Every week I spend time with parents who are overwhelmed trying to navigate through all the STUFF that comes with kids, and in particular trying to sort out what is green and healthy for both the planet and for their little ones.
As the marketing machine of our consumerism oriented society preys on our need to get it ‘right’ and be ‘good parents’, we are sadly lead to believe that without oodles of gear we’ll never be able to raise a healthy happy child. In fact, the reality goes something more like this… ALL YOUR BABY REALLY NEEDS IS YOU. Sigh, what a relief!
Not to say that some gear, like a great baby carrier, some clothes, and perhaps some diapers aren’t very useful- they are! And you will no doubt have those one or two pieces of kid gear that you wouldn’t have survived without…. But the thing is…your favorite item will no doubt be on someone else’s list of completely useless purchases. Yes, we are all different, and so are our little ones.
If you choose to balance the ‘oh that’s SO cute!!’ with your family’s values regarding health, environment, social justice, budget, local/imported, etc. Wowza! With all the science, label reading, marketing hype and greenwashing, it can all certainly begin to feel complicated to say the least. Then you sprinkle in a healthy dose of mama-guilt and you’ve got a recipe for overwhelmed and confused parents.
What can we do about it? That part isn’t always so complicated. When it comes to all the stuff for kids and deciding what’s right for you… just SIMPLIFY.
Besides, when it comes to going green, creating healthy spaces for your kids, and making life less overwhelming – LESS REALLY IS MORE. Plus, you often end up saving yourself money, chores and headaches while you’re at it. Now that’s multitasking!
Make your STUFF multitask as much as you do! Resist the urge to buy products that are disposable, have a short lifespan, or only one purpose. For example, select a wet bag that will work for cloth diapers, then bathing suits, and one day soccer cleats.
Simply Green Play? How do we simplify while greening the toys? Let’s take a look at a wool felt carrot- so simple – for baby it’s an ideal teething toy- feels great on sore gums, is a natural and healthy option for chewing (no need to fret about which kind of plastic and thus which chemicals are being dined on), and wool is naturally antibacterial (bonus!). Then, when baby grows, instead of tossing your plastic teething toys, that humble felt carrot moves into the play kitchen and lives on for years! Plus it’s made of a material that is not only natural, but one that can be repaired- rather than tossed- should it get ‘broken’. The lowly felt carrot can give a new perspective on what kind of toys really are more economical.
Share and share alike? In addition to the wonder of hand-me-downs, and visiting your local library…. you could also try a toy exchange with other families – new toys rotate in the door as others rotate out, then they magically reappear a few months later- without shopping, and without buying another storage system, NICE! Save money, save the clutter, and build community while modeling desirable behavior … that’s some more good multitasking.
Buying less stuff, means less labels to read and decipher, less greenwashing to navigate, less to send to the landfill, and less to manage, to trip over and clean up each night! Less is more in this mama’s book.
The good news is that as parents, we are blessed with endless options to select from that will fit our unique family with our unique values, lifestyle and priorities… the challenge comes in figuring that out and being discerning.
So next time the latest coolest gadget catches your eye- check it out for sure, then decide… ‘is this the one for me?’ ‘Is this REALLY going to make our life better or my days simpler? …or shall I treat mama to a massage instead?’ Now THAT would make a happy, healthy baby. Then just go outside and play… it doesn’t get any simpler than that.
Your Eco-Health Maven
Tanis Frame is a geeky scientist, and a mom of two. A trusted resource, she supports new and seasoned parents as they navigate the stuff of parenthood, and what is good for the planet and their kids’ health. Tanis translates the science and serves up her depth of knowledge with a healthy dose of humour. She truly believes the right choices are different for each family, and loves to be your Eco-Health Maven supporting you along the way!