23 May 2012
By: Lisa Gogoll (BEng(Environmental))
Buying gifts for second time mums can be difficult, especially when they seem to already have everything for baby. Here Lisa shares her simple and practical gift ideas for second time mums.
Many of my friends are having babies in the next few months, so I need to try and work out what gifts to give them. I’d really like to give these families something that is not just for the baby, but the whole family and is also thoughtful, practical and budget friendly. This is especially the case for my friends having their second child as they already have quite a lot of baby items.
When I think back to gifts we received when both our kids were born, the first things that come to mind are the yummy meals cooked for us by friends and family. Don’t get me wrong, I am very appreciative of the gorgeous clothes, books and toys given to the children, but it’s the meals that were so, so helpful (oh and the boxes of hand-me-down clothes, which meant we were set until size 3!). Not having to cook meant that we could tend to the new baby and also spend time with our older child.
So I’m keeping gifts simple for this round of babies – I’ll do some cooking and give meals to the families (with enough for leftovers). For the baby, I’ll give something small, preferably hand-made and for the older child(ren), something that will keep them entertained (puzzle, colouring or sticker books fit the bill here!). Not only does it feel good to be baking for others, but I know it will be something that will be appreciated. I can’t promise a fancy, gourmet meal, but I can make sure it will be something filling and the families won’t have masses of dishes to clean up. And where possible, I’ll try to give some time to help out where needed, be it chores round the house or entertaining the older sibling(s).
About the Author: Lisa Reid is an eco mum and environmental engineer and resides in Melbourne with her husband Tim and children Jacob (2) and Edith (6 months). Lisa is working to reduce her family's eco footprint by growing her own vegetables, using less chemicals and making her home energy efficient.
23 April 2012
By: Laura Trotta (BEng (Environmental), MSc(Environmental Chemistry))
Photo Source: Narelle Debenham, NaturedKids
Nature play is lacking or sadly absent for many children of today. Increased urbanisation, smaller backyards, parents working longer hours with lengthy commutes, higher electronic screen times and tight schedules of organised activities have all contributed to making the outdoors a restricted place for our young ones.
Parents have the ability to give their children the outside playing opportunities and free play time they possibly enjoyed as a child.
Children are healthier and happier when they have the opportunity to play outside every day. A recent study conducted by the University of Western Australia reported the following positive benefits of nature play1:
- A decreased risk of children being overweight when more nature is present in their neighbourhood.
- Playing in natural environments assists with building children’s motor skills.
- Nature contact enhances children’s learning and development including, but not limited to, children’s personality development, cognitive functioning, attitude and school behaviour.
- Contact with nature, especially during middle childhood, has an important role to play in children’s mental health.
- Children’s manage stress better when they have more contact with nature.
- Time in nature assists the performance of children with ADHD.
- Children displaying delinquent behaviour benefit from nature-based programs such as wilderness camps.
Photo Source: Narelle Debenham, NaturedKids
Teacher, nature playgroup facilitator and mother of three, Narelle Debenham runs NaturedKids an outdoor program for babies to five year-olds and their families to explore and connect with nature in their local area. Narelle also provides training for adults to inspire nature play.
She passionately believes "when regularly immersed in their natural environment, children’s involvement in nature during their formative years guarantees eco-literacy, care for our natural world and environmental sustainability."
Narelle encourages parents to introduce their babies from just a few months old to nature-based activities in the back yard and offers the following nature play ideas for children to enjoy.
- Make worm stew (mud pies).
- Feel moss, leaves, feathers and other textures.
- Tickle their cheek or tummy with a flower or feather.
- Walk bare-footed.
- Float petals in a bowl of water for a beautiful swirling water play.
- Read stories or enjoy family meals outside.
- Make daisy chains or put buttercups under their chin.
- Play drums. Put a stick inside a large gumnut to make a drumstick and turn some pots upside down for drums.
- Lie on your back under a tree to look at its canopy.
- Lie on tummies to sniff the grass and look for creatures in the “grass jungle’’.
- Make a dinosaur garden: use plastic dinosaurs, grab a potting tray and make your dinosaurs a prehistoric garden with loose materials from the yard.
- Plant a vegetable garden and tend it together.
- Look at raindrops on nasturtium leaves, with tiny magnifying glasses, and roll the drop carefully around the leaf without letting it fall off.
- Make a bird’s breakfast. Grow sunflowers along the fence and then watch when the cockies and parrots come along to eat them.
- Grow sunflowers in a circle then tie their heads together to make a cubby.
- Collect leaves, feathers, seed pods and other natural items from the yard or while on a walk. Put them in a dish or bowl near the front door to create a nature plate to remind visitors of nature.
- Don’t toss your child’s first, or outgrown shoes, away. Instead, keep the memories alive by planting a succulent or other small plant in the shoe and using it as garden art.
