Celebrate Handmade Children’s Products – Pledge to Buy Handmade

Baby teething organic toy

In the U.S., next week is American Craft Week, a celebration of the stunning variety of handmade objects made by skilled craftspeople.

For those whose business is crafting handmade children’s products, the future is still uncertain as it isn’t quite clear how the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission will interpret the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act). Members of the Handmade Toy Alliance are working hard every day “to save small batch producers of children’s products from the CPSIA.”

For Canadian manufacturers and retailers, we still need to be well aware of this law as long as we sell products across the border.

To show our support for small businesses who make safe, beautiful, natural toys and other products for babies and children, we want to thank the Handmade Toy Alliance and ask our readers to consider taking the pledge to buy at least one handmade product this year.


Handmade in Canada from bynature.ca

Ringley Natural Toys
Handmade in Toronto, Ontario, to ASTM toy safety standards with certified organic cotton.
Ringley Ball natural baby toy

Organic Cotton Rabbit Rattle
Made from 100% Certified Organic USA Cotton and stuffed with 100% Eco-Lamb’s Wool stuffing (sourced in Canada!), each organic rabbit baby toy is made in Victoria, British Columbia, by Dress Me Up.
Organic Rabbit Rattle by babies

Organic Cotton Toy Blocks
Made in Victoria, British Columbia, by Dress Me Up.
Organic cotton baby blocks

Organic Cotton Toy Ball
Handmade in Victoria, British Columbia, by Dress Me Up.
Organic toy balls

Organic Teething Bon Bon
Handmade in Victoria, British Columbia, by Dress Me Up.
Teething bon bon toy

Wool Changing Pads
Pure, felted, Un-dyed, untreated, unprocessed wool. These wool puddle pads are individually hand-made and hand-felted right here in Canada.
Hand felted wool changing pad

Heirloom Rattles
Handcrafted with love by a family in their home workshop in Southern Ontario. To bring out the gorgeous colour of the woods, each rattle is finished with certified organic flax seed oil.
Handmade wooden baby rattle


Handmade in the United States from bynature.ca

Wooden Teething Rings
100% natural unfinished maple wood. Handmade in Vermont.
Natural wood baby teething toy

Wooden Egg Shaker
Handmade in Ohio with pure maple wood, filled with dried beans.
Wooden egg shaker

Natural Wooden Pull Truck
Hand crafted from solid maple in Vermont.
Wooden truck roll toy

Natural Wooden Pull Elephant
Made from solid, unfinished maple with engraved detailing. Handcrafted in Vermont.
Elephant wooden roll toy

Natural Bead Rattle
Unfinished wood – no paint, dyes, stains or treatments. Handmade in Vermont.
Wooden bead rattle

Best Baby Carrier for Cool Weather

Moby Wrap Chocolate

With a nip in the air, baby needs more than a T-shirt and a diaper to go out. I have two suggestions for the best baby carrier to keep you and your baby warm enough in cool fall weather.


Moby Wrap Keeps Baby Warm

Start with a baby carrier that holds your baby snugly without a lot of open spaces for cool winds to whip in. A wraparound baby carrier keeps a baby well covered. The same characteristics of a baby wrap that might make you hesitate in the summer make this a good choice in cooler weather.

Of all of the wrap carriers, I choose Moby Wrap as the cool weather baby carrier of choice because it is made from a heavier cotton interlock than the soft Cuddly Wrap. It gives a bit more warmth and a bit sturdier support when you use it with a bigger baby or toddler.


Dress Your Baby Warmly

Second, dress your baby with long pants and long sleeves, but don’t add a coat. Your baby probably won’t need shoes, but you may find that it helps to use Baby Legs leg warmers since a chid’s pants can ride up while in a baby carrier.


Do You Need a Special Babywearing Coat?

For fall, when it’s just a bit cooler and you don’t have snow to deal with yet (sorry to bring it up), you shouldn’t need to change much about the comfortable babywearing habits you developed over the summer. You probably don’t need any new gear.

You may find that you can fit your maternity coat around you both while babywearing. I always swiped my husband’s coat to cover baby and me. This will work when it’s just a bit cold, but it is not an elegant cold weather solution. If you have a favorite soft pack carrier or mei tai carrier, you can easily adapt to cold weather with a slightly bigger coat than you would normally wear—IF you use a front carry.

If you and your baby prefer back carry, the Peekaru fleece vest covers you both and lets your baby still see the world through a peek-hole in the back of the vest.

Peekaru babywearing vest

Minor adjustments should keep you and your baby warm while babywearing through the fall. Keep warm!

Changing Colors: Dye Your Own Prefold Cloth Diapers

Baby with a tie-dyed prefold cloth diaper

As the leaves change color, you may feel like a little change of color would be nice inside, as well. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful dyed prefold cloth diapers that parents have dyed themselves. This is a great way to add fun to your baby’s diaper wardrobe as well as finding out how easy it is to add more color to your closet and to the rest of your house. If you have a beautiful white blouse with a tiny spot, a bright, new color may cover things up nicely—at the very least, your new wardrobe will distract from tiny spots.

