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6 More Ways to Go Green in the New Year

6 More Ways to Go Green in the New Year

Yesterday I wrote about what I see as some of the simpler ways to go green. They still take commitment but don’t really take a lot of extra effort. Today I’m covering some still fairly simple things that do take a bit more effort to go green in the new year.

1. Drive less.

This is a tough one for many families. Schools aren’t always within walking distance. It’s hard to run errands or get to kids’ activities without driving if things aren’t really close to your home. I work at home, so at least I don’t have to drive for work, but many of the other things I do require the use of a car.

Look at what you do. Can riding a bike, walking or taking public transportation replace the use of your car at times? Most transit services have websites that will help you figure out your local bus routes and schedules.

Telecommuting is awesome if you can manage it. This one is not possible for a lot of people, but if you can do telecommute, consider yourself lucky and take advantage! You waste less time on the road and save the money you would have spent on gas.

I’ve gone the one car route when it has been possible too. Being a one car family was difficult at times, but the savings was huge. It doesn’t work where we live now though.

compost

2. Compost.

If you have a backyard, composting can be pretty easy to do. Find a spot in your yard that you don’t mind setting things up, and start composting. Appropriate food scraps, lawn clippings, leaves and even cardboard can do well in backyard compost piles.

Composting can be a bit tougher if you live in an apartment, but there are indoor composting systems that are reported to control the odors. Composting means that food scraps don’t rot in the landfill. They make great natural fertilizer, even if all you ever do is plant an indoor herb garden.

3. Garden.

Anything from a little herb garden on a kitchen counter to a serious backyard garden can be a wonderful idea. It means you can get fresh produce that you know has been grown the way you like it. A good garden can produce great snacks for kids too. It can be one of the fun ways to go green in the new year.

Take the time to learn about natural pest control. For example, ladybugs are pretty easily available at many garden centers at certain times of year and are quite good at controlling certain pests.

And of course, the aforementioned compost means you don’t have to spend money on other fertilizers.

Alternatively or along with this, join a food co-op. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is very popular right now. It’s a wonderful way to get local produce more easily. Local Harvest has some good resources to help you find a CSA in your area.

4. Decrease your energy consumption.

Changing light bulbs to LEDs or CFLs works, although some have concerns about the mercury in the CFL bulbs. But there’s more you can do.

Consider plugging your television, stereo and such into a power strip, so that you can shut them down completely when you turn them off. These can use a significant amount of “ghost power”. But you will want to consider, if you have TiVo or a similar service, finding a way to allow that to have a different power strip so you can leave it on if it is going to be recording while you aren’t watching television.

Also be sure to unplug chargers when not in use. Cell phone chargers are often left plugged in, and they don’t stop using power just because you take your cell phone with you.

Similarly, unplug electric toothbrushes and the like. My electric toothbrush is plugged in about one day a week and holds a good charge that long easily.

use clothesline

5. Install a clothesline.

Putting in a clothesline takes some effort, as does hanging the laundry out on it when the weather is warm enough to dry your clothes quickly. Clothes dryers use a significant amount of energy. But even beyond that, there are few things like clothes dried outdoors. Some people give their towels a quick turn through the dryer at the end so that they don’t feel stiff.

Clotheslines can be problematic with some homeowners associations. I kept things below the fence line when I used one while living in a homeowners association area. Many states protect the right to use clotheslines regardless of what the HOA may say, so check the rules in your area if this is a concern.

I like using a clothesline during the summer. Clothes often dry faster in the sunshine than they do in a dryer. The animal shelter we volunteer at uses a clothesline year round for their laundry. They only use their dryer if they have more than a day of rain keeping the laundry from drying. They save a lot of money that way. Clothes take a long time to dry on cool, cloudy days, but they do get there.

6. Get an energy audit.

Many local power companies offer these for free or at a discount, or you can hire a company to do one for you.

An energy audit tests your home, to see where energy is being wasted and how you can solve the problem. Little things like leaks under a door or through a window can cause significant heat loss in winter, for example. Just be sure you take action on the recommendations.

What ways are you planning to go green in the new year?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

16 Simple, Green New Year’s Resolutions

16 Simple, Green New Year's Resolutions

This is a popular time to rethink old habits, so why not rethink some of those habits you have that aren’t so good for the environment? Today I’d like to present a list of reasonably simple things you can do to have less of an impact and live greener.

