Saturday, August 29, 2015

VIDEO TUTORIAL: Homemade Non-Toxic Finger Paint; Easy, Safe and Super Fun!

I love art- it is my favorite mommy-munchkin activity.  My kids love art- they are always up for art in any shape or form.  Having said that, art supplies kind of freak me out.  I know many say 'non-toxic,' but when it comes to art supplies my little kiddos are touching,  smelling and let's admit it, probably tasting, there is a peace of mind that comes from using paint and art supplies that we make ourselves from ingredients that are in our kitchen.   Not only does it turn the activity into a two-for-one ("cooking!"  then "art time!") but I don't have to be on top of them, making sure they don't ingest it as they smear it all over their bodies- paper!!

So we decided to try out a recipe the great folks at Healthy Child Healthy World shared last week.   It was so easy, fun and kept them (especially the 2 year old)  entertained the entire afternoon- so I wanted to share it ASAP!

Part I- My little chefs
Step one is making the finger paint.  Here are your ingredients:
2 cups water
1/2 cup cornstarch
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
food coloring (preferably natural )

Have your kids mix all the ingredients together in a bowl

Then, transfer the mixture to a pot and heat over medium heat on the stovetop for approximately 5 minutes (times will vary depending on your stovetop!) until your mixture goes from completely liquid to almost like a soft jello (finger paint consistency)

Once the mixture has cooled, all you have to do is divide it into as many containers as you would like (you can also use a cupcake mold for portability) and add a few drops of food coloring:  and voila you are ready to paint!

Part 2:  Time to do some art!
Have fun and let the kids get as messy as they like!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What Toxic Chemicals Are In Your Home? An Infographic

Sometimes a seeing something is more effitient than reading something - which is why I love a good infographic.   Today's infographic comes compliments of the Environmental Defense Fund.  In it, we can clearly see just some of the most common chemicals that are found in our homes and to wich we are exposed to every single day.....  you can also see some of the most common health effects associated to these chemicals.

Knowledge is power and as parents we need to take control of our children's health and our home.   Small changes can make such a big difference in the long term health of all family members!

Where to start?

  • Instead of nonstick cookware - switch to stainless steel cookware like the 
  • All-Clad Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan
  •  from Al Clad 
  • Instead of plastic baby bottles and food containers - switch to glass and stainless steel food containers and baby bottles like the 
  • Kids Konserve KK074 Small Leak Proof Stainless Steel Round Food Containers, Magenta, Set of 2
  • Instead of plugin air fresheners - switch to openning your windows or try one of our lovely smelling - easy to make recipes 
  • Instead of standard paints - switch to VOC- free paints
  • Instead of upholstered furniture doused with flame retardants- switch to buying furniture that does not contain flame retardants (more and more national retailers are offering this option- just ask!) and always make sure to keep dust to a minimun inside your house since toxic flame retardants constantly migrate  fromelectronics and furniture to your dust , that you then touch and breathe)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Every Little Person's (and mom's!) Dream Dollhouse: Amazing Design, Fun and Non-Toxic Too!

Did you havea doll house growing up?  My sister and I did.   Our entire playroom was actually christened Barbieland (I  know, how original).  We had the mansion, the apartment complex, the hair salon and the Home and Office barbie complex and we spent hours playing; making up stories for our dolls that inhabitated Barbieland... oh yeah and it was all plastic.

Fast forward a couple (or maybe more than a couple!) of years .....  many little girls, and even boys, still like to play with doll houses but wow have they come a long way.   There is a plethore of options (for Barbies and not for Barbies) for doll houses today and many of the most natural and least toxic options have some of the best designs.

Plastic dollhouses will always cost slightly less, however when purchasing a toy your children will be using, possible daily, keep in mind the chemicals you might be exposing them too.  As The Ecology Center clearly explains:

"Some plastics we know are toxic, such as #3, which is also known as PVC or vinyl. PVC contains phthalates and heavy metals, and creates dioxins when it burns. Other plastics contain Bisphenol-A (BPA), which has been identified as a chemical that disrupts hormones. Plastics can contain thousands of possible additives, and manufacturers are not required to disclose what their recipes are. Any plastic can leach, depending on the conditions (light, heat) and what additives it includes. The Ecology Center recommends avoiding plastics when possible, particularly in toys and products for children, and products that come in contact with food or drink."

