Natural Egg Dyes

Natural Egg Dyes

If you are preparing for Spring holidays, chances are you will be dying eggs with your children. I’m always hesitant to you commercial egg dyes. If you are looking for more natural solutions as well, simple natural dyes can give you beautiful, subtle pastel colors of Spring.

Why Eggs in Spring?

Before commercial egg laying, Spring was the time for a chicken to lay the most eggs. They need a certain amount of sunlight per day, and they would anticipate enough time in the year to raise chicks to survive the next winter. The presence of eggs from birds of all kinds was a sign of spring. It makes sense that this and other signs of new life have been adopted to symbolize the season with the world begins to warm and wake from winter.

The subtlety of natural dyes on spring eggs makes a nice contrast to the bright colors of petrochem dyes. Natural dyes also give you and your children a chance to experiment and play in creating your spring decorations.

Basic Preparation

  • Eggs
  • Vinegar
  • Dye stuffs
  • Saucepan(s)
  • Glass jars (so your child can see the eggs taking on the color)
  • Slotted spoon
  • Tray for drying (egg carton will work, but I don’t like the smudges it can make. I like a wire rack)

If using Cool Dip method, hard boil the eggs.

White eggs show subtle colors better, but brown eggs still make nice, earthy colors.

Whether cooked or raw, clean the eggs in slightly soapy water to remove any oils or anything else that could resist color.

Dry thoroughly.

Two methods

Hot Method for more intense, sometimes mottled colors

  • Put one layer of uncooked eggs into a pan. Be careful not to crack the shells or you will dye your hard-boiled eggs as well as the shells, and you will just break your uncooked eggs.
  • Add enough water to cover eggs plus ½”.
  • Add 1 teaspoon – 2 tablespoons of vinegar. 1 Tbs works for nearly all dyes (see below).
  • Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer.
  • Simmer 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove eggs from pan with a slotted spoon.

If colors aren’t dark enough yet, put eggs and dye liquid in the refrigerator overnight.

If you leave an egg in vinegar long enough, the shell will dissolve. Don’t leave the eggs sitting in dye longer than overnight.

Cool Dip Method for lighter, smoother colors with pre-boiled eggs

  • Add 3-4 cups of water to a saucepan.
  • Add your dye stuffs.
  • Boil the dye for 30 minutes.
  • Cool dye (it doesn’t have to be cool but at least take the dye off the heat before adding hard-boiled eggs).
  • Add 2-3 teaspoons of vinegar.
  • Put dye in a clear jar for easy viewing.
  • Carefully lower hard-boiled eggs into dye with a slotted spoon.
  • Leave at least 30 minutes, though you can leave the eggs overnight.


Use 1-4 cups of vegetable stuffs or 1-2 tablespoons spices.

Yellow – Turmeric
Gold/Orange – Onion Skins (vinegar moves the color toward brown)
Pink – grated Beets, crushed fresh Cranberries, canned Cherries
Purple – Grape Juice
Blue – Red Cabbage (boil 30 minutes before adding eggs)
Green – Spinach
Brown – Coffee, Black Tea

Combine for other colors. Red Cabbage plus Turmeric, for example, make green.


Use a clear, white, or light crayon to create resist patterns. Exciting for a child just learning to write her name. Useful for making dyed eggs look like natural, speckled eggs. For an older child up for a challenge, show him pysanky (Ukrainian egg decorating) for inspiration.

User rubber bands to create simple stripes. This is a striking effect and easy to do with children.

Keep Track

This is a great opportunity for your child to learn some of the art and science behind dyes. Have them come up with a hypothesis then test it with the dyes. Does red cabbage, for example, make red dye? (It doesn’t. It makes blue dye.)

If you are going to experiment with dyes from your own garden or from your local area, you might want to keep track of the recipes whose results you most like.

What dye stuffs did I use?
What method did I use?
What was my recipe?
How long did leave the egg?
Did a different length of time result in a different color?
What do I think of the results?
Add a photo if you can.

