Friday, March 28, 2008

In your mouth

I will say that the enormous list of toy recalls in 2007 was a big wake up call. I did not question the safety of the products on shelves of the stores. I wish I had the awareness of natural, safer alternative products, when my little one was born. At that time, I thought keeping small parts out of my little one's hands was my only concern. How far from the truth could I have been?

Thankfully, my awareness has grown and I am integrating safer products into my household that are better for our bodies and our world- organic foods, eco-friendly cleaning products (white vinegar, baking soda, lemon, surprisingly it is that simple), participating in recycling and reducing our consumption. I feel that we are off to a good start and there is much more to discover and uncover. Here are a few things that caught my attention.

California has banned chemicals called phthalates in children's products. Phthalates are commonly found in nail polishes, adhesives, caulk, paint pigments, sex toys, teething rings and baby care products (shampoo, talc, and lotion). Oh, just so you know, there is a warning on the sex toy packages that advises consumers to cover the sex toy with a condom when used internally, due to possible health risks (of the chemicals in the toys). I do not remember seeing a warning on my little one's plastic teething rings. Phthalates are linked to cancer and reproductive defects.

Plastic is pure chemicals, plain and simple. 

Natural wooden teething rattles and first toys, shown here from Camden Rose and North Star Toys are safe and aesthetically beautiful . Camden Rose also has wooden bowls and spoons. Remember to seal your wood items with natural, food safe beeswax.

bisphenol A
Envinonment California found leaching of bisphenol A (BPA) in Avent, Dr.Brown, Evenflo, Gerber, and Playtex  bottles. BPA has become controversial because it is linked to breast and prostate cancer and neurobehavioral  changes in the offspring exposed in the womb. Parents are choosing alternatives such as: glass bottles, stainless steal sippy cups, and BPA-free plastic bottles. Z Recommends sorts through the baby bottles and sippy cups. They recommend bottles by Born Free, MAM, and Adiri, breast pumps and supplies by Medela and Mother's Milkmate, and sippy cups by Born Free, Klean Kanteen, Thermos, and SIGG. See their chart below

Health & Beauty products update: We use a mixture of 1 T baking soda + 2 T water for our shampoo. My little one also has ultra sensitive skin and for years we struggled with this, until I discovered olive oil soap. 

My last comment really touches on getting the power in back in our hands. I never thought that products to me sold could and would be unsafe, full of chemicals, toxins, lead and/or carcinogens. Think twice before you decide where to spend your money.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

CT Flower Show

I lost a post along the way regarding the CT Flower Show and the wonderfully inspiring things that we discovered. I absolutely loves this river stone wall and the lighting accepts on the White Birches. A little bit of understated formality. One amazing part of the show was a gnome garden. It incorporated a branch play house topped with hens and chicks on the roof. It was really magical and my little one asked for one. I love the varieties of hens and chicks offered at White Flower Farm, pictured below. 

If you like succulents, you might like Simply Succulents. They have some
interesting garden accents that are sure to draw some attention and conversation.


At the show, the Connecticut Horticulture Society inspired my sense of smell with pineapple sage and a few other varieties. They had a branch gate which added a rustic touch and a wood fence with birdhouse detail. Very fun, especially, for children. It reminds me very much of elements in the Natural Playground that allow children to experience the play environment with all their senses. We have some lavender, russian sage, and lamb's ear in our garden, which has been great to draw my little one into exploring and discovering. I am excited to add more sensory plants and other elements from the Natural Playground, this year.  

I purchased a few window bud vases with attached suction cups. These are a hit. I have put them on low windows and my little one's mirror to bring some beauty closer to her. They can be purchased here at Glass Roots

Birthday planning

My little ones Birthday is coming up, in a month, and I have begun thinking about ways to celebrate in a simple but memorable way. Here's her picture with Daddy from last year's party. I was thinking about a party at a local nature center, but we have 7 little ones that we need to think about, and the nature centers have a time limit. I will probably have it over my Mother's house, so we could celebrate around nap schedules. 

Now, for some activities for 4 year olds and then the younger children. Any suggestions? I was thinking of activities that I could have out, like a ball toss with beach buckets and balls, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, soccer balls and net, and a croquet set. I will probably bring out the little sandbox for the little ones and her play tent and tunnel. 

We do have some remarkably colorful sea shells that were brought back from my Grandmother from Sanabell Island. Maybe we could have a treasure hunt and the children could fill up plastic bottles with the shells and sand, like a peek-a-boo bottle. This could also serve as their parting gift. 

