Itty Bitty Greenie

eco-fabulous finds for kids

Hess-Spielzeug: Child-friendly and Earth-friendly Toys

Hess Spielzeug

When it comes to wooden toys, German toy makers seem to have an unsurpassed reputation for being world leaders. Hess-Spielzeug is one of the top brands, and we love their designs because not only do they offer quality hand-made craftsmanship, the materials used are also carefully selected from renewable resources and are 100% non-toxic.

The company was founded in 1990 by Claudia Hess in the small village of Olbernhau, Germany. Hess was inspired by watching her own two children at play, and created the first wooden pacifier holders and pram toys. The range now includes rattles, baby gyms, puzzles and games, mobiles and much more.

In the years since its launch, Hess-Spielzeug has earned industry accolades for its colourful collection of innovative, safe and child-friendly designs. Our favourites include the wooden baby rattles, especially the Rainbow Rattle and Heart Rattle, that are suitable from birth. Equipped with colourful beads, bendy parts and small bells, they promote sensory development for babies at play.

They also provide safe and natural teething relief and, as with the case of the toy bear and elephant designs, they’re easy to grasp, which makes for a lovely first toy for babies.

Hess SpielzeugFor those who are a little older, the teddy bear stacker helps children learn about size, colour and hand-eye co-ordination. And new to the range are some very fun toys on wheels, including the pony, turtle and car, that are great eco-friendly toddler toys as they encourage movement and promote the development of gross motor skills.

It’s worth mentioning that all paints and stains are water-based, non-toxic and saliva-resistant. All other materials used such as strings, elastics and glues are also non-toxic and child-safe. Any metal part such as clips and bells are nickel free, and Hess-Spielzeug toys fully comply with European and Australian safety standards for toys.

View the whole range of Hess-Spielzeug toys at Itty Bitty Greenie.

The Big One – Top Eco Toys for your Baby’s first Birthday

Of all the milestones your child reaches in the first year, the big one – the big ONE – that first birthday is so special. And while it’s true most children at this age can’t tell much difference between all those brightly coloured toys, before you know it they’ll master every one of them and even choose some favourites.

Finding toys that are fun AND safe can be a bit of a challenge. Since most toddlers put absolutely everything in their mouths, it’s best to be mindful of the materials used. Always check safety standards and try to consider environmental impacts by choosing items made from natural and eco-friendly materials.

Here my top five eco-friendly, non-toxic toys perfect for a first birthday:

Pull Along Toys

1) Pull-along toys

They’re great for little ones who are just learning how to walk because they encourage movement and toddlers love watching the toy follow them as they walk or cruise along. Each pull-along toy in the award-winning Plan Toys collection has a different movement that’s captivating. The zebra bobs its head, the snake slithers side to side, the alligator dances and clatters … see the whole range here.

blog_firstbirthday2

2) Musical Toys

Drums, shakers, xylophones – any musical instrument is a good way to develop hand-eye co-ordination and reinforce a natural sense of rhythm that all children have. My favourite is the colourful Plan Toys wooden xylophone.

beginner-puzzle-safari-animal-babies-pieces-2_1800xPC_wst_rabbit_whitebg-LR           GT.greentoys_shapesorter3             br.bananasplitz.boat

 

 

 

 

 

3) Stacking toys and puzzles

It might seem early to start puzzles at age one, but simple puzzles, stacking toys,  and shape sorters are wonderful for developing hand-eye co-ordination, fine motor skills and language. They’re also a great rainy day activity.

 

hs.chubby.sticks

4) Honeysticks

By age one most children are still learning to grasp and manipulate objects, and Honeysticks beeswax crayons are great because they are chubby and easy to grip. They’re also handmade in New Zealand from beeswax and non-toxic pigments so they are natural and safe for children.

 

blog_firstbirthday4

5) Green Toys Vehicles

Whether it’s the recycling truck, the tugboat or one of the race cars, these not only incorporate super-cool design (made from 100% recycled plastic) they’re also BPA, phthalate and lead free, amazingly durable and wonderful for encouraging imaginative play. Take them to the beach, the bath, the garden – wherever your itty bitty likes to play!

View our entire range of eco-friendly toys in the Itty Bitty Greenie shop.

 

Baby Bistro: Making the right choices easier

organic baby food

All parents want to give our children the best start in life, so when it comes to starting solid foods, it’s up to us to make the right choices.

There is plenty of research showing that organic food — fruits, vegetables and grains — is superior in vitamin, mineral and nutrient content, while at the same time, is much lower or is free from harmful herbicides, fungicides, pesticides and artificial fertilizer chemicals that can be present in non-organic produce.

Organic food is especially higher in antioxidants, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus, and lower in nitrates. Studies have shown that organically grown produce has significantly lower levels of mercury than fruits and vegetables grown by chemical farming methods.

