How to Host a Green Birthday Party

by Tiffany in Children

Eco Friendly Birthday PartyIf you want to hold a green birthday party and skip the plastics, cellophane and, all those snacks full of preservatives, you’ve come to the right place! There are many exciting ways to hold a green birthday party that your child and their friends will enjoy. They have fun and you have peace of mind knowing that your child’s birthday isn’t leaving an everlasting footprint on our planet.

Many parents realize to late the drawbacks of the conventional party system… spending too much money for a few hours of fun, kids hopped up on sugar, low quality toys that are forgotten in a week, huge amounts of garbage generated, competition between kids for the “bestest, biggest” party, etc. And of course who can forget the biggie in my book… the sense of entitlement that can come with it. When too much time and energy is placed on birthdays it is easy for kids to get more grandiose and excessive in their requests each year. Parents can even end up competing against other parents in this regard.

My own personal birthday motto is SIMPLICITY and I think this is in large part due to the fact that I came from a family that did not celebrate birthdays…at all. For years after I had my own kids I managed to keep things very minimal. Just last month I finally broke down and hosted an actual party with guests for my daughter. I held out until the last minute and then caved in to pressure from my extended family who insisted I was being mean by denying her a party. I realized my mistake as soon as the venue was booked and the invites went out. She would have been happier with MY idea of taking the family to a nearby resort with an indoor water park. We could have stayed the whole weekend for the price we paid for her birthday. Lesson learned I guess.

What I prefer for birthdays and what my kids usually prefer is an event with family and maybe one friend. We get to spend time together and make the celebration more about family and less about doting on one person. And with a few special touches here and there the birthday boy or girl still gets to feel special. We love museums, zoos, planetariums, state parks, camping trips and the like for birthday “events” instead of parties.

BUT, if done right a party can be low cost, low impact, and meaningful.

Location is everything – Think about a good location for your green birthday party and pick a place the shouts “environment!”  A neighborhood park is a great place to hold a birthday party and your city or town probably won’t charge you like some popular pizza places or other venues. Not only will the children love the outdoors, they can run and explore the world around them—and, they won’t be around arcade games!  If it’s too cold to be outside, ask your local community center or church what their fees are to hold a birthday party.  Find out if they will let you hang up homemade trees and flowers on the walls to give it an outdoor feel.

Greener Gifts – You can also green up the gift giving. Indicate in the invitation that you are having a green birthday party. If your friends don’t know much about green gifting, tell them stuffed animals filled with natural cotton and wooden toys that come in everything from trains to puzzles are good ideas.  Say no to plastic or anything that is wrapped in heavy plastic that may harm especially smaller children. Ask them not to wrap the gifts at all or use recycled paper instead of new. A simple “no gift wrapping required” will get your point across.

You can also request used toys and books. This may make it easier on parents too if they can “shop” in their home or at second hand stores. My kids have already attended half a dozen birthday parties this year and it can get expensive!

My favorite idea for a spring or early summer birthday is to have a garden party theme and request plants and seeds instead of gifts. The kids can even do the planting at the party. Not only does this take care of the entertainment this ensures that your child is not bombarded with toys they don’t need.

I also like the idea I highlighted in my first green birthdays article.

Perhaps you could have guests bring a gift to donate to a worthy cause. For instance, I read about a woman that orchestrated a puppy-themed party for her child to benefit a local animal shelter. She made dog-bone shaped oatmeal cookies for snacks and In lieu of birthday gifts, guests brought donations, dog food, leashes, water bowls and toys for the abandoned animals. All the kids and especially the birthday boy LOVED it and the animal shelter brought puppies for the kids to play with. I also read about an Africa-themed party, where kids built a grass hut and collected donations for African children. These parties were fun and they taught the guests a valuable lesson about helping others instead of the usual birthday message of “help yourself.”

Gifts from mom and dad don’t have to be elaborate either. An organic t-shirt, some natural lip balms, non-toxic nail polish, etc.

