How to Maintain Healthy Sleep During the Holidays

This is a guest post by Rosie Osmun.

The end of the year is a wonderful time of celebrating and getting together with the people closest to us. However, all our busy plans can wreak havoc on a steady sleep schedule. To combat this, here are a few natural tips to help you and your kids sleep better through the holiday season.

father-and-baby-sleeping

Practice Bedtime Yoga

A fun, connecting activity the whole family can do before bed is nighttime yoga. The relaxing benefits of yoga will allow your kids to calm down, stretch out any tension in their bodies from the day and have bonding time with the whole family.

Try these five kid-friendly yoga poses that release physical and mental tension, or this yoga sequence to help cultivate sleep in babies and toddlers. Dimming the lights, playing soft music, focusing on breath and using blankets and pillows while doing yoga makes the activity comfortable and relaxing for everyone.

The great thing about bedtime yoga is that it can easily be done while the family is out town. This routine can help kids cope with being away from their usual sleeping conditions.

Enjoy a Soothing Cup of Tea

A warm, calming beverage at night can really put the mind and body at ease. Herbal teas in particular have no caffeine and are made with soothing ingredients like chamomile or peppermint. These teas have an appealing flavor and are gentle on children’s stomachs.

Preparing the tea can be an enjoyable part of the family process as your kids can choose their favorite mugs and explore new teas. Try loose-leaf tea, which eliminates wasteful tea bags and offers the opportunity for mixing flavors. Drink the tea as you cozy up with a bedtime story. Bringing your favorite nighttime tea helps maintain the bedtime routine when you travel.

Choose Healthy Bedtime Snacks

If your child complains about being hungry before bedtime, a healthy snack can actually be a great thing to aid in sleep. Stay away from holiday sweets or sugary beverages. Opt instead for whole grains, almonds, bananas or apples — a few whole grain crackers with sliced fruit or nuts makes a great bedtime snack. Natural, organic foods will have less sugars that can lead to your child getting a sugar rush right before bed.

Also, make sure you time the snack so that digestion doesn’t interfere with sleep.

Avoid Screen Time

Studies have determined that watching computers and television before bed is detrimental to achieving healthy sleep. This is because screens give off blue light — something our bodies are used to receiving only from the daytime sun.

At night, our bodies don’t naturally see blue light, which cues them to start relaxing and prepare for sleep. However, the blue light from computer and TV screens tricks us into staying awake longer. Keeping children away from screens for at least an hour before bedtime will help their bodies calm down naturally.

Keep a Consistent Schedule, Especially While Traveling

Sure, the kids are out of school and it’s exciting to stay up late with family and friends from out of town. However, it’s important to make that the exception rather than the rule over the holidays. Shifting sleep schedules frequently or drastically can make your children overtired and cranky, and makes it especially difficult to transition back to their post-holiday schedule.

Try to adhere to the recommended amount of sleep for children at various ages or at least maintain a consistent bedtime that’s pretty close to their usual one. Transition from the later bedtime gradually before school starts to acclimate your kids back to their usual schedule.

If you’re traveling long distances, plan ahead for big time changes. Jet lag is a pain for us, but it’s much harder on kids who become overtired and cranky sooner.

Sunlight is the biggest factor in overcoming the effects of jet lag. Make sure everyone is getting up nice and early so their body feels the sunlight and their sleep clock can slowly adjust.

Planning activities outside where the whole family can walk around and be active is also a great way to ensure everyone is adjusting to the local schedule. Eat meals at the local time and plan for nap times if needed when kids become tired throughout the day.

Remember, sleep is not something to scrimp on during holiday excitement. Like everything involving kids, there’s not a single solution for every child. However, once you find something that works for your nighttime routine, stick with it. Consistency in the evening routine can make a world of difference whether you’re in a hotel, a relative’s guest room, or overseas for the holidays.

How do you keep your children’s sleep schedule consistent during the holiday season? Share in the comments below.

About the Author: Rosie Osmun is Creative Content Manager and writer at Amerisleep, a progressive memory foam brand focused on eco-friendly sleep solutions. She loves researching and writing about eco-friendly rest at the Amerisleep Blog and on Twitter.