1. Buy less.

And when you have to buy, try to buy green. This can mean buying local, organic or fair trade when possible. It can also mean checking out resale shops and thrift stores. You might be amazed at the quality of things you can buy that aren’t new.

2. Reuse.

So much of what we buy can be reused. But even if you can’t come up with a use for it, someone else might. When it’s reasonable, remember to list items on Freecycle or give to thrift shops.

We reuse a lot here. Most gift bags used for holidays or birthdays are kept for the next one. They don’t look perfect, but they work.

Some of the burp cloths we used back when my kids were babies are still in use as an alternative to napkins or kleenex. Cloth is so much kinder to the nose when you have a miserable cold that I hate it when I need to use a disposable tissue instead.

3. Recycle.

Yes, the third part of the usual reduce, reuse, recycle routine.

Most areas have made recycling easier. You may or may not have to split your recyclables into separate bins for each type these days. Where I live, all recyclables go into one bin, making it as easy as throwing them in the trash.

Also, try to find reputable places to dispose of old electronics. When it comes time to get rid of that old computer, television or whatever it may be, do not throw it in the trash. Earth 911 has resources for recycling electronics. Sometimes schools and other local organizations will hold electronics recycling events as a fundraiser, giving you the chance to get rid of old electronics and do something good for that organization.

4. Switch to natural and/or nontoxic cleansers.

Method and Seventh Generation are two popular brands that you can often find locally.

You can also make your own cleansers. Baking soda and white vinegar work for an amazing range of cleaning needs.

5. Buy rechargeable batteries.

A good battery recharging system means you will go through fewer batteries and save money in the long run. Figure out how many batteries of each type you will need and get a system that can cope with your needs. Amazon.com and GreenBatteries.com each have a decent selection.

6. Warm your body, not your house when possible.

wear a sweaterRather than turning the thermostat up to 70 degrees F or more, remember what your parents used to say and put on a sweater. Maybe even some socks or slippers if you’ve been running around the house barefoot. You can keep the thermostat at a much lower temperature this way, saving on heating oil or electricity in the process.

If a day is sunny but cold, opening the blinds may help to heat your home. I do this only on the side of the house that gets direct sunlight in winter.

The reverse can be more challenging in summer. Keeping your thermostat to a higher temperature to avoid using the air conditioner is not easy for many people. It’s not too impossible for me since I work at home and don’t often go into air conditioned buildings. It takes just a couple weeks to get used to being warmer, along with figuring out how to block the worst of the heat.

If you don’t mind the look, folded cardboard boxes in windows really do help, as do sheets or blankets covering the windows. Anything that keeps the heat out means you’ll use the air conditioner less.

Don’t forget to check and replace filters regularly!

7. Wash your clothes in cold water.

Most of the time cold water cleans your laundry quite well. A warm wash rarely improves your results in any significant way. Modern washing machines and detergents can do a very good job of cleaning your clothes without heated water in most places.

8. Drink more water.

But don’t buy bottled water. Buy a nice reusable bottle either from a local store or through Amazon.com. I prefer stainless steel bottles for their durability and safety. You’ll save money as you do something good for yourself and the environment.

9. Use less water.

This is not in contradiction to #8. You should drink more water, but people tend to waste a lot of water. Take shorter showers and rethink how much you water your lawn. Deeper waterings are more effective than more frequent watering, for example. But you should also be looking at your overall landscaping and figuring out how to make it more suited to your local climate.

Whatever lawn you do keep, allow to grow taller. If it’s at least 2-1/2 inches tall it will need less watering and be more resistant to weeds.

10. Do full loads.

Don’t run half full washing machines or dishwashers. While the occasional smaller load may be necessary, most of the time you can wait a little and build up a full load.

But by the same token, think about how fast things really get dirty. Kids can be great for wearing an outfit for a half hour, then throwing them in the clothes hamper to be washed. Often, they aren’t really dirty, and could be put away rather than into the laundry.

Similarly, many people find it simple to use a towel more than once for drying off. How often you use a bath towel before washing can be a personal preference, but most say you should wash it after about three uses. Hand towels should be replaced every couple days, depending on how much they get used.

