Category Archives: Eco Friendly Parenting

12 Apps That Encourage Kids to Get Out and Explore

Kids get out and explore

As a mom or dad, you probably grumble sometimes about how much time your kids spend in front of one screen or another. And it’s true that kids spend way too much time in front of screens. However, there are some apps you can put on your smartphone that will encourage your kids to get out and explore.

Obviously, you need to decide how much supervision your kids need with each of these apps, depending on location and your child’s maturity level. Some of the apps mentioned here are free; others you have to buy.

1. Geocaching

If you haven’t heard of geocaching yet, the idea is simple. It’s called the world’s largest treasure hunt. The app helps you find geocaches in your area and navigate to them. People hide small things in the cache, and if you find it, you can take it and put something of equal or greater value in, or put the item back where you found it.

Geocaches are all over the place. The website tells me there are more than 8000 geocaches near my town. That’s not just in my town, of course, but in areas surrounding it. Still, I looked at the map and could see quite a few within a few miles of me, and a huge number along a popular local hike.

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2. iNaturalist

Share your observations of plants and animals you observe to contribute to biodiversity science. You can use crowdsourcing to identify plants and animals you don’t recognize. You’ll connect to other naturalists who share your interests in the world around you.

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3. Audubon Bird Guide

Do your kids love birds? Make it easier to identify them as you wander outdoors with this guide. You can log sightings and share with the community, as well as get help identifying birds you can’t quite identify on your own.

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4. Nature Cat’s Great Outdoors

Based on the PBS Kids character, Nature Cat’s Great Outdoors offers daily adventures for kids. The app may have the kids use the compass, camera, microphone or sketch as they create a nature journal.

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5. DIY Lake Science

DIY Lake Science is helpful in learning about lakes and freshwater ecosystems. There are hands-on activities, requiring supplies that are generally easy to get. There is also an “Under the Lake” simulation which allows students to explore what happens as temperatures change for different lakes.

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6. Star Walk 2

Build an interest in astronomy with Star Walk 2, a stargazing app which helps you identify objects in the night sky where you are. Move your device around and it updates as you go.

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7. Redshift

Redshift will also help you identify astronomical objects in your area, and guide you to ones you’re trying to find. It also offers 3d “flights” to go to the surface of other planets and moons in the solar system.

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8. Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go hit it huge when it came out. There have been problems with people not really watching where they’re going as they seek Pokémon. Some have played the game in inappropriate places, although the developers have put in some effort to keep the game out of such places. You have to walk to hatch your Pokémon eggs, guaranteeing that the kids will get some exercise.

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9. Ingress

Before the Pokemon Go app, there was Ingress. Like Pokemon, you will need to be aware of the potential safety risks as kids visit waypoints and how they chat with other players. Forming alliances with other players is a part of the game, so that your alliance can control more areas.

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10. Zombies, Run!

This app will encourage walking and running. You start out on your walk or run, your music playing as you get your mission. When the zombies start chasing you, it’s time to run. It’s a fun story combined with exercise.

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11. Fit For Battle

Another app that makes walking or running into a game. Shia the elf and Keg the dwarf will let you know when to speed up or slow down as they take you through the game.

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12. Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunts

Make exploring your area more interesting with photographic scavenger hunts. The first four hunts are free, then you have to buy further scavenger hunts. Sometimes you can get an addon hunt free.

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7 Ways to Raise a Green Toddler

7 Ways to Raise a Green Toddler

Raising kids with a green lifestyle can be difficult at times. Toddlers can be especially tricky, as they become aware of wanting particular things, not just what you give them. They start to have more opinions, and don’t always want to do things your way. It takes effort to raise a green toddler. Here are some ideas to help.

1. Make the most of handmedowns and secondhand clothes and toys.

My kids are all very used to receiving handmedowns. My sisters and I pass clothes and toys from kid to kid to kid, sorting out what has become too worn out or just doesn’t appeal to the next kid. The better toys may even be used as Christmas or birthday gifts, not just random surprises.

My kids get excited about their handmedowns most of the time. There’s one purple jacket that is on its fourth girl, and every one of them has been very reluctant to release it to the next. It’s just that cute a jacket. My kids get to say whether or not they like particular things, so the handmedowns don’t feel like a burden. Give them a say even as toddlers, and such things become something to look forward to.

If handmedowns aren’t a realistic option for you or don’t provide enough clothing, try resale and thrift shops. You can find a lot of great deals for much less than new clothes and toys cost.

2. Decorate their rooms with their own artwork or other treasured things.

Toddlers are often prolific artists. Rather than crowd the front of my refrigerator, they get to hang their artwork in their own bedrooms. My kids have artwork that they made years ago still hanging in their rooms, and it started when they were little. This allows them to make their rooms very much their own style, and you don’t have to buy anything more than the art supplies you probably would have bought anyhow. Don’t forget to teach them how to make recycled art!

3. Teach them to recycle.

It’s easy to teach very young children to recycle. Once they’re old enough to carry things to the trash, they’re old enough to start learning which things should be recycled instead.