Next year, add to your egg dye recipe book.

Throughout March we will offer guides to getting started with some of the basic practices of attachment parenting and sustainable living. This is Spring Week with ideas, crafts, and recipes.

Image © Darryl Brooks |

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Blog to Inspire: I Parent by Nature, that’s why I choose cloth diapers

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This following post was an entry in our Blog to Inspire contest. The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and not necessarily those of Eco Baby Steps or Parenting By Nature.

Wonderful World of Nikki profile

Blog to Inspire entrant The Wonderful World of Nikki is Nicole Bergman, is married and has a beautiful 1 year old baby girl. She cares very much about the environment and does her best to treat the Earth with respect. She enjoys DIY projects, crafts, and spending time in the kitchen.

My husband calls me a hippie. Maybe I am, I don’t really know. What I do know is that becoming a Mother has inspired change in my life- it has sparked an awareness and a desire. I am aware of the way things are in this world and how needlessly complicated things can be. I desire a simpler life. I want to live and parent as nature intended. That is why I choose organic food to feed my family. That is why we reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible. That is why I had a natural, unmedicated birth. That is why I breastfed my daughter. That is why I chose cloth diapers.

I was curious why other parents chose to diaper the way they do, so I asked 75 parents the same questions. Of the parents I asked, 73% use disposable diapers, which leaves only 27% as cloth diaper users. The main reasons why people don’t use cloth diapers?
“They’re inconvenient.”

Really? I totally don’t think so. Diapers have come a long way since the days of folding fabric, pins and rubber pants. I use one size pocket diapers- a waterproof outer layer that is stuffed with an absorbent inner liner. The only “inconvenience” is having to stuff the liner into the diaper, but that is hardly any work. I also found that many people said that having to wash a diaper was not convenient for them. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t wear disposable clothes, so if I am having to wash laundry anyways, then what is one extra load every couple days?
“They’re gross!”

Handling a cloth diaper is no different than handling a disposable diaper. Most people seemed to think that the solid waste would be the issue. Did you know that with a disposable diaper, any solid waste should be disposed of in the toilet? 85% of the disposable diaper users I asked said that they throw the diaper and the solid waste into the garbage. Human waste should not be untreated. The bacteria from fecal matter left in landfills can create public health hazards. That is gross. If you can remove a child’s diaper and drop it into a garbage can, you can remove a child’s diaper and drop it into a diaper pail. From there it goes into the washer once the pail is full. My house does not smell of dirty diapers, nor is my washer full of residual poop.
“They’re very expensive”

My husband was not on board when I first told him I wanted to use cloth diapers. Like many others, he thought they were gross and too much work. I showed him the Parenting By Nature website from which I wanted to order the diapers. He absolutely could not believe that I was willing to pay $22.00 for a single diaper. It might seem expensive at first, but do the math.

I spent approx. $400.00 on 18 pocket diapers (keep in mind, this is a one time purchase).
I change my baby approx. 7 times each day.
I will do this for approx. 2 years which works out to roughly 5110 diapers.
My cost: $400.00.

A person spends approx. $21.99 on a box of 100 disposable diapers.
A person will stretch this box of diapers approx. 2 weeks ($11.00 per week).
A person will do this for approx. 2 years. There are 104 weeks in 2 years.
Their cost: $1144.00.

Cost difference: $744.00

Note: This calculation was based on a package of newborn diapers. With each size, the diapers increase in price. My cost does not increase because my cloth diapers have snaps so the size can be adjusted as my baby grows. Keep in mind that some children are in diapers longer than 2 years, which means even more money.

Now, lets not forget the environmental impact of disposable diapers. Over 4,000,000 disposable diapers are discarded daily in Canada. Wow. Four million. Per day. Disposable diapers are made of paper, plastic and sodium polyacrylate. These materials do not biodegrade well. They will just sit there for hundreds of years.

