Archive for the ‘Children’s Products’ Category

Lead, PVC and BPA free lunchboxes for back-to-school 2011

Lead as you know is toxic, which makes it surprising that it is in lunchboxes and backpacks. PVC is toxic as it contains phthalates and lead so it’s important for lunchboxes to be lead-free. And BPA is the hormone disrupting chemical found in plastics whose toxic effects have been hitting the news and blogs for the last several years. Kids are going to be touching the lunch box with their hands, then eat their food with their hands, so it is important for your child’s lunchbox to be free of these nasty chemicals.

Before purchasing a lunch box for your child, read the label. Make sure it is not made of PVC. Stainless steel, nylon, polypropelyne or cloth are much safer materials. Look for tags that say PVC-free (NOTE: PVC-free means the lead levels are below the amount deemed “safe” by a government agency). You also want to avoid BPA if you are purchasing a water bottle or food storage containers.

Here is a list of BPA, PVC and lead free lunch boxes.

Citizens Pip  You can customize your lunch box with accessories — separate food compartments, stainless steel bottle, cloth napkins, fork/spoon set, and of course the lunch box itself!

The Cool Tote is a replacement for the traditional brown bag. It’s made of nylon thus lead and other toxin-free.

Crocodile Creek. Traditional lunch box style that is well-made and have very cute traditional style, zippered lunch box and kid-friendly designs.

Laptop lunches are good for those who don’t like their food to touch. There are little compartments for separating food.

LL Bean has a critter lunch box line that is really cute and lead and PVC-free.  They would be great for a tween who wants something stylish without licensed characters.

LunchBots stainless steel containers. Several types to choose from. Does not have a bag though.

The Lunch Pak by Fleurville is a backpack design, but does have a handle to carry like a traditional lunch box. They also offer a lunch buddy which is more of a traditional lunch box style. (Note: 2 years ago they said their lead levels were “undetectable.” When I called this week, they said their lunch boxes were all lead and PVC-free. Slightly leery here, but they said they lead/PVC free, so they are on the list.)

Mimi the Sardine has cute cloth lunch totes that are PVC and lead free. There are several designs such as the ladybug, monkey/elephant/flower pattern, bugs and mice (my favorite).

Munchlers look like zoo animals and they fold out into a placemat, which is great. They are insulated and come in several designs including a yellow tiger, white dog, green bunny and pink panda. My daughter has the white dog – very cute.

PlanetBox is by far the most pricey, but it’s a very cool system. It’s a bento-style box of stainless steel that is  dishwasher safe. You can customize with cute magnets. The deluxe set has 2 dipper bowls and a carry bag that has a place to store a water bottle and little extras. The main drawback is the hefty price: $59.99, plus almost $11 in shipping. However, it is something that is sure to last for years.

Lunchopolis is another zippered, traditional style, no-nonsense lunch box. The lunch box lining is aluminum which I don’t care for. Also available are BPA-free containers and water bottles.

Kid Konserve is a similar to Citizens Pip’s customizable lunch box system. You can get ala carte or as a system.

Thermapod is another similar concept to the laptop lunch.

ZAK Designs offers several licensed character insulated lunch boxes that are lead free and lined with PVC-free material. Note, they just mention “PVC-free lining” so leads me to believe the entire lunch box may not be PVC-free. But a phone call to ZAK confirmed they are entirely lead-free. Wal-Mart and Target carry Zak lunch boxes.

ReusableBags.com has a whole section also dedicated to lead, PVC, and BPA-free lunches. I bought two ACME lunch bags — one to carry bottles in for my son to daycare (it fits three Dr. Brown bottles) and one for me for the milk I pump for him at work (it fits six medela bottles).

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Snaps and Snails’ YoYoo cloth pocket diaper review and coupon

There are so many different brand of cloth diapers out there now, it is hard to keep up. It seems I hear of a new brand of diapers every other week lately. A couple months ago I came across Snaps and Snails YoYoo bamboo pocket diapers. YoYoo pocket diapers are mom-invented, which I love!

I purchased 2 of these diapers and they arrived promptly. The colors are very bright and vivid, the bamboo was very soft. They were easy enough to prep – wash and then rinse several times.