But while many of us make an effort to choose organic foods for our babies, the time required to prepare organic meals can sometimes be challenging. This is where Baby Bistro offers a solution. Providing a menu suitable for babies from four months, Baby Bistro uses certified organic foods, 100% free from chemicals and other nasty additives.

Organic veggie starters ensure your little one gets a taste for a variety of whole foods, while baby main dishes (suitable from 8 months) offer healthy and well-balanced organic meals. There is even a range of cereals and snacks for parents too!

Visit the Baby Bistro Website (www.babybistro.com.au) for more information and discover their entire menu.

baby bistroExclusive Giveaway

Families in the Melbourne area can win a $20 gift voucher to use at Baby Bistro. Simply visit their Facebook page and post a message on their wall saying that Itty Bitty Greenie sent you!

Facebook: www.facebook.com/BabyBistroAU

Giveaway Terms and Conditions
- Gift voucher is redeemable on any order over $50.00.
- Code on voucher must be entered checkout for $20.00 discount.
- Gift voucher recipient must be a Baby Bistro Facebook page liker.
- Liker must post on the Baby Bistro wall ‘Itty Bitty Greenie’.
- Delivery to suburbs further than 40kms from Melbourne CBD not included.
- Offer ends June 15 2013 at 9.00pm.
- Voucher must be used within three months. Expiry is 15 September 2013

 

Building puzzles = building life skills

blog_puzzles

Putting together puzzles is something I hadn’t done for years until my son was old enough to take an interest, and when we started doing them together, I was quickly reminded why I loved the activity as a child.

It involves several aspects of the thinking process, and it’s this cognitive engagement that makes puzzles a great activity for children of all ages. Child play therapists argue that puzzles build skills that can be applied to most aspects of daily living.

Here are the top five developmental benefits of doing puzzles:

1) Hand-eye co-ordination: From an early age, simple puzzles and stacking toys can help babies recognize shapes and, through trial and error, they can manipulate pieces to fit in the proper spots. Wooden puzzles and shape sorters are great for this.

2) Fine motor skills: As their spatial awareness develops, puzzles give children a chance to exercise mental manipulation as well as physical dexterity. By learning to grasp and manipulate pieces, children develop their fine motor skills in the process.

3) Problem solving: Puzzles create an opportunity to develop your little one’s critical thinking, work on planning, logic, reasoning, organization and deductive skills.

Ravensburger-3-in-a-Box-Preschool-Jigsaw-Puzzles-Nursery-Rhyme-14034349-54) Language development: Word and picture association offered by puzzles allows children to build and expand their vocabulary. Puzzles built around nursery rhymes, for example, can be a fun way to build associations with pictures and stories.

5) Social skills and self-esteem: When children work together in co-operative play it encourages communication as they take turns, negotiate where they think the pieces should go and why, and in the end they can share the satisfaction of seeing their masterpiece completed. Puzzles can also help children with attention issues, such as those with ADHD, to stay engaged.

At Itty Bitty Greenie, we aim to offer a range of challenging eco puzzles and games for children aged 0-5 that are not only intellectually stimulating, colourful and fun, but also environmentally friendly. Click here to view our range of eco-friendly puzzles (made from recycled board) by Orchard Toys, Ravensburger, Mudpuppy, and more.

Can spending time with animals make you a better person?

According to a 2012 study run by Pets at Home in the UK, 79% of children believe so.

The study asked children who owned pets what they felt were the positive effects that their pet had on their lives. Among the responses, children answered that their pet had a positive effect on their homework, made them a more responsible person and made them feel smarter.

The study revealed that children who owned pets tended to have an increased sense of self and confidence, which the children themselves put down to their relationships with their pets.

There have been many studies into the positive effects of animals on children, that often look into the psychological, physical and emotional impacts of animal interaction. The results show that some of the effects can be subtle: like an increased inquisitiveness or thoughtfulness of others. Others are more obvious: Children with dogs, for example, are more likely to be physically active than children without dogs, leading to a lesser instance of obesity in dog owners.

As adults we can recognize the health and psychological effect that a simple walk with the dog can have after a busy day. Our children can just as easily benefit from 10 minutes playing with the cat, cuddling the guinea pig or time spent feeding the fish.

Whether you have pets or not, you and the kids have a chance to get up close and personal with some furry, feathered or scaled creatures these school holidays, and feel those intrinsic de-stressing qualities first hand.

Melbourne locals can visit Centro Box Hill for some furry fun with their school holiday program, Vegecation Farm. There will be a baby animal farm for the kids, a leaf decorating competition, grain activity and plenty of other things to see and do.

