Category: We Love…

detox your toys

Is your house being taken over by giant plastic toys that sing and squeak and talk? Are you worried about mysterious chemicals and potentially toxic paints? Are you curious what it may be like to live without them? Yes, it’s possible! We made a decision to buy only wooden toys made with non-toxic paints and lacquers for Moushumi before she was born. This was prompted by the scary news that even long-trusted companies such as Fisher-Price have had recalls due to lead in recent years.

We have let our friends and family know that we prefer these sorts of toys, sometimes by saying just that, and in other cases more subtly by saying “check out these great toy sites: oompa.com and moolka.com!” Those are great sites for non-toxic toys and there are others as well – you just have to research a bit. A particularly nice feature of these sites is that you can see where the product is made as well as the safety criteria it has met. In fact, both sites have ways for you to actually pick the country of origin. There are Haba and Kathe Kruse from Germany, Vilac from France and Green Toys from right here in the U.S. among lots of other unique brands from around the world.

We also feel like we are making some progress towards being more “green” by using toys made from environmentally friendly materials: wood rather than plastics. For example, one of our favorite companies, Plan Toys, uses only non-toxic materials, recycled and recyclable packaging with soybased inks for printing, synthetic free rubberwood, formaldahyde free glue, and so on.

The wooden toys from these companies address our safety concerns, but they also look great, and never seem to take over the way plastic ones seem to. They often come in modern, chic styles and win awards for design. It’s a far cry from the quaint craft-shop look (nice in its own way, of course) that you might ordinarily associate with wooden toys. Many of the toys are so cool that adults want to play with them, too!

While at the beginning we were a bit daunted by the thought of avoiding ubiquitous plastic toys, it has turned out to be quite easy, and rewarding to do so. We look forward to using these durable and healthy toys for our next child, and even perhaps passing them on to our grandchildren.

sweet lullabies

The other day I realized Radiohead is great for babies. I think it’s the combination of Thom Yorke’s distorted lyrics, dreamy melodies, and the white noise that accompanies the music often. Kai fell asleep instantly to “Hail to the Thief

J got his hands on these two great finds that will also help your baby fall asleep:

1) Lullabies for a Small World (compilation by Ellipses Arts):

Great for the baby and you. My favorite track is number 3- Flor E Estrela – Teresa Ines. This song is so magical and puts the whole family in a deep slumber.

2) While roaming around at the Ecology Center in Berkeley, he stumbled upon this children’s book: Talking Walls Written by Margy Burns Knight and Illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien.

It’s the perfect multi-cultural book that illustrates how walls around the world may unite or divide communities around the world. I guarantee that you’ll learn some history as well.

friluftsliv – scandinavian spirit for outdoor life

It has been an especially cold winter here in the Midwestern United States. Weeks have passed without the temperature rising above 20 degrees, electricity has failed for hours or days at a time, some schools have surpassed their allotted number of snow days… and we’d best wait three more months before we send our parkas to the drycleaners! Adding to the chill are our worries about the economy and outbreaks of violence around the globe.

It takes great character and fortitude to carry on in the face of challenges and to establish new patterns of behavior or thought. Tackling whatever special challenges you face-solo parenting, job loss, diminishing investments, getting a grip on your personal health-takes a positive attitude and the courage to name and pursue your goals every day.

One of the first places where we in climates of such extreme weather can build these characteristics of strength is right outside our doors, where we can learn to experience and enjoy outdoor life no matter what the weather. Sunshine, fresh air, and exercise are imperative for good health, and the benefits of nature do not wane in winter. Outdoor enthusiasts will tell us that there’s no such thing as bad weather-just bad clothing.

For inspiration, we can look to the Scandinavians-no strangers to the adversity inherent in a part of the world that sees such harsh cold and little light during its long winters. Their term Friluftsliv, defined as “free time outdoor life” and the spirit for partaking of such in all weather, is especially celebrated in Scandinavian countries and is credited with being the source of the well-being enjoyed by much of the region’s citizens, young and old.

In fact, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden ranked among the top five countries of the world’s twenty-one richest countries for children’s well-being, according to UNICEF’s Innocenti Research Center. Aspects considered included material wellbeing, health and safety, education, peer and family relationships, behaviors and risks, and young people’s own subjective sense of well-being (see unicef.org).