There are three simple steps to dyeing cotton.

  1. The dye chemically attaches to the cotton fibers.
  2. An alkaline mixture fixes the attachment, since most dyes on their own tend not to be colorfast.
  3. A hot wash cycle carries away any dye that hasn’t reacted (bonded to) the cotton fibers.


Materials

12 cotton prefold diapers
Salt, ~ 1 cup
Sodium carbonate (soda ash), ~ 1/2 cup (buy from a swimming pool supply store)
Powdered fiber-reactive dye, 1 tsp
1-quart glass jar
Small non-food stirring implement (to fit quart jar)
Large non-food stirring implement (to fit bucket)
Rubber gloves
5-gallon bucket

Diapers. Prewash but do not dry the diapers.

Dye Bucket. Fill bucket about 2/3 full with warm tap water. Dissolve salt the warm water.

Dye Mix. Put dry dye into glass jar and add a little bit of warm water at a time, stirring to make a well-mixed paste. Do not use kitchen utensils to stir dye. Once you have a paste, add a little bit more water at a time until you have about 3 cups of mixed dye water.

Pour the dye mix into bucket with salt water. Stir thoroughly.

Add washed diapers to dye bucket and stir gently and periodically for 10-15 minutes.

Fix Mix. Rinse glass jar. Put on your rubber gloves because sodium carbonate can be quite caustic on the skin.

Dissolve soda ash in glass jar with 3 cups of water as hot as you can make it out of the tap. Hotter water makes it easier to dissolve the soda ash. Stir well to dissolve completely. This takes a couple of minutes. Don’t stop until you have no more little chunks.

Add soda ash mixture a little at a time to dye bucket. Stir well between each addition. Take about 5 minutes to add the whole fix mixture.

Stir periodically for 10-15 minutes.

Rinse. Pour out dye, careful not to pour into a sink or bathtub that will take on the dye color. You might find that pouring it straight into the washer is the best choice. If you pour the dye bath into the washer, run a spin cycle.

Run 2-3 hot washes with detergent. Look at the wash on each rinse cycle to be sure that the water is running clear. You can check for residual dye by scooping rinse water into the glass jar and holding it up in front of a white background. The water may be almost clear after the first wash with a load of only 12 prefolds.

Dry as usual, and have fun with your new colored diapers.


Tie Dye

Easy! The first time I tie dyed T-shirts with children, when I was a summer camp counselor, I had no experience at all with dyeing. Our tie dye techniques were very simple, involving rubber bands and wadded up shirts, but the children had a great time, and the shirts were passably colored. If I could produce fun shirts in that chaotic situation, I’m sure you can produce great tie-dyed diapers.

Dharma Trading has extensive articles, books, videos, kits, and stories to encourage you to get creative with your dyeing adventure.


Why These Materials?

We use fiber-reactive dyes because they bond with cotton fibers on a molecular level. They are permanent. Once fixed, they don’t fade.

Jar of Procion dyeAlso, Procion dyes “have the very important safety property of not penetrating intact skin cells.” Paula Burch, an experienced home dyer, finds them safe for a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding. Be cautious when using the sodium carbonate, though.

Sodium carbonate (soda ash) may sound close to sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), but baking soda is not alkaline enough to fix the dyes. It’s easy to find the right chemicals for your hand dyeing. Pool supply stores sell all sizes of sodium carbonate down to 5lbs for about $10-12.

We use a special wetting agent for most of our dyeing, but even a teaspoon of dish soap could be added to salt water mixture to ensure even dye coverage. To make the instructions simpler, I removed that step. If you are going to experiment with more dyeing, try some with and some without simple wetting agents.


Resources

Dharma Fiber-reactive Procion Dyes are my favorite dyes. Dharma has masses of information, shared experience, and supplies—far more than I have ever needed, and I dye a lot of fabric.

Paula Burch’s All about Hand Dyeing
is a great site for any non-chemist who wants to understand the chemistry of dyeing.

Image © Matt Antonino | Dreamstime.com

Changing Colors: The Apple Experiments

Apples on the tree

My children have discovered apples. They’ve realized that differences in apples are more than simple color, and they have become adventurous in choosing a lot of different kinds of apples. Our kitchen is full of autumn apple color.

I’ve decided to create educated apple eaters. Rather than randomly choosing whatever apples we happen to find in our grocery store, we are going to decide which apples we like and go in search of them. We are in the process of experiencing the gorgeous variety of apples available.

We have a plan to formalize our experiment, since everything is a homeschool lesson. We are gathering apples for a taste test, keeping notes as we go. We will taste each kind of apple raw and cooked. When we start to focus on our preferences, we are going to find the best local sources for those apples in particular and stock up before the apple season is over.


