Category Archives: Green Gift Ideas

Homemade Play Dough – An Easy Last Minute Gift to Make for Your Kids

Kids want so much for Christmas, especially if they watch much television at all. They see all the cool toys out there. But sometimes one of the best gifts  can be one you make yourself.

Homemade play dough is a great choice for kids in the right age group. They love it.

My plan this year is to prepare a couple containers of dry play dough ingredients and have a part of the gift being getting to choose the colors they make while spending time with Mommy. It’s a really inexpensive gift, and the ingredients I need are right on hand. Here’s my recipe:

2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup salt
1 tbs cream of tartar (optional but helpful)
1-1/2 cups hot water
3 tbs cooking oil
Food coloring
glitter (optional but pretty)

Mix dry ingredients together. Separate into containers if you want to do multiple colors. Add oil and food coloring to each batch. If you’ve separated colors, estimate the right amount of oil for each. Add hot water slowly and mix until the consistency is right. Too much water makes dough gooey and less fun to play with. But you can always add extra flour to work it out.

We like this recipe because it lasts a long time. Keep it in a sealed container. Refrigeration is helpful.

If you don’t add the glitter this is of course completely nontoxic, which is nice. Especially if you’re like me and have a near toddler to deal with as well as the older children.

Giving the Gift of Time for Christmas

One of the best ways to green up your Christmas gift giving is to give time rather than things. This works for many of the people in your life.

Time for the Kids

It’s easy to let day to day life mess with the time you have available for your children. Make a part of your gift to them be some special times together, doing something they love to do or share one of your interests.

Camping trips can be good for helping kids to really appreciate nature, for example. Winter’s not the best time in many areas perhaps, but it’s not too early to start thinking about where you’d like to go. Even just heading out to a local campground can be an adventure if you don’t camp a lot.

Hiking is another good choice that is rather less time consuming. Find a beautiful, natural place in your area and start hiking. It’s a great time to talk with your kids too.

You can also plan activities around the home. Do a craft, build something together, play a game, just talk.

Time for Your Parents

If your parents are still alive, and reasonably accessible to you, make the most of it. You can give them time with you to just talk, or you can help them with running errands. You can even combine time with your parents with time with your kids and go camping or hiking as an extended family.

Time for Your Friends

If your friends have young children, giving them the gift of time can take the form of offering babysitting for their kids. What parents don’t appreciate the chance to get out without the kids for a bit?

Just Remember… It’s Not All About THINGS

Giving the gift of time is a great way to remind yourself and the people you love that there’s so much more you can give one another than just things. Clutter.

The gift of time can have so much more meaning than almost any other gift you can give.

Will It Be a Green Christmas?

Smiling Green Mom has a cute version of “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” done as “I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas” up on her blog. With Christmas not all that far away (eep!), the post also includes some good reminders to be green in your Christmas shopping and places to shop.

This is easier in some families than in others of course. But an awful lot of people do appreciate things such as special self care items, bath salts and the like, and those are pretty easy to find in organic versions.

Others will appreciate gifts of your time or creative skills. Still others may appreciate it if you donate to their favorite cause in their name.

In so many ways I’ve learned to love a simpler Christmas rather than one full of gifts bought to fulfill the giver’s notion of the right number of gifts or dollars spent. The thought really does count for much more.

You can almost always find a green gift even for people who aren’t that into the environment. Just look at what they do enjoy and work from there. It may be challenging but you can do it.

Green Gift Ideas to Give to Kids

Kids, especially younger ones, can be pretty easy to shop for. Watch commercials with them and see how often they say “I want that.”

If you’re trying to keep things a little more green and rather less plastic you have a bigger challenge ahead of you. But even then it’s entirely possible to find great green gifts that kids will really welcome.

As children vary so much in what they like, I prefer to recommend stores to shop for them, rather than just particular toys. But I’ll mention a few favorites.

Magic Cabin

I love Magic Cabin’s stuff. They call their toys “kid powered” as they’re all about the imagination, not the batteries. And their toys are just beautiful. They have a Forest Friends Bower that I can picture my daughter going nuts over. It’s perfect for over the bed as a canopy or off in a corner to encourage imaginative play.

Homemade Play Dough

Ok, so this isn’t a store. But it’s a great gift for just about any child in the age ranges that play with play dough.

If you want to make it really special, give the ingredients, containers to store it in, and the recipe, and make it as a project with your child. Time with the parents is a great gift too!

Heirloom Wooden Toys

These guys make some amazing wooden toys as well as some practical things. There’s the Learning Tower, for example. It’s a safe stool for kids to stand on, capable of holding up to 500 lbs. and with an adjustable height. They even sell a kit to make it into a playhouse for those times that it’s not being used as a safety stool, or you can buy an easel attachment.

And of course they have plenty of games to choose from, toy trucks, wooden blocks, play kitchens and much more.

Back to Basics Toys

These guys aren’t specifically green, but they have some great old style toys available, not just all the current stuff. Stuff like Lincoln Logs and Red Flyer Wagons. You’ll have to watch it a bit to avoid plastic toys, but it’s always good to be able to find your old favorites. Green Toys

Now, I don’t know that I always agree with what they label as green toys. There are a lot they label as green just for having their Frustration Free Packaging. The packaging is certainly an improvement, but has nothing to do with whether the toy itself is green.

Many of the plastic toys are made from recycled plastic in this category.

There are some great green technology toys available too, such as the Thames & Kosmos Fuel Cell Car and Experiment Kit which allows kids to build a solar powered car and a fuel cell powered car. It sounds great to me for helping kids learn about alternative energy sources.


Don’t forget the possibility of quality used toys. This can be harder to apply to older kids than to ones young enough to not know the difference, but sometimes you can still manage it. eBay can be a great source for many of those toys that you remember so well.

Garage Sales and Thrift Stores

Yet more great places to look for used toys. A bit more of luck can be needed to find particular items, but the prices can be just amazing.

Green Technology Gift Ideas

While a lot of technology really isn’t all that green some tools can be used to make the impact less. With Christmas coming, I wanted to make some gift suggestions you could give to people who really just love their technology.


I rather like the concept of the Kill-A-Watt. It’s a good way to find out where you’re wasting energy around the home. There are a few versions available, depending on your needs.

The greenest way to use one of these is to pass it around to others. Find out what’s wasting electricity in your home, then share it with someone else.

Battery Charger

Anyone into lots of tech toys and gadgets probably has need of a good battery charger. While there are solar battery chargers out there, I prefer to also have one that plugs in.

At a minimum, you want one that can charge AA and AAA batteries, as these are so commonly used. But if you’re shopping for someone who has kids, you probably want one that also charges C, D and 9 volt batteries. We have a Rayovac one, and it works quite well.

eBook Reader

I have mixed feelings about these. I love paperback books and used book stores. Overall, that’s the best option, I think. Or the library. I reread books enough to prefer owning them myself.

But ebook readers are popular right now, and for some they may be the right idea. No wasted paper, and downloading electronic books is certainly more efficient on shipping. It comes down to how the disposal of the electronics goes after for whether or not this can be green.

There are a few options for ebook readers now. The best known is the Kindle, of course. There are also Sony PRS ebook readers and many others. For people who don’t tend to keep their books, these probably aren’t too bad an option.