Wreath making fun

We bought our Christmas Fraser fir from a local Kiwanis Club chapter. I had three feel good moments about the interaction: 1) all proceeds go to charity 2) the volunteers are a group of local older gentlemen that spent way too much time entertaining us and 3) I got two big bundles of boughs, for free.

And since I really wanted to put my own decorations together at minimal cost, free works for me.

Keeping with a natural theme, my plan was to make the wreath form with vine like branches, rather than plastic or metal.

I took my three year out for a stroll by the overgrown wooded area bordering our property. I found quite a few supple branches that would do just nicely for this project.

I ask my dear little sweetheart to put the branches in a large box for me. (She really loves to help.) I turned around to keep collecting branches and when I looked back, she was breaking each branch into tiny three inch sections, “so they could fit better in the box.”

Suddenly I had a lot more branches to find.

But it’s amazing what you can find when you’re looking.

Before long, we were warming ourselves inside and I had a wealth of branches to choose from.

I cut the boughs into manageable pieces and covered my twig wreath round with fir.

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I wrapped floral wire around the wreath after I’d finished laying the boughs.

After hot gluing a few pine cones we found on a nature walk and two sprigs of fake berries that a toddler can’t eat, I made a quick bow with Christmas ribbon I had.

IMG_1135IMG_1134I think it turned out quite nicely but the best part of all was turning my wreath making venture into a great couple of hours with my pre-schooler. With her own wreath to decorate, hot chocolate in hand and carols over the speaker, we made lovely holiday memories.

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If a Three Year Old Can Do It…..

I had a proud crunchy mama moment the other day.

My three year old was sweeping the remains of her younger sister’s meal from off the floor and putting them in the dustpan.

She starting picking items out and making two piles.

“One is for the outside compost, the other is for the compost under the sink,” she said.

And sure enough, the fruit and vegetables bits were in one pile while the meat and bread with other.

(We compost vegetable, fruit and leaves for the garden but send all the other compostables to municipal composting heaven.)

The next time someone tells me composting is too complicated, I’ll have my daughter explain how it works.

 

Crafts With the Power to Defy Earth Day Logic

Happy Earth Day!

It’s a day to celebrate this gorgeous rotating orb we live on and to pledge not to do anymore bad things to it.

In my quest to find a fun and eco-friendly craft for my toddler, I’ve discovered the thick irony of Earth Day crafts for toddlers and young children.

And it’s boldly written in paper and plastic.

I’m not anti-crafts, we do paper crafts at home and at playgroups. They are an easy, creative and inexpensive way for children to develop fine motor skills and develop critical thinking skills while making pretty things.

However, are paper and plastic crafts the best way to celebrate Earth Day?

Er, probably not.

Schools, daycares, nursery schools and homes around the world will be printing colouring pages and buying construction paper to educate children on the importance of Earth Day.

Sigh.

Now that the trees have been chopped down, children will be writing their eco-pledges on pieces of paper that will be glued to construction paper and taped to the wall. Egg cartons will be cut, painted and glued to cardboard in the shape of a tree. Paper plates will be coloured in the green and blue hues of the planet. Paper mâché globes will hang from ceilings.

Oh, how ironic. Paper crafts that teach the importance of conserving resources.

And now for the plastic. I have a really hard time with the plastic.

I gave up plastic bottles and their beverages years ago so you’d be hard pressed to find any in my house. So for us to do to a plastic bottle craft, I would have to get in my vehicle, drive to the store, buy a bottle of soda, sugary juice or (gasp!) water, empty it, wash it and then craft it. A lot of the plastic bottle crafts I’ve seen involve painting, filling with dirt, gluing, shredding or cementing.

Now that doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of Earth Day at all.

Dare I even wonder how many parents, caregivers or nursery schools are going to take the time to clean those bottles and put them in the recycling after Earth Day? Many of these crafts will end up directly in a landfill.

And let’s face it, plastic bottle crafts kind of suck. No one really wants a plastic bottle bird feeder hanging from a tree. Not even grandma will hang onto that for very long.

Let’s not forget how terrible those plastic bottles are. Not only are they often filled with questionable beverages with no nutritional value, the plastic itself is laden with chemicals that can leach into drinks. They’re also a nightmare for the environment.

Now I can’t totally knock plastic drinking bottles. There are places in the world that desperately need clean drinking water and bottled water saves many lives. They are a short-term solution to a very real and pressing issue: 750 million people worldwide lack clean drinking water. That’s simply unacceptable.

Celebrating Earth Day by gluing paper and painting plastic bottles isn’t good enough for our children. How can they possibly learn the value of using less plastic and paper when they’re taught from a very young age that plastic is used to celebrate Earth Day?