While, I am trying to keep things healthier, I need to keep things easier for myself, so I will be ordering pizza or maybe large grinders. After a few years of cooking for the party, I was too hectic to enjoy friends and family. I will offer some health snacks, like fresh fruit, tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole, a garden salad, and veggies with hummus. 

As for school, I would like to avoid the sweets and commercialized trinkets. I found some great ideas on who suggests:
fruit skewers
cupcakes with homemade whipped frosting
large stawberries
popcorn in festive bags
pineapple boats
soft pretzels
small wooden toys, rocks, shells

I had these thoughts:
homemade muffins
bowl of mixed berries
trail mix
packets of flower seeds (I did these last year and the parents had such a positive response to them)
flower in a flower pot or a vegetable plant
watercolors or paints and a paint brush
ribbon wands
wool jingle balls

Another Secret Hideout

My little one loves to hide and have her own space. Outside, she loves her secret hideout that our overgrown Peegee hydrangeas create. Inside, she likes to read in her bedroom for an hour or so with the door closed. She, also, likes to build a "cocoon" with blankets and couch pillows. While this is a fun time and turns into an hour or so of play, I thought it be nice to offer her another play area that is easily accessible. I found a wonderful canopy silk at Daisy Hill Silks on ebay that I draped over the opening on her playstands, to cover the entry way. The vibrant colors of the Field & Sky silk are a beautiful addition to her play area.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A reason to sing with children

From the first lullabies to calm my little one to the songs that she now makes up about her experiences, I have seen the wonderful gifts singing has offered. Not only is it fun and an amazing opportunity to play and share with your little one, it offers so much more. Research shows that rhythm, rhyme, and repetition are important in the development of the brain. The brain needs stimulation through multi-sensory stimulation. Music offers stimulation, as does, dancing, singing, clapping, and toe tapping. Repeating these experiences over and over again is important, as the brain is storing information and memories that will be the foundation for future learning.

- Lead by example, sing along and have fun
- Incorporate finger play and lap rides
- Add simple instruments, like maracas and rhythm sticks
- Add free movement
- Add clapping, stomping, hopping, galloping
- Vary high and low sounds, quick and slow movements
- Make up songs about daily activities and experiences, like dogs barking, birds chirping, and car horns beeping
- Experience sounds, like blowing on a wind chime, banging on a pot, crinkling dried leaves


Easter, a transition in my house from the candy filled baskets to the celebration of new life. Our celebration started weeks before the holiday. We went on nature walks and discovered nature emerge from hibernation - crocuses blooming, moss growing, a few ants enjoying an orange, robins returning, and pussy willows budding. We discovered the wind, as we have been invited to play with our streamers and pinwheels, blow bubbles, and listen to our wind chimes. We played in the puddles, dug for worms and jumped into a little stream. We brought nature in by creating a garden dish with the moss and planting some clover, forget-me-nots and basil. We visited some bunnies and experienced maple syrup being made. We made songs up about bunnies, spring, and jumping in the stream. As Easter grew near, we searched for bunny tracks, painted wooden Easter eggs, and planned to naturally dye our Easter eggs. 

Easter, also, brought, it's share of frustration, as I struggle with what I want for my little one and what I had as a child. Moving past the more is better syndrome and the commercialism of the holiday. I am met with resistance from family members. Come on folks, the holiday is not about overfilling the baskets with candy and it isn't about giving the child a belly ache. 

I want my daughter's mind, body and soul to be nurtured. I want the holiday to be remembered for sharing it with loved ones. I want to reestablish the magic and wonder of the holiday ... and of life. 

We continue our discoveries as we go on nature walks and notice flowers and life emerging around us. We watch the sparrows, who are building a home in our bird house. We examine nesting materials of a found bird house. We create opportunities for our little one to be a participant in nature, as we fill the bird feeders with seeds, put water in the bird bath, and nurture vegetables and flowers from seed. We create the opportunities that will allow her mind, body, and spirit to blossom. 

Now, with her basket empty and the distraction of candy gone, her pot of daffodils remains. She cares for the little daffodils, waters them, counts the flowers, examines the cup of the flower, discovers the specks of pollen, feels the smooth leaves, and discovers new flowers blooming. Candy verses daffodil bulbs, it is not even a close race. 