I had never used bamboo diapers and I am happy to report they performed as well as my BumGenius and FuzziBunz diapers.

About YoYoo pocket diapers (from Snaps & Snails website)
Yo-Yoo one size pocket diapers are a beautiful product. Each diaper is made up of certified organic bamboo. The bamboo micro-fiber is soft and luxurious, as well as hypoallergenic, keeping your baby comfy and happy.  The outer layer of the diaper is made of polyurethane laminate, which is waterproof and durable, extending the life of the diaper while keeping your babies clothes dry. Each diaper comes with a 4-layer, plush and absorbent bamboo fleece insert which snaps into the diaper, holding it in place. They are made with snap closures to allow for easy adjustment and a snug fit as your baby grows and develops. These one size diapers are easily adjusted to fit any baby from 5lbs – 35lbs  and are available in 5 bright and playful colors.

Closure
My son is 22 months, so snaps are a must. The Velcro on my BumGenius (BG) diapers leaves too much freedom for a little boy to riiipppp off the diaper and hose down my house – so no Velcro unless he’s also wearing pants (two can play at this game). The Velcro also tends to come loose in the wash and create a long line of BG diapers – frustrating. The YoYoo diaper has snaps and is one size – perfect combo for our house. We are on the largest setting for the stride, but not the side snaps that actually secure the diaper. The waist is very roomy, in fact, so roomy, that I am not sure if a thin newborn would fit in this diaper, but I can’t say for sure, since my son is 22 months and 25 pounds.

Fit
The fit was great! The elastic does not seem to give as much as my BGs or FuzziBunz (FB), however, I did not notice any difference in performance. Here are some comparison pictures of the BG one size, the FB medium perfect fit and the YoYoo one size diapers.

Front view: medium FuzziBunz, small setting on BumGenius and small setting on YoYoo

Top view: Medium FuzziBunz, small setting on BumGenius and small setting on YoYoo

Top view: Medium FuzziBunz, small setting on BumGenius and small setting on YoYoo

 

Front view: Medium FuzziBunz, medium setting on BumGenius and medium setting on YoYoo

Top view: Medium FuzziBunz, medium setting on BumGenius and medium setting on YoYoo

Front view: Medium FuzziBunz, large setting on BumGenius and large setting on YoYoo

Top view: Medium FuzziBunz, large setting on BumGenius and large setting on YoYoo

Absorbency
Bamboo is supposed to be really absorbent, and I will have to say from experience, that I find this to be accurate. We only had one leak and really that was my fault because he needed changing and I was trying to beat the system thinking “Surely we can make it home – it’s only 10 minutes!” Of course, he went and we had a leak, but he was so wet, I’m certain the FB and BGs would have also sprung a leak. It also contained the BMs very well.

Pocket/Insert
This is my favorite part of the diaper. The pocket opening is in the front of the diaper, which is awesome because then poo does not get into the pocket and directly onto the insert (which is my biggest beef with my BGs, well, maybe 2nd after the Velcro). The opening is a little small, so it may be a little difficult for someone with large hands to stuff, but this is a feature I like because there is not a bunch of excess fabric that can stick out and cause a leak (which is my least favorite thing about the FB).

Another neat thing about the insert is that it snaps into the diaper minimizing any shifting of the insert. I am sure it works fine without snapping it in since unsnapping it could cause a little wetness to get on your hands, but I hold the back and front just so, so I can unsnap without touching the insert or inner lining. Yes, I am a little OCD and I am OK with that.

Bulkiness
I do not find this diaper bulky, at least not any more so than my BGs. Here are all 3 diapers lined up showing their “wingspan.”

Top to bottom: BumGenius, YoYoo, FuzziBunz

Staining
So far, I have not seen any staining on the cover or insert. Both clean very well, and so far no stink either! I rinse even the wet diapers and this has been my best offense against the horrid ammonia smell cloth diapers sometimes get.

Care
I wash mine with Rockin Green Soap along with my other diapers. I occasionally use bleach (once a month or less). The YoYoo bamboo diapers are not to be bleached, so I am careful to ensure they skip the bleach load. My system is: cold rinse, long hot wash, 2 rinses. I hang the covers and dry the inserts in the dryer.