There are better, more permanent, ways to commemorate this significant day:

  • Planting trees and vegetable seeds in biodegradable cups
  • Bringing egg cartons to local egg farmers to be reused
  • Turning turn off the tap while brushing teeth and washing hands
  • Involving children in food buying
  • Using a rain barrel to water gardens

We won’t be crafting today, but we will be planting some tomato seeds. Earth Day isn’t just a day. It’s an opportunity to sow a project that will last well beyond April 22.

Happy Earth Day,

Jill

Better Easter Junk…er, gifts

With Easter upon us, I can’t help but reflect on the amount of junk that will fill garbage and recycling bins this weekend.

It seems that the commercial portion of Easter has an excessive amount of plastic, useless toys and really gross treats. (I won’t even comment on the big freaky rabbit.)

I scratch my head at the palm sized bunnies that squeak when you touch their feet or the little ducklings that sit in an egg and peep.

Sure they keep dollar stores open but do they serve any other purpose?

Since spring is finally here, why not consider getting the kids some outdoor activities like sidewalk chalk, skipping ropes or balls instead of candy and chocolate.

Better yet, get them some seeds and gardening gloves. Show them how magical spring really is and how quickly seedlings grow. By the time the plastic ducks and bunnies are in the landfill, the kids will still be watching their little miracles grow!

Happy Easter,

Jill

Adventures in pre-loved toys

I have to admit, the enchantment of walking into a well stocked toy store sends me to a warm, happy place filled with memories of my childhood. I love seeing the stacks of puzzles and games, the ornate displays of trains and dolls, the beautiful stars and ribbons that hang from the ceiling and the stuffed animals that fill every square inch.

I loved receiving toys as a child and I now love giving them just as much.

But I’m much more aware now that I have a significant impact on the environment and I’m weary of the influence that consumerism has upon our lives.

I don’t buy products that come in a fortress of packaging – it drives me mad because it needlessly increases the cost of products and wastes precious resources.

But is it possible to avoid plastic packaging and excessive consumerism when toy shopping for children?

The answer is yes. (And I’m saving bundle doing it too.)

The trick is in pre-loved toys.

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The shopping experience might not be as whimsical as what some toy stores can offer but it can be a lot more fun and rewarding.

And since the packaging has long since been disposed of, it’s the dream of every thrifty-eco-savvy family!

I am a big fan of consignment stores because it’s a win/win for everyone involved. The buyer saves money and both the seller and the consignment store make money.

Our local consignment store is owned by a lovely woman who has two young kids. She employs local people, helps local families and promotes local events. The money I spend there stay in the community and that’s important to me.

As an added bonus, there’s a corner for kids so I bring my toddler along with me and she can read, hang out and play.

Some of the deals are impressive, especially when there’s a seasonal sale.

I paid $12 for more than 200 pieces of big blocks. Since it’s easy to spend a small fortune on building a good collection of blocks, I’m still quite pleased with this deal. I would have spent $100 buying these new. I even got a princess costume for a dollar. A dollar!

Another of my favourite places for pre-loved toys are garage sales  – especially in neighbourhoods with a lot of families.

Families on a street in our old neighbourhood held a multiple family garage sale every summer and it was a lot of fun. Kids were running cookie, juice, lemonade and hot dog stands while their parents sold their toys. Brilliant. I scored a lot of amazing stuff for really cheap and we made a fun morning out of it.

An added bonus was picking up a lot of books for just a couple dollars and an elaborate wood bead maze for $3.

We all know that building a good book collection is another expensive undertaking. We’re a bilingual family and I have a hard time finding used books in French so I usually have to buy them at full price. Luckily used English children’s books are a dime a dozen at garage sales.

And since my toddler has a knack for destroying them, I really dislike spending a lot of money on books. To bring them back to life, I spent $10 on book tape and repair torn pages or broken board books with some handy book tape I picked up. (Now she thinks I can fix anything.)

Ride-on toys are hard to come across in the pre-loved toy realm. They are the most elusive item I’ve yet to come across. It would seem that the super early birds snatch them up. Luckily, I happen to know one of these super early birds.

My daughter’s old daycare provider is a volunteer member of a group that puts together a not-for-profit used children’s toy, clothing and equipment sale with all proceeds going back into the community. Since she gets first dibs on the sale item as a volunteer, she shops the night before the sale open to the public.

She found us a coupe in perfect condition for $15. They retail for more than that retails for more than $70.

More importantly than saving cash, I’m happy knowing that my money went back in the community and not in the hands of the already super wealthy retail stores.

There are so many amazing deals to be had outside the traditional toys shops. The thrill is not in walking into an elaborate toy store, but rather it’s in putting money back into my community, keeping packaging out of landfills and showing my children that their decisions make a difference.