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Coloring Books & Easter Eggs

Where to begin. Coloring books - Are they good for your children? From what I have read in my early childhood development books, everyone advises against coloring books. Coloring books do not seem that bad on the surface, but underneath it all they can effect children negatively. Taken from Art for the Fun of it, by Peggy Davison Jerkeins.
Coloring books provide:
- Loss of creativeness
- No stimulation of the imagination
- Detrimental effect upon children's self-confidence and independent thinking
- Deprives children of individual expression
- No emotional release
- Frustration
- Offers no feeling of achievement or pride 
- Promotes doing without thinking
- Offer no practice in the decision making, other than color

Please offer your child a plain piece of paper and a NON-TOXIC crayon, marker, or pencil instead of coloring books. 

Art should be fun. Let them experience different material. Just a few thoughts:
- Draw with berries 
- Paint with natural objects such as twigs, branches, acorns, indian corn 
- Paint with different textures- cotton balls, yarn, feathers, sponges, tin foil balls
- Make a mud pie painting
- Create rubbings from found nature objects, twigs, rocks, leaves, branches, shells
- Decorate a "secret" shipping box "hideout" or a "fairy" shoe box "house"
- Make playclay. Combine 4 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 3/4 cups warm water. Then, knead for 5 minutes.
- Make soup bubble sculptures
- Make picture from rocks, pebbles, beans, and/or seeds

As a parent, I would say to stay flexible. Observe and hold back from adding to their art or putting restrictions of them. Let the projects unfold as it may and be without an expectation of how the finished project should be. Let them experiment, have fun, get messy, and create their own piece of art. In our house, we have "painting clothes", which makes getting messy worry-free. We, also, have our little one help with the cleaning-up. 

At Easter time we color eggs
Shades of yellow, red and blue
We make them pretty as can be
We'll make some for you and some for me

Easter is tomorrow and this morning we colored our eggs in our jammies. We naturally dyed our Easter eggs with brown eggs, which did not have much of effect. The process was fun and my little one enjoyed herself. Isn't that the important part? To enjoy the moment as it is. Afterwards, we used the dyes to paint napkins. 

For dye we tried:
Greenish Yellow- boiled carrot tops
Red- fresh beets
Red- boiled red zinger tea
Blue- boiled red cabbage
Yellow- boiled yellow onion skins

Have a wonderful Easter!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Filling up the Easter Basket

We had some outside time today. Our porch had some great sun and shelter from the wind, which was the perfect spot to plant our basil seeds. This year, we will try growing sweet basil and lemon basil. I can not wait to make pesto, one of our favorite summertime meals. By the time we came inside, the lemon basil seeds were already germinating. How about that? 

The clover seedlings are growing great. They were very quick to grow which makes it fun for the little ones. Everyday, we have discovered growth and found much to talk about. The forget-me-nots have just begun to sprout out of their casings. They are in the smallest terra cotta pot that dries out very quickly. We are going to move them into a bigger pot later on today. 

I'll be finishing up some needle felted animals for my little ones Easter basket. Our dog, Bernie, loves wool, so I am not sure how long these will last. I was hoping to make a butterfly mobile after being inspired by this one by nature child. But, I will need some more time and supplies. I think my little one will be fine with what I have but I would like the felted animals to have more impact than the candy. Not sure if this will be possible. Just in case, I will felt a few more little chicks for the easter egg hunt, in addition to the little chick in the egg and the spotted hen.

To make the little chick in the egg, I started out by taping a plastic egg, so it would not open during wet felting. Then, I wrapped thin layers of wool over the egg, in alternating directions, until the egg was covered. Hold the egg tightly in your hand and sprinkle little drops of hot soapy water over wool. Keep egg tight in your hand and gently squeeze. Gradually, squeeze with more pressure until the wool fibers start to stick together. Then, I wet felted a few more layers. Lastly, I cut an opening in the egg and smooth out the edges (I would cut the opening a little smaller, as the opening will expand when you wet felt it some more. Then, let it dry for a day or so before you remove the egg. (I wet felted the edges after taking out the egg which gave me more of a bowl) 

Green wool is a wonderful basket filler. You could also sprout some wheat grass or use shredded paper. Happy easter.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Digging for worms

We were digging for worms today. Last year when we had the fence installed, we had all the excess dirt put into a little hill. Well, this is what remains. Half-a-hill. The hill was quite popular (and still is) and became a great spot for playing on and digging. My husband was hoping to successful grow grass on the hill this year. But, with the digging it does not seem that this is going to be likely. Yes, I see that we need a place for my little one to dig freely. A place that I will have no other expectations for. 