Julie Catterson Lindahl, author of the 2005 book On My Swedish Island: Discovering the Secrets of Scandinavian Well-being and the mother of school-age twins, provides great inspiration for living a healthy lifestyle through her book and her continued writing at Nordicwellbeing.com and JulieLindahl.com. She encourages us to seek the outdoors as a new life habit (to promote our own health and that of the environment), as a setting for social activities, as a way to be a good role model for our children, and as a wellspring for creativity and productivity.

Just as travel sends us to distant lands and shakes up the thought patterns we’ve settled into, Friluftsliv also takes us “out of our everyday lives [and] gives us the space and perspective to develop our identities,” according to Swedish historians that Lindahl references. The curiosity and sense of wonder that both travel and the experience of nature stir in us can be found at any time in life, nurtured, and grown.

In this rough economy that we’re experiencing, when plans for travel may be placed on a back burner, nature and its gifts can be both a balm for the soul and new terrain (literally!) for us and our children to explore.

I encourage you to read On My Swedish Island for further inspiration, bundle up, and venture out! Your kids are just waiting to be invited to go sledding, build a snowman, skate on a frozen pond, or simply snap some pictures of the winter scenery. Cups of cocoa all around afterward… Cheers!

bilingual baby

The Banker (my husband) and I are of hispanic decent. Not only were we blessed with our baby, Baby Blue, but also blessed that he is of hispanic decent as well (blue eyes and all). We had always said we would teach our child Spanish. We would NOT take a page from my parents book which was to NOT teach me Spanish, but rather use Spanish as a “secret” language in order to have conversations about Santa and surprise birthday parties. {rolling eyes} The Banker though, having been born close to Mexico grew up only speaking Spanish. It wasn’t until Kindergarten that he actively used English as his language.

So what we have decided to do is I will speak only English to Baby Blue and the Banker will speak only Spanish. Hopefully creating a Bilingual Baby!

Our routine at night has been Bath, Jammies, Story, Bed. So what we have included now is Spanish Board books. They have a wonderful selection of Bilingual traditional stories in all sorts of languages. As a former teacher I know language development starts early and the more reading the better. So I was pleasantly surprised to find such selections as these in Spanish: Blue Hat, Green Had, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Quiet/Loud.

Even for those who don’t speak Spanish, you can purchase a book such as this that has both English and Spanish. Though if they are only in Spanish attempt it anyway! Some stories such as Good Night Moon (Buenas Noches Luna) are an easy Spanish read. Maybe you’ll learn a little yourself!

Some great resources to find out about Spanish Stories are:
Spanish Material

Spanish Story Ideas
Bilingual Story List
Read That Again List (Spanish)

recommendation: world traveling dress up doll

In the spirit of all our travel themed posts this week, we’ve found a great new dress up doll to get your little one thinking about the great big world. Mudpuppy’s World Traveler Dress Up Doll features background scenes from Mexico, India, Japan, Germany, Hawaii, and Kenya with matching monuments, hellos and traditional clothing. Check it out!

a gift that gives back

Buying gifts that give back to the world is incredibly fulfilling. Every year I like to donate something in each of my family member’s names to Heifer or get them little tokens of global beauty at Ten Thousand Villages. Here at Tea, we have a great way to give back this season. Our Global Fund for Children line features our “For the Little Citizens of the World” tagline on bodysuits and tees. We are also carrying some of the inspiring, globally oriented books published by the Global Fund to share with your little citizens. All the proceeds from the sales of the Global Fund for Children line go back to an organization doing amazing things for little ones worldwide. To learn more about the Global Fund for Children visit www.globalfundforchildren.org.

global wonders series

If you’re looking for a new way to introduce your little citizens to the great big world, a new video series may be just the ticket. The Global Wonders animated series takes kids around the globe exploring cultures throughout the States and abroad, including in Mexico and India. The characters’ play dates feature cultural lessons, language jams, music and even talk about a variety of holidays. It looks like music CDs and videos featuring Italy and China are coming soon. Enjoy world hopping with your little ones and let us know what you think!