Every year around the holidays I attempt the impossible. I want to gift my children generously but not overindulge. I want to get them exactly what I know they want but somehow incorporate a lesson in appreciating what we have. Even though my two aspirations are completely opposite, I still struggle with this at every gift-giving holiday.
We celebrate Chanukah in my house and it’s a huge challenge with eight straight nights of celebrating to weave-in a message like, “We have to think of other kids who may not get any presents at all.” My two boys are five-and-a-half and four and at this age, it’s easier for them to deal in concrete images rather than hypothetical children they’ve never seen or met. In the past, I’ve tried not giving a gift the last night of Chanukah. I tell them we’ve made a donation instead to help other children who may not have gotten any presents this year, but I don’t think they really understand the message behind this gesture.
Like most parents I know, my husband and I want to share in their excitement when they open their presents. It’s easy to remember a piece of your own childhood joy at getting gifts when you see it reflected back in your own children. As important as it is to me to raise happy children, it’s equally important to me not to overdo it. I know it’s normal, but it pains me to see me my children immediately forget about the toy they received the night before in favor of the newest offering. I worry that I’m teaching them to appreciate fleeting things more than the bigger picture of being part of a loving, healthy family with a roof over our heads and plenty to eat.
At the same time, I’m also the mom who, when her child mentions a toy he loved playing with at someone’s house, will rush out to get that same item. Part of me wants my children to just be happy, even if that means through extra sweets and toys because there really isn’t much else that can top those two things for them. But there’s a huge guilt factor if I let them binge too much on junk or one-time toys.
This year my husband and I tried a different approach to help keep everyone’s spirits in the right place. Instead of gifts to open every night, we aimed to give them experiences as well. Since Chanukah overlapped with Thanksgiving, we had several big extended family celebrations where the kids got to stay up late and play games with the grown-ups. On another night we took them to a waterfront restaurant not too far from us on the southeast coast of Florida where you could toss bait to giant tarpon fish who literally jumped out of the water for the food. For little boys this is almost as exciting as a live samurai battle and was absolutely a highlight of the holiday. My hope is that when my kids look back on any celebratory occasion, they’ll remember good times and being surrounded by people who love them and not if they got the latest and greatest gadget.
I’m hoping this is a jumping-off point for more celebrating and less flash-in-the-pan gift giving. I’m not saying we’ll whittle it down to no gifts and just hanging out time in the future, but it was easier than I expected to not over-gift. As long as the kids felt that it was a special, out-of-the-ordinary evening, they were happy and content with that.
I’m looking forward to seeing what we come up with for the next big gift-giving occasion when my older son turns six in a few months.
This holiday season how do you plan to reconcile your aspirations with your gifting inclinations? Is it possible in your family to give less and get more?
Dressing up and crafting your own costume is a great teaching tool for children. The activity inspires creative play, problem solving, personal expression, and fun! To encourage this educational and emotional exploration, we think you only need one basic item: The box!
Superficially, it’s nothing more than a cardboard cube. But in reality, it’s a hiding space, a car, a laundry machine, a hot air balloon…. A box is infinite in its possibilities. Ask your children what they want to be and have them draw it. Go on a scavenger hunt around the house — everyday basics, old clothes, and art supplies are all they need to bring their imaginative costume to life.
To celebrate the endless learning opportunities the box represents, we’ve rounded up our favorite cardboard box costumes that are perfect for Halloween or a Saturday afternoon. We hope they leave you inspired to upcycle your boxes into something eco-friendly and magical.
1. Misha Lulu’s Alice in Wonderland captures the imagination and silly nonsense of the famous storybook character.
2. Bring your box to life with this DIY Frankenstein costume from Scholastic Parent & Child.
3. Special Delivery from Studio DIY. This air mail costume proves you don’t need specialty supplies to create something sweet.
6. Kitchen Fun with My Three Sons always makes homemade costumes and this cardboard shark is a definite catch.
7. Adults can get in on the creative action with this eco chic gown crafted by Strode College and featured in Inhabitots’ 8 DIY Costumes That Are Outside the Box.
