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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.

20 Fun Ways To Teach Your Kids To Love Nature

20 Fun Ways To Teach Your Kids To Love Nature

One of the things we love to do as a family is get out in nature. It’s not always easy to find the time, but it’s always worthwhile. In our area, the weather is good enough to get outdoors much of the year – we’re more likely to have too hot weather than too cold or too wet. Any time that the weather permits in your area is a good time to teach your kids to love nature.

The key is to make it fun whenever possible. Kids don’t need a lecture on enjoying nature. They need to be allowed to have fun in nature and develop a love for it from the things they’ve done in nature.

Teaching your kids to love nature doesn’t require a curriculum. It doesn’t require a lot of supplies. It only requires your time and participation. You can spend money on some things, such as gardening, but many other things can be done for free.

And remember, getting dirty is good for kids!

1. Let them dig.

Kids love to get dirty. Letting them dig in the dirt will encourage them to get out and play.

My sister let her kids dig what turned into a full on trench in their backyard. It was several feet long and probably 3 feet deep. All the kids loved it, and my kids helped when they came over.

Pick a part of your yard that you don’t mind having destroyed and let the kids go at it. Make sure they aren’t going to hit anything important such as buried irrigation pipes and such. If they get good at it, they might be able to help you dig things up for a garden. Speaking of which…

2. Plant fruits.

If you have the space in your yard, plant fruit trees and bushes. Strawberries are good if you only have a little room, as you can grow them in containers. Consider what grows well in your area as well as what your family likes.

If you can’t grow anything because you don’t have the space or inclination, take the family to a local apple orchard or other places that allows people to pick fruit. You’ll get the experience of picking fresh fruit right off the tree without all the work that comes with owning a garden.

3. Plant vegetables.

What vegetables do your kids like? Growing them in your yard often encourages kids to eat more of them, including some vegetables they don’t like otherwise. Homegrown is so much more interesting and tasty than anything you can get in the store.

4. Plant a butterfly garden

This was the first year that we’ve had a deliberate butterfly garden in our yard. It was a massive success, considering how little we did. We planted one milkweed plant along with some other butterfly-friendly flowers. We have butterflies out there daily.

The single milkweed was a huge mistake. We should have planted more. We decided to buy more when the already well-chewed milkweed plant had at least 15 monarch caterpillars on it, and no leaves or flowers left.

Our yard had so many butterflies this year. Monarchs, swallowtails, skippers, buckeyes and several others we didn’t see close enough to identify. One of the monarch caterpillars even built its chrysalis on our house, so we were able to watch it develop. Next year, more butterfly friendly plants will be in our garden to encourage even more to come.

It’s easy to plant a butterfly garden. Many of the flowers grow well from seed, or you can buy the plants already grown. I like seeds because they’re so cheap, but there are times buying a plant makes sense.

5. Be excited about nature yourself.

How are your kids supposed to get excited about nature if it doesn’t excite you? Show them how much you enjoy nature.

6. Have a picnic.

A picnic is such an easy way to enjoy a bit of nature. A bit of food, a blanket, and some reusable dishes, and you’re ready to go. Go out and find a pretty spot or just head out to the backyard.

7. Geocache.

Geocaching is a great way to combine getting outdoors with a treasure hunt. The caches are usually hidden well enough that you have to be very observant to find it. That’s good when you want the kids to really look around.

8. Hike.

We love going out for family hikes. It’s not hard to find a natural area to go hiking in most areas. Sometimes you can find places that aren’t all that well known but have really beautiful scenery.

9.Check out scat.

Don’t just be grossed out when you see animal poop in the yard. Take some time to find out what left it. You and your kids will learn a lot about the animals in your area.

If you really want to get into it, you can order owl pellets online. They’re a great way to learn about what owls eat.

10. Identify birds, bugs, and wildlife.

What wildlife do you see around you? It can be fun to take a little time as a family to learn to identify the birds, bugs, and wildlife that live around you. Kids are naturally enthusiastic about living creatures, making this an easy way to teach your kids to love nature.

A bug vacuum can be a help in identifying bugs. Kids can get a really good look at bugs when they’re in the container. You may need to keep a bit of an eye on them – my son got stung by a bee when he was little because he thought it was calm enough in the container that he could hold the bee in his hand.

Don’t show fear when you can help it. My kids were nervous the time we had a bee swarm rest in our yard for a few hours, but that’s one of the best times to closely observe bees because they don’t have a hive to protect.

11. Collect rocks.

Most kids love rocks and have very interesting perspectives on what makes a rock worth taking home. It’s usually not what an adult would pick. That doesn’t matter – it’s the interest in rocks you want to encourage.

When you’re at a place where they’re allowed to collect rocks, let your kids have some fun with it. It doesn’t matter how nice the rock looks. Any rock can be something to talk about or just admire.

let kids play in the mud

12. Play in the mud.

Yes, kids playing in the mud is messy, but it’s so much fun for them. Be ready to clean them off part of the way while they’re still outdoors. Your drains will be happier if you don’t get too much dirt down them all at once.

We’ve had the occasional mud mishap with my kids. One time my oldest was making some mud to play in and didn’t know that the hose was on the jet setting. The backsplash got her right away. It was cute and messy.

13. Go to the beach.

The beach is a lot of fun to go to as a family. The precautions you have to take will depend on the ages of your kids, how well they swim, and conditions at the beach. But even if you just stay and play on the shore, it’s a lot of fun.

Better yet is when the beach has tidepools. It’s so much fun to explore tidepools with children. Sea anemones are always a hit – just make sure the kids are super gentle with them. Spotting tiny fish, crabs and even the occasional octopus can be even more exciting.