 

Guilt-Free Green Tip #77: Decorate with Nature

Welcome to a regular blog feature called Guilt-Free Green Tips. These will be easy action steps you can take to be a little greener, and each mini post will feature one tip. Choose the ones that appeal to you, and learn what eco benefits a single, simple step can make. 

Natural holiday decoration | Eco-Mothering.com

Photo from Pixabay

Decorating for the holidays is a fun tradition, but did you know that this year Americans spent nearly $2 million decorating for Halloween? And in 2011, we purchased $6 billion of holiday decorations for Christmas! That’s a lot of money at a time when people often stress about not having enough for other things.

Holiday decoration can be much simpler, sustainable, cheaper — and really quite beautiful — when you source items from nature. Sometimes the simple placement of a few eye-catching pieces makes a bigger impression than a house full of plastic creatures. (That even sounds a little creepy, doesn’t it?)

Fill baskets, glass vases, metal buckets or wood bowls to assemble a centerpiece. You can paint natural items in a single color for a thematic effect (red for Christmas, blue for Hanukkah, white for winter). Spell out words by stenciling letters on rocks, shells or gourds.

Nature items to inspire you include:

  • Pinecones
  • Colorful fall leaves
  • Gourds
  • Evergreens
  • Moss
  • Branches and driftwood
  • Sea shells and sea glass
  • Flowers
  • Dried herbs
  • Feathers
  • Stones and pebbles
  • Food (cranberries, nuts, oranges, cinnamon sticks)

Corral the kids into putting together their own unique creations, or glean some ideas from these Pinterest boards on natural Christmas and fall decoration.

How Does This Help?

  • You reduce the amount of trash sent to the landfill, especially since Americans toss 25% more stuff between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Yikes! Even if you prefer not to go the natural route, you can help the planet and your pocketbook by reusing the decorations you already have. Or host a swap with friends and family to mix it up and trade off decorations.
  • You reduce plastics in your home. Plastics can be very useful in many areas, but their additives can also leach harmful and hormone-altering chemicals into our bodies and homes. There’s no worry over that with pieces from nature, and these items can even contribute their own earthy fragrance. (Like this DIY natural potpourri made from cinnamon, cloves and oranges.)
  • You gain extra space in your home…because you’re not storing boxes of hefty store-bought decorations. Depending on what you create, some nature pieces can even be used as décor year-round. Some can be tossed back outside after the season. Others might make a beautiful gift.

 This post is shared at Natural Family Friday.

 

November’s Top Eco Crafts

Welcome to my monthly installment of eco-friendly arts and craft projects gathered from around the Internet. While some projects require adult supervision, they are a fun, educational and green hobby for your kids to enjoy! This month’s collection includes creative ideas for Thanksgiving. 

Infographic: Tips for a Green Thanksgiving

Tips for a Greener Thanksgiving | Eco-Mothering.com

It’s fun and easy to put a little green into all your holidays. This infographic hints at what you’ll find in my e-book, The Guilt-Free Guide to Greening Your Holidays, available on Kindle and as a PDF. Learn more. 

This post is shared at Natural Family Friday.

 

WILD MINT SHOP: One-Stop Holiday Shopping for Safe, Sustainable Toys

This post was sponsored by Green Sisterhood. As always, all opinions are my own.

Do you have a lot of extra time around the holidays? I doubt it.

Do you aim to buy gifts quickly without a lot of hassle or research? Ideally.

And can you trust that those gifts are not only bound to put a smile on the intended receiver, but are also safe for their health and for the planet? Ummmm….

Yeah, who thinks of that? Of course you want your kids, nieces and nephews to play with toys that won’t emit formaldehyde or lead to early puberty or cancer. But that simply isn’t front of mind when we’re shopping, is it? We have a list, we have a budget, we pick something off the shelf or online. Wrap it up. Done.

And it’s not that we’re cold-hearted or careless. It’s that we kind of want to assume that all toys available for sale are safe. If it’s not part of a recall, it’s okay, right?

Not really.

And a conscious company called Wild Mint gets that. Their mission states: “… we are dedicated to providing the best non-toxic and eco-friendly products to help you build a healthier lifestyle and environment.” And they really do follow through on that commitment. In their blog section, you’ll find tons of links to educate and guide you in becoming chemical-free.