Overall
Overall, I think this is a great diaper and because of the snaps and roomy fit, it’s a favorite even over my BGs (I think we’ve established the fact that I am not a Velcro fan) and FBs right now (medium perfect fits are getting to snug on baby’s chunky legs)! There are several great colors to choose from.

As stated, my only concern is not sure how this would fit on a petite baby, or tiny newborn, but since I did not try this on a newborn, I can’t say for sure, just would advise you to order 1-2 diapers to try before ordering a whole stash – something I recommend before ordering a stash of ANY diaper.

Coupon Code
Want to get 25% off the Snaps & Snails diapers? Go to the Snaps & Snails website, then email sales@snapsandsnails.org with your order – be sure to use amomsblog as the subject line – and receive 25% off your order! Like all good deals, it does end, so snag up this deal before it expires on October 23rd.

The fine print: I received these diapers at a discount price in exchange for an honest review. The opinions here are completely my own and was influenced by nothing other than my own experience.

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Safe school supplies 2010

It’s back-to-school time again! Time to shop for those school supplies and of course you want them to be safe from ickies like PVC. Kids are going to be using school supplies and lunch boxes on a daily basis and kids are more greatly affected by toxins than adults. So we want to make sure we are sending them off with items that are safe.

So, what should you all avoid this back-to-school season?
1. PVC – polyvinyl chloride. PVC causes cancer, and is notorious for containing lead which can cause irreversible brain damage with too much exposure.

How to avoid PVC, the poison plastic. The CHEJ gives these quick tips:

  • PVC products are often labeled with the words “vinyl” on the packaging, such as vinyl 3-ring binders
  • PVC packaging can be identified by looking for the number “3” inside, or the letters “V” or “PVC” underneath, the universal recycling symbol, indicating the product is made out of PVC. Just remember – bad news comes in #3’s, don’t buy PVC
  • Some products are not properly labeled, making it tough to determine whether they contain PVC. If you’re uncertain, e-mail or call the 1-800 number of the manufacturer or retailer and ask what type of plastic their product is made of. You have a right to know.

While sadly, some safer school supplies are harder to find, if you keep looking, you should still be able to find PVC free supplies. Here is a pocket guide to help you along and a full list of PVC-free school supplies. Though, for many of these supplies on the full list, you will have to do your shopping online and those sites are noted on CHEJ’s guide, which is certainly more appealing to me than battling the back-to-school crowds in stores. Luckily, I have 1 more year before I need to worry about that.

Some of my favorite PVC-free items for back to school are

So, where can you find PVC-free school supplies? If you are like me and prefer not to battle the last minute back-to-school shoppers, check out the eco-friendly selection at Amazon for

Or consult CHEJ’s well researched list with websites of manufacturers and how to buy.

2. BPA – bisphenol A. Common in Polycarbonate (PC) #7 plastic. A hormone disruptor that interferes with the developing breast and prostate in the womb and out, as well as affecting brain development and behavior. Has also in recent studies been linked to cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

See my BPA-free list here to find BPA-free water bottles, dishes, snack bowls, etc. or shop at The Soft Landing.

3. Polystyrene #6 plastic. Styrene can cause nerve system damage and is listed as a probable human carcinogen (causes cancer). Commonly found in Styrofoam containers, as well as other food containers, cups, cutlery, CD’s, packing peanuts, etc.

4. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Kids and alcohol just don’t mix, so opt for something safer such as CleanWell Hand Sanitizer.

5. Triclosan and items labeled with “Microban Technology.” Triclosan is the common ingredient in many antibacterial products, including most liquid hand soaps, and is toxic. Really anything labeled antimicrobial, antibacterial, keeps food fresh longer, and other such claims could contain Triclosan. Avoid it. SafeMama has a good article on Microban and I agree with their stance that it seems unnecessary and because there is not sufficient evidence one way or another, it’s best to steer clear if possible. I make my own foaming hand soap and love it!

Does your school make the environmental health grade? Use the CHEJ’s environmental checklist to find out.

That should you do if your school list has items on it that you feel strongly against (i.e. alchohol based hand sanitizer like Purell)? Tiffany at Nature Mom’s Blog did a write up last year with a letter she sent to her son’s teacher explaining some of the deviations she provided from the required list.