Invitations– When you send out invitations, make them yourself from recycled cards, magazines, and paper.  Each one will be different and something children can use as a keepsake. You can also send evites via email or buy recycled invitations. Tiny Prints has a large selection of birthday invites and they offer a recycled paper option. Love this Jungle Fun invite.

But my FAVE idea is to make your own seeded invitations using junk mail. After the party is over guests can plant their invitation and grow flowers! Check out this DIY video.


Menu Planning – When planning your menu think healthy and simple. Lots of my raw treats would be perfect like my fudge cookies or brownie balls. I also posted a healthy carrot cake recipe. Instead of store bought icing, try making your own with natural ingredients so your cake is preservative free. You can dye frosting with natural food dyes too and that is VERY important because most foods dyes are made with chemicals derived from petroleum…yuck! Check out these natural sprinkles too. You can also do something simple like a fruit salad in a hollowed out watermelon bowl. Offer healthy snacks and real juice at your birthday party including nuts, fruits, and veggies.

Entertainment– For games at your party, use your natural outside space if you can and have a nature scavenger hunt looking for trees, nuts, insects, flowers, and birds. Parents can help with this for smaller children.  Your kids will be learning at the same time they are playing.  If you are stuck inside because of cold or bad weather, play the old A-Z game of clapping and shouting animal names and whoever gets the most wins. There are also many eco friendly and cooperative board games that can be played. A new favorite in our family is a completely awesome game called Wildcraft. Not only is it FUN, it teaches everyone (parents and adults) about herbs and their various uses.

Another idea is to have the kids make their own natural play dough, dye it their favorite color with natural dyes, and then take it home as souvenir.

If you want to give out door prizes and gifts, make sure these are green as well. Recycled paper party bags or cloth bags full of small wooden toys such as spinning tops and healthy snacks will be a smash at your green birthday event.

Having a green birthday party can be fun and innovative if you take some time to plan it.  Not only will your child be happy, but also their friends will have a good time, and parents will be impressed with your green efforts and maybe a parental competition for who can have the GREENEST party will break out!


Play Kitchens for Pretend Play

by Tiffany in Natural Toys

Wooden play kitchens used to be the norm decades ago but in recent years plastic has become the favorite.  Not only were the wood ones greener, they were durable and fun.  In today’s plastic society, we are plagued with plastics everywhere—even in our children’s toys.  There are alternatives; you just have to look for them!

Remember the pretend pancakes and cupcakes you made for your parents on your own kitchen set?  Your child can have hours of fun doing this too and it really is a very creative and imaginative type of play…the best kind. My 4 year old daughter got a wooden play kitchen last Christmas and we put it down in the basement playroom. Unfortunately I think the location wasn’t that good because she hardly ever played with it. Recently I had hubby move it up to her bedroom and we haven’t seen her since, LOL. She spends hours playing in there now and thanks to the wonders of sound monitors I get to hear every word of that delicious play while I am in my office. Occasionally she allows me to stop by her “restaurant” and order some food but then she is on to serving her dolls again.

What’s funny is they are now mostly called “retro” play kitchen sets so when you’re searching, use those keywords!  We have a pink retro play kitchen (see above). These desirable wooden kitchen sets are good for our environment and some models are enhanced by other green-friendly products—they have cloth in them as well instead of plastic inserts for stove tops burners or faucet fixtures.

With the holiday season upon us, perhaps it’s time to turn back time and give our children the durability and safe kitchen toys we played with as children before the inevitable cheap plastic sets came along.  Many toy manufacturers are concerned about our environment as well and are producing sustainable wooden toys painted with earth safe dyes. After all, after your child is done with their plastic kitchen set, if you can’t recycle it to another child, it will end up in a landfill for centuries.

It should not matter that it’s cheaper or cost effective for a toy manufacturer to produce plastic toys, their children and grandchildren play in this world too and you’d think they be worried about it—but don’t fret—the demand for more green toys is being heard by some manufacturers.

