Want to give a green, eco-friendly gift that will be absolutely adored by your children this Christmas? Put together a Cardboard Playhouse by Cascades Boutique and have it sitting next to the tree for everyone to discover on Christmas morning! This charming indoor cardboard house is not only made from 100% recycled corrugated cardboard, but it is an art project waiting to happen! Little ones can get creative and transform it into their own little home by decorating it as they desire with crayons, paint, stickers, and more! The Cardboard Playhouse is fully recyclable when it finally has seen its’ last day, and much safer and more resistant than an ordinary cardboard box. It is large enough for a parent to get inside for a tea party, too!

At “Mom’s” house, the cardboard playhouse has become a permanent fixture in the dining room as that was the only space large enough for the home. At Halloween, creepy cobwebs were draped all over it to make a tiny haunted house! Now, for the holidays, there is a colorful string of lights hung all around the playhouse to make it festive. As much space as it is taking up, it has become “Mom’s” little one’s favorite place to play, and is constantly filled with stuffed animals for imaginary picnics and tea parties!

Lightweight and easy to assemble in just 10 minutes, this affordable cardboard playhouse will definitely be a hit this season! Priced at $48, it is available for purchase at boutique.cascades.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

 

 

As John Denver said in song, “The season is upon us. A time for gifts and giving.” Who is the most fun to buy for at the holidays? The kids, of course! “Mom” at Tiny Green Mom has chosen her very favorites for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and elementary-aged children for 2011.

Tiny Green Mom’s Holiday Gift Guide for Children

JuneBee Baby

For the youngest member of the family, JuneBee Baby offers over-the-top adorable, luxuriously soft, stylish children’s clothing, all made lovingly with pure natural fibers in one-of-a-kind designs! Each piece of whimsical clothing will have your baby or toddler warm, toasty, and eco-chic through the season. Plus, a portion of JuneBee Baby sales is donated to “Generation Rescue” to directly help families with autism.

Maple Landmark Push N Pull Bunny

For the tiny eco-explorer in your life, the Maple Landmark Push N Pull Bunny is an excellent choice! When your little one is a crawler, the Push N Pull’s large handle is sized for little hands to push the bunny across the floor. As your child grows into a walker, a string can be attached to the front of the bunny through the hole, and it becomes a pull toy. The Push N Pull is crafted from locally sourced, responsibly harvested maple with hardwood components and laser detailing on both sides. For ages 6 months +.

A-Maze Rain Rush

Shake, rattle and roll – this wooden rain maker from B. toys sounds like rain gently falling against the windowpane, and your budding musician will love to sing and dance to the beat! A perfect choice for children ages 18 months to 3 years, this is one musical instrument that will definitely be a hit with the whole family!

In the Indian Night Sky

Hathi Chiti uses eastern-themed characters and concepts as a gateway to educate little ones about different cultures around the world. Children ages 3 and up will delight reading about Indian folklore and culture through this beautifully illustrated book written by Reshma Sapre and illustrated by Jayme Robinson.

Gone Fishin Bath Toy

Encourage your future marine biologist or deep sea fisherman with this BPA-free bath toy from Munchkin! A magnetic fishing pole catches sea squirts and makes “reel” clicking sounds – making bathtime fun and enjoyable all through the winter.

Pengoloo

Children ages 4 and up will adore this all-wooden, eco-friendly memory game taking them on a South Pole Eggspedition! Be the first to collect six penguins with their eggs on an iceberg to win. This award-winning game teaches color recognition, memory, visualization, and social skills. It’s a gift that gives back too, as Blue Orange plants two trees for each one used in game construction!

hello paper dolls

For unplugged, imaginative fun for your granddaughter, daughter or niece, hello paper dolls are sure to inspire creativity! Choose from 4 paper doll princess kits – each comes with a large 6″ paper doll princess and royal pet, 2 sheets of punch out clothing, 1 sheet of fashion accessory stickers and a unique stencil for endless designs. Made with FSC-certified uncoated recyclable paper.

Plush Giraffe Hot Water Bottle

Kids love giraffes, and this particular Giraffe Hot Water Bottle is perfect for a bedtime cuddle buddy during the chilly winter months. Includes a removable travel size Fashy thermoplastic hot water bottle that has a large opening for easy filling, and retains heat for hours. It is odorless, recyclable and safe, and features an adorable machine washable cover.