Hope these tips make your back to school year a little healthier! Happy shopping!

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Lead found in kids juice and packaged fruit

The Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) recently tested a variety of kids’ juices and packages fruits. They found more than 85% exceeded California’s Proposition 65 right to know law for lead levels, meaning the lead levels in these products are high enough to warrant a warning label to consumers.

What’s disheartening is that lead was found in conventional and organic selections tested, and no one brand seemed to be safer across the board. For the products below the Prop 65 max level, it would be interesting to know where the manufacturers source their produce from for these products.

Lead is naturally occurring in soil and is possibly the reason why lead is being found in juice. However, more research is needed to determine if these are coming from isolated orchards or if this is some by product of the manufacturing process.

It’s important to note that there are NO SAFE amounts of lead. Lead is known to cause irreversible brain damage.

ELF has contacted the manufactures and they all have been warned to come into compliance within 60 days or a suit will be filed.

What can you do?
Juice is not needed in your child’s diet. It’s best if they get their nutrition from fresh fruits and vegetables. Offer plenty of water. I totally understand that sometimes you just want a little flavor, so squeeze your own juice, or choose a product that did not exceed the exceed Prop 65’s levels and be sure to dilute it with water.

We only have juice in our house as a special treat, and then the kids get it watered down. Juice is very sugary, yes natural sugar in the 100% juices, but still very sugary. And sugar leads to cavities which is the main reason we avoid juice, not to mention it’s expensive and offers little nutritional value. Your kids will live without a daily jolt of juice. My kids typically prefer ice water over even sweet tea, they also get milk.

See who made the cut and who didn’t 

Press release

The Baby Dipper Bowl Review and Giveaway

The first night I used this bowl, I was totally geeking out about it. I LOVED it. My determined-to-self-feed son spilled very little of his dinner on the table thus most of his dinner made it to his mouth – success! Just to be fair, I decided to use the bowl a few more times before writing the review just to be sure it continued to live up to its expectations, and it has!

The contoured shape is great. It helps guide food onto the spoon. I was a little worried that my son would get a heaping spoonful and still spill food all over the table, but I think because the bowl only holds 4 ounces, it helps him get the proper amount on the spoon, so spilling is very minimal. And he does not throw this bowl like he does his plates.

This bowl should be on every baby registry – a must-have for anyone with a baby or toddler in the house.

Pros:

  • Very good at helping babies learn to self feed with the innovative shape of the bowl and rubber base to keep bowl in place
  • Utensils are just the right size and shape for little hands to easily grasp
  • Most of the food stays in the bowl or on the spoon 
  • If you are holding baby and feeding with 1 hand, the bowl stays put with the rubber base 
  • Free of all the ickies – BPA, phthalate, lead and PVC 
  • Can be washed in dishwasher (top-rack ONLY!) 
  • Mom-invented and I love that!

Cons

  • I wish the bowl was available in a bigger size – it only holds 4 ounces, so I have to refill his bowl 3 times to fill his growing belly – but it is not a huge issue, as I mentioned above, I think the size helps him get a reasonable amount onto his spoon 
  • It’s a little expensive at $12.95 per set (bowl, spoon, fork) 
  • Other spoons/forks may not work as well with this bowl unless they are the same size and shape as the Baby Dipper set. Meaning you will want to use the set together every time to prevent having to use an alternate spoon. (hard for DH to grasp, though my almost-4-year-old seems to get it)

I love the bowl so much that I gave one to a friend for her baby shower. I think this will be my new baby gift staple.

Want one?? Enter to win!

There are multiple ways to enter. And enter as many ways as you wish, just follow the rules!

1. Leave a comment here and tell us your favorite thing about the bowl (1 entry)

2. Follow @greenparenting on Twitter, leave a comment below (1 entry)

3. Follow @babydipper on Twitter, leave a comment below (1 entry)

4. Subscribe to the Baby Dipper newsletter, leave a comment below (1 entry, to be verified)

5. Follow the Baby Dipper blog, leave a comment below (1 entry, to be verified) 

6. Tweet about the giveaway: Enter to win! Baby Dipper bowl review and #giveaway http://bit.ly/cDIH9G (via @greenparenting) 1 tweet per day, post link to status in comments

You can also keep up with the latest news from the Baby Dipper on Facebook (though following does not count as an extra entry).