11. Stop using disposable dishes.

disposable dishesThese are easiest when you’re entertaining, but a lot of people use them fairly frequently just because they feel like it. Whenever possible, even when you have company, don’t use disposable dishes or plasticware.

This goes for lunchtime too. Many people bring or buy lunch at school or work. But if you bring leftovers from home in reusable containers you won’t be throwing out so many disposable containers. Reusable lunch bags are easily found locally or on Amazon. You can even avoid plastic in the containers by finding stainless steel or glass containers for your food.

12. Get off junk mail lists.

This one should be an absolute pleasure!

Junk mail is incredibly annoying. Credit card offers can be particularly annoying, as many worry about security risks with them. They’re easy to get rid of, however. You can opt out for five years or permanently through www.optoutprescreen.com. You can further decrease your junk mail by asking the DMA to take your name off mailing lists.

13. Go flexitarian.

That is, eat at least one vegetarian meal a week. Eating less meat can be good for you, and there are many delightful vegetarian recipes you can try. Even if you love your meat, this one should be possible.

Meatless Monday is the traditional day, of course. You can go meatless any day it’s convenient to you. If Monday is the wrong day for any reason, just pick another day.

There are tons of wonderful vegetarian recipes out there. Start searching and find some that include ingredients you know you like.

14. Have the kids help.

The younger kids learn to respect the environment, the more of a habit it can become. Don’t give them all the toys they want, just because they saw them on television. Think about how much they have and how much easier it is to appreciate what you have when there’s less of it.

15. Bring your own bag.

Reusable bags are available in many stores these days. These are a wonderful substitute for the plastic bags that are otherwise often a single use item. Reusable bags are required in California now.

You can buy much nicer reusable bags than what the stores sell if you like. These should last longer, and feel nicer to carry. They’re so useful that my aunt loves to give Envirosax as party favors for adults.

16. Don’t fall for green consumerism.

While buying green products is a good idea, it’s not green if you’re overdoing it. Think about what you really need before you shop. Buying lunch boxes and shopping bags makes sense because you’re going to be using fewer one-use items. Buying an entire new wardrobe of clothing so you can get it all organic or fair trade does not.

I’ll be posting in the next day or so on some of the more challenging things you can do to go greener. Nothing too hard, just things that might take a bit more commitment, without requiring a complete change of lifestyle.

10 Obnoxious Disposable Products You Don’t Need

10 Obnoxious Disposable Products You Don't Need

Using disposable products for cleaning around the home has become commonplace. It’s as though the fear of germs not only extends to using antibacterials in just about all soaps, but to using all cleaning materials just once to ensure that the germs don’t stick around at all. But frankly, a lot of these disposable products are obnoxious and wasteful.

I’ve written before about ways to avoid plastic, but there are many more disposable products you should consider whether or not you need to continue using them.

Paper Towels

Paper towels have been used in the kitchen for a while now. It’s hard for many people to picture their kitchen without them – they’re probably one of the most popular disposable products around. But you really and truly can live without them.

Get a few more kitchen towels. Microfiber ones work great for cleaning the kitchen and bathroom. If you aren’t concerned with appearances, you can also tear up old bathroom towels for cleaning rags.

Paper towels are easy. I’ll give them that. But so are kitchen towels once you get used to reaching for them rather than paper. Toss them in the laundry when they get dirty and they’ll be ready for use again the next time you do laundry.

Paper Napkins

Sure, it’s easy to toss some paper napkins on the table so that the kids have some way to handle the inevitable mess. Know what? They do that pretty darn well with cloth napkins too. And cloth napkins can handle bigger messes.

I don’t know about your kids, but with mine that can be a huge plus. They’d use a huge wad of paper napkins to clean a mess that one cloth napkin or hand towel could handle.

Facial Tissues

You can go through a ton of facial tissues such as Kleenex when you’re sick. On those days you may not care much about disposable products or waste, but there are better options out there.

A good handkerchief is a great option. They’re much easier on your nose than facial tissue in my experience. We have some old burp cloths that are super soft and work well when someone has a cold.

Swiffer

Whatever happened to a plain old broom? Are a broom and dustpan really that hard to use?

And when it comes to mopping, I love my steam mop. No cleaning chemicals required, and the microfiber pads are washable and reusable. It’s so easy my kids do the mopping for me. Until I made it a regular chore they’d even argue over whose turn it was to mop.