We have flowers starting to sprout up in the garden. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Potential of a Puddle

I have been exploring and they have an incredible resource page, full of links to interesting websites. Today, I am so inspired by MindStretchers. The text I share come directly from their website.

Nature is an incredible thing, for children and adults alike. The same garden is changing all the time, each day brings a new wonderment or something to marvel at. Nature can be a windowbox, a tub or a garden. Take the time to notice subtle magic going on around us everyday.

- Create a looking window which can be made out of a plain card with a small window cut into the middle of it. These little viewing windows focus children on the small sections of plants, bark, feathers so they see the detail

-Create "looking glasses" to encourage them to look at flowers, grass, logs from 10cm away

- Have a space for children in the garden where they are free to "get in a puddle". A space where they can dig freely, crete mud pies and feel nature around them.

Garden design from a child's angel would include a variety of features that may not appear obvious to adults but have been proven to inspire children
  • Holes shaped through fences, walls, and hedges to peep into the next space/area of the garden
  • Low level borders so that they can see eye to eye with the flower heads
  • Tunnels of Hazel or Dogwoog to feel the sides as they run through
  • Dens made of Willow tied to make a dome so they can hide and then look out on a garden around them
  • Settling places that are enclosed so they can sit and watch away from the immediate gaze of an adult. Surrounded by things to stimulate their senses such as a broom to listen to, twisted willow to touch, honeysuckle to smell, and Lawn Camomile to walk on
  • Bug homes to set up a real diversity to life, from snails to ladybugs
  • Plants that offer the unexpected. Acquilga with its delicate flowers and ratty seed pods. Sunflowers with their incredible growth rate, Chocolate cosmos with its unusual smell
The wonder and joy children show about the world around them is truly inspiring. To a young child everything in your garden has a huge amount of potential, whether it is a pile of autumn leaves, a muddy puddle or some old rose petals. As adults we look at a pile of leaves and we think of clearing and preparing, when a young child sees them they see the opportunity to sing and dance in a shower of leaves. We see puddles as poor drainage, they see it as a place to splash and make a home of sticks and stones for a couple of plastic frogs. We see old rose petals and think about dead heading, they see them and leap at the chance to make some pungent rose petal perfume to sell in a shop made of an old bit of wood and a couple of bricks.

Children display a range of talents or intelligences, that affect the way they play and learn. One child may love to plant lobelia and marigolds in rows, another will spread them out in a random fashion in a way they like. Not only does the brain have dominant aspects it also needs sensory stimulation. Life for some children has become too sophisticated too soon. Making petal perfume and mud pies helps them to learn about all areas of knowledge for example when you consider science they will explore consistency, capacity, absorption, scent, and decay.

So the message from all of this is simply give them a bit of space. Perhaps there is an area of the garden that they can dig over and over and never really grow anything, or a puddle that could be developed with a few large stones.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Quinoa - the supergrain

They say Quinoa is a "supergrain." It is highly nutritious- high in protein, includes all the essential amino acids. They mentioned to use it like rice and even in breakfast and baked goods. I thought it might be worth a try. We found it very mild, fluffy and light. It was great in our black bean soup, adding thickness and texture.  

We, also, picked up a bunch of new baking items. I have been baking a batch of muffins every week and have found some ways of packing beneficial items into our muffins without anyone knowing - flax seeds, oats, canola oil, wheat germ, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Of course, not all at the same time. I will be trying ground up quinoa in the muffins this weekend. 

My little one is enjoying on munching on raw sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Now, if only my husband can acquire a taste for them. They take some getting used to.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Natural Playgrounds

Two years ago, my husband and I were considering a swing set for our little one. We have such a small yard, so it would be crucial to find the right one that left us some area to run around in. I was so overwhelmed by all the features and choices.

That year, we held off on the swing set and put in a fence to keep our little one away from the street and secure in our yard. Throughout the summer, I took notice at what our little one enjoyed doing - digging, planting, gardening, watering our vegetable plants, jumping on our stepping stones, playing in puddles, climbing and hiding in our overgrown Pee Gee Hydrangea bushes, playing on the little hill in our yard, investigating all the insects, gathering sticks, and organizing our stone border.

Clearly, we did not need a swing set.

