Alternatives to Candy on Valentine’s Day

Candy for Valentines Day

Has your child been asked to contribute candy to a Valentine’s Day party? We can turn this into an positive opportunity. Let’s think of this as taking a treat—a treat of any kind—rather than approaching negatively as NOT taking candy. You can just quietly send a fun treat that happens not to be food.

Crayons
Kids love crayons. Give them out in the original shape, or you could make a craft of it and use a candy mold to shape melted crayons into hearts. Our Soy Rocks Party Box gives you 64 colorful crayons to give out.

Lip Gloss
Make lip gloss. It’s easy and exciting for kids to make lip balm in many flavors and colors. Don’t call it “gloss” and you might get boys interested as well.

Bouncy Balls
A ball is a small gift that won’t cost you a lot but will get used a lot.

Pencils
A common non-candy gift for children is a fun pencil. They come in great variety (including our tree-free pencils), they are easy to decorate and personalize, and kids will use them.

Wooden Toys
We often find situations where kids might want to give small gifts, and we don’t want to create more plastic clutter of throwaway gifts. We want to give eco-friendly gifts that children will actually use. That is why we created a loot bag section in our Green Celebrations department. We have a couple of tiny toys that would be perfect for Valentine’s Day gifts: mini wooden kaleidoscopes and wooden pop tops.

Friendship Bracelets
An older child can use cotton embroidery floss to create friendship bracelets. To make it a Valentine, add a small tag with a message.

Wooden Yo-Yo
For a special friend, a red wooden yo-yo is great gift that will be played with for a long time.

The Recurring Candy Issue

Yes, it’s nice to take a positive approach. I can be tiring to think, “Great. Another holiday, another opportunity to explain why we don’t give out candy.” Sure, we don’t have to focus on explaining. We can just nudge expectations away from sugary treats to other treats.

The issue will continue to come up, though. If you want to deal with Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and all of the candy holidays all at once, if you are tired of navigating the candy and food issues, help your school or district develop policies that will make it easier not just to manage allergies but to meet nutrition goals.

A lot of schools have no-food or no-candy policies for celebrations. This makes it a lot easier for schools to manage food allergies and sensitivities. Sell them on the benefits for the school, and they might be willing to work with you.

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Gifts You Won’t Find on Amazon

Tegu Magnetic Wooden Blocks

Are you rushing to be ready for the holidays? Relatives visiting, parties to cook (or buy) for, neighbors to acknowledge some way, and kids’ gifts to think about. Think about this as you are rushing around.

Our rushing rubs off on our kids, but children need space for deep, open play to process the masses of information that they are taking in as they learn about their world. They don’t need toys that tell them how to play. They need the simplest of objects that can join the stories they are already telling themselves in their own minds.

A couple of years ago, my friends passed around a story from Wired’s Geek Dad“The 5 Best Toys of All Time.” This Geek Dad led with a pile of discarded box full of bits of plastic toys. These were once cool stuff and awesome gizmos, but they didn’t make the top 5 list:

  1. Stick
  2. Box
  3. String
  4. Cardboard Tub
  5. Dirt

Everyone loves the gizmos for a day—or an hour.

Are you hoping to help your child develop a somewhat longer attention span? Make sure your gifts are worthy of the attention. The best gifts aren’t much to look at in the box or under the tree. Kids fold them into their lives. To enable your child’s creativity, turn yours on now before you are tempted to grab those last-minute tchotchke and stocking stuffers that won’t even make it from the pile of gifts into your child’s toy box.

By far the best holiday gift I ever gave my daughter was cotton play cloths in a dozen colors. These lasted even longer in circulation than her most beloved Waldorf doll. I didn’t choose the those because I knew what impact they would have. I didn’t know beforehand that play cloths would be blankets and costumes and wrapping and decoration. I just liked that rainbow of color. I was satisfying my own desires!

You might not know which simple, open toy will hit that sweet spot for your child, so be prepared for a few misses as well as hits.

If you are worried that you don’t have the right toys for your child yet, let that worry go. The toys that enable happy, imaginative play are simple.

Happy holidays, and don’t sweat the toys.

5 Holiday Gifts Made in Canada

Ringley Organic Teething Toys

 

When you want to buy your gifts close to home, we can help you find a big selection of natural toys and other gifts made in Canada. These are a few of our favorites at bynature.ca.

Organic Teething Toys
Handmade in Toronto, Canada

Ringley natural baby toy made in Canada

Ringley teething toys for babies are made in Canada with untreated Canadian maple and 100% organic terrycloth. You know when babies are teething they look for textures that feel right. The smooth, natural wood and the nubby terrycloth give variety. Your baby can easily hold on to the ring while gnawing away to soothe sore gums. Ringley baby toys are among our best sellers.