If you own a Swiffer already, just stop using the disposable cloths you have to buy for it and attach a washcloth or microfiber cloth to it for your cleaning routine. It will do the job well enough and you can just toss them in the laundry when you’re done. No need to replace it just because you’re trying to be more eco friendly. You can spray your floor with vinegar rather than use their cleaning liquid.

Disposable Diapers

Okay, I’ll grant that in some situations you’re going to need to use disposable diapers unless you’re the most determined cloth diaper parent around. Lots of people who use cloth diapers don’t like to deal with them for travel, where carrying them around and washing them is a bit more effort.

And I’ll grant that most daycares won’t deal with cloth diapers either. So I understand that some people do indeed need disposable diapers.

But if you can fit them into your lifestyle, cloth diapers are so much nicer to use than disposables. Just an extra load of laundry washed with a little extra care. In return, you get reduced odds of diaper rash and improved odds that your child will potty train at a younger age. Plus all the money saved.

To make this more energy efficient, line dry the diapers when possible. The sun will help bleach out many of the stains, which is an added bonus.

Don’t forget the cloth wipes. You’ll be washing the diapers anyhow!

Plastic Grocery Bags

This is one of the most challenging items in my experience. It’s not always easy to remember to grab your reusable bags when you’re heading out to the store. Plus you’re using something you had to buy, while plastic grocery bags are currently free.

Have you ever noticed how fast the damn things add up in your kitchen? It’s ridiculous.

While many grocery stores have recycle bins for plastic grocery bags, the simple truth about any plastic is that it’s not all that recyclable at this time. Plus rather few plastic grocery bags actually get recycled.

In California and some other places now, stores don’t give free plastic grocery bags anymore. You have to bring your own or pay for a reusable one. It’s amazing how fast the habit to bring your bag improves when you have to buy a bag if you don’t bring one. It only costs a dime, but most don’t want to have to pay that for every bag they use.

You can buy some very nice reusable shopping bags that will be much better than the reusable plastic ones the store will sell so cheaply. They often hold more, which is both good and bad. You don’t have to carry so many bags, but sometimes they get too heavy for comfort.

Plastic Water Bottles

Plastic water bottles are everywhere these days! When you consider what you’re paying for bottled water, it’s pretty absurd in comparison to what tap water costs.

Stainless steel water bottles are so much nicer. I’ve used mine for years. I prefer the insulated models so that I don’t need to worry about condensation. It also means I can leave it in the car and come back to a drink that is still cold. They come out cheaper than plastic water bottles over time.

They’re also great for kids in their school lunches. I’ve tried so many drink bottles for my kids, and the stainless steel ones are the only ones that survive. Kids tend to throw lunch boxes and drink bottles around when they’re done with them for the school day. I’ll see dents in their drink bottles, but no breaks.

Disposable Dishes

Paper plates, plastic cups, and plastic silverware are incredibly useful when you have company over, but also incredibly wasteful.

You have alternatives. You can borrow dishes from family for special events where you need more dishes, or you can get inexpensive reusable dishes. If you absolutely must use plastic cups, have a Sharpie pen out so people can mark their cups. This way they don’t have to get a new cup when they aren’t certain which is theirs.

Dryer Sheets

I have to admit, I have never understood dryer sheets. I’ve never even used them. It has never seemed to me that they would make a significant difference in my laundry.

If you need to use something, try wool dryer balls or simply put a drop or two of an essential oil on a cloth and throw it into your dryer. The effect should be much the same.

Single Serve Coffee Pods

I am not a coffee drinker, so it’s easy for me to look down on single serve coffee pods, although I do understand the convenience. It can be nice making just a single cup of coffee in the morning when that’s all you really want. The waste from the pods, however, is awful.

If you love your Keurig or whatever brand you have, check out reusable coffee pods as an alternative. That way you can keep using your machines, have your convenient single serve coffee and reduce waste at the same time.

There are plenty more disposable products that people use that they don’t really need. While you don’t need to make all these changes to be more eco friendly, it may not hurt to make a few changes. Which disposable products drive you nuts?