Thanksgiving Crafts

Preparing the Thanksgiving feast could is a fine art; the last thing cooks need to complicate the process is children running wile through the kitchen. Save your sanity and the meal by keeping the little ones entertained. Set up an art table with supplies for a few of these crafts and put the older cousins in charge so you can concentrate on the important stuff…like pie. From perfect pinecone ornaments to sock puppet pilgrims, you’ll find a way to distract your busy bees.

Thanksgiving Hats

While you prepare the feast, let the kids prepare their dinner attire—an Indian headdress or a Pilgrim hat. In addition to keeping the little ones occupied, this is a fun way to remind kids about what Thanksgiving is really about: the coming together of two different groups of people.

Materials

• Black paper cup
• Construction paper
• Glue stick
• Safety scissors
• Thumbtack
• Toothpick

To make the pilgrim hat, cut out construction paper details, like a ribbon or buckle, and glue on to cup. Poke holes on opposite sides of the cup with a thumbtack (adult job). Widen the holes with a toothpick and thread a 20-inch length of round elastic cord through the holes and knot the ends.

For the Indian headdress, cut a band out of construction paper to fit around your child’s head and glue the opposite ends together so that it makes a circle. Make construction paper feathers and glue to the back of the band so that they stand up.

Sock Puppets

Have the kids reenact the pilgrims’ trip the New World or just let them loose to plan their own show.

Materials

• Adult slouch socks
• Felt
• Craft glue
• Scissors
• Googly eyes
• Yarn

To create an Indian puppet, cut colored feathers out of felt and glue them to the ball of the sock. Use the yarn to create hair and braids and then glue the hair and eyes on the puppet. Create outfits out of felt and attach them to the leg portion of the sock.

To create a pilgrim puppet, use black felt to create a hat: cut out a small rectangle and glue ends together for a circle, cut out a small circle to top one end of the hat and a slightly larger circle for the other end to act as a brim. Glue the hat to the ball of the sock. Glue hair and eyes on the sock and add any garments you wish.

Set a time for the “play,” set out chairs for the audience, and enjoy!

Pinecone Ornaments

This craft gets the kids out of the house for a bit and is great preparation for Christmas!

Materials

• Pinecones
• Glitter paint
• Ribbons
• Newspaper

While you clean up dinner and arrange dessert, send the kids out to collect pinecones to decorate. Set up a craft table with glitter glue and paint brushes and have the kids paint their treasures—be sure to cover the table in newspaper! Let the pinecones dry, and then tie a ribbon around the top of the pinecone to hang from the Christmas tree in a month!

About the Author

Guest author, Maggie, is the oldest of four children and well-versed in the art of crafty distraction. When she’s not manning the art table during the holidays, Maggie works as a writer in Indianapolis.

*Image: Tina Phillips / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

Baby can twist, bend and chomp on this non-toxic Twisty® Figure 8 Teether Toy from Munchkin! Winner of the Parents™ Choice® Gold Award, it is no secret why this is a hit with babies ages 6 months and up! Easy to hold, with bold colors, a fun rattle sound and soothing textures for sore gums – this is one toy that will be packed again and again in your diaper bag! It is definitely a hit at “Mom’s” house – even toddlers enjoy bending it into different shapes!

The Twisty® Figure 8 Teether Toy is available nationwide at Target, as well as online at Munchkin.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

Why pay for expensive face paints that contain additives and chemicals to paint your little one’s face this Halloween when you can easily and affordably make your own natural face paint using items commonly found in the home, such as cornstarch! GreenHalloween.org offers this simple, all-natural recipe to whip up your own paint in no time!

Make Your Own Natural Face Paints

Ingredients

1 tsp. cornstarch

1 1/2 tsp all-natural diaper rash cream

1-2 drops of natural/organic food coloring

1/2 – 1 tsp water, depending on desired consistency

Instructions

In a small bowl, mix cornstarch, diaper cream, and food coloring. If necessary, add water to achieve desired consistency.