- Using a stick, scratch your child’s name, a smiley face, noughts and crosses or other shapes in the soil.
- Let children collect and play with sticks to build an elf or fairy cubby or a home for their small toys.
- Create a collage on the ground (no glue), using leaves, twigs, flowers and other items from nature.
- Fly a kite.
- Find a place to lie under a tree or in a secret place to close your eyes and focus on sounds. Ask children to respond to sounds. For instance, how do they make you feel? This can lead to poetry or discussion on the effect of sounds in a city, why animals use sound and so on.
- Talk about smells as you walk together to raise awareness of the subtleties and effects on feelings.
- Grow herbs, make potpourri and explore why and how plants smell.
- Allow children to make their own mini-landscapes. Encourage them to consider terrain, vegetation, rivers, drainage and so on. The landscape could be modelled on an imaginary place, a place from a story or a real place and could include toys.
- Put on a coat, grab an umbrella and go outside in the rain. Explore how things change in the garden when they are wet and have fun with the puddles.
- Go outside at night and look at the stars and moon.
- Plant seeds or seedlings and, armed with childsized gardening tools, give children the responsibility to care for their garden.
- Read outdoor-themed stories outdoors.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your kids and head outside and you too will reap the benefits nature has to offer.
1. Martin, Karen, Dr (Feb 2011), The University of Western Australia, Putting Nature Back Into Nurture: The Benefits of Nature for Children.
About the Author: Laura Trotta (BEng (Environmental), MSc (Environmental Science)) is an eco mum, environmental engineer and founder of Sustainababy. She lives in regional South Australia with her husband Paul and son Matthew. Thank you to Narelle Debenham of NaturedKids for contributing to this article.
10 April 2012
By: Leanne Williams (Early Childhood Program Manager, The Little Big Book Club)
In her book Reading Magic, Mem Fox states: “If every parent understood the huge educational benefits and intense happiness brought about by reading aloud to their children, and if every parent – and every adult caring for a child – read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy within one generation.”
The benefits of reading to children are many. The human brain is most open to environmental influences in the first few years of life, with 75% of brain development occurring between birth and the age of four. Sharing stories and songs with your baby is the most important thing you can do as a parent to help their developing brain. As a baby absorbs new sights, textures, scents and sounds, the connections in their brain that make learning possible multiply and become stronger.
Research has shown that children whose parents read to them when they are young learn to speak, read and write more easily. It is never too early to start reading to your baby. Even though they may not understand the words that you read to them, they love hearing the sound of your voice and they learn that reading is important and fun. Most importantly, it is a wonderful opportunity to bond with your baby.
10 Tips for Nur t uring a Baby Bookworm
- Try and read with your baby every day. Find a time when they are happy and interested in what is happening around them.
- If they get tired or restless it is ok to stop. You don’t have to finish the book.
- Babies like books that ha ve bright, clear and simple pictures. They enjoy books about things they are familiar with such as animals, food, toys and other babies! Some of my favourites are:
- See Me Move;
- Baby Gets Dressed;
- Where Is The Green Sheep?
- Dear Zoo;
- Maisy; and
- Steve Paris Board Books.
- Board books are great for babies as they will want to grab the pages, put them in their mouth and throw them. This is ok, it’s how they learn.
- If you are worried about babies damaging books, keep precious books on a higher bookshelf but make sure there are lots of sturdy board books in baskets and on low shelves that little ones can reach themselves.
- When you are reading to your baby try to look at both the book and your baby. Point to the pictures and talk about the things your baby is looking at.
- You don’t have to read the words that are written on the page – it’s ok to make up your own story.
- Try and make your voice as interesting as possible. Use different voices for the characters in the story, if there is an animal in the story make the sound the animal makes. All of this will help make reading fun and enjoyable for your baby.
- Books make great gifts. Ask family and friends to give books as birthday or Christmas presents. They also make a great baby shower gift.
- Collect your free It’s Story Time Bag. All babies in South Australia are eligible for a Little Big Book Club It’s Story Time Bag. These bags are available for your baby during their first year from your local library or from Child and Youth Health. It is full of fun resources to help and inspire you to read and sing to your little one every day.
About the Author: Leanne Williams is the Little Big Book Club Project Manager and is responsible for the implementation and ongoing development and promotion of LBBC’s range of resources nationally. Leanne has a Bachelor of Education and fifteen years’ experience in teaching children aged three to thirteen. She has taught in both Australia and overseas providing her with many rich and diverse experiences. Her passion has always been children’s literature and literacy.
The Little Big Book Club are currently running a survey in conjunction with UniSA on how SA families talk, read and communicate with their babies. Click here to complete this short survey.