Contest ends at midnight CST, April 12, 2010. Winner will be notified via email and must respond within 2 days. If no response, a new winner will be chosen. Baby Dipper LLC will provide shipping to a winner in the US or Canada.

Disclaimers: Previous winners of the Baby Dipper bowl giveaways sponsored by Baby Dipper, LLC are not eligible. I received the bowl from the Baby Dipper LLC, though the views expressed in my review are those of my own experience with the bowl. No other compensation was or will be received.

Top picks for eco-friendly toys 2009

Here is my list of the best eco-friendly toys for Christmas 2009! No lead, no BPA, no PVC, no phthalates, or other toxic paints, plastics or glues. Many of these are toys we have purchased ourselves and they have been personally tested by my kids.

(imagines coming)

Birth+
Fish teetherby Natersutten Great traditional style cool-it teether, but free of all the yuckies like phthalates, PVC and BPA. Little bumps on the teether are soothing for your little teether.

Sophie the Giraffe Teether, by Vulli This is my favorite. It’s just adorable. Sophie is the perfect size for little hands and there are lots of teethable areas – legs, ears, neck. It’s made of all natural rubber and painted with food quality paint.

Veggies in a Crate, by Under the Nile This has always been one of my favorites. Made or organic Egyptian cotton and certified Fair Trade. There is also a fruit version.

Organic Plush Sleepytime Charlotte, by miYim  This adorable little bear stands 12” tall and is perfect for baby to cuddle. And you can feel good about it too – it’s made of organic materials, chemical-free and uses non-toxic dyes for color – just what you would want baby to snuggle with!

Eco-friendly plush giraffe, by Sevi

Hammer Balls, by Plan Toys Another favorite of my kids. I was skeptical at first, as this seemed too simplistic to be any fun, but it got rave reviews. And for great reason – it’s a fun twist to the traditional hammer and peg toy. Even at 6 months my son was using the little hammer to try and hit the balls. When you hit the balls, they roll out and across the room making it a fun game of chase for 2 – one to hit the balls and the other to catch them and put them back.

12 months+
Cone Sorting, by Plan Toys My son has been playing with this since 6 months and my 3 year old loves it as well. The colors are great and putting it together is lots of fun. My son has claimed the center piece as a teether.

Activity Walker, by EverEarth This great toy is as much fun stationary as it is in motion. There are many great toys on the front and sides of the walker for baby to explore even before he can walk. When he can walk with support, he can push the walker to his delight. The paint is water-based and lead-free; and the wood is from sustainable forests.

Dancing Alligator pull toy, by Plan Toys – Hands down, this is my 11 month old’s favorite toy. Again, my 3 year old loves this too. It’s as cute as it is fun. It dances as you pull it and makes a fun click-clack sound. It’s made of all natural rubber wood and all natural dyes.

Bingo Bed Hammer Toy, Holgate Toys  Non-toxic, rave reviews, wood, time-tested and heirloom quality. What’s not to love? One thing I really like about the Bingo Bed compared to other hammer and peg toys, is with this one, the pegs are different sizes, making it a little more challenging.

Ring-A-Thing, by HABA This toy is a great first game to help your toddler learn colors, sizes and how to take turns. There are 3 basic game ideas and is appropriate for 1-3 players.

Toddler +
Dolphin Adventure Explorer Boatby Sprig Toys My son is getting this for Christmas. The boat is safe for land and water play. Even though this is made from wood, it’s very lightweight Sprig wood.

Deluxe Wooden Railway Set and the activity table (sold separately), by Melissa and Doug While this is not as high quality as the Plan Toys train sets, it’s still a great set, it’s available locally at Smith’s Variety and you cannot beat the price!

Eco-friendly handy doctor set by Wonderworld

Christina’s Kitchen, by Nova Natural Toys  – Forget the kids, I want this for me! This all wood kitchen is so simple, yet adorable! It has a stainless steel sink that can be removed, 4 burners, an oven, cabinet space and even counter space. All your little cook needs is the accessories. They also have a matching wooden fridge. Nova Natural Toys and Crafts are my new favorite. Great quality, natural, non-toxic toys and crafts that you can feel good about giving and receiving!