Since I have two boys who don't play with traditional dollhouses (they do have a great Plan TOys airport they love) I spent the morning at my favorite Santa Monica toy store, The Acorn Store. They have an amazing selection of non-toxic wooden toys that any parent would appreciate and that kids love.  The owner, Ellen, showed me some of the newest doll houses available in the market. All I can say is : I wish I were a kid again!! This new batch of doll houses are aesthetically and thoughtfully designed and are all made impecably well - they are sure to become heirlooms within your family

Here are some of my favorites

Hape - Happy Villa Doll House - Furnished Playset

Why we love it:
  • Made out of wood and non toxic paint in Europe
  • Smaller size is ideal for little girls or small spaces
  • Includes 3 dolls and home furniture
  • Price point: $75-$100

Hape All Season House - Unfurnished

Why we love it:
  • Heirloom quality: made out of wood and non-toxic paint in Europe
  • Multiple levels = more dolls and furniture = so much fun!
  • Bright colors (non- toxic) and modern architecture
  • Comes with or without dolls and furniture (The Acorn Store sells it with the furniture and dolls)
  • Price point: $117 (without accesories)-$199

Plan Toys The Green Dollhouse with Furniture

Why we love it:
  • Heirloom quality: made out of wood and non-toxic paint in Europe
  • Sustainable & eco-conscious architecture are pretty awesome and great for eco-conscious kids:  features wind turbine, solar-cell panels, rain barrel for collecting water.  A biofacafe grows plants for shading.
  • Set includes furniture and recycling bin for the entire house. 
  • Price point:  $156-$250

PlanToys Farmhouse

Why we love it:
  • Made out of non-toxic organic rubberwood and vegetable and soy dyes
  • Small compact size ideal for small spaces
  • Farm accessories (plants, gardens, animals) sold seperately
  • Price point: $79 - $100 

Selecta Dollhouse

Why we love it:
  • Made in Germany out of wood
  • Modern and bright design
  • Price Point:  $129 and up 

Reclaimed Wood Tree House
Why we love it:
  • Hand made in Poland (this is the last one th Acorn Store has!) with real repurposed wooden branches
  • Great imaginative play for both boys and girls
  • Price:  $175 only at the Acorn Store, Santa Monica
  • a similar design made in the US by Magic Cabin is the Rustic Wooden Tree Fort

Sunday, August 16, 2015

2015 Non-Toxic Back To School Guide for All Ages!

It is officially that time of the year again- as we prepare to say goodbye to the long hot summer days, parents and children everywhere are getting ready for the new school year. 

Personally, I remember the excitement I felt going back-to-school shopping as a child. Choosing my new backpack, lunchbox and supplies was always the highlight of the end of the summer; for many kids its a clear expression of who they are or want to be during the new school year.  Needless to say, their input is essential, especially as they grow older. 

Here's the thing: as parents we want our children to choose the coolest character or designs that will make them feel confidant during the new school year, however the reality is that most of these supplies have some bad chemicals which could potentially affect our children's health... look around this year at major retail chains and you will notice the usual suspects of shiny cartoon, super heroes and princess characters on everything from backpacks to lunchboxes to pens and notebooks. You will also probably notice the smell of plastic lingering in the back to school aisle.  

 The good news? Each year there are more and more non-toxic options available in great designs for all tastes and ages!

But first: a short tutorial of what to avoid  (scroll down to go straight to our recommendation for children of all ages) 