Wooden building blocks and wooden play refrigerators, sinks and, stoves are seen more and more on the market each day and we have to make the conscience choice to purchase these products, especially at this time of the year; the holiday season.

Another option you have for purchasing wooden play kitchen sets it looking for them at online auctions where you may find them much cheaper than new ones.  Or, go to a thrift store or yard sale and see if you can find a set for sale. My town’s Craiglist has a few.

Artisan craft fairs are a great place to find unique wooden toys and if you don’t see want you want, you can bet the wooden artisan will be happy to make it for you; wooden artisans are proud of their craftsmanship and want to pass it along to children especially.

If we don’t teach our children now, in the early years, how important it is to own and play with green wooden toys, what will their children end up with to play with?  In any event, if you’ve had a wooden kitchen set as a child, you remember and know what we’re talking about, so get out there and make the extra effort to search for a wooden play kitchen set for your child this holiday season—make a difference!

Here are some of my favorites:

Red Retro Kitchen by Kidkraft – This is kinda, sorta what my daughter has but she has the bigger model and in pink. This is a one piece unit too and my daughter has separate pieces. I have seen this one in person though and it is CUTE. The design is very 1950s which I love. They also have a Prairie Kitchen set that is pretty darn cute too. The set is wood but I haven’t got any info about the finish and it does have a few plastic pieces.

My Creative Cookery Club– The all-in-one wood unit has an oven with a see-through door, cupboard or refrigerator, cook top, sink, and utensil rack. Velcro’d veggies and bread, pots and pans, and the essential salt and pepper shakers are included too. I love the natural wood and green coloring.

Maxim Wooden Kitchen Center – I just love the curtain and the rods for hanging towels. It has a very homey feel to it. Not a fan of the microwave but it is still cute. And it is blue so boys won’t be intimidated by this one.

A BEEautiful Hearth– by Camden Rose. Now this is all natural but very pricey. The kitchen is crafted with the warmth and durability of solid cherry with walnut and birch accents. Its construction cannot be compared to anything else on the market. While most play kitchens contain screws and button plugs, the Camden Rose Hearth is constructed internally with pocket-hole joinery leaving it blemish free and fine-furniture solid. The kitchen includes a stove, sink, cupboard and oven with a “see what’s cookin'” window. It has a non-toxic beeswax finish.

Check out my green toys page for some wood/cloth food options.


Natural and Safe Dolls

by Tiffany in Children, Natural Toys

natural and safe dollsGirls everywhere and some boys too, love to play with dolls. Just take a stroll down the doll aisle at WalMart and you will see what a big business it is…Barbies, Monster High, Cabbage Patch, dolls that swim , and dolls that eat…there are so many options. What most parents may not consider when walking down that aisle is that many of these dolls are toxic. They are often made of dangerous plastics that have PVC and/or Phthalates which can cause numerous health issues. They are often times not recyclable and for something with a short life span as far as quality goes, this is a sad thing. Add to that the fact that advertisements are convincing our girls that they have to have ALL these dolls you could end up with dozens of dolls that are neither safe or planet friendly. So how can we do better? There are many cloth options, organic options, and safer plastic options so there is something for everyone. Here are a few of the ones I discovered in my research.

But here are some questions to ask yourself. Is this doll made of unsafe plastics or vinyl? Can it be recycled or composted eventually? If it is made of cloth what type of fill is it stuffed with? Plastic or cloth based? Is this a quality doll that will last or one that may need to be discarded a year or two from now?

Haba dolls

A much more affordable alternative would be the soft Haba dolls. They are sooo cute and colorful I think I want one. Fay’s kimono style clothes are removable for pretend play fun. She has beautiful long brown hair that can be tied up or left down (comes with a flowered hair band). Her facial features are very nicely stitched on. Fay also comes with a cape and a basket full of flowers. She also has some cute friends like Souri,  and my personal fave Lilli. You can see a picture of them at the top of this post. Available for $35-65.99.