For more earth-friendly ideas to celebrate HalloGREEN this year, visit GreenHalloween.org.

*Image: Louisa Stokes / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

Little Monster Fun and Learn Book

Combining four Mercer Mayer favorites into one educational and exciting storybook for little ones – follow the beloved Little Monster as he makes his way through the book, learning his ABC’s, counting, getting ready for bedtime, and just meandering through his own neighborhood! Youngsters and their parents who remember these classic tales will enjoy reading and learning together. Mayer’s mesmerizing illustrations are a feast for the eyes, and Little Monster’s antics make everyone laugh out loud. “Mom” always enjoyed searching through the pages of her Mercer Mayer books as a child for the Zipperump-a-zoo that accompanies the lovable Little Monster on his adventures, and now she is asking her little one to do the same! To download a copy of the new Little Monster Fun and Learn Book, or to order a hard copy, visit little-monster-fun-and-learn.

smilegram paper

School is in full swing! Put a smile on your little one’ face with their own sweet set of smilegram paper! This new eco-friendly stationery line that is made from recycled materials is perfect for little ones who wish to draw or write handwritten notes, or perhaps practice their cursive! What makes smilegram paper unique is that it is lined to help your children as they make the transition from plain drawing paper to lined paper, and it is available in an array of cheerful designs! Choose from original graphics such as Funky Fun Flip Flops, Buzzing Bee, Hippy Chick or Fun Jumpin Froggies – there are a wide variety for your little one to pick to express his/herself!

smilegram paper offers personalized stationery, gift sets, writing tablets, and more – check out their oh-so cute collection at smilegrampaper.com.

Pedestal Pets

Check out this new educational toy line of animal pencil toppers that sit atop colorful corresponding pencils. Now, kids can take their favorite little toys with them to school! The cute collectibles come in packages of four, which includes 4 toppers, 4 pencils, and 4 trading cards with fun educational facts about each animal. Creating awareness about our planet’s creatures, Pedestal Pets are grouped in three collections: Neighborhood, Safari and Barnyard Friends. Children can also go online to ‘adopt’ and name their pets as well as print coloring pages.

*Companies generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

4 Green Fall Activities for the Whole Family

As the nights grow darker faster, the temperatures drop a little more each day and the leaves turn golden all around, the sure signs of fall are almost impossible to miss. As you gear up for a new season and prepare for the winter ahead, now is the perfect time to take advantage of long afternoons with some activities for the kids that are both fun and green inspired. If you could use a few more ideas for filling in these lovely fall days, maybe one of the following will catch your eye!

Create Homemade Door Draft Stoppers!
This project is so much fun and so beneficial for your house too! Conserving energy means taking advantage of every opportunity (Lesson #1), no matter how small, to seal in all the precious heat and keep all the drafts out. You’ll save on your energy bill (and dollars too!) by ensuring that all your doorways are securely blocking out cold air with a door draft stopper. All you’ll need is some extra long tube socks, a thick filler like sand or rice and all of your crafty stuff like googly eyes, beads, felt scraps, buttons, etc. The limit is the imagination, so let your kids go wild.

Arts & Crafts with Leaves!
Get the whole family out in the yard for some fun raking up the leaves for the compost bin (#2) and then have them save some of their favorite leaf finds. You can frame them for artwork, use them as stencils, or even use a pencil to press on top of them and transfer the leaf vein patters for very cool art. Arrange leaves in fun patterns on thick cardstock and then laminate for instant fall placemats! Use with clear crafting glue to make a collage or place on a small cardboard box and decoupage. Cut cardstock in half and glue leaves on for quick, homemade cards that are perfect for sending to grandma and grandpa!

Make Homemade Jam!
Buying the last of the local seasonal fruit now and making jam out of it is one of the best ways to teach a lesson (#3) about buying locally and seasonally and making it last throughout the winter. Rather than buying raspberries shipped from far, far away in December when you’re all craving something sweet, you can pull out some of your frozen homemade jam! In the meantime, your kids will get a kick out of squishing the berries and stirring in the sugar. And, of course, you’ll likely really encourage jam making if you serve fresh biscuits and jam for dinner!

