Category Archives: Eco Friendly Parenting

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.

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.

Turning Your Kids Green

Turning Your Kids Green

One of the great challenges with trying to live a reasonably environmentally conscious life is teaching my children to do the same. Young children have very little sense of the future; for example, my daughter once decided she would be Rapunzel when she grew up. It takes time and patience to turn kids green.

Fortunately, kids also possess a strong desire to please. Things don’t always turn out the way they intend, but children generally do mean well. And this means you can teach them to be more eco friendly.

How To Start Turning Your Kids Green

Start out by talking about why you make the decisions you do in terms of helping the environment. Even a preschooler can begin to learn what gets recycled, thrown in the compost or in the trash. As they get older, these things should become habit.

A garden is a great way for kids to learn to care for plants, as well as a great way to get them interested in eating their vegetables. Start them out with organic techniques so that they really learn them and because it’s much safer for them than using chemicals. Let the kids pick vegetables they would like to grow, as well as your own choices. Carrots and tomatoes are popular choices.

Kids love it when they can pick fruit from the tree as well. If you don’t have a fruit tree in your yard already, find out what your family likes and will grow well in your area. Go to a nursery and find one you would enjoy. Fruit trees are cheaper when they are bare root.

Older kids can help you make more environmentally friendly household cleaning supplies if that’s one of the things you do. Measuring quantities and mixing them together is a bit of math practice and a way to teach them that harsh chemicals aren’t the only way to clean. They may also enjoy finding essential oil scents to make cleaners smell better.

Keep Turning Your Kids Green As They Get Older

As your kids get older, you can teach them more. Teach them about energy conservation. You can make any child old enough to reach the light switch be responsible for keeping extra lights off. As they get older, you can talk about the amount of power the various kinds of light bulbs use and have them help you make a good selection.

Have them help you to conserve water too. They can help you replace plants that need a lot of water with ones more suited to your area, for example. Discuss how to find the balance between an attractive yard, growing food, and appropriate water use in your area.

Show your kids ways to reuse all that wasteful packaging material found in children’s toys and electronics. So much of that doesn’t recycle easily in most areas, but you might be able to use some of it at home. Styrofoam packaging in large pieces combined with golf tees and a pounding implement makes for loads of fun for younger kids. Those dratted wires that hold just about every toy in its box these days can be added to the craft supplies.

Also talk to them about using only what they need. This is a really tough one for kids these days, as they are likely to want all the stuff their friends have. As a parent it’s up to you to help your children control their more acquisitive urges and to enjoy what they have.

Teach Them To Buy Used

Some of the things kids really want may be available at thrift stores. Electronic devices may be available second hand – not as new as others get, but still functional. Teach your kids that they can get just as much enjoyment from second hand items.

When each of my kids has reached an appropriate age for a smartphone, it has been purchased second hand. That’s why my son has an iPhone 4, not something newer. It does the job, allowing him to chat with friends, play games, and once in a very long while make a phone call.

Encourage Them To Help In The Community

Volunteer work is great for children. There will be many things they won’t be allowed to do due to age, but there are small things even very young children can do.

An easy start is picking up trash as you go for a family walk in your neighborhood or at a park. Bring a bag to collect all the trash. It’s a small thing, but it makes a great difference in how the area looks.

As children get older, they may be able to volunteer by visiting the elderly in retirement homes. Check with your local retirement homes to find out what the age and other requirements are.

I volunteer with my kids each week at a local animal shelter. Most don’t allow kids until they’re 12 or even older, but some will allow younger kids. Check with them to find out when your kids will qualify.

We help with laundry, as that’s something safe even for my youngest. If other work needs to be done we help with that as well. We go late in the day, so laundry is often it. When that’s done, we socialize with the cats. It’s fun yet necessary. Sometimes we help with the dogs, but they have more people who come in to socialize the dogs than for the cats.

Read

Books are great for turning kids green. You can find books for all ages about being more eco friendly.

Start with your local library. You don’t need to buy every book your child wants to read on the subject. There are times when you will want to own a particular book on the subject, but much of the time borrowing the book is enough. Librarians can be very helpful in discovering new books to read.

Whether you buy or borrow, Amazon can also be a good resource for finding books you want to consider. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to read with your kids. If you can’t get enough ideas from your local librarian, try book reviews on Amazon.

Children don’t always take naturally to the sacrifices required to live a greener lifestyle, but it’s a great time for them to learn the skills. Have a little fun with it and let your children explore their options as they help you help the planet. Turning your kids green can be a lot of fun even when it’s challenging.