25 Non-Toy Gifts For Preschoolers

25 Non-Toy Gifts For Preschoolers

Most preschoolers get a ton of toys for birthdays and Christmas. It makes for quite a mess around the house, and a lot of toys that only rarely get played with. Not that the kids won’t consider each utterly precious, to be given up only with great reluctance, but as most parents know, enough is enough when it comes to toys. There comes a time when you want to give more non-toy gifts for preschoolers.

The best way to encourage people to give your preschoolers more non-toy gifts is to let it be known what else your child would like. Preschoolers love toys, they can always spot another one they want, but there are so many other things they will be just as delighted to get, things that won’t cause so much clutter or waste. Here are some ideas.

1. Art Supplies

While it’s possible to have too many art supplies for your preschooler, I find an oversupply of art supplies easier to deal with than an excess of toys. Know what your child’s favorites are – my youngest has a thing for paints, but really doesn’t care that much for crayons or markers. She also loves glue when I can stand the mess.

An easel is a nice addition to art supplies. You can take it outside for messy projects, or let your preschooler work indoors when things won’t get messy. It’s one more thing to store, yes, but an easel has a lot of potential too. If it’s magnetic, so much the better, as that’s one more activity they can use the easel for.

2. Special Outings

Kids love to be taken out on special outings. This can be done by a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle… just about anyone your preschooler has fun going places with. Pick a place they love but don’t often get to go and make the gift a promise to take them.

Trampoline parks are popular right now. Some even have special hours for preschoolers while older kids are in school – a real advantage so that the little ones don’t get trampled. That said, a trip to a favorite playground could be a part of a gift too.

My husband and I did this for Christmas last year in the form of printed coupons for each of the kids. A day out with mom or dad, total cost to not exceed $X. Within reason, they got to pick the day they went out, and the activity.

3. Tickets

Know a show coming up that your preschooler would enjoy? Get tickets! It doesn’t matter if it’s a movie, concert or theatrical production, just find something your child will enjoy.

4. Gift Card to a Favorite Restaurant

Where does your preschooler like to eat? Anything from fast food to a pizza place to the ice cream shop is fair game. It’s easy to find gift cards at most restaurants. Local grocery stores, Target and Walmart also usually carry a good selection, as does Amazon.

5. Time With You

Time spent with kids doesn’t always have to be an outing. It can just be a promise to do something fun at home soon. It could be playing make believe, doing crafts, learning to ride a bike, whatever works. If you need ideas, check out my post on fun ways to teach kids about nature.

6. Annual Passes

My mom loves to give my kids in general annual passes, usually to someplace she can take them to, kind of an extended special outing gift. Passes can be to theme parks, museums, zoos, just about anyplace your kids love to go.

Be aware that there are additional expenses to annual passes. You need a pass for more than just your preschooler, after all. Parking may be extra if your pass doesn’t include it. Food. Travel to and from. Kids will beg for souvenirs, which brings you right back to that “too many toys!!” thing. That said, the memories are generally worth it.

7. Classes

My youngest is obsessed with ballet and gym classes, and I don’t sign her up very often, more due to time than costs. It’s a good gift, however, so long as the person giving it will either take the child to and from class or knows who has the time to do so.

Classes through your local community center are usually quite affordable. Many have a good selection appropriate to preschoolers.

8. Baking Supplies

Want to make a preschooler happy? Bake his or her favorite treat. For my youngest, that’s chocolate chip cookies… or vanilla ice cream.

Baking supplies to make cookies or other treats make a good gift too. Put all the dry ingredients together, include some child appropriate tools and a recipe, and maybe a promise to help out with the baking, and you have a really fun gift.

9. Bikes, Skates or Other Sports Supplies

It’s good to encourage preschoolers to go outside to play. While most are still improving their balance, they love to learn.

A balance bike is good for those who aren’t ready to learn both how to pedal and balance a bicycle. There are children’s skates available that control how fast the wheels roll, or if they roll at all, so kids can learn to move in them safely. Soccer balls, footballs, baseballs and so forth encourage kids to play, whether or not they’re on a team yet or even want to be on one.

10. Water Fun

There are all kinds of sprinklers that make playing outdoors in warm weather more fun for kids. Your traditional yard sprinkler may suffice, but there are also ones with various characters or that spray water in interesting ways. A nice beach towel could be a good addition to this gift.