14. Do art outdoors.

I love it when my kids want to do art outdoors. It doesn’t matter if it’s sidewalk chalk, painting on the easel, collecting leaves for a project or whatever they want to do. Keeping the art outdoors helps control the mess in the house and gets the kids to realize how much fun they can have outside.

15. Take nature photos together.

Children love to use cameras. These days it’s easy to let them use the one on your phone to take pictures when they see something interesting outside. The perspective of a child can make for some wonderful photographs. There will be a lot of awful ones too, but that’s how you learn to use a camera.

16. Climb rocks and trees.

My kids love climbing rocks and trees. One of their favorite day trips is to head out to Joshua Tree and climb on some of the boulders out there. They’ll go at it as long as we let them.

Always make sure they climb safely. Teach them to look for trees that should support their weight well. Help them learn how to be safe when climbing rocks or trees by considering not only how they’re going to get up, but how they will get down. Down is usually more difficult.

17. Ride bikes.

Bike riding is a great way to get kids out in the neighborhood. It’s great for their independence. They’ll learn a lot getting out there. Keep their range appropriate to their ages, competence, and the neighborhood.

18. Go camping.

Camping will expose your family to nature in a really wonderful way. You don’t have to go far – backyard camping is great for getting the family used to the idea when you have small children. As you get more experienced, you can camp in more interesting and beautiful places. The experience is worthwhile for the entire family.

19. Participate in a beach or park cleaning.

How do the beaches and parks look in your area? Do they need a good cleanup?

You may be able to participate in a formal cleanup day at your local beach or park, or you can clean up on your own. Bring trash bags and gloves, and help your local park or beach look better.

20. Talk and listen as you teach your kids to love nature.

Talk to your kids about nature. Show you care.

But when you talk, you also need to listen. If they want to talk about something they saw outside, let them tell you all about it. Kids need to know that you find their perspectives interesting. When you want to teach your kids to love nature, it helps to let them tell you about it.

Easy Ways To Avoid Plastic

Easy ways to avoid plastic

Plastic is everywhere these days. Too often it’s treated as something completely disposable, something made for a single use. While there are good uses of plastic – your car and computer wouldn’t be the same without it, for example, many other uses are just wasteful. It’s a good idea to learn how to avoid plastic in those areas.

Skip The Bottled Water

As much as possible, don’t buy bottled water. Get a good size stainless steel or glass bottle, and refill it instead. I like ones that are insulated so that my drink stays cold all day. It’s an easy way to keep drinking water rather than less healthy alternatives, and it’s much cheaper than buying new bottles of water all the time.

I like stainless steel bottles for my kids’ school lunches. The drink bottles come in a wonderful range of styles. My kids have dented them, but never ruined one. They bring them to school every day, filled with water. It’s much better than bringing a disposable bottle of water everywhere.

Food Containers

There are many wonderful alternatives to plastic food containers now. Some may use a little plastic to provide a good seal, but many use a silicone gasket. You can choose from glass or stainless steel, depending on what you want to spend and how much you trust that they won’t be treated roughly.

A little paint can work to personalize glass or stainless steel containers that are brought to school or work. Kids are great at losing things, so it helps to make it easier to identify your things.

The glass jars you get from many products make great food storage container, and you already have them! They aren’t for long term use as a general rule, but for putting food in the fridge or storing dry goods in the pantry, they’re great. I keep a stash in my pantry of various sizes so I can usually find the one I need.

For those times when you would otherwise use plastic wrap to cover your food, check out beeswax wrap instead. You can wash food off of it with water and maybe some dish soap, and keep reusing it.

Straws

If you don’t eat out a lot, you probably don’t use all that many single use straws. Kids love them, of course, at home or out and about. It’s very easy to cut down on your use of single use straws.

You can bring your own reusable straws when you eat out, for example. The trick can be remembering to keep your straw. If you’re concerned about losing your straws, you can buy paper straws to use instead of plastic. Paper is a much better choice since it breaks down much more easily. Make sure your server knows to not bring you a straw.

Shopping Bags

Plastic shopping bags are very common, although some states are trying to get the problem under control. In California, for example, most stores must have reusable bags to sell to you at $0.10 each, to encourage people to reuse bags. These bags are simply extra heavy plastic bags, so I don’t know how much waste they’re preventing, but it’s a start.

Look into cloth alternatives for shopping bags, or make your own. You can even find reusable produce bags.

Don’t forget to skip the sandwich baggies. You can find reusable versions of these as well.

Buy Bulk

I was so happy to see a grocery store with bulk bins open in my area recently. The nearest one before that was too far to go to very much. I’ve always loved stores with bulk bins. You can minimize the packaging by buying in bulk, and some stores will let you use your own containers. You have to get them weighed first.

Buy Products In Boxes Rather Than Bottles

As much as you can, buy products in boxes rather than ones in plastic bottles. This goes for things such as bar soap and laundry detergent. Even if the boxes have a little plastic around them, it’s far less than what you get when the entire container is plastic.

Use Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers are much less wasteful than disposable diapers, although they are a little more work. I used them on my youngest, and it went really well. It takes some extra laundry, but otherwise it isn’t that different. They can also be much cuter than disposable diapers.

Make Your Own Household Cleaners

I make most household cleaners myself. Mostly that means using baking soda and vinegar for a lot of purposes. This allows me to buy them in larger packages. This doesn’t allow me to completely avoid plastic, but the larger packages use less plastic per ounce of product.

Drink Less Juice And Soda

Juice and soda often come in plastic bottles. They aren’t necessary to your health, so the less you drink of them, the better.

If you do buy juice or soda, avoid the single serving sizes if you’re buying for multiple people. You can limit the plastic waste a little that way.

Recycle

When you can’t avoid plastic, recycle as much of it as possible. Plastics are generally downcycled – that is, made into a lower quality plastic – but that’s better than sending them straight to the landfill.

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.