Go Crazy with Pumpkins!
Pumpkins have many lessons to teach and are good for so much more than just carving! That’s not to say you shouldn’t carve by any means, but after you’re done, consider giving your pumpkin another use! (#4: recycling and upcycling!) Take the insides of the pumpkin, the “guts” and make yummy foods like pumpkin smoothies or pumpkin breads, muffins, pancakes, cookies, etc. Take the seeds and roast them for afternoon treats (they can be sweet or salty or even plain to meet your all tastes). You can also dry the pumpkin seeds and use them for fun counting games, or poke holes in the center and paint them to create strings of beaded necklaces and bracelets. A hollowed out pumpkin also makes an excellent pot to plant flowers in. And when you’re all done, you can put whatever is left of the pumpkin in your composting pile or feed it to the birds (zoologist approved).

About the Author

Freelancer Jocelyn loves to help inspire families to go greener in any ways that she can. When not writing foodie or craft pieces, you’ll find her writing about energy efficient air heaters for fall & winter use.

Image Credit: April Farnum via Flickr

7 Eco-Friendly Halloween Crafts

Each year around this time when the leaves start to change and I start to feel that crisp little bite in the air on a morning run, I get all tingly with excitement. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fresh air and sticking my toes in the warm sand as much as the next person, but there is something special about cuddling with a snuggly old blanket, sipping on a warm drink, and working on a new craft at the kitchen table.

Many of my favorite crafts are made of things that I already have lying around the house. Here are five projects you can do with your kids that are cheap, eco-friendly, and fun! Click through the images to find instructions.

1. Make a Mouse Motel

Use a pumpkin to make a little decorative “motel” for rubber mice or any other toy that your kids want to put inside.

2. Make Jar-O-Lanterns

Use that old pickle jar to make a nice little lantern to sit on the kitchen table. Just paint the inside of the jar and use a permanent marker on the outside to draw pumpkin faces.

3. Make Shrunken Apple Heads

Have a few bruised-up apples? Turn them into a project!

4. Make Creepy Twizzler Trees with Candy Corn Fences

Your kids will love the Halloween version of a gingerbread house.

5. Make a Toilet Roll Mummy

Collect empty rolls and make a fun mummy decoration.

6. Make a Bat

Use a black egg carton or spray paint another color to make little bats to hang around the house.

7. Carve Creative Pumpkins

Carrot noses aren’t only for snowmen! Use a carrot in your pumpkin to give it a little more personality.

About the Author

Stacie Grissom is a writer for ReadingGlassesShopper.com’s Eye Health Guide where she writes about everything from preparing for an eye exam to reading sunglasses. In her free time, Stacie loves to run, blog about DIY projects, and frequent thrift stores.

Halloween Costume Ideas (Using Stuff You Already Own)

Maybe it’s a part of a parenthood initiation program, but at some point in every parent’s career they discover that Halloween superstores are in fact, not so super. Instead, they are home to expensive, poorly made costumes that children must have, as evidenced by wildly embarrassing temper tantrums.

Parents (and their wallets) desperate to avoid the aforementioned situation should try to get a little creative with costumes this Halloween. Instead of relying on the megastore version of a Harry Potter costume, parents can use that time to create Harry’s ensemble with their child.

The team at Socks4Life.com created a new resource to highlight creative uses for socks—including a guide to DIY Costume Ideas. The guide has all sorts of ideas—from traditional costumes for one to funny costume idea for a group! The best part is: no need to take out a loan to put together the getups! Each outfit can be created by recycling and repurposing stuff that’s already lying around the house or that can be purchased from a secondhand store.

DIY Halloween costumes are not only a money-saving tactic, but they’re also a chance for kids to use their imagination. Children will have a blast deciding who or what they’d like to be for Halloween and how they will create the costume! Parents, load everyone into the minivan and head to the local Goodwill. Give each child a spending limit and then let them loose; this will encourage independence and creativity. Plus, each child will feel personally responsible for their costume and so much more satisfied when it’s complete…hello peace and quiet!

Read on for a few of the costume ideas from the guide:

1. Biker:
• Dark jeans
• Leather jacket: Attach a Harley or biker gang logo cut out of construction paper.
• Wear a bandanna around your head.
• Black leather gloves
• Motorcycle sunglasses
• Leather studded belt and studded jewelry
• Draw fake tattoos on your arms and a mustache.
• Walk bow-legged, as if you’ve spent the day on your bike.