Why is that so important?

Wild Mint Shop Toys | Eco-Mothering.com

Toxic Toys

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) does not test every toy you see on the store shelf, and, even scarier, “the U.S. government doesn’t require full testing of chemicals before they are added to most consumer products.” (from HealthyStuff.org) There are many chemicals found in children’s toys — and a host of other household items — that can have questionable and lasting side effects. You’ve likely heard about the ones that make the headlines — lead and BPA, for example. But there are tons more out there. Just take a look at the 66 toxins on this list.

It’s not enough to avoid buying products from China, where safety standards are lax, and one in three toys contains heavy metals. The 2013 U.S. PIRG report, Trouble in Toyland, found that even with updated federal safety standards, some toys sneak through the system with shocking numbers. Two examples were the Captain America Soft Shield, found to contain 29 times the lead limit, and the Ninja Turtles Pencil Case, which had excessive toxic levels of cadmium and banned phthalates.

Toxic chemicals found in toys include: lead, cadmium, arsenic, chlorine, bromine and mercury. The concern is that children, with their small growing bodies, are more susceptible to absorbing such toxins. And continued exposure to these chemicals over time is what can add up to health problems such as asthma, kidney and lung damage, heart problems, early onset puberty, infertility and various cancers. Learn more about the health effects of chemicals here.

The Safe Toy Solution

By now you may be thinking: Can I pay someone to research toys for me? Well, you could. Or you could simply shop at Wild Mint because they have already done the legwork. They only offer products that are non-toxic and safe for your family. Their research means you can rest easy about a toy’s safety and make choices based on fun or budget. Some of the green and natural toy brands you’ll find on Wild Mint include Eco-Kids, Under the Nile and Plan Toys.

Wild Mint Shop Toxic Toy GuideTheir site also has an educational component. They offer details, in easy-to-understand terms, about toxic chemicals commonly found in toys and other household products. Their Healthy Living Guides include advice on avoiding chemicals, how to choose safer cosmetics, tips for greening your cleaning and much more.

You really don’t need another level of stress during the holiday season, and many parents become overwhelmed by the prospect of weeding out all toys that are potentially toxic. Make it easy for yourself and visit Wild Mint Shop. Think of them as a one-stop online shopping destination for anyone seeking safe, quality and eco-friendly gifts for everyone on their holiday list.

The Fresh, Crazy Goodness of Wild Mint

Started by Hannah Helsabeck and her mom just after 9/11, Wild Mint began with a focus on kitchen and lunch products. However, the more the women learned about toxins in their home, the more they expanded their product line, which now includes baby gear, bedding, cookware, bath and beauty, household items, natural toys and organic baby toys.

Wild Mint also participates in 1% for the Planet where a percentage of sales supports environmental organizations.

My first experience with Wild Mint Shop was via a package of veggie sidewalk chalk from Wee Can Too. I was super excited about the veggie chalk. I mean, what a brilliant and commonsense idea: chalk made with edible ingredients! Perfect for toddlers who tend to put everything in their mouths. The ingredient list sounds like a health food store: turmeric, paprika, hibiscus, grapefruit, spinach, spirulina… plus, it’s all organic, vegan and gluten-free.

Wild Mint Shop - Veggie Chalk

What my daughter and I noticed about the chalk was its lack of dustiness. It didn’t disintegrate as much as regular chalk does, so we didn’t end up with chalk bits all over our hands and clothes. Bonus!

The five large chalk pieces come in a resealable bag. Wild Mint also included two recipe cards for real food dishes, which I though was a nice touch. (I’m tempted to try the Spanish Style Cauliflower “Rice.”) The company’s sustainability commitment was evident in the recycled content, chlorine-free processed paper the recipes were printed on.

Wild Mint Shop veggie chalk

A Wild Holiday Promotion!

Be a worry-free gift giver this holiday season! Give toys you can trust — and save yourself loads of time — by visiting Wild Mint Shop. Right now you can receive $10 off any order over $75 with the coupon code WILDMINT. Free shipping for ground orders over $49. Promotion expires December 3, 2014.

Wild Mint Shop

 


This post is shared at Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Blog Hop and Natural Family Friday.