11. Swing Set

This one may be best as a group present, as even a basic swing set isn’t all that cheap. Pick something that fits in the space you have for one, and think about how many years it will be good for. You don’t want the swing set to be outgrown too quickly, but you also don’t want it too difficult for your child right now. Just one more great way to get kids to play outside.

12. Plants

Kids love plants. It’s something they can take care of that doesn’t have all the complications of a pet. Pick something easy to grow for younger kids – most like tomatoes pretty well. Something that can be kept in the child’s room can be nice too, so long as the plant isn’t too messy and there’s a place to keep it where it won’t be knocked over when the kids get rambunctious.

My youngest adores marigolds, for example, so that’s what we get for her. Sunflowers are also popular. Any flower that attracts butterflies will also make good gifts for preschoolers. Almost all preschoolers adore butterflies.

13. Savings Account

Kids this age don’t understand money yet, but the time will come when they appreciate what you’ve done for them by starting a savings account. If you go with a plain savings account, watch out for fees, as they can eat up what you put in. A 529 college savings account is an excellent option, especially if it’s something that can be regularly contributed to.

14. Piggy Bank

If you don’t want the commitment of helping build a savings account, a piggy bank is a great alternative. Your typical preschooler doesn’t really understand money yet, but they love getting it and having a special place to keep it.

15. Clothes

There are some great clothes out there for preschool girls and boys, and some of them need replacements pretty regularly, with how rough some kids play. Depending on what the child needs, you can go with practical or fun, just make sure it’s something the child will like to have.

16. Puzzles

Most preschoolers love basic puzzles and may enjoy slightly more complex ones. Know what kind they enjoy before buying them – some will still just want the simple puzzles where you put each piece into its slot, while others may enjoy puzzles where they have to figure out which ones go together, so long as the number of pieces isn’t too high.

17. Board Games

There are board games available that are great for preschoolers, and that will continue to be interesting for years to come. Sorry is good for counting skills, for example.

Some board games also have iPad versions, which allow younger kids to learn to play more difficult games than they might manage on a board. My youngest likes to play Life on the iPad, for example. Our version has a board available, but you don’t have to use it.

Just be aware of the missing pieces issue. All too often kids misplace game pieces, usually right where the parents will step on them or where a pet will chew them up. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience… ow!

With board games and puzzles, just be sure that the family doesn’t already have enough that they’re causing clutter too.

18. Musical Instruments

While many children’s musical instruments fall awfully close to the toy line, I think they’re worthwhile. Pick something that sounds fairly nice – no point driving the adults insane if you can help it. Children’s guitars are pretty easy to find. Harmonicas can also be fairly cheap.

19. Music

Whether you give the child an iTunes gift card so that they can be helped to download their own choice of music or you give them a CD of music, most kids love music. Disney music is a relatively safe bet with preschoolers, although there are a lot of alternatives.

20. Books

Many preschoolers don’t read yet, but they love to be read to! Pick books that encourage them to learn to read or that have stories they’ll enjoy listening too. Don’t forget the classics such as anything by Dr. Seuss or Eric Carle.

Popup books can also be a good choice, although you may have to be careful that the preschooler isn’t too destructive. One Red Dot has been a hit with all of my kids, and it is beautiful!

21. Magazine Subscription

There are some great magazine out there for preschoolers. There’s Highlights High Five, Ladybug, National Geographic Little Kids and Ranger Rick Jr., just to name a few.

22. Online Subscription

Does your child want a subscription to a particular website? My youngest always wanted to join ABC Mouse, and of course there are other websites out there for kids, some are free, but others require a subscription.

If the preschooler is starting to learn math, I strongly recommend The Prodigy Game. Your child can try it out for free, but some of the things the kids will want most require a subscription. The math parts and much of the game work well even if you don’t have a paid subscription. It’s aimed at grades 1-8, but the very early stuff could work for a younger child.

23. Bath Supplies

Bath supplies don’t have to be bath toys. Kids love bubble baths. My youngest has a major thing for Epsom salts in her bath, as well as scents from essential oils. Pick things that are safe for young children and won’t make a big mess for the parents to deal with.