Babies health? Think of all the toxic chemicals found in diapers- traces of dioxin, tributyl-tin, sodium polyacrylate… babies are in diapers 24 hours hours a day for a couple of years. I don’t want my child wrapped in chemical filled plastic. We choose soft cotton undergarments for ourselves, why wouldn’t we do the same for our children?

The cloth diaper myths have been debunked, the good and the bad, laid out for you right here. We all want what is best for our precious children.

Go ahead and call me a hippie! I have chosen to follow my heart and my instincts— to be lead and to parent by nature.

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Grow an Edible Flower Salad With Your Child

The seeds we are planting this year --- later, when random snowstorms stop.
The seeds we are planting this year — later, when it stops random snowing.

Grow a gardener? Plant a garden your child will find interesting. How about planting a salad garden with the added intrigue of edible flowers?

Before I even had children, my husband and I planted edible flowers in our garden just for the joy of it. One day, a neighbor girl about four years old joined me in my long, narrow garden to ask what I was doing.

“Eating flowers,” I told her.


“They taste good. Do you want one?”

I gave her a Johnny Jump Up and asked her to take it to her mother to ask if she could eat it.

Last year I suggested growing a bowl of salsa to give child gardener an easy success. This year, I suggest planting a salad—and making it interesting with edible flowers.

Yes, it is sometimes difficult to convince a child to eat greens. If they put the care into growing lettuce and spinach themselves, they may be more likely to eat a salad. I don’t have trouble getting either of my children to eat salad, but edible flowers make salad all the more fascinating.

Salad Garden

I have found that if I designate one area to be the responsibility of one child, my children take more interest in keeping the plants alive and healthy. If you create a salad area of the garden for your child, they will know exactly what area is theirs. Be sure to give them the tools and the support they need to be successful. My children have gardening gloves, small tools, and a child-sized watering can.

Try a variety of lettuces and other greens. With a big mixture, you can hold taste tests and plan your next year’s garden based on what everyone likes best.

Be sure to research which plants will grow best in your climate. Is it best in your area to start seeds indoors or to plant seeds directly?

Easy for children to grow:

  • Pansy
  • Marigold
  • Johnny Jump Up
  • Calendula

Edible Flower Dos and Don’ts

  • Don’t use flower fertilizers or plant foods on flowers you plan to eat.
  • Don’t eat flowers from flower shops unless they grow them specifically for eating.
  • Harvest early in the morning when water content is highest.
  • Only eat petals.
  • Be cautious if you or your child have allergies.

In addition to garnishes and salads, try eating flowers in other ways.

  • Tea
  • Candied
  • Jelly or jam
  • Butter or honey
  • Oil


If you are going to teach your child to eat flowers, you must also teach them that not all flowers are good to eat. Better yet, purge your garden of poisonous flowers and put medicinal flowers in an area that is difficult to reach. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, since the flowers of some vegetables are considered poisonous.

I ended up NOT teaching my children to eat flowers out of our garden because we also had Datura (Jimson Weed or Moonflower) lining the other side of our house for about 20 feet. This is a very toxic hallucinogen, so the children were not allowed to even touch the plant despite the beautiful flowers that we often watched opening up within minutes.

Only teach your children to eat flowers if you can either control their access to flowers or they are old enough to understand that some flowers can be eaten and some absolutely should not be eaten. Children should always be taught to check with an adult before eating out of a garden, in the woods, or anywhere else. If both the adults and the children are well educated about edible gardening and wild edible plants, you have a great adventure ahead of you.


Throughout March we will offer guides to getting started with some of the basic practices of attachment parenting and sustainable living. This is Spring Week with ideas, crafts, and recipes.

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Big Green Picture, Big Green Plan

Simply Going Green

Bottled water, plastic bags, energy audit, and heat leaks. All easy ways to start making your life more sustainable. These suggestions come from “The Simple Things First,” the first chapter in Simply Going Green, an e-book produced by blogger Kaayla Canfield from the Simply Going Green blog.

Review. Kaayla Canfield, Simply Going Green in Three Years or Less, Kaayla Canfield Publishing, 2008.