Dish Set, by Green Toys Inc.  This is new for 2009 and goes great with the award winning Green Toys tea set  and the new Chef Set. This is a great company as they use plastic milk jugs to make their toys and they are manufactured in California!

Green Toddler Picnic Table, by Tick-n-Thistle Every child needs a picnic table and this one is as eco-friendly as they come. They do not use treated wood, formaldehyde glues or paint. They also have many sizes of this table for kids up to roughly age 12.

Butterfly Alphabet puzzle, by imagiPLAY This wood puzzle is perfect for little ones to learn the alphabet, letter recognition and a great way to learn puzzles. Once the puzzle is complete, you can stand it up and brighten up any room! imagiPLAY wooden toys are made from beech wood and use lead-free paint.

Skuut balance bike  What a really great idea! The Skuut Balance bike does not have pedals or chains. Kids use their feet to learn to move the bike. Teaches natural motion to move the bike and a much easier way to learn to balance on two wheels.

Discover Rig, by Sprig Toys  I am so impressed with Sprig Toys. The quality is great, and of course, they are eco-friendly! I just LOVE this ATV-style vehicle. It’s as cute as it is fun and green! It has lights and sounds, but is battery-free (something any parent will love!). Sprig Toys are made of sprig wood (plastic bottles/milk jugs and reclaimed saw dust), yet are surprisingly lighter than you expect. Pair it up with the Side Kick Vehicle and Rally Racer  for endless fun.

Mini It’s Me Doll, by Kathy Kruse Kathy Kruse dolls are adorable – period! These dolls are handcrafted in Germany from natural materials and as I mentioned, they are really adorable!

Preschool Toys

Victorian Doll House, by Plan Toys  This is a great option if you have lots of room and want a big doll house. There is also an extra floor you can add to make this 4 floors of fun! The only downside is you need to purchase the dolls and furniture separately.

The Green Dollhouse, by Plan Toys is a smaller scale house that comes with furniture. Like all Plan Toys, it is made of all natural rubber wood, dyed with vegetable and soy dyes, and assembled with formaldehyde-free glue. This adorable house teaches eco-friendly practices with green features such as recycle bins, a wind turbine, rain barrel and solar panels.

Sprig Toys Story Builders Playset I’m holding out to get the Castle version for my daughter’s birthday since I’m maxed out on her Christmas. This is brilliant! My 3 year old has a big imagination and I love toys that will spark that. This is a configurable set to allow your child to make up stories. There are several sets: the castle, a barn yard, Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs. You can check out all 4 versions on the Sprig Toys Web site.

Plan Toy Balancing Cactus – This game gets my vote for safety of course, but also for promoting teamwork. You work together to add colorful pieces to the cactus without it falling over. The game promotes math skills and analytical thinking as you estimate the size and weight of each piece and determine the best placement to keep the game in play. It’s a great game where everyone is a winner.

Eco-Friendly Hand Puppets, by Cate and Levi Hand puppets are a fantastic way to encourage imagination. Just type ‘eco-friendly hand puppets’ into a Google search and these are the first ones that appear. And rightfully so, these puppets are colorful and fun! There are several animals to choose from and all are handmade in Canada, so each one is unique. All Cate and Levi products are handmade of reclaimed wool and are free from chemicals like flame retardants.

See also:
How to find eco-friendly toys
Toys made in the USA
Where to find eco-friendly toys in Birmingham, AL

Make your own non-toxic foaming hand wash

Dr. Bronner's pure castile soap is made of organic essential oils

It’s next to impossible to find a non-toxic, triclosan-free foaming hand wash. Triclosan is the main ingredient in nearly all antibacterial hand soaps but it is toxic.

BabyGanics has a great foaming hand wash that is triclosan-free, but it is very pricy at almost $1 per ounce. You can find BabyGanics at Babies R Us.

The good news is you can use your current foaming hand soap containers and make your own for practically pennies!

You will need:

A foaming hand soap container (empty of course)

Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap (your favorite scent)

Distilled or purified water

Tea tree oil (optional)

1. Find the “fill to this line” mark on the empty hand soap container so you can be sure not to overfill. You will use 4 or 5 parts water and 1 part Dr. Bronner’s. So if you have a 6 ounce container, you will use 5 ounces water to 1 ounce soap.