Wee Urban Organic Cotton Sleep Sacs
Made in Canada

Wee Urban cotton baby sleeping bag

Wee Urban Baby Sleep Bags solve the problem of babies kicking off covers because the covers move with the baby, keeping baby warm all night. Easy zip opening for quick nighttime diaper changes. Made with soft certified organic cotton and bamboo viscose fleece. The sleep bag made with cute prints is also Made in Canada.

Anointment Natural Skin Care
Handmade in Canada

Anointment natural skin care for babies balmAnointment makes a full line of natural skin care products for pregnancy, baby, and for parents. Anointment uses food-grade ingredients and healing herbs, so you know their salves, oils, and soaps are safe for the whole family. Check out the gorgeous shaving set for Dad. And, the chocolate mint lip balm is a perfect stocking stuffer. Smells so nice! Anointment natural skin care for adults and for babies.

Padraig Wool Slippers for the Whole Family
Handmade in Canada

Padraig handmade wool slippers for the family

Padraig slippers are soft and breathable—a perfect shoe for tiny, developing baby feet. Each pair is handmade with 100% natural wool. Durable leather sole makes these non-slip. We like these slippers so much, that we carry them in sizes for the whole family. You can get a matching set for Christmas morning.

Natural Wooden Rattles
Handmade in Canada

Natural wood baby rattle made in Canada

This elegantly shaped woode rattle contrasts maple and walnut woods for a striped effect. All safe and natural wood oiled with hemp or flax. Each rattle is handcrafted by a family in their home workshop in Southern Ontario. They use wood from a local, family-owned sawmill that has been responsibly managing lumber for 50 years. A beautiful toy all around. This is an heirloom for a baby on your list.

Holiday gifts made in Canada

Visit bynature.ca for more holiday gift ideas. Look for the tiny maple leaf logo to find products Made in Canada.

Why Choose Natural Toys

Natural wooden marble run toy

 

You anticipate toy shopping soon—as do I. I just want to give you a few reasons to look for toys made from natural materials like wool, cotton, wood, and rubber.

The Negative Reasons to Choose Natural Toys

Choose toys made from natural materials because they aren’t made from plastic. It isn’t just that plastic is unsustainable, being made from oil and gas that are in limited supply. Plastics, especially soft plastics, can be health hazards.

With the passage of the CPSIA in the U.S., six plastic softeners (phthalates) were banned in children’s products that could be used for eating or sleeping because of the risk that a young child will suck on the products. These plastic softeners were’t banned in every product, though, and they can still pose a hazard through off-gassing. You know that new plastic smell? That is the toxic off-gassing, the hormone disruptors that can cause developmental problems for children (as well as high rates of miscarriages among women and erectile dysfunction among men).

You are less likely to find some of the worst chemicals in children’s toys now, but that doesn’t mean all plastic toys are safe. Avoid soft, vinyl plastics (phthalates) and polycarbonates (Bisphenol A or BPA).

The U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) is still warning against toys made with PVC plastic. Even they are recommending that parents “choose unpainted wooden or cloth toys instead.”

For more details on the reasons to avoid plastics in toys, see “Why No Soft Plastics.”

For sustainability and for health, just avoid plastic toys. Choose natural toys instead.

The Positive Reasons to Choose Natural Toys

Natural materials are sustainable. They grow in nature, and they can grow again after they are harvested to make your child’s toys. That is what is meant by renewable materials (in contrast to petrochemicals used to make plastic, which do not replace themselves—or, more accurately, only replace themselves over millions of years).

  • Cotton grows as a protective fiber (a boll) around seeds in a cotton plant in a field
  • Hemp is grown as the stem of a hemp plant in a field
  • Wool is the hair of a sheep, sheared annually
  • Silk is the coccoon of a silkworm
  • Rubber is the milk of a rubber tree
  • Wood, of course, is the body of a tree

Natural materials generally require less processing before they can be used to make toys. Pick up a stick, it’s already a toy. Sheer a sheep, and you just have to wash the oils out of the wool in order to use it for stuffing. The milk of a rubber tree coagulates easily into the kind of rubber we know as Sophie the Giraffe or a rubber duck. Natural materials are renewable in the long term but they are also lower impact in their processing in the short term.

In addition to sustainability, consider the sensory experience of natural materials. They feel warm, smell nice, and look soft. Natural materials feel good in the hands of a child. Read more about the sensory experience of natural materials in last week’s post “What Are Waldorf Toys?”

It’s tough for me to come up with rational reasons to choose natural toys because I usually just stop with “why wouldn’t I choose natural toys?” They are the obvious choice unless I’m buying into the nonsensical stories that mass marketing tells me about the superiority of plastic toys over nature.

But there are rational reasons: choose natural toys for the short-term and long-term good of the environment and because of the sensory experience your child will get with natural materials.