Another good option is a Waldorf inspired doll like this Waldorf Fortune Fairy Flippippi and her friends. Waldorf dolls are all made of natural materials such as wool, cotton stockinet and quartz sand. Available for $85.99.

Planet Pixies are soft dolls as well. Kayla looks kind of like Tinkerbell with blondish-pink hair. My daughter would love her. Planet Pixies are made with all natural and organic cotton fabrics and packaged in 100% post consumer recycled packaging. They also have a great story to go with them  and in fact NEED your help as Pixies everywhere are losing their homes due to pollution, deforestation, and global warming. ;) Check out Maya too. Planet Pixies are available for $24.99.

Another soft doll that is just adorable is the Corolle Babicorolle Sorbet Melodie. I have a pink hair thing I think. Yes, I have always wanted pink hair. ;) Melodie is pretty in pink, soft, and a perfect gift because she comes in a shoe-box style package could then double as her bed. Available for $26.99.

Does your little one specifically want a ballerina doll? Well miYim has an adorable one….the Good Earth Ballerina Girl Rag Doll. Another adorable cloth ballerina cutie is the North American Bear Company Big Sister Ballet Brunette.

For small dolls that you can put in doll houses there are not plastic options like this Doll Family by Plan Toys. The family has solid wooden heads and soft wire bodies that can bend and flex into any position. With movable arms and legs, they come dressed in colorful clothes. The doll family includes father, mother and two children and they are made of natural, chemical free recycled rubberwood and finished with non-toxic water based dyes. There are also several ethic families too. The doll families are $18.99.

Magnetic dolls are a new favorite in our house. We have several Melissa and Doug sets of Magnetic dress up dolls including Nina Ballerina and Princess Elise. They are wooden dolls that can be dressed in magnetic clothes… shoes, hats, dresses, skirts, ect. They are a lot of fun. Woodkins are also very similar.

I hope this list gives you some options for safer and more natural dollies for your little ones!

Also make sure to check out my Top Ten Green and Natural Toys for Toddlers.

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

15 Comments on Natural and Safe Dolls


Reusable Bottles BPA Free for Everyone!

by Tiffany in Natural Product Reviews

T-ball Gear and Pura Water Bottle

I have dedicated a fair amount of time to exploring safe sippy cups and sports-type bottles for kids on this blog but haven’t really explored the options for mom and dad. Of course it is important that we aren’t sucking down BPA either and having a water bottle around is one of the best ways to ensure we actually drink our water throughout the day.

The PET disposable bottles are probably the worst thing we could use. They are single use and add to the waste stream. They also have leaching issues of their own. So what kinda of reusable bottles are out there? Quite a few actually.

If we go to the regular store to buy a bottle we need to be on the lookout for one that is stainless steel or made with safer plastics. I usually shop online so I can research my options and there are quite a few. One of my favorite online stores is Reuseit and they have every reusable water bottle out there I think! It is water bottle heaven.

Klean KanteenMy top pick is the Klean Kanteen! They are uber stylish, easy to clean, and made with stainless steel. My kids have baby sized ones and I have a 27 ouncer. They have the orginal stainless outer finish and the new colored ones that are pretty HOT. They have been extensively lab tested and proven to be 100% free of heavy metals and toxins. The plain ones remind me of camping gear…which I love. I also REALLY like the options they have for caps…flat, loop, sports-top, sippy, etc. I have had mine for around 2 years now I think and it still looks and works great. My kids cups are still going strong too.

In the competition for best water bottle in my world is the Intak bottle by Thermos. It is a beautiful polycarbonate bottle with lots of great features like a one push locking top so you can pop the top and drink with one hand. It is see through so you see water levels and it has a loop to attack to backpacks or your belt. It is the BEST bottle for sports, hiking, backpacking, camping, etc. Read my detailed review of the Intak Bottle.