It takes a lot of watching, especially with food related items that may need to be rinsed before going into the recycle bin. Toddlers often forget where things go, but it’s a great age to set them on the recycling path.

4. Walk together.

Don’t drive everywhere you have to go, if you have the option. If school, the park, museum or the store are close enough, consider walking there instead. You may want to use the stroller at times, as toddlers will get tired fairly quickly sometimes, or decide it’s naptime before you’re done with your errands. Fortunately, the stroller can also be convenient for carrying groceries or other packages.

Walking to the park can also be a great excuse for a picnic. Eating outside is often a treat to young children.

5. Use public transportation.

When walking isn’t the best option, consider public transportation. This option won’t work everywhere – not all places have good public transportation – but it’s a very good option if it works for you. Riding a bus or train is a big adventure for young children.

6. Grow a garden together.

Toddlers love growing things. Whether you have a backyard with room for a garden or have to keep everything in containers, gardening is a great activity to do together. Gardening can also be used to encourage your child to eat more vegetables, as they often love eating things they grew themselves.

7. Control screen time.

One of the big ways toddlers learn to want more things is by watching TV or playing games on websites with ads. Not only is too much screen time bad for kids, especially toddlers, as it limits physical activity, it makes it easy for them to learn about more things they want.

There are useful things kids can do with screens, such as play educational games, or give the parents a little break. It’s not your only option, and you shouldn’t use it that way if you can avoid it.

6 Places to Shop for Eco Friendly School Lunch Supplies

6 Places to Shop for Eco Friendly School Lunch Supplies

My kids love bringing lunch to school. School lunches have improved, generally speaking, over the past several years, but we still enjoy the flexibility of bringing lunch rather than buying it.

The challenge comes in finding more eco friendly containers for the kids’ lunches. Kids are great for losing things, so you don’t want to spend a fortune. So far, most of my kids’ stuff has eventually made it back to us, anywhere from being found in the lost & found the next day all the way to appearing in a different teacher’s classroom the following school year. Obviously, sometimes I’ve had to buy more containers because I thought the previous ones were gone.

You also want containers that will last well. I prefer stainless steel, and for the drink bottles, ideally no straws. My youngest still gets straw containers, even though the straws eventually go bad because she chews on them, because that’s what she can open without needing help and close reliably. For older kids, I like bottles that the kids twist the lid off rather than a sports bottle type opening – kids are great for not closing sports bottles tightly enough and having it leak all over their lunch bags.

Insulation is wonderful, especially for drinks. Ice works well to keep drinks cool, and you can freeze milk into cubes so you don’t ruin the flavor if that’s your child’s preferred drink. Make sure the drink bottle has a wide enough mouth that ice is easily added.

Size is key with food containers. Some will be too small to hold enough food for your child’s appetite. Too big and you may have to rethink the lunch bag. Pay attention to reviews as well as how much your child tends to eat for lunch to figure out what’s the right container. Some have their own carry bags available.

There are plenty of places to buy eco friendly school lunch supplies. Here are just a few:

Amazon (seems like they carry everything)
Shop Waste-Free Lunch for Kids at ReUseIt.com
ECOlunchbox
PlanetBox
The Ultimate Green Store
Laptop Lunches

Kick Your Kids Out Of The House This Summer!

Kick Your Kids Out Of The House This Summer!

How much do your kids grumble about having nothing to do now that school’s out, especially when you tell them to shut the screens off? There’s a simple solution to that – make them go play outside.

Think about your own childhood and how much time you probably spent outside playing. Doing much the same will be good for your kids too. Have them dress appropriately and wear sunscreen as necessary, but get them outside. Here are some ideas to help them be happy about it if they aren’t sure what to do.

Water Fight!

What kid doesn’t love a good water fight? Set up rules if the kids can’t agree on their own, but let them try it their own way first – parents don’t have to set up rules all the time. If you have a kid who tends to squirt everyone else right in the face or otherwise do things that might hurt someone or are just plain annoying, that’s one thing, but many kids can handle making their own rules – sometimes that’s part of the fun!

Sidewalk Chalk

If you have a good sidewalk, clear driveway or patio, sidewalk chalk is a lot of fun for kids. Even my oldest enjoys it some days still.

Play Tag/Hide & Go Seek, etc.

A good game of tag gets the kids running and having fun. You may even be able to get some neighborhood kids in on the fun, just make sure all are agreed upon the rules, especially how to handle the street.

Ride Bikes

Send your kids out to ride bikes, with as much range as you think appropriate for their ages. Ride with them if you want, but remember that it’s good for kids to develop independence at appropriate ages.

Play in the Sprinklers

Time to water the lawn? Send the kids out to enjoy it if you water late enough in the day.

Nature Scavenger Hunt

Have the kids look for things you know they’ll find in your area outside. If you include bugs on the list, make sure the kids don’t hurt them, and release them at the end, especially if it’s a beneficial bug. If the kids have digital cameras available, you can consider having photographs be a part of the challenge, so they don’t have to take things with them.

Play Frisbee

Just have the kids play catch with the frisbee, or have them aim at targets or invent a game of their own. It might not even involve throwing the frisbee – they’re not bad for carrying some things.