I started searching the internet for natural play and discovered Natural Playgrounds. The company designs natural playscapes and natural play environments.

My husband and I would like to incorporate a few natural features in our yard that will enrich our little ones play area. Here our a few ideas I found on their website:

trees, shrubs, shade trees, tree canopy, fruit trees, flowers, raised bed gardens, vegetable garden, a misting trellis, moss garden, wild flower gardens, butterfly gardens

flowing stream, pond, waterfall, water fountains, flowing water, mud banks, water hole, water play area, rain garden

Mud, sand play area, dirt digging area

sitting area, sitting wall, sitting boulders, sitting rocks, tree benches, rock benches, wooden benches, stone walls covered with moss

open fields

forts, a tree house

wildlife, ducks, insects

stone fences, willow fences, wood fences

textures walkways, wood trails, winding paths, dry creek, bridge, tunnel

sledding hill, embankment slide, rock climbing area, fitness path, post climb, rope climb, tree climbs, arbor swings, balance beam, natural rock piles for climbing

old-fashioned porch swing, arbor, willow tunnels entrance, arbor entrance, amphitheater, stage, zen garden, fairy village, a labyrinth, sun catcher, collection tables, sensory boxes, art wall

It is wonderful to create an area for your little one to explore with their senses.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fun with bubbles

Bubbles were flying all over our yard today. We have a bubble machine which my little one filled up. I am surprised I captured a picture of the bubble being blown. 

Bubbles in the air, in the air
Bubbles way up high in the sky 

Spring has sprung

I almost forgot to mention that my little one picked a bouquet of crocuses at Great Grandma's house. The first sign of spring.

I have yet to have crocuses in my yard, but I have been eyeing the variety, Vanguard. They are the first item of my fall planting list. Yes, I have already started it. White Flower Farm and Old House Gardens are great sources for heirloom flowers. The picture above is from the Old House Gardens' website.

This morning, we discovered sparrows busy at work, building their nest.
Below the bird house, there are pieces of long grass and twigs of arborvitae that did not fit.

Last year, we purchased two of these birdhouses from Hearth Song. I thought it would be a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of this amazing miracle of life. Of course, we would have to be ever so careful not to disturb the family in any way.

I like the window bird feeder, as well. I am just not fond of the seed shells and seedlings on top of my mulch.

Our pussy willows are enjoying the sunny window and are sprouting pollen. I find the shadow really interesting.

Pussy Willow
I know a pussy willow
Her fur is pearly gray
She lives down in the meadow
Not very far away
She'll always be a pussy
She'll never be a cat
For she's a pussy willow
Now what do you think of that?

Monday, March 10, 2008

To Great Grandmother's house we go

I have many fond memories with my grandparents. I am very happy that my little one is having the opportunity to spend time with her Great Grandmother. Activities at my Grandmother and my Grandfather centered around the yard and garden. They still do today, as well. 

We helped Great Grandmother with some spring clean-up and found lots of treasures along the way. The most interesting was some sap from her weeping cherry tree. The amber just sparkled in the sunlight. 

I should have taken a picture of Great Grandma. I am not sure she would have wanted me to because she had a few rollers in her hair. When, I was little she would go to the store with her head full of rollers. Whether it is a few rollers or an entire head full of rollers, the rollers come out every Monday. 

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Maple Syrup

Yesterday, we enjoyed a little trip to a local sugar house. The pure maple syrup was delightful and even better today, on french toast. It was nice to share the trip with some good friends, too. 

Interesting facts:

- It takes 30 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup

- Native Americans made maple sugar. They put sap in hollowed out maple tree trunks and used hot rocks to heat up the sap, bypassing the syrup stage, and producing maple sugar. 

Sorry no pictures. The sugar house was so hot that snapping a pic did not even cross my mind. 

We're off to enjoy the outdoors.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Jumping in

Today, we went exploring in the park. We discovered holes in a tree left by woodpeckers. 

My little one loves to sing and make up her own songs. I love the highs and lows she brings to her song. It makes my heart smile. Her new song goes:

I jumped over the river
I jumped over the stream
I slipped in and daddy pulled me out

Looks like a jump to me, what do you think?

Inspirational Arrangements

I came across this blog a while ago and I absolutely love the arrangements. They are stunning - sophisticated palettes, marvelous textures and touches of whimsy.

I am off to buy some plants and cut flowers for the house with my little one.

Isn't this table beautiful. I love it!!! 


Blog Widget by LinkWithin