EVENT INFORMATION

What: Down on the Vegecation Farm - a fun and engaging community school holiday activity

Where: Centro Box Hill North Precinct (opposite the food court)

When:  8 – 12 April, 2013

What time: 11am to 2pm each day

Who: Aimed at children aged six – 15 and their families

Price: FREE to attend. Every child receives a goodie bag to take home

An eco-fabulous Easter gift guide

If you’re looking for some sweet Easter treats that don’t involve chocolate and that are eco-fabulous too, here’s our Easter gift guide for the Itty Bitties in your life.

1) Organic cotton “Birds nest” baby onesie $27.95

2) Dandelion Organic Duck squeaker baby toy, with a squeaky pudgy belly and happy hands that crinkle! $16.95

3) Jack N Jill Organic Toothpaste, in 5 fruity flavours $6.95 (no added colour, sugar or preservatives)

4) Jack N Jill Biodegradable Toothbrush $5.95, made from 100% corn starch that can be added to your compost

5) The Yolk Folk recycled paper animals $12.95, a very sweet set of chicks and an eco-friendly toy

6) Makedo Cup Critters $5.95. Upcycle a plain coffee cup into a fun Easter bunny!

7) Pink Bunny Organic Teething Blanket $26.95. Helps support organizations dedicated to Breast Cancer Research

8)  Organic Plush Duck $34.95, made from organic velour with textured toes, tuggable wings and a rattle, too

9) Kids Konserve Nesting Trio of Stainless Steel containers $32.95. Three sizes perfect for storing Easter treats!

10) Daisy Chain Babygrow $24.95. Ethically made from organic cotton. Check out the matching muslin blankets

Designer Spotlight: Tomat for Kids

One of the reasons I started Itty Bitty Greenie was because I wanted a chance to share some of the wonderful eco fashions for children I’ve discovered in recent years. As a fashion-concious person and soon-to-be mum, I looked forward to the day I could dress my little ones in all things colourful, fun and funky – and I had no intention on compromising my eco values to do so. I would rather have a few high-quality and unique organic pieces in my baby’s wardrobe, than a whole bunch of cheaper onesies that were probably made unethically and with the use of harmful chemicals.

So when I stumbled upon the California label Tomat for kids, I was immediately drawn by the vintage-inspired looks and gorgeous screen-printed designs. Efi Latief is the designer of the brand, and her background in graphic design, (as well was her experience of being a parent) inspired her to create limited-production prints by hand using eco-friendly water-based silk-screen inks. Each piece in the Tomat collection is made from 100% certified organic cotton, home grown in California.

The retro banana seat bicycles onesie and the bright and cheerful dandelion onesie (pictured right) are two of my favourite designs. And if I’m ever in need of a baby shower gift, the clever designs of the “Love Stinks” and “Sweet, Sour” onesies are always sure to get a smile from new parents.

Even better, I love supporting other like-minded parents in business who inspire and delight with their hand-made creations. My little guy has out-grown most of his Tomat pieces, but luckily my baby girl has a few new designs to try.

Discover the entire Tomat organic collection here at Itty Bitty Greenie.

School lunch adventures

My little guy is starting kinder this year, which means I’m about to embark on an adventure that involves packing school lunches and snacks a few times a week. I’m not sure if any parent really enjoys this, but I know that given a few tricks and tools, the process can be easier than we might think. As with most things, I look for eco-friendly and toxin-free options for both the food we prepare and the containers in which we store it.

Goodbyn lunchboxA while ago we tried the Goodbyn Bynto lunchbox, and it has been brilliant for packing food while on road trips, visits to the zoo and all pit stops in between. I love the separate compartments and easy-open lid. Not to mention its drink bottle and the fact it’s made from toxin-free, recyclable plastic that’s also dishwasher safe. Yippee!

Until recently, a Goodbyn would have been my top recommendation for an eco-friendly lunch option for kids. But just as I was going to re-stock for Itty Bitty Greenie this year, I found out Goodbyn has discontinued their line of large lunchboxes, and the smaller bynto ones are now sold without the drink bottles and stickers. I’m not sure why Goodbyn made the switch, but I was disappointed, and so starting looking for alternatives.

That’s when I discovered the Keep Leaf range. Designed by a mum (from my hometown of Toronto, no less), Keep Leaf insulated lunch bags (pictured above) are made from 100% organic cotton canvas, and not only are they beautiful and ethically made, they’re the perfect size to hold a variety of lunch items and snacks. There are also matching reusable food wrappers perfect for packing up sandwiches, etc. I’d have to say these are my new favourite eco lunch bags.

Also handy are the stainless steel food containers by Kids Konserve, including the nesting trio and thermos, great for packing hot soup on a chilly day. They make it easy to buy your kids’ favourite snacks in bulk so you can dispense them on a daily basis, rather than giving in to the less eco-friendly option of individually wrapped items. When you think about the waste this could save in one year alone, it really adds up.