2. Fill your the container with the appropriate amount of the distilled or purified water.

3. Add the appropriate amount of Dr. Bronner’s soap up to the line.

4. You may choose add 1 drop of tea tree oil for antibacterial properties. Many do not like the strong smell, so do not add more than a drop or 2 if you choose to add it at all.

5. Screw on the top, give a gentle shake or swirl, and wash your hands!

If you find it is too soapy, or not soapy enough, you can add more or less soap the next time you make it.

Try different scents throughout the year. Peppermint would be nice in the winter (though it is tingly and may make your hands feel a little cool).

Making your own also ensures it’s free of parabens, formaldehyde and dioxanes.

BPA, PVC and lead free lunch boxes for back to school

Lead as you know is toxic to children (and adults for that matter), so it’s important that the place their lunch is stored in is lead-free. PVC is toxic as it contains phthalates and lead. Lead can also be ingested from your child touching the bag and then their food. And BPA is the hormone disrupting chemical found in plastics whose toxic effects have been hitting the news and blogs for the last several years. crockcreekcountries

Before purchasing a lunch box for your child, read the label. Make sure it is not made of PVC. Nylon, polypropelyne or cloth are much safer materials. Look for tags that say PVC-free. You also want to avoid BPA if you are purchasing a water bottle or food storage containers.

Crockodile Creek Countries lunch box.

Here is a list of BPA, PVC and lead free lunch boxes.

The Cool Tote is a replacement for the traditional brown bag. It’s made of nylon thus lead and other toxin-free.

Crocodile Creek. These are SO CUTE, and my favorite of the bunch. I saw these at Whole Foods and they are very well-made and have very cute traditional style, zippered lunch box and kid-friendly designs like dinosaurs, the solar system, horses (purple for girls) , trucks/vehicles (boyish), girls from around the world, flowers, countries with animals, farm animals  and a sunflower.

Laptop lunches are good for those who don’t like their food to touch. There are little compartments for separating food.

LL Bean has a critter lunch box line that is really cute and lead and PVC-free.  They would be great for a tween who wants something stylish without licensed characters.

The Lunch Pak by Fleurville is a backpack design, but does have a handle to carry like a traditional lunch box. They also offer a lunch buddy which is more of a traditional lunch box style.

Mimi the Sardine has cute cloth lunch totes that are PVC and lead free. There are several designs such as the ladybug, monkey/elephant/flower pattern, bugs and mice (my favorite).

Munchlers look like zoo animals and they fold out into a placemat, also very cute. They are insulated and come in several designs including a yellow tiger, white dog, green bunny and pink panda. My daughter has the white dog.

ZAK Designs offers several licensed character insulated lunch boxes that are lead free and lined with PVC-free material. Note, they just mention “PVC-free lining” so leads me to believe the entire lunch box may not be PVC-free. Some of the characters available include: iron man, Wall-E, The Little Mermaid, Tinkerbell, Spongebob Square Pants, Diego, Spiderman and many others. Wal-Mart and Target carry Zak lunch boxes.

California Innovations is a nice lunch bag that Wal-Mart carries. It’s stylish no-nonesense bag and free from any characters or crazy prints.

Lunchopolis is another zippered, traditional style, no-nonesense lunch box.

Citizens Pip is a new one available only online from what I can tell. The cool thing is you can customize your lunch box with accessories — separate food compartments, stainless steel bottle, cloth napkins, fork/spoon set, and of course the lunch bos itself!

Kid Konserve is a similar to Citizens Pip’s customizable lunch box system and available on their website.

Thermapod is another similar concept to the laptop lunch. However, it is one piece with 4 sections, which may not be desireable for some.

ReusableBags.comhas a whole section also dedicated to lead, PVC, and BPA-free lunches. I bought two ACME lunch bags — one to carry bottles in for my son to daycare (it fits three Dr. Brown bottles) and one for me for the milk I pump for him at work (it fits six medela bottles).

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Link Round-Up: Mommy blogger edition

This week I am picking my favorite posts from some other safety and eco-concious mommy bloggers.

SAFBaby has a great post on Eco-Smart pest control. A great botanical based insecticide system for all your pest control needs. Read more.