I have just added a newer water bottle to my household though and it is pretty comparable to the Klean Kanteen but perhaps a bit more sleek and stylish. It is the ThinkSport Bottle and it is also a bit more like a Thermos with a stainless steel vacuum sealed construction.  It keeps contents hot or cold for hours yet it is still lightweight and it has a screen so that you can toss loose tea in there without worrying about choking on tea leaves. :) I am pretty impressed with it but I feel like I am walking around with the Cadillac of water bottles in my hand. It is pretty expensive IMO at $34.00.

We also have a Pura water bottle, the pink one in the photo at the top of this post. They are service grade, electro-polished stainless steel, have no chemical liner, they are reusable of course, BPA free, and they come with a lifetime warranty. The lids are stainless steel as well, so that you don’t have to worry about any plastic pieces touching your water. The colors are pretty awesome too.

Next up would be Sigg…a bottle made by a Swiss company. These bottles win hands down any competitionSigg Water Bottle for most attractive looking bottle. They have a large selection of designs for adults and kids. Apparently they are so poular that many retailers are having a hard time keeping them in stock and the Sigg company is being stingy so that they actually have some to sell themselves! You can find some on Amazon though. These bottles are aluminum with a water based epoxy coating on the inside. While they are very attractive they will get dinged up if you aren’t careful with them.

Nalgene is another big seller. These are plastic bottles but they are made with non-leaching HDPE (#2) and LDPE (#4) plastics and they are Bisphenol A free. Some people just prefer plastic. They are not my thing but it is cool that Nalgene is now offering safer options.

CamelBak Performance Water Bottles are relatively new ad they are plastic too, albeit a great deal more sporty. They are designed for hikers and sports bikers with a Big Bite Valve and straw that allows access to Built NY Sleevewater without taking your eyes off the trail or road. I like the see-though factor and the cool colors.

And of course you may also want an insulated sleeve to keep your beverages at the right temperature. I personally like the Built NY ones. The Klean Kanteens fit perfectly.


Natural and Green Highchairs

by Tiffany in Birth & Baby

Natural and Green Highchairs pinA reader recently asked me about natural/green highchairs and what I would recommend. This is an
awesome question and one that becomes important as we learn more and more about how certain plastics are just not safe for baby. Most conventional highchairs are made of plastic so therein we have a problem.

So….what natural and/or green highchairs do I recommend? I do in fact still have a child in a highchair and we opted to get a wood highchair…so that would be my first recommendation…wood before plastic. It will last longer and it is sustainable. My son has a restaurant style highchair and we love it. Even better, we got ours second hand at a yard sale. It is very good quality and will last a long time…it is too bad we won’t be having any more kids. ;) For $45.00 at Amazon you can’t beat that price at all even if it does have a not-so natural finish…you can always sand and paint using zero VOCs paints. The best feature is that it has no tray (no plastic) so you can just pull baby up to the table to eat with the rest of the family.

IF I did have another child and for some reason didn’t have a highchair my first choice would probably be the Euro-Baby Family High Chair. It has a hardwood tray for little babies and then it converts to a chair that can be pulled up to the family table. And THEN in converts into two other size chairs…for children up to adult. SO really this chair can start out as baby’s highchair and then wind up being their desk chair when they are teenagers. Well worth the investment as these chairs run right around $200.

But I might just as likely get a Tripp Trapp Highchair. It has no tray, it fits right under the family table, and it too converts into other size chairs so they can continue using it as they grow. There are also pads you buy separately that are gorgeous….like this artsy stripe print. I would use it to make a pattern and sew my own. :) These chairs also come in many great finishes and colors. The price is anywhere from $229 to $270 if you get a chair with a cushion and a baby rail.

I also like the Scandinavian Child Svan Convertible High Chair. All wood and all gorgeous! The chair is adjustable from baby to adult and you can get custom seat padding as well.

I hope I have given natural, expectant moms some ideas for highchairs. I suggest looking at yard sales and estate sales first for antique or used wooden highchairs. I see them all the time in my neck of the woods. If you do buy used just make sure to supervise your baby well because they might not be up to date on the latest safety features. If you want to buy new there are certainly some good options.