Simply Going Green contains primarily Canadian resources but helps anyone to ask enough questions about sustainable lifestyle in order to begin to answer big questions for themselves. The book itself doesn’t ask or address big picture, such as WHY we need to green our lives, but the Foreward from Dave Bronconnier, the Mayor of Calgary begins to. These personal actions encouraged by the book, he writes, are a necessary step toward responsible stewardship. “Choose the actions that best fit your circumstance and create your own three-year green plan to make a difference. Every step you take will reduce our ecological footprint and brighten our future.”

The author herself seems to see the book as a kind of workbook toward that 3-year plan. She left a space next to each item suggesting that readers check off what they are already doing then mark 1, 2, and 3 for items they can do in the next three years. Having marked up the book, the reader has a plan to go green.

Unfortunately, in order to mark each item, you will need to print the book, which quite defeats the purpose of a low-impact e-book.

As an academic, I have a lot of books on paper, a lot of printed research, but I’ve become better over the past 20 years at keeping more of my information in digital format. Especially if I am reading about how to lower my overall environmental impact, I’m less likely to print even in order to use as intended.

Despite this major flaw in the book, I find it very helpful to look over another person’s idea of the most important steps to green one’s life. Though, when it comes down to it, what constitutes a sustainable life includes a lot of personal values. For me, for example, labor must always be considered, which is why fair trade chocolate is now my only chocolate. What sustainable values guided this author’s choices? That isn’t clear.

Most of the book I found a good, general reminder of excellent steps to take. The chapter on children, “Our Precious Little Ones,” was very disappointing, though. So much could and should be said about why parents make the environmental choices they do for their children, and how parents can begin to sort through implications of their choices. Unfortunately, this section is unlike other sections of the book that do help the reader think through choices. The chapter on children ends up being is a shopping guide with web addresses. “[H]armful chemicals and pesticides,” she writes, “may be found in everything from our food, baby bottles, and toys to the diaper they wear.” What harmful chemicals? How do we find them? How should knowing this shape our choices? Follow the links to stores to find out.

Overall, the book is more checklist than guide.

If you are looking for the big, green picture, you will need to provide this yourself. If you are looking for a helpful, simple guide to first steps—steps that could lead you to create your own green family plan—you will find that in Simply Going Green.

Throughout March we will offer guides to getting started with some of the basic practices of attachment parenting and sustainable living. This is Environmental Living Week with tips, products, resources, and personal experiences.

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The Joy of Breastfeeding a Toddler

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Some days he’s a grizzly bear. Other days he’s an octopus. Most of the time he is an acrobat who’s tricks are utterly amazing.

I never really set out to breastfeed toddlers. In fact, I didn’t even know anyone who had breastfed at all when I had my first child. Because I didn’t have any support, I set a goal of 6 weeks (I made it to 3 months). With my second child, I knew someone who had breastfed to 9 months so I set a goal of 6 months (I made it to a year). By the time I had my third child, I was deeply entrenched in La Leche League with solid support all around, and that baby breastfed well into toddlerhood. In fact, she even tandem nursed with her little brother for several months.

It was then I discovered the joy of breastfeeding a toddler.


Now before I sing the joys of breastfeeding a toddler, I will admit nursing a wiggly, wild one isn’t always fun. They pick and pull and nurse upside-down, but there are also some really fun benefits to breastfeeding at this age.

  • They can talk. I can actually ask my toddler if he needs to nurse and he can answer me! Yes, this sometimes means he yells for it at the most inopportune times, but it still melts my heart every time I hear him say, “Naw naw.”
  • A little bit goes a long way. Nursing sessions are quick and to the point. He nurses and leaves. Yes, I sometimes lament that the days of cuddling are all but gone, but I sure do get a kick out of how fast he is satisfied. And along those lines…
  • Momentary connections mean so much. Toddlers are busy. Connecting with them is often limited to kissing boo-boos and bedtime routines. Breastfeeding a toddler gives mama and baby one more (or several more) opportunities throughout the day to connect.
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