Choose Natural Toys

We know that most of our customers are deliberately seeking more natural ways of parenting. Choosing carefully when you buy toys that your child will play with every day is an important step in creating a natural environment for your family.

Read more about natural toys in “Toy Monday: Why Natural Toys.”

To buy natural toys, see our Holiday Gifts Guide at bynature.ca.

Make Homemade Holiday Gifts

Child making homemade christmas gift

The assault has begun. Last night I saw an advertisement for a major toy store—let’s call it The Major Toy Store—trying to wash parents in the message that the only toy that will make their kids happy for the holidays is a big, plastic toy.

The advertisement plot line was this: a bus full of kids on a school trip are bored stiff by a teacher telling them how to recognize different trees by the shape of their leaves. But, it turns out the teacher was only joking. He is actually a clerk from a toy store, and he’s taking them to play at the store.

As my husband watched this, he said to me, “I’m surprised parents haven’t pressured the store to withdraw this ad yet. You should find out if people know about this.” So, I’m finding out if YOU know about it. Have you noticed this anti-nature messages in pre-holiday advertising for parents and kids?

If you intend to have a nature-centered holiday season, it’s time to make your plans now to be sure it is your natural message your children get—not the message that nature is boring and plastic toys are fun.

Making Homemade Gifts

One way to show your children the value of homemade and natural gifts is to make homemade and natural gifts.

If you are already a little crafty, 30 minutes on Pinterest should give you several months of crafting fun for you and your kids.

If you need directions, check out our DIY Envy series from last year. Most of these are appropriate crafts for adults or older children, though any child who knows how to knit can make cotton washcloths.

Make soap. “DIY Envy — Yes, You Can Make Soap!” The directions for melt-and-pour soap are very easy, and the results are beautiful. This isn’t really an activity to do WITH kids because of the hot soap, but they could watch from a short distance away. Requirements: reusable kitchen equipment and soap to melt.

Homemade DIY soap

Make cotton washcloths. “DIY Envy — Yes, You Can Knit!” You only need to know one stitch, knit (not even purl) to knit these simple, cotton washcloths. These could be a great holiday gift for friends and family. This project works for parent or child. Requirements: knitting needles and cotton yarn.

Knit cotton washcloth

Make a soft doll. “DIY Envy — Yes, You Can Sew!” This project is the most complex of the three, but all of the stitches are quite simple. You could even sew the whole doll by hand, but it would probably be a week-long project rather than an afternoon project. I included a lot of photos and step-by-step instructions to get you through the project. Once you tackle this, you are ready for a bigger handmade doll project. Requirements: sewing machine, needle and thread for hand sewing, fabric, wool for stuffing, rice or glass beads for weight.

Easy Sew Doll

Make kitchen towels. “DIY Reusable Kitchen Towels.” If you have a serger, it’s super quick and simple to make (not paper) kitchen towels. I added snaps to these, but you don’t necessarily need snaps. Requirements: serger, fabric (terry toweling and decorative outer fabric).

Reusable Kitchen Towels

Gift Crafts for Kids

Every parent and grandparent probably has a shelf ful of kid-crafted gifts. We love seeing what our children make. These wool craft posts give basic directions for a few potential holiday gifts.

Make coasters or mats. “Wool Crafts with Kids: Weaving.” With a very simple loom and a long needle, your child can transform loose yarn into a heavy fabric. That feels like a big accomplishment to a child. Use these mats as coasters or decorative hangings. Required: loom, needle, and yarn.

Child weaving on a wooden loom

Make cord. “Wool Crafts with Kids: Spool Knitting.” Another craft to transform yarn uses a simple spool for knitting cord. Then, you get to think about what to do with all of that cord: knitting, weaving, decorating. Requirements: spool and yarn.

Child using a wooden knitting spool

Make wool balls. “Wool Crafts with Kids: Felted Wool Balls.” Wool balls have become a very popular, natural way to soften clothing in the dryer. The agitation from the bouncing balls flexs the fibers and makes towels, T-shirts, and diapers feel soft. This would be a fun craft that could be given as a great, educational gift to family members. This post includes several methods for felting the wool, from easy to very easy. Requirements: wool and water.

DIY Felted Wool Balls

We also have kids craft kits in the store for older kids to make lip balm, chocolates, friendship bracelets, bath bombs, and more.

You Decide Your Holiday Gift Message

Don’t just give in to the dominant marketing messages. YOU decide how you want to shape your child’s experience and expectations of the holidays.

If you need to start talking about the holdiays this early in order to have yours be the first message your child hears, take advantage of that time to make gifts. As you plan and make gifts, talk about the people you are giving to. Encourage your child to focus on the person who will receive the gift (if they have reached that developmental stage where they CAN think of the other person).

Make your holidays intentional and natural.

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