15 Eco Friendly Fundraisers For Schools

15 Eco Friendly Fundraisers For Schools

School fundraisers aren’t always particularly welcome when you’re trying to be eco friendly. Selling a bunch of wrapping paper, cookie dough and so forth doesn’t always appeal that much. It’s a bunch of money parents, extended family members, friends and coworkers can get tired of spending. Schools willing to step outside that box, however, have some interesting options for eco friendly fundraisers.

1. Electronics Recycling

My kids’ school has done an electronics recycling fundraiser two years in a row now. While I don’t know anything about the quality of the company they go through, I think this is an excellent concept. It keeps electronic waste out of the dump and allows the school to raise money, yet families don’t have to spend any extra money.

The one our school does is a one-day event, where everything is dropped off during the listed time frame, although the school can also allow pre-collection so that some stuff is there already.

There are also programs out there for ongoing fundraising by collecting and recycling electronics, such as through Recycling Fundraiser, Funding Factory, and others.

2. Donation Drive

Goodwill in Southern California has a donation drive program where schools and other nonprofits can earn money for every bin filled. I believe it’s available elsewhere too.

This is a nice way for the school to earn money while families get rid of the junk that accumulates in most homes. And once again, you don’t have to buy anything for your kids’ school to raise some money.

3. Have A Clean Up Drive

Have students ask friends and family to sponsor them at a cleanup day at a local park, beach or another natural area. Encourage people to give either a rate per pound cleaned up by the student or a flat rate they will give the student for participating. This way the school and a natural area in your community both benefit.

 

4. Recycle Aluminum Cans And Other Waste

Schools can earn money by recycling aluminum cans and plastic bottles for the money. This one takes a lot of space, however. Just look for local places you can take the goods or see if any places will pick up when there’s enough collected.

For schools with less space, you can also collect just the tabs off aluminum cans. They don’t take much space but can add up to some reasonable money for the school. You can participate in the Great American Can Roundup if there are buyback locations in your area.

If you want to go beyond the usual recycling programs, Terracycle has a Brigade program where various items can be collected, and the money donated to a nonprofit or school that you select. They have 40 programs to choose from. Some have a cost, but others are free, right down to the shipping.

This one takes a fair bit of space, of course, as it takes time to collect enough waste to send in. The programs can fill up for a time as well, and you may have to wait for the right one to open for your school. They offer programs for drink pouches, baby food pouches, printer cartridges, electronics and much more.

5. Walk-a-thons, 5k, etc.

These are a good way to encourage the kids to get active while raising money. Have them get family and friends to sponsor them to raise money for the school.

This can be just about any activity the kids can do – walking, running, dancing, whatever. Keep it simple to keep the costs down.

6. Smencils

Yes, eventually it comes back to buying. Still, I like the Smencils fundraisers. Smencils are scented pencils made from recycled newspapers, and kids go nuts for them. Best of all, pencils are things students absolutely need, not just junk. As pencils go, they’re pricey, but they make a nice treat for the kids. Best of all, at our school it’s usually students running the fundraiser under a teacher’s supervision, selling to other students to fund a field trip, not something to take to work. Smens are also available.

7. Scrip

Scrip has been around for a very long time. Basically, it’s buying gift cards to stores you already shop at through your school, including many grocery stores. The school gets a percentage (varies by store), you get to spend the same amount you would have anyhow while benefiting your school. Shop With Scrip and eScrip are two options.

You can also sign up directly with certain stores, such as Target, to have a percentage of your purchases go to the school of your choice when you use their card.

8. Sign Up With Amazon.com

Schools can join the Amazon.com Associates Program and earn a percentage of sales on purchases made by people who click through their link. The challenge here is getting people to remember to get to Amazon through the school’s link, not through bookmarks or just typing it in. Not everyone approves of this, as some feel that it takes money away from local businesses that would come back to schools through taxes, but many people are going to shop through Amazon anyhow.

9. Shop Through iGive

iGive is a program your school can sign up for, then go through the iGive button or download the app for their online shopping. iGive partners with many online stores, and a percentage goes to the school.

The wonderful part about an online fundraiser is that it’s not limited to local friends and family. Anyone you know who is willing to use your school’s links can participate. Families can share links through email as well as social media such as Facebook.

10. Collect Spare Change

Encourage families to donate their spare change to the school. A jar can be placed in the school office as well as at any businesses willing to help out. As anyone who has collected their own spare change knows, this can add up fast.

A fun way to do this is called Penny Wars. My kids’ school does this every year. Every grade has a bucket in which they collect change. Every penny is a point. Any other coin subtracts points up to its face value, such as -5 points for a nickel. This allows grades to sabotage each other. The kids get very competitive about the whole thing.