Safemama has a great “Dear SafeMama” edition this week on having a green baby shower. How do you avoid (or reduce chances) of getting baby gear and products laced with parabens, BPA, etc.? SafeaMama turns to its readers to get some really great tips for proper etiquette on having a green baby shower. Read more.

The Softlanding has researched and reported back as to which International Playthings are BPA, PVC and phthalate free. Thanks Alicia! And as always, do check www.healthytoys.org to make sure the toys are also free of lead and other ickies. Read more.

Tiffany at Naturemoms.com/blog has a great post and giveaway for Yummy in My Tummy gourmet and organic baby food. My baby is 5 months old, so I am going to have to check this stuff out. I will me making my own (you know in my “spare” time) but I have to bring the unopened, packaged stuff to daycare, so this may fit that bill. Tiffany and her 2 kids gave this product 6 thumbs up! Plus the packaging is free of all kids of icky things, including BPA. Read more.

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Britax Car Seat Sale!! Save up to $60!

Amazon is having a rare sale on Britax car seats, which are touted as being among the best/safest car seats available. I have one and LOVE it. Yes they are a little bigger and heavier than most, but they have performed better than other car seats in crash tests.

The sale is for one week only, so don’t delay, click here to view the sale items! Britax seats will also receive free shipping! When I purchased my Britax, all prices were very similar, so free shipping was important to me. But now there is a sale AND free shipping! Can’t beat that!

Britax offers a wide variety of car seats — convertibles, boosters — and in different models with different features. I have the Boulevard, which offers true side impact protection. I had a Civic at the time, so that was an important feature to me. It also had a knob on the side allowing you to adjust the straps to where YOU want them all without having to remove the straps or the seat.

Britax also has a new seat — the Click and Safe seat which provides and audible click to let you k now when the restraints are tight enough to keep your child safe.

Another thing to watch for is weight limits. The Boulevard is rear-facing up to 35 lbs and forward facing up to 65 pounds. The Roundabout is rear-facing also to 35 lbs, but only forward facing to 40 lbs.

The most important thing about car seats it to make sure they are properly installed!! I NEVER install my own seats. There is a technician at one of the fire stations here who is recommended by Children’s Hospital. He is certified and does hundreds of installations every year. The fact is, death from improper use or installation of car seats is the leading cause of death in infants and children. It’s so not worth it — get it professionally installed fire stations will do this for free, so cost is not an excuse, just takes a few minutes. Your child is worth it!

Other tips for safe car seats and usage:

1. Make sure the seat fits your car and fits your child. It does not matter how safe the seat is if it does not properly fit the car or child.

2. Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. This has nothing to do with age or how long your child’s legs are. Rear-facing is the safest position up to the weight limit of the seat or until his head reaches the top of the seat.

3. Use the seat every time! NEVER go anywhere without your child properly restrained in an approved car seat. Surprisingly, nearly half of all child deaths and injuries related to car accidents are from parents not using a restraint. Don’t do this — buckle up your child before you even start the car.

4. Watch for recalls, especially important if you are using a second-hand seat. Car seats come with a registration card. Fill it out and send it in so the manufacturer can send you any recall information.

5. Lifetime of a seat is about 6 years, at which time a new seat should be purchased, because the plastic starts to breakdown. Again, especially important if you are using a second hand seat.

6. Use a 5 point harrness, LATCH system and tethers.

7. Inspect the seat regularly to ensure it is still secured properly (ideally you would do this each time before putting the child in the seat). Very important as one day I discovered the car seat belt came undone on my daughter’s infant seat. Scared me to death to think what could have happened if I had not checked.

8. Make sure the straps are tight and secure each time you buckle up your child and that the chest clip is in the middle of your child’s sternum.

9. Children up to 80 pounds, 4′9″ and 8-10 years old need to be in some restraint system. Many seats now hold up to 100 pounds.

10. Don’t buckle in your child when she is wearing a heavy coat. It can create gaps and your child could fly out of the seat on impact. Instead buckle your child in then use blankets for warmth.

Go to the sale NOW! Before it’s too late….

Other resources:

http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/

http://www.aap.org/family/carseatguide.htm

http://car-seat.org/

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