Note from Laura (Sustainababy founder): Reading is a great way to teach your child certain concepts. Books about new babies can help ease the anxiety your current child experiences when a new addition arrives in to the household and better prepare them for life with their baby sibling. Children’s books focussed on caring for the environment will help nurture these values within your child from an early age. Reading is also an activity that can be eco-friendly and free! Just join your local library to start enjoying the benefits. If you would like to invest in your own library, Sustainababy’s range of books suited to babies and children are available to purchase here.
This article was provided by Leanne Williams for Sustainababy however has also been published in South Kids Magazine.
31 March 2012
By: Tanya Fyfe (BEng(Environmental))
Enjoy the eco-friendly and healthy activity of cycling with baby by following these simple tips
Throughout my childhood I remember many happy hours at home on the farm, and on family holidays racing around on bicycles with my brothers. It was even more fun if our parents or grandparents came along and we were allowed to explore further afield.
Cycling is a fantastic eco-friendly family activity and form of exercise. Don’t assume that babies and their carers need to be excluded either. By investing in the correct equipment, you can easily and safely take your baby along for the ride!
The following options for cycling safely with baby each have their advantages and disadvantages. Ideally, see if you and bub can try out your preferred choice first to save investing in an option that may not necessarily work will for you. You may be able to hire a similar model or borrow one from a friend.
When our son Billy was younger, we went riding with him on our back in his Ergobaby carrier. I felt that he was safer strapped to us than the bike, and checked with our local police that this is legal. If might be wise to confirm this for your local area if you are interested in this option. As Billy got older however, he wasn’t so keen on cycling in the carrier. He seems to find the forward riding position less comfortable than the upright walking position, but this may be a personal thing. The main thing is that baby and parent are safe and comfortable!
Don’t forget that the usual cycling safety rules and precautions are all the more important if you have precious cargo. Wear helmets, use bike paths or stick to quiet roads and follow the road rules. Make yourself visible by wearing bright clothing and/or lights, protect everyone from the sun and keep a close eye on older children who are riding under their own steam.
If you would like to incorporate cycling into your family’s routine, here are a few ideas on how to get started:
- Ride to the shops, or to pick older children up from school (and reduce reliance on the family car)
- Plan family holidays closer to home (which also reduces your ecological footprint) and take the bikes along. Alternatively you may be able to hire bikes at your destination, but don’t forget to check that they can provide a bike seat or trailer if you intend to use these.
- Start a family tradition like a Sunday morning ride. You could vary the route, or always ride the same route and incorporate a treat like stopping at a special playground, taking a picnic or buying ice-creams.
About the Author: Tanya Fyfe is an eco mum and environmental engineer and lives in the WA Goldfields with her husband and son Billy. The family's aim is to live sustainably and for Billy to grow up understanding where food comes from and how it is produced. They generate solar electricity and have an organic vegetable garden and modest orchard irrigated entirely with grey water.
10 January 2012
By: Laura Trotta (BEng(Enviro), MSc(Enviro Chem))
It’s currently peak holiday season across much of Australia and many families are travelling to have their annual downtime.
If you've never really thought about eco-friendly holidays, it may surprise you to know that you won't need to compromise on style or experiences. Simply follow our tips below to ensure your holiday is easy on the environment.
Before You Leave
- Ensure all household appliances are turned off at the wall to minimise standby power consumption.
- Empty and turn off your second fridge (if applicable) so you’re only running one while away.
- Set your automatic watering system to only water in the evenings to minimise evaporation.
- Pack only what is necessary as the more you pack, the more fuel you will consume. Space cases are more aerodynamic than luggage on a roof rack or in a trailer.
- Thoroughly sweep out the inside of your vehicle and wash the outside before you leave home, paying particular attention to the tyres and mud guards, to remove any mud or soil that can transport weed seeds.
- Drive to the speed limit and pump your tyres up to 42psi to minimise fuel consumption.
- If renting a vehicle, opt for smaller, more fuel efficient models (resist the luxury car upgrade!).
- Offset your flights.
- Pack your own snacks / sandwiches in reusable containers for consumption during the flight rather than eating highly packaged airline food.
Travelling with Baby
- If using disposable nappies while on holiday, opt for biodegradable varieties such as Moltex. Use biodegradable nappy bags for soiled nappies only and organic/biodegradable wipes rather than the conventional variety.
- Stay in self-catering accommodation so it’s easy to make your own food including baby purees (use the potato masher if no stick blender is present).
At Your Destination
- Stay in registered eco-friendly accommodation if possible (see suggestions at base of article) or camp sustainably.
- Use resources wisely as you would at home - keep showers short and turn off lights when not in use.
- Don’t stray from walking / 4WD tracks as this can damage delicate vegetation systems and cause erosion.