The wonderful part about Penny Wars is that it has very little overhead. The school gets all the money, and the buckets can be reused from year to year. The winning grade gets a prize. Our school does a pizza party for them, sponsored by a local pizza place.

11. Box Tops For Education

This program has been around for a long time. Families can collect the box tops off products they purchase anyhow and turn them over to the school, which then gets money for them. The products are not necessarily healthy or eco friendly, but we’re talking about things most families will buy anyhow.

12. Rummage Sale

Have families donate goods they would otherwise send to a charity or sell at their own garage sale, and have a huge rummage sale at your school. Make sure to promote the rummage sale on social media, especially local for sale pages and Craigslist. Make and post signs if they’re allowed in your area.

The hardest part about this idea is getting and storing the goods donated for the rummage sale, and handling disposal afterward. The best thing to do with leftovers is to have arrangements made to donate them. Try to have them picked up very shortly after the sale so the school doesn’t have to deal with storage for long.

A rummage sale requires a lot of volunteers and time. Try to involve both parents and students. It’s a good experience for the students, especially if it’s for something specific to their class.

13. Sell Eco-Friendly Lunch Bags

Help parents quit the disposable habit by selling reusable lunch bags, containers and drink bottles. One Small StepPlanet Wise, ECOlunchbox, and others offer fundraising programs.

14. Fair Trade Chocolate, Coffee, etc.

Chocolate and coffee are fun to sell, although there’s always the risk that you’ll enjoy it too much yourself. There are a variety of companies that offer Fair Trade chocolate, coffee and other goods for fundraisers, such as Dean’s BeansEqual Exchange and Grounds for Change.

15. Non-GMO And Organic Seeds And Bulbs

Help families in your area grow better gardens by selling non-GMO and/or organic seeds. Sow True Seed, High Mowing Seeds, EcoFlower Fundraising, Botanical Interests and the Online GreenHouse offer fundraising programs. Some programs offer seed packets with flowers that are good for attracting bees or butterflies, as well as other types of seeds.

Eco Friendly Gifts For New Moms

Eco Friendly Gifts For New Moms

It’s funny how these things work. All of the sudden recently, I had a bunch of friends expecting babies. It had been a while since I’d known anyone who was expecting a baby, suddenly I know a bunch. And it got me thinking about what kinds of eco friendly gifts are appropriate for new moms.

Handmedowns

Since I have kids of my own, and a habit of handing things down with family, this one is obvious to me. While you have to keep it safe and check for defects, damage and recalls on old items, there are plenty of baby things you can hand down to new moms, especially baby clothes. You know how fast new babies go through clothes. The very first thing I check with the various moms is whether or not they already have a source of handmedowns. If they need something I have just sitting, no longer used, there’s an easy gift.

A Home Cooked Meal

New moms are often exhausted. A home cooked meal made by someone else can be very welcome indeed. Make it something that can be frozen and reheated easily, so it can be served when convenient.

Playtime For The Older Kids

When moms have older kids, it’s hard to deal with them and the baby. If you can give them time to play away from mom and the baby, everyone gets a much needed break. If your own kids are in the same age group, so much the better.

Cloth Diapers

If the new mom is interested in cloth diapering her new baby, help build her stash. You may need to find out which cloth diapers she prefers. Don’t forget the cloth wipes to go with them! A wet bag is another great addition.

Baby Food Maker

If the mom is on board with making her own food for baby, get her a good baby food maker. I used a manual one for my kids, and it did a great job. If you made food for your own babies, make sure you share your baby’s favorite recipes.

Sustainable Toys

So many baby toys are plastic. Switch things up by finding sustainable toys for the new baby, especially ones that should be loved for many years.

Eco Friendly Baby Clothes

While hand-me-downs are wonderful, it’s nice to have something new for baby too. If you know the new mom is getting gifts from a lot of people, consider getting clothes for a somewhat older baby. Moms often end up with too many clothes for a newborn in my experience.

Feeding Supplies

You may need to know something about the new mom’s plans before picking out any feeding supplies for her. Glass baby bottles are a great choice if she’s going to use bottles at all.

A good breast pump is a great gift if she’s planning on doing any pumping, but not so good if she already knows she’s not interested. Don’t give her a hard time if it’s not her thing – there may be reasons you don’t know.

Baby Wrap/Sling

A good wrap or sling is an effective way to carry babies; so much nicer than relying on a car seat, and less awkward than always having baby in your arms. There are many wonderful options available to keep baby close to mom or dad throughout the day.

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.