To accompany the lunchbox, they’ll need a drink bottle – and if your kids are like mine, you’ll need a sturdy option, as these get tossed around like nobody’s business. I love the Australian brand Onya’s stainless steel drink bottles, which are strong and ergonomically designed for little hands. We’ve had ours for almost 3 years now, and my son has graduated from a sippy lid to a flip-n-flow spout lid that’s easy to use. The Safe Sippy2 bottles are also great as they convert from a sippy bottle to a straw bottle when your child is ready. Always a better option to have one product that adapts, than having to buy new bottles every year or so.

Of course the variety of eco lunch options has expanded greatly in recent years and this is just a selection of a few of my favourites. For a more extensive list, visit our back-to-school sale on Itty Bitty Greenie, where right now you can save 20% to 40% on our entire range.

5 steps to a Greener Christmas

For the past few years we’ve been trying to make our holidays a little more “green”. Here are some of the things we are doing in our family – and I hope you’ll share with us your tips for an eco Christmas too.

1) SEND ELECTRONIC CARDS INSTEAD OF PAPER: I started doing this a few years ago when I discovered Paperless Post. You can customize amazing designs with everything from family portraits to personalized verses and fonts. It proves you don’t have to compromise on sending lovely greetings by going online. Plus you save the carbon footprint of mailing paper cards.

2) THINK OUTSIDE THE TREE: Perhaps it’s the tree hugger in me, but the thought of chopping one down so it can stand in the corner of my living room for a few weeks drying out, seems wasteful. And don’t get me started on the artificial ones… There are so many interesting options that can be just as much fun for the family to decorate. I love this collection of found sticks (pictured right). It’s beautiful, unique, and something fun and memorable for the children to create. Think of the possibilities when every year they can come up with a new tree.

3) GET CREATIVE WITH WRAPPING: Use Santa sacs or recycled paper. Up-cycle greeting cards to use as gift tags. Use your children’s artwork as gift wrap. The more personal your wrapping, the more memorable the gift.

4) CONNECT WITH NATURE: In our family we have a tradition of a pre-Christmas picnic, where we can enjoy time outside together in a peaceful setting before the inevitable madness and overindulgence of Christmas Day. We also like to plant something as a way of giving back to the earth, and to help foster values of sustainability with the kids.

5) BUY LESS STUFF: To me, the best gifts are ones that are either hand-made or that offer an “experience” instead of a thing. Tickets to a show, a spa voucher or a special hand-made item can create a beautiful memory, and to me that’s more valuable than something that is mass produced. For those on your list that have everything, think of alternatives, like Oxfam’s unwrapped gifts that help fight poverty worldwide.

SHARE AND WIN: Tell us in the comments below how you and your family try to celebrate a greener Christmas and you can WIN A $100 GIFT VOUCHER and a copy of our eco book “Santa Claus is Green” which includes fun tips and ideas on how kids and families can celebrate a merry green holiday, and over 20 stickers.

*entrants must be a resident of Australia. Winner will be announced and contacted via email on Dec. 15

 

Tools for Natural Teething Relief

Most of us don’t remember what it feels like, but when you think about what’s going on during the teething process, it’s understandable that babies can be fussy or in need of extra comfort during this time. As a parent, it’s never easy to see your child in pain, and it can be difficult to know what will offer relief when their needs change from day to day. Sometimes they need hard surfaces to help the teeth move closer to the gumline. Sometimes they need something cool or soft to ease sore, swollen gums.

Here are a few things that I’ve learned are good options from teething trials with my own children, as well as speaking with other parents about their experiences, while aiming to find the most natural teething relief options possible.

1) SOPHIE THE GIRAFFE: There’s a reason this cheerful giraffe is the most popular teething toy in the world. Babies love the texture of the natural, eco-friendly rubber it’s made from, and best of all, Sophie’s long legs offer relief that a teething ring cannot when those back teeth come in. Her gentle squeak provides extra stimulation and parents can rest assured they’re not exposing their babies to toxins like BPA or phthalates.

2) GREEN TOYS TWIST TEETHER: made from recycled plastic, this lightweight, three-dimensional teether toy has uniquely shaped and colorful charms with distinct textures to stimulate visual and tactile senses.

3) NATURSUTTEN TEETHING RING: The starfish shape of this natural rubber toy is easy for babies to get into their mouth, but large enough as to not cause a choking hazard. It also features different textures that babies love to feel with their mouths.

4) RiNGLEY organic teething toys: The natural maple wood ring provides great relief when babies are in need of a hard texture while teething, and the organic terrycloth is great comfort when they need something softer. Dip the terrycloth in cold water or freeze it, and the RiNGLEY also provides comfort when your child prefers something cold.

5) JACK N’ JILL SILICONE TOOTHBRUSH: made from 100% medical-grade silicone with rounded dimples to massage teething gums and soft bristles for gentle cleaning. Pair with Jack N’ Jill organic toothpaste for safe cleaning from the time they cut their first tooth.