Have you made a costume repurposing a cardboard box? We’d love to see it, so share your creativity in the comments below! And check out our Halloween Pinterest board for additional inspiration.
Back to school season is here. When classes resume, school will become your child’s second home. And we know how tough it can be to say farewell to summer and send your child off to a new classroom, especially if it’s cleaned using those conventional products you try to avoid. What’s a parent to do?
Don’t worry, even though your internal toxic alarm bells may be ringing! Now that your family has learned the ropes of creating a greener, cleaner, safer home by doing things like using non-toxic products and recycling — you can share those lessons with their school, too!
The first step is to choose what you’d like to do. You can’t solve every problem, so choose one at a time and tackle it using the 5 “Ps” our Co-Founder Christopher Gavigan outlines in his book, Healthy Child Healthy World.
The second step to making change is making allies. Partner with administrators and teachers, even if it’s just a few that share your same concerns (perhaps a science teacher?). For the most part, the people who work at schools truly have the best intentions when it comes to your child and simply lack the resources and time they need to do everything they dream of (especially in public schools!). Attend a PTA meeting to rally the support of other parents and form a committee to support green initiatives around the school through education, fundraisers, and community volunteerism.
Okay, with all of that said, the really great news is that schools that adopt greener, healthier practices reap a bunch of awesome benefits like:
And enough schools are making these changes that there are tons of real life examples your school can model themselves after. Here are some Web sites with great tools and experts to help you on your journey:
If you’re looking for something a little more bite-sized with ideas for getting students involved, check out The Everything Green Classroom Book by Tessa Hill. It’s filled with fun ideas for bringing the concepts of eco-friendly and non-toxic living into the classroom!
Have you worked with your child’s school to be greener and less toxic? Please share your experiences and favorite resources in the comments!
With summer temps about to peak, it only seems natural to cool down with an icy sweet treat. But instead of hitting up the store or ice cream truck for popsicles, consider making them at home.
You’ll avoid high fructose corn syrup and risky artificial dyes by using fresh, organic ingredients. You’ll save money by freezing your own. And you’ll have fun experimenting in the kitchen—we poke around the fridge, freezer, and pantry for ingredients that blend well to make healthier alternatives to our store-bought faves. Trust us, you can’t go wrong starting out with berries, bananas, and (yes!) spinach to create tasty popsicles that will leave your family smiling.
If you’re ready to think outside of the BPA-free mold, don’t overlook these ingredients when improvising your popsicle recipes:
Otherwise, give your blender a whirl and try these organic fruit- and veggie-based pops. The recipes are designed to be adapted to your liking and dietary needs (note: ingredient quantities may have to be adjusted based on the size of your molds, but the recipes serve approximately six).
Feeling nostalgic for that Creamsicle of your childhood? Look no further. Make your own for an added boost of vitamin c, calcium, and protein.
Directions: Using a blender, combine all ingredients. Pour into popsicle molds. Freeze for at least 3 hours. Enjoy!
This refreshing popsicle is bursting with antioxidants from the blueberries, and it can be elevated with a pinch of fresh rosemary for a summer barbecue under the stars (a little goes a long way!). This recipe can easily be whipped up with any fruit, citrus juice, and herbs you have at home. Think strawberry-lemon-mint, peach-lemon-basil, or watermelon-blueberry-lime…the possibilities are endless.
Directions: Juice lemons, then blend the liquid with the other ingredients. Pour into molds, freeze, and enjoy after 3 hours!
Although not as sugary-sweet as its grocery store counterpart, you’ll be surprised how well avocado and chocolate go together! The prehistoric-looking fruit paired with the banana gives these pops a creamy base without using any dairy, making it a great vegan treat.
Directions: Purée the spinach with a splash of water to create a liquid base for the popsicle mixture. Feel free to experiment here—try coconut or nut milk instead. Next, blend the avocados, bananas, vanilla extract, and sweetener with the spinach purée. Fold in the cocoa powder before fully incorporating it with the blender. Spoon the mixture into your molds and freeze for at least 3 hours.