Apple Differences

Color is the obvious and not always superficial difference between apple varieties.

Taste is probably the next difference we notice.

I like sour apples, and my children prefer sweet apples. I grew up eating crab apples—a smaller, perhaps more wild and definitely more sour fruit than even the most sour Granny Smith apple. My favorite apple juice is a dry, very tart Bramley apple juice that I drink when with my in-laws in England. The more sour, the better. The rest of my family eats sweet, sweet apples.

Texture is another difference that can effect our apple preferences quite a bit. Some apples are more grainy feeling than others.

All of these differences can be factors in determining which apples are most often preferred fresh, which for juice, which for pies, which for cakes, and which for applesauce or apple butter. There are charts of which varieties work best for each type of recipe, but I think you should throw out the charts made by others once you begin your own experiments. You might have different tastes than others do. Maybe you DO want the skins on the apples in your tart! (I know I do. Most recipes say this makes the tart bitter, but I prefer that taste.)

The point is: experiment to find what YOU like.


Apple Nutrition

All apples provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The phytonutrients found in dark fruits and vegetables are in the skin, though. Dark apples like Red Delicious contain the most phytonutrients, but you have to eat the skin.

Apples are already on the list of foods you should definitely buy organic. Apples are on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list. If you are going to eat apple skins, it is even more important to buy organic in order to reduce exposure to pesticides.

DO eat the skins!


The Search for Apple Varieties

To run your own apple experiments, you will need to variety a variety of apples greater than just the Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith apples from the store. (That’s about the extent of variety at my store.)

Of course, most farmers’ markets will have a big variety of apples this time of year. Now through October is the most common time for apple festivals across North America. Going to a pick-your-own orchard will give you and your children another dimension to the apple experience as you feel differently about food you have picked yourself. Check whether the orchards use pesticides, which is the more important question than organic certification.

The CSA that we used to belong to (before laws favoring mega-organic made it so much more difficult for small farms) encouraged us to pick apples when we picked up our weekly shares. The apples weren’t always beautiful, but we picked and ate them warm off the tree. This is yet another opportunity for those intense food memories I wrote about recently.


Apple Chart

Gather a variety of apples and a variety of recipes. Create a chart with apple varieties down the side and ways to eat apples across the top. With little kids, you might want to get stickers with faces—happy, sad, puckered. Each person in the family can add their review of each.

Start tasting and cooking and tasting again. Be sure to review and discuss at each tasting.

The apple experiments will not only help you and your family to add variety to your apples, but it will help young children learn some basic scientific principles as they do a little tasty food science.

Good luck! If you go on an apple search adventure and especially if you make an apple chart, I would love to hear back from you how it goes.

Image © Anikasalsera | Dreamstime.com

Changing Colors: Fall Leaves with Children

Child wearing fall leaf wreath

Are your children curious about the leaves changing color? Harvest time is ripe for a little science and a lot of crafts with fall leaves.

All this week, we’re going to post about changing colors—not just leaves changing but other colors as well.


The Science of Fall Leaves for Children

“Why are the leaves turning yellow, Mommy?”

Are you ready to answer? Here is a simple version for the youngest children.

Starting when trees grow new leaves in the spring, a tree makes food from the energy of the sun, carbon dioxide from the air, and water from the earth. This process of making food is called photosynthesis. The sun’s energy is absorbed by a chemical called chlorophyll. Leaves get their green color from chlorophyll.

As the days get shorter and cooler in the fall, trees stop making food and the green chlorophyll breaks down. The leaves change color as the green goes away and leaves yellow, orange, and brown.

For an older child, you could explain that the leaves were always yellow and that the green, the chlorophyll, was just the dominant color until the tree stopped making it.


Children’s Crafts with Fall Leaves

It’s always fun to use natural materials to create season-specific decorations. As you are surrounded by fall leaves, you have an abundance of colorful craft materials.

We create strings of leaves as a garland to celebrate fall. Bring bouquets of leaves into the house and put them in a vase. Create a wreath. Use different leaf colors to create a collage. Press particularly beautiful leaves in paper.

And, whatever you do, rake all of the leaves in your yard into a pile and JUMP IN THEM! This is perfect fun for a child (and a parent).


The Funny Part

Fall leaf garland

When I planned this post, it was cold during the days, and I expected it would just get colder every day. Then, today arrived and it was 89 degrees Fahrenheit, and we couldn’t find enough color changed leaves to make a garland.

Fall? Hot leaf garland

The version of the mini leaf garland without cropping context shows my outdoor thermometer. In the direct sun this afternoon, it claimed to be 120 degrees (which it was not). It will probably snow next week.


Resources

Education World has a great collection of explanations of photosynthesis just for children. They include fun fall leaf activities as well.

Wreath image © Olga Vasina | Dreamstime.com