Build a Fort

Anything from a simple sheet over a picnic table to something built using wood and tools counts. You and the kids decide how to go about it… just try to stand back and let them work when it’s something they know how to do on their own. Just keep enough of an eye on things to know that it’s more or less safe.

Camp Out Overnight

If you have a backyard, an overnight campout is a lot of fun for the kids once they’re old enough. Set up a small tent (have them do it once they’re big enough) and have the kids bring out pillows, blankets, etc. for a night out. Remind them that bugs will go in the tent if they leave the door unzipped, but mostly let them alone. Leave the nearest door unlocked in case anyone needs to come in for some reason at night. We leave our window open so we can hear the kids too. It may only be the backyard, but kids feel really independent sleeping out of the house on their own.

Go Play With Friends Outside

Why do parents have to come up with all the ideas? Let your kids go play with their friends, with as little supervision as their ages and situations allow.

All this assumes that you have a safe place for them to be outside, of course. If you don’t have a good place for your kids to be out, try to find places and times where you can allow it, but don’t be too hard on yourself if things just don’t work out that way.

There’s lots more kids can do to play outside. Here are more sites with ideas:

50 Outdoor Summer Activities For Kids
50 Simple Outdoor Activities For Kids
Outdoor Activities for Children Ages 6-10

How to Find Eco Friendly Birthday Party Favors

How to Find Eco Friendly Birthday Party Favors

My kids love having birthday parties with their friends, and they especially love picking out party favors. Personally, I’m royally tired of the standard plastic favors that only last a day or two before breaking that kids get at most parties they attend. I think my kids have received most of them at one party or another, and the favors are usually junk.

Now, the easiest solution to all this is to simply skip the whole party favor thing. It’s the most eco friendly solution too. But if you or your kids aren’t ready to give up on the concept of party favors, you can at least try to make them more eco friendly. It’s possible, and you can even keep the costs down.

Homemade Treats

If you’re the kind who likes to make treats, these can be wonderful party favors… just be sure you know about any allergies or sensitivities to take into consideration. Popcorn is often popular with kids, although there are GMO considerations. You can make homemade cookies, brownies, chocolates, candies, whatever you like to make.

Flower/Seed Pots

This can be a party activity and favor all in one. Have the kids paint or otherwise decorate their pots early on in the party, so that any paint or glue has time to dry. Later on, have the kids plant seeds or small plants you have ready for them. Make sure parents know in advance that the kids might get messy!

Homemade Play Dough

Homemade play dough is easy to make and lots of fun for the kids. Have a little fun with it and add some glitter – kids love sparkling play dough. Here’s a basic 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)

Combine all dry ingredients. Separate into one container per color, then add oil (estimate amount per color) and food coloring as desired. Add hot water slowly, and mix by hand until the consistency is right. Add a little more flour or salt if the dough gets too wet. Put into sealed containers for each child.

Decorate T-shirts

Decorating t-shirts can be a lot of fun, but potentially messy, so make sure parents get advance warning. You can use t-shirt paints, Sharpie markers, tie dye kits or anything else you like that works on shirts. My kids like to draw on shirts with Sharpie marker with sections of the shirt pulled tight over a container, then drop rubbing alcohol over the design to make it spread. This is best as an outdoor activity, as the alcohol really stinks!

To make it more eco friendly, look for organic cotton t-shirts and other eco friendly supplies.

Crayons

For younger kids, crayons are a nice treat. You can give them brand new ones or melt old, broken crayons into molds for a more interesting look.

Crafts

Pick an eco-friendly craft that is age appropriate for the kids. You may even be able to find ideas to go with any party theme you’ve chosen. Give the kids the supplies early on and let them go at it. Make sure you have a place for everything to dry after that is visible enough that you won’t forget to have the kids take their projects home.

Homemade Bath Bombs/Salts

This can be a fun activity for older kids or teens. Get the supplies to make some bath bombs or salts. Salts are usually easier because you don’t have to worry about how long they need to dry out.

Rocks, Fossils, Coins

This is a favorite of my kids. I go to ebay.com and find tumbled rocks, foreign coins, fossils, etc. for party favors. It’s great if you have a treasure hunt theme. The quick way to give these to the kids is to fill containers with treasure and sandbox sand, then have each kid sift out their treasure. This is best for younger kids who might get upset over unequal distributions or who might not have the patience for an actual treasure hunt.

For older kids, consider an actual treasure hunt. Hide the treasure, and give them clues to find it. Make sure you find a way to limit how much treasure each one gets, or hide the treasure in a different location for each, and warn the kids not to take treasure that doesn’t come from one of their clues. You can also mark each one with a color or logo so that everyone knows which treasure is theirs. You don’t want the fastest kid to get an excessive share of the prizes.

Favors From Eco Friendly Sites

Check out some of the websites that offer eco friendly party supplies and favors.

http://www.greenpartygoods.com/
http://www.ecopartytime.com/
http://www.favortheearth.com/
http://www.sustyparty.com/

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.