- Do not feed local wildlife – keep them wild.
- Use sustainably-sourced firewood for campfires rather than collecting your own from nearby scrub.
- Observe Total Fire Ban days.
- Participate in environmentally-friendly activities such as wind surfing, kite boarding, cycling, snorkelling, board games/cards, reading, walking/hiking, swimming or bird watching. Steer clear of activities such as sky diving, jet skiing, jet boating and 4WDing.
- Leave the complimentary toiletries in your hotel room. These packaging-intense items usually end up straight in landfill or cluttering your bathroom cupboard. Instead, fill small reusable bottles with your own body products from home.
- Buy local produce to save on food miles and support local business.
- Take litter (or recyclables) away with you if no local disposal/recycling facilities exist.
- Thoroughly sweep out the inside of your vehicle and wash the outside before you leave your holiday destination, paying particular attention to the tyres and mud guards, to remove any mud or soil that can transport weed seeds.
Ecotourism is a blend of conservation and tourism: it’s planned to be sustainable, with the least possible impact on the landscape and environment being visited. As one of the fastest growing sectors of tourism worldwide, there is no shortage of quality eco-friendly holiday destinations and here’s a small number of quality destinations that we recommend:
Huon Bush Retreats is a carbon positive ecotourism village overlooking the Huon Valley in Tasmania’s beautiful south east, just 45km south of Hobart. Established in 2002 when private investors purchased and saved a forest earmarked for logging, Huon Bush Retreats funds the conservation of the forest it calls home. Guests can choose to stay in contemporary cabins or deluxe tipees. Camping and van sites are also available. All accommodation facilities have been built to harmonise with their environment and incorporate solar power, composting toilets and natural rainwater storage. Like the name suggests, this is a true retreat destination and a long list of organised activities simply doesn’t exist. You can walk the interpreted walking tracks and check out the abundant wildlife if you desire, or you can simply slow down and reconnect with yourself and the environment.
**Mention this article and children will stay FREE on your 2nd and any subsequent nights.**
Rawnsley Park Station is well worth a visit if you’re heading to the glorious Flinders Ranges in South Australia’s Outback. Located 430 north of Adelaide, Rawnsley Park is a working sheep farm come award-winning tourism facility overlooking the southern side of Wilpena Pound. The wide range of accommodation available ranges from campsites through to the most luxurious eco villas, making Rawnsley within everyone’s budget! Four-wheel drive tours, scenic flights, hot air ballooning and mountain bike hire are all available and there is a network of excellent bushwalking trails located on the property. I can personally recommend the Flinders Ranges as one of the most scenic and colourful landscapes in Australia and it’s a place that I return to time and time again. Rawnsley’s Woolshed restaurant also dishes up a yummy feed!
The Great Ocean Ecolodge is located within the grounds of The Cape Otway Centre for Conservation Ecology, at Cape Otway in Western Victoria. Adjoining the Great Otway National Park, wildlife abounds on the property. Delight in the koalas in the treetops or play a vital role in saving the Tiger Quoll. The Ecolodge is designed and operated sustainably, with solar power, solar hot water, pure rainwater and organic dining. All profits are reinvested into wildlife conservation so you can relax, unwind and do your bit for the local environment! Children are welcome.
O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat is based in the World Heritage Lamington National Park in the Gold Coast Hinterland, just 2 hours drive south west of Brisbane. Visitors can stay in a variety of accommodation from the guest house-style Rainforest Retreat through to the private luxury of self contained Mountain Villas. Couples and families will delight in the variety of activities on offer including bushwalking, Australia’s first Tree Top Walk, Segway Safari Tours, Birds of Prey Flight Show, guided 4WD tours and bird feeding. A 190m flying fox ride over the picturesque Morans Creek will thrill the young and young at heart!
NEW SOUTH WALES
Honeycomb Valley Farm in Nabiac is 3 hours drive north of Sydney and is an ideal farmstay for families or couples. Children and adults will be delighted by the variety of rare animal breeds farmed here, including miniature Galloway cattle, Saanen dairy goats, Suri alpacas and Black-headed dorper sheep. Check out the variety of rare breed chickens living in recycled caravans and enjoy food from the largest solar oven in Australia. All natural farm made balms and soaps using the farm's goat's milk, honey and beeswax are available for purchase so you can take some of Honeycomb Valley home with you.
About the Author: Laura Trotta (BEng (Enviro), MSc (Enviro Chem)) is an eco mum, environmental engineer and founder of Sustainababy. She currently lives in regional South Australia with her husband Paul and son Matthew. She lived in Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland prior to SA and has travelled extensively throughout these States, generally through National Park walking trails with a heavy backpack. Her most memorable eco-friendly holiday was hiking the 8 day South Coast track in Tasmania (pre-motherhood).