us on Facebook and leave a comment below. (If you already like us, just let us know in a separate comment!)

4. One extra entry: Share this link as your Facebook status.

5. One extra entry: Follow us on Twitter, @otherbabybook and tweet this post.

6. One extra entry: Subscribe to The Other Baby Blog.

Happy Cleaning!

http://www.bloggiveawaydirectory.com/

What’s the Problem with Plastic?

Plastic has become public enemy #1 for new parents in recent years. Tupperware parties are a thing of the past, and BPA-free is the holy grail of baby items. But do you really know why so many are eschewing plastic? Without getting too technical, here are my reasons for saying no to plastic.

What’s in ’em. Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC, is a chemically unstable substance found in plastics with the recyclable symbol and #3 on them.  Phthalates, substances often added to plastics to make them more flexible, have been linked to a host of problems, including endocrine (hormone) disruption and obesity, and are especially dangerous to male reproductive growth. PVC and phthalates are cheap and versatile, so manufacturers use them in everything from furniture to shoes to credit cards. You know when you step into a car and get hit with that new car smell? Phthalates are responsible. It’s off-gassing of the materials within the car.

Bisphenol-A, or BPA, is a chemical used to make plastic. It’s durable, lightweight and heat-resistant. Because of this, you’ll find it in CDs, DVDs, cars, reusable food and drink containers, and as protective liners in metal food cans, such as tomatoes, beans, and fruit. BPA mimics estrogen in the body, which means it wreaks havoc on female reproductive systems, and has been linked to miscarriages, endometriosis, infertility, and breast cancer. The Center for Disease Control found BPA in 95% of adult urine, and 93% of children’s urine!

Environmental Repercussions
. Even if you buy PVC, phthalate, and BPA free, plastic is plastic. It doesn’t just disappear. It’s resistant to bacteria, so throwing it in a landfill will do nothing but…fill our land. Though recycling has been enjoying more favor recently, sorting, washing, and recycling plastic actually puts great stress on our resources. The Public Interest Research Group based in India, actually stated that recycling plastic was dirty, uneconomical and dangerous! Plastic can clog our sewage systems, and leak into rivers, streams, and the sea, contaminating our water supply and marine animals as well.

But plastic is everywhere
, you say! It’s true that it’s hard to avoid. Here are a few tips to help you move toward freedom from plastic.

1. Take stock. Where are you using the most plastic? Is it food containers? Baby toys? Packaging? If find you buy yogurt weekly, consider making your own in glass mason jars. All it takes is a spoonful of premade yogurt, some milk, and time! You don’t even need a yogurt maker – just leave the yogurt in your oven with the pilot light on overnight.

2. Baby steps. Can you buy in bulk and bring your own paper bags, instead of grabbing plastic tubs of rice, grains, or dried fruit? Could you bring your own canvas bags to the grocery store? (Make sure you leave them in your car or you may forget them.) Maybe you need to buy some stainless steel water bottles instead of hitting up the vending machine for your Poland Springs. Don’t be overwhelmed with a plastic overhaul. Take it one choice at a time.

3. Be creative. Think you can’t do anything about the shampoo bottles? Consider shampoo bars. Rose of Sharon Acres sells some great ones, but you may be able to find them at your local health food store too. What about cleaning supplies? Do you really need a dedicated counter top spray, mirror spray, bathroom spray, etc? Probably not. A box of baking soda , a glass container of vinegar, and some essential oils will likely do the trick for even the toughest jobs. The Naturally Clean Home: 150 Super-Easy Herbal Formulas for Green Cleaning is my favorite resource!

4. Buy used. Local thrift stores, eBay, and Craigslist likely have great alternatives for a fraction of the price.

Again, go easy on yourself. Does your baby have a bag full of plastic toys? Maybe you keep them for rainy days, or a long car trip. Do you store all your food in plastic containers? Try using the containers as jars for mixing baking soda and vinegar, or other cleaning concoctions while you slowly build up your glass container collection. While the dangers of plastic are numerous, becoming obsessed with ridding your life of plastic is equally as toxic!

What are your tips for life without plastic?