 

Unique, Wacky and Gently Green Holidays to Celebrate in NOVEMBER

Some people only think about an eco lifestyle on Earth Day, April 22. However, a little research showed me that every month has a few unique and earth-friendly holidays that can be cause for celebration. Pick whichever ones appeal to you, then get out there and celebrate!

Unique and gently green holidays in November | Eco-Mothering.com

Photo by ovvi via Creative Commons license

November is Child Safety Awareness Month — get started on that by avoiding these five toxins in your baby’s products. On the lighter side, it’s also National Sleep Comfort Month and Peanut Butter Lovers Month!

November’s Celebrations by Week:

  • 1st Saturday – Book Lovers Day (also celebrated August 9)
    Yes! A day just for reading. What could be better? Get your kids started with some of these eco-themed books.
  • 3rd Thursday – Great American Smokeout Day
    A day to encourage people to give up the butt, which would result in less health problems all around.
  • Saturday before Thanksgiving – National Adoption Day
    Share your story, participate in an event in your area or start the process of adopting one of the 100,000 children in foster care.
  • Day after Thanksgiving – Buy Nothing Day
    Nix the crowds, the lines, the insane store hours and dubious deals — go cold turkey on consumption for 24 hours. Over 60 countries now take part in this day of protest against rampant consumerism.
  • Saturday after Thanksgiving – Small Business Saturday
    Shop local and support small businesses so the corporate conglomerates don’t take over. Plus, you’ll feel better afterward.

November’s Celebrations by Date:

  • November 1 – Go Cook for Your Pets Day
    Highlights the health and nutrition of our furry friends. Are you feeding them quality food? Check the ingredients and either switch to a better brand or cook up some real food today.
  • November 3 – Housewife’s Day
    Stay-at-home-moms (or dads) can treat themselves to a rare day off!
  • November 9 – World Freedom Day
    Commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall, this day is often seen as one in which to encourage activism… or celebrate Ronald Reagan. Seek political activist jobs here.
  • November 10 – Sesame Street Day
    Celebrate your inner child today: Watch the show. Dress up as Bert and Ernie. Count singing sheep – ah, ah, ah!
  • November 12 – Chicken Soup for the Soul Day
    A day created for the “celebration of who you are, where you’ve been, where you’re going and who you will be thankful to when you get there!”
  • November 13 – World Kindness Day
    Born in 1997 by a collaboration of humanitarian groups, this day is about a focus on random (or planned) acts of kindness.
  • November 14 – World Diabetes Day
    Go blue! Since 1991, this day has been about keeping the growing health threat of diabetes in the spotlight through walks/runs, meetings, sports events and media coverage. Read my post on six possible causes for the rise of juvenile diabetes.
  • November 15 – Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day
    Clean the coils behind the fridge while you’re at it, and reduce your energy consumption by 30%. More tips on cleaning your fridge.
  • November 15 – America Recycles Day
    Created in 1997 in Texas (!), use this day to up your household recycling or buy recycled products.
  • November 17 – Take a Hike Day
    A reminder that it’s still good to get outside even in chilly, damp November.
  • November 19 – World Toilet Day
    It’s true. This day is officially recognized by the United Nations as a time to draw attention to sanitation issues around the world. You could also use it to boost your eco power by switching to recycled toilet paper or easily converting your toilet to a low-flush model.
  • November 21 – World Hello Day
    World Hello Day was created in 1973 during the Egyptian/Israeli conflict. With the belief that global peace begins with communication, the idea is to “greet ten people for peace” today.
  • November 30 – Stay Home Because You’re Well Day
    Well, why not?

 

Greener Coffee: Eco-Friendly Single Serve Cups from Equal Exchange

disclosure-financial-compensation

Single serve coffee cups have taken America by storm. When I first saw them several years ago, I thought: “Well, this is a wasteful fad that won’t last.” I was wrong. 25% of Americans now use them in their home or office. Then I swore we’d never be one of those families who bought a single-serve coffee machine; we were happy with our French press. I was wrong again — sort of. We didn’t buy the machine, but my husband received one as a gift. And, I admit, we both got kind of addicted. 

I’m not an every day coffee drinker, but I like my weekend mug of joe. And I couldn’t help feeling guilty about tossing all those plastic cups afterwards. So I was thrilled to learn that Equal Exchange, that model of fair trade partnerships, has introduced environmentally friendly single serve coffee cups.