24. Kid Furniture

One of my youngest’s favorite gifts ever was a chair just for her. It came from IKEA, and while it’s small enough for a preschooler, even my older two find it comfortable. She had seen a chair her size when we were shopping for furniture for the house and obsessed about it for months until she got the one from IKEA. She also has a little table and folding chairs her size. The folding table and chairs are nice if you will put them away regularly, while the wooden sets are good if they’re just going to remain set up.

If you want to go a bit nicer, they even make kid size recliners.

25. Toy Box

Does your preschooler lack a great place to keep all those excessive toys? A toy box can be a very welcome addition. Make sure it’s a good quality and that the top is unlikely to squish little fingers or heads. Safety hinges, a lightweight lid, or other safety features are a must. A toy box will also help take care of all those other gifts your preschooler receives.

While considering non-toy gifts for preschoolers, remember to also consider handmade gifts you can make together to give to other people. It’s a great way to teach your kids that some of the most appreciated gifts are made, not bought.

Create A Sleep Friendly Bedroom For Your Child

Create A Sleep Friendly Bedroom For Your Child

Sleep is important for everyone, but as any parent knows, if your kids don’t sleep, you don’t sleep. They will get you up. While you can’t keep away all the sleepless nights by creating a sleep friendly bedroom for your child, you can make it as easy as possible for sleep to come.

A Sleep Friendly Bedroom Is Dark

If your child’s bedroom isn’t dark, they probably won’t sleep as well as they should. Blackout curtains will help if light comes in their window from other sources. This is especially important during the summer when the sun sets late and rises early.

Some kids need a night light for a time, but try to minimize that. If a night light is required, try to use something with an orange or red hue – blue lights are disruptive to sleep. When my nephew came to visit and needed a night light, we would turn on my salt lamp, as it has a lovely orange glow that reassured him, but all my other kids found less disruptive to their sleep.

Keep Electronics Out

Keep the electronic gadgets out of the bedroom as much as possible. They often emit quite a bit of blue light, unless they have settings that change in the evening. Electronics use is also just not a good way to wind down for the evening, no matter how many kids (and parents!) enjoy using them. Encourage everyone to read a book before bed instead.

Unclutter The Child’s Bedroom

A cluttered bedroom is hard to sleep in. It can be difficult to get some kids to keep their toys picked up and to not have an excessive number of stuffed animals in bed with them. It is a help, however, if you can build their habits so that they pick things up before bed, and only have a special lovey in bed with them.

Paint The Walls A Soothing Color

While the color of the walls can’t be seen in a dark room, a soothing color will help make a more sleep friendly bedroom for your child. Light colors are best, especially blues and greens, which most people find more relaxing.

My youngest daughter’s room, for example, is light blue, and each wall is (at her request) themed to a particular season. Snowflakes on one wall, flowers and butterflies for spring and summer, and autumn leaves for fall.

Air Out The Room

A room that hasn’t had an open window for a time doesn’t smell as nice as one that gets aired out regularly. When the weather permits, open the windows and let that fresh air in.

Keep It Cool

Much as a warm room feels nice during the day, people get better sleep in cooler temperatures. 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.  Blankets and pajamas can be used to keep your child cozy.

Use Soothing Music

Soothing music, quietly played, can help kids sleep. White noise is another option. Keep the volume high enough to be heard, but low enough to not disturb your child’s sleep.

This is especially helpful if there’s a lot of background noise in your house or neighborhood when your kids are trying to sleep.

Bring In Nature

A little nature goes a long ways in making a sleep friendly bedroom for a child. A plant or two is a great choice. Keep them out of reach of younger kids, but as they get older, it’s something they can help take care of.

A fish tank is another good option. My youngest has a fish tank, currently occupied by goldfish purchased to handle a snail problem in our big tank. She fell in love with them, and I wanted different fish in the big tank once the snails were gone, so now they’re hers. Goldfish can live quite a while if well cared for, but are cheaper than most other fish if you get them small.

You could combine plants and fish with an aquaponic tank. It grows plants at the top, with fish below. The small ones are about three gallons, and only suitable for fish such as bettas.

Make sure the fish tank light is turned off when the kids need to sleep.

Get A Good Mattress

Kids may not complain much about an uncomfortable mattress, but a poor quality mattress can make it harder for them to sleep. Combine the mattress with comfortable bedding to help your kids sleep well.

It’s such a help when your kids sleep well. It means you can sleep better too.