2. Movie Star:
• Long sequin dress or old formal gown – think long and slinky. This is a great secondhand store buy!
• High heels
• Accessorize with long gloves, a feather boa, and rhinestone jewelry
• Wear your hair styled and apply lots of makeup.
• Pretend like you’re being photographed and strike poses every so often.

3. Sonny and Cher:
• Sonny: Wear bell bottoms and a psychedelic button-down shirt and a jean vest. Add aviator sunglasses and wear a thick mustache or use face paint to draw one.
• Cher: The taller of the pair, Cher wears a slim-fitting maxi dress, a long, straight black wig and lots of eye makeup.
• This costume is always a hit, but it’s especially funny when the taller of the pair (Cher) is a male.

4. The Four Seasons:
• Spring: Wear a pastel colored shirt and pastel colored pants. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and glue a bird’s nest to the top of it (purchase from a craft store). Wrap flower garlands around your body and stick plastic butterflies in the garland and on your clothing.
• Summer: Wear summery shorts or a skirt (a bathing suit if you’re a guy). Paint a yellow sun on the stomach of a white tank top. Wear sunglasses or better yet, novelty beach sunglasses. Apply white paint or zinc oxide to your nose like sunscreen. Wear a shell necklace and fisherman’s net draped over your shoulders, both from a craft store.
• Fall: Wear a camouflage shirt and pants. If you can’t find that, brown pants and an orange shirt are perfect. Wrap a leaf garland around your body and stick miniature pumpkins, leaf stickers, bats, etc to the garland and outfit.
• Winter: Wear a white long-sleeved shirt and white pants or skirt. Wear a winter hat and gloves. Attach paper snowflakes and lightweight Christmas tree ornaments to outfit, put a large poinsettia leaf behind your ear or scattered around your outfit. Finish off with Christmas socks.

5. Orbit Gum Girl:
• White, tailored dress
• Colorful neck scarf
• Blonde, curly voluminous hair
• Carry around a pack of Orbit gum and act super perky, saying things like, “Fabulous,” “Dirty mouth? Clean it up!” and “For a good clean feeling.”

For more costume ideas, check out the full DIY Costume Ideas guide and where readers can even submit their own costume ideas to the guide! Happy Halloween!

About the Author

Guest author, Maggie Voelker, works as a writer in Indianapolis, IN. She and her three siblings loved creating their own Halloween costumes growing up, so she’s excited to share this information with others!

Do you have a budding environmentalist, marine biologist, future entomologist or zoologist at home? Perhaps your little one just adores animals of any kind! If so, the following three new books will educate and delight children as they turn the pages to learn all about creatures both great and small!

Learn About Creatures Great & Small with These Three New Books

Curious Critters

Oh, how curious critters can be! Unlock the mysteries of creatures such as the Eastern Box Turtle, Fox Snake or Black Swallowtail Butterfly in this engaging picture book by David FitzSimmons! Filled with illuminating facts and gorgeous, detailed images of creatures up close, Curious Critters will keep little ones turning page after page to learn more. What is even more exciting is that in addition to the book itself, you can visit the Curious Critters webpage to print coloring pages, word searches and even send free e-cards with your favorite critter. The learning extends way beyond the book with these interactive tools! Curious Critters is a fascinating read – showing children that science can be interesting and fun! To learn more, visit curious-critters.com.

Muddle Farm

A take-along farm adventure – this colorful, entertaining book by Axel Scheffler featuring magnetic farm animals to add to each scene as the story progresses is both amusing and educational! Neigh and quack your way through Muddle Farm with your child as they learn all about the animals on the farm. When finished reading and playing, store the farm animals back in the barn! Available at barronseduc.com.

Muddle Ocean as they explore the creatures of the deep! A handle on top of the book makes it easy to carry along with you for trips in the car, plane, or anywhere your child wants to go! When done exploring the ocean, place all of the sea creatures back in the coral reef for safe-keeping! Visit barronseduc.com to order.

*Companies generously provided review copies & images of the books highlighted in this piece.*