(Scroll down for a discount and giveaway!)

Eco-friendly single serve coffee cups | Eco-Mothering.com

Steps To Sustainability

The cups are made with recyclable plastic (#5). When done brewing your coffee, simply tear off the aluminum foil top and recycle it. Empty the coffee grounds into your garden or compost, along with the filter, which is 88% compostable. Then rinse out and recycle the plastic cup. And don’t forget to recycle the cardboard boxes, too!

Sure, it takes a few steps. And, yes, it’s not as eco-friendly as brewing a pot of coffee. But with so many people turning to the single serve lifestyle, it’s nice to know there is a guilt-free option available. Equal Exchange’s cups are the most environmentally friendly single serve option currently on the market.

Equal Exchange eco coffee cup | Eco-Mothering.com

Even the coffee itself is eco-friendly. Did you know that the grounds are good for gardening? Yep, they act as green matter in the compost bin and, when added directly to the garden soil, coffee grounds provide nitrogen, which feeds certain vegetable plants, repels slugs and even represses some fungal diseases.

Fair Trade Flavor

Aside from the eco aspects of the recyclable cup, when you choose Equal Exchange coffee, you’re also getting organic, fairly traded, quality beans. Since 1986, the company has worked to develop relationships with small-scale farmers while promoting sustainable farming methods and fair working conditions. These relationships lead to an intimate knowledge of the coffee beans and a high standard of flavor for you.

Their single serve cups currently come in three flavors: Organic French Roast, Organic Breakfast Blend and Organic Unwind Decaf. I’ve tried all three and love ‘em! (Note : The cups are compatible with most Keurig-style machines, except Keurig 2.0® or the Vue®.)

You can go another step further in being eco-responsible by repurpose those single-serve cups. This post from Happy Hooligans offers 25 ideas for reuse, from frozen herb storage to holiday crafts.

Discounts and Giveaways: A Reason to Stock Up

Guess what? All Equal Exchange single serve coffee cups are now on sale through the Equal Exchange commerce website. Plus you get free shipping on orders over $25 through November 30, 2014 — use promo code FREE25. So stock up for your holiday guests! (Order must contain at least one box of single serve coffee with a minimum order of $25. Free shipping limited to within the contiguous United States. Limit one coupon per customer.)

Equal Exchange coffee giveaway  | Eco-Mothering.com

The deals don’t stop there. Through November 17, 2014, you can enter this giveaway at Mambo Sprouts to win three packs (or 36 cups) of Equal Exchange single serve coffee . Three winners are chosen weekly, plus at the end of the giveaway, three more winners will receive Equal Exchange prize packs that include some of their other awesome products, like chocolate, nuts and dried fruit.

What are you waiting for?


This post is shared at Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Hop.

 

Guilt-Free Green Tip #16: Take a Bike Ride

Welcome to a regular blog feature called Guilt-Free Green Tips. These will be easy action steps you can take to be a little greener, and each mini post will feature one tip. Choose the ones that appeal to you, and learn what eco benefits a single, simple step can make.

I have biked to my various places of employment over the years, but my husband has done it continually for 21 years, which never fails to impress me. However, you don’t need to bike every day to make a difference.

Start small. Choose to ride your bike to work one day this week. If that goes well, commit to commuting by bicycle twice a month or even once a week. If you work too far from home, try biking to run local errands or take a weekend bike ride with the family instead of driving to the mall.

How Does This Help?

  • You get healthier. Three hours of biking per week decreases your chance for stroke and heart disease by 50%. Cycling also increases muscle tone, builds stamina, improves brain power and reduces stress.
  • You save money. Commuting by bicycle for ten miles roundtrip daily saves about $10 per day that you’d be paying for automobile fuel, maintenance, insurance, tolls, etc.
  • You breathe cleaner air. Not if your cycling right behind a noxious car, perhaps, but overall. Every mile ridden by a bike instead of a car keeps 1 pound of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. And studies have shown that bikers actually do inhale the least amount of car fumes over car and bus riders.
  • You save time by using your commute to exercise instead of hitting the gym later. Bikers often skirt around traffic jams and never spend time looking for a parking spot.