  1.  Description: shiny and smelly plastic: you know what i am talking about - the most common, and usually least expensive supplies, are made of shiny smelly plastic. 
  • Found in: lunchboxes, backpacks, binders, folders, pencil cases
  • The problem? This shiny plastic is made of pvc ( vinyl). PVC is considered to be one of the most toxic plastics for children and the environment since it constantly releases a cocktail of chemicals including phthalates ( endocrine disrupting chemical linked to birth defects, decreased sperm count and damaged sperm, increased risk of developing behavioral problems, premature birth and asthma) dioxins ( carcinogens), PCBs ( linked Long-term exposure to PCBs is associated with a panoply of ills, including cancer, endocrine disorders, and reproductive troubles. The compounds have also been linked to cognitive and behavioral problems in children) and even lead ( a proven potent neurotoxin ), among other harmful chemicals 
  • Alternative: try to avoid plastic when possible. Fabric, canvas, stainless steel, recycled cardboard are all great alternatives. If your child's school list specifies plastic folder/ binder look for those specifically labelled ' pvc free' . Polypropylene ( #5 in the recycling triangle) ones from brands like Avery are a good option.
2. Description: hard pastic
  • Found in: plastic snack baggies, water bottles, food containers and lunchboxes
  • The problem? While many companies have phased out BPA from their products even BPA free products can contain chemicals very similar to BPA which could be accumulating inside your child's body and mimicking their hormones. This class of chemicals are known to be linked to breast cancer, obesity, among other ailments. Additionally, placing hot food in plastic containers, or heating foods in plastic containers makes the chemicals in the plastics leech into the food- never heat food in plastic containers! 
  • Alternative: after spending time planning out your child's healthy lunch and snacks for the week the last thing you want to be doing is exposing them to these chemicals. Choose reusable fabric snack bags or stainless steel as an alternative to plastic- especially for all things that come into contact with food.
Description:  fruity smelling art supplies
  • Found in: crayons, erasers, pencils and other art supplies are all available in fruit scents
  • The problem? Although kids tend to love them, these items probably contain phthalates (chemicals that allow the fragrance to 'stick' to the product).  Phthalates have been linked to birth defects, decreased sperm count and damaged sperm, increased risk of developing behavioral problems, premature birth and asthma
  • Alternative: Water based markers are your safest bet
  4. Description:  Very cheap crayons 
  • Found in: Many large retailers and dollar shops sell extremely inexpensive crayons- Made in China.  The ones tested and found to have asbestos were marketed with colorful characters such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers and Mickey Mouse
  • The problem? Environmental Working Group Action Fund, recently found certain crayons  containing asbestos fibers.  Asbestos is a known carcinogen.   Experts say there is no “safe” level of asbestos exposure. Even short exposures—just a few days—can cause serious lung problems. According to the EWG "There are no rules banning asbestos contamination in many consumer products (including) toys." Even though the asbestos fibers were mixed with the crayon's wax, making it harder for it to escape and your children breath it is, if you children put things in their mouth like mine do- its an unacceptable risk.
  • Alternative: Buy reputable name brands or look for made in usa or europe.  An even healthier option are crayons made of   beeswax and soy oil
5. Description:  Antibacterial supplies mostly labelled as 'microban'
  • Found in: folders, binders, backpacks
  • The problem? microban is a mix of chemicals meant to protect the product (not the user! from bacteria, and mold and that may contain Triclosan.  We don't really know if it contains Triclosan, since the company that produces Microban does not disclose its ingredients but this is a common antimicrobial chemical linked to skin irritation, allergy susceptibility, growth of drug-resistant bacteria or “superbugs.” dioxin contamination and even hormone disruption
  • Alternative:  Avoid "antibacterial” or “antimicrobial” or "microban" labels - even in items labelled as non-toxic.  
Non-Toxic Munchkin Approved! Our 2015 school supply recommendations - by school age

I. Preschool
Take advantage because you can still choose these items to your liking! 

Lunch/ snacktime


  • Glob All Natural Paint Kits paints made from fruits, vegetables, flowers and spices. 
  • Clementine Art: From crayons to paints, this natural and non-toxic brand is sure to have all the art supplies your child needs for school.
  • eco-kids USA: Get naturally creative with these non-toxic and natural art supplies
  • Earth Grown Crayons: made from natural soy wax with non-toxic mineral and organic pigments.
II. Elementary school
Make sure to include your elementary school, probably opinionated, child in picking out their supplies! Suddenly the 'right' superhero or princess or other character can make or break the back to school experience!

PlanetBox allows kids to personalize their lunchbox with magnets

SoYoung Backpacks: My Kindergartener's choice

  • Glob All Natural Paint Kits paints made from fruits, vegetables, flowers and spices. 
  • Eco-kids USA:  allow your kids to get naturally creative with these non-toxic and natural art supplies.  Dioramas, craft projects, and homework won’t be a toxic, smelly mess with this non-toxic paste made from potato starch and almond
  • Earth Grown Crayons that are made from natural soy wax with non-toxic mineral and organic pigments.
III. Older kids 

School Supplies