eco play Feed

Cheap plastic rubbish

Many-cheap-plastic-toys-end-up-as-rubbish-soon-after-purchase. Little eco footprints

I stumbled across a pile of plastic toys dumped in bushland a while back. The scene clearly illustrates one of the problems with cheap plastic toys. They never ever go away. Every molecule of synthetic plastic ever created is still in existence somewhere on the planet, unless it was incinerated.

Cheap-plastic-toys-have-a-hidden-environmental-and-social-cost. Little eco footprints

Long after plastic toys break (and sadly that’s often shortly after they were purchased) the plastic is still here. At best it’s recycled or buried deep in landfill. At worst it’s dumped in bushland and makes its way into waterways, ending up in the ocean where it contributes to a myriad of problems including the death of marine life.

A few years ago Little Eco really wanted Santa to bring her a pink plastic battery operated toy cash register. The packaging contained almost as much non-renewable petroleum-based toxic plastic as the toy and it was probably made by people working under very poor conditions.

Good-quality-ethically-made-toys-are-less-likley-to-have-hidden-environmental-and-social-costs. Little eco footprints

Thankfully, Santa took the time to search for a safe, durable, ethically made timber cash register. It had buttons to press, a bell that rung, dials to turn, paper receipts to issue, a place to store coins, and even a scanner and credit card swipe - all this without the need for a single battery.

This very loved toy is still in perfect condition three years later – and will last long enough to be played with by Little Eco's children and grandchildren or to be passed on to numerous other children. I’m certain the plastic one would now be broken and discarded.

Choose quality over quantity when it comes to toys

Now that we are well into the countdown to Christmas, it is probably a good time to remind ourselves of the phrase ‘quality over quantity’. This phrase is particularly relevant when it comes to toys. Apparently, ‘lower priced’ ‘impulse purchases’ are one of the fastest growing areas for toy sales. I imagine last minute frantic Christmas shopping for just one more stocking stuffer, or just one more toy, contributes to this growth.

Before you head out for that last minute shopping spree, stop and consider the true cost of those cheap toys.

I’m sure our children really don’t need more cheap plastic rubbish. Our purchases impact their future.

Originally published in my Newcastle Herald column 'Less is More' 14th December 2013.

Creative countdown to Christmas

Creating-our-own-advent-calendar-from-natural-materials-is-far-more-meaningful-than-popping-down-to-the-shop-to-buy-one. LIttle eco footprints

Counting down the days leading up to Christmas is a tradition in our household. Instead of purchasing a commercially available advent calendar, we make our own from natural materials.

Counting-down-the-days-to-Christmas-using-our-home-made-advent-calendar-made-from-rocks. Little eco footprints

Each day corresponds to a chosen activity rather than a chocolate or a toy. In previous years we have created our calendar from fallen leaves. This year we branched out and used stones.

Creative-countdown-to-christmas-rock-stone-advent-little eco footprints

Little Eco drew pictures of things she is grateful for on each stone using permanent paint pens. Each stone is numbered and corresponds to a chosen activity.

In previous years I’ve chosen quick nature play or craft activities that we could do as a family. This year Little Eco chose the activities herself. I asked her what she wants to do more of and felt a pang of guilt when she told me “I want to do crafty stuff with you, like we used to.” Ouch – she’s right. We used to do a lot more creative play together, but since she’s started school I’ve neglected craft.

Creative-countdown-to-Christmas-advent. Little eco footprints 2

To help her choose the activities, I set her up in front of my ‘‘creative play for littlies” Pinterest board. I’ve saved dozens of links to creative play ideas I had planned to do. But like many “pinners” - I haven’t actually gotten around to the “doing”. At least the person who named one of their boards “Awesome things I will never take the time to actually make” was being a tad more realistic than me.

Over 24 days we’ll create nature crowns, corn husk dolls, clay owls and a woven skipping rope. I’ve set aside an hour each afternoon for us to create together. I’m not too concerned about completing every activity. It’s more about the process than the outcome (thankfully - because she's been pretty ambitious with her list).

Is there something you love doing that you don’t do enough of? Perhaps you could do your own creative countdown to Christmas? Think about what you truly enjoy doing – and do more of that.

I'll be tagging our creations on Instagram and Twitter using #creativecountdown. Feel free to join in. Use our list, or create your own. 

Originally published in my Newcastle Herald column 'Less is More' 30th November 2013.

Here's our Creative countdown to Christmas list

  1. Build an insect hotel
  2. Create a sock caterpillar
  3. Make a nature crown
  4. Weave a fairy rug
  5. Make a toilet roll owl
  6. Paint and play rock dominoes
  7. Make a Japanese flying carp
  8. Learn how to use a sewing machine
  9. Make a recycled tin can windsocks
  10. Create a dancing marionette.
  11. Craft a tissue box monster
  12. Make a bow and arrow
  13. Weave a jump rope
  14. Make egg carton love bugs
  15. Paint a bug tic-tac-toe.
  16. Make a cute clay owl
  17. Make a corn husk owl
  18. Create a corn husk doll
  19. Make a changing faces toilet roll doll
  20. Make a dream catcher
  21. Sew a kangaroo
  22. Sew another kangaroo
  23. Weave a friendship bracelet
  24. Make a toilet roll snowman

If you would like some more creative play ideas - here's our lists for 2012 and 2010

Wishing you a calm and creative countdown to Christmas. 


Slowing down and embracing unstructured play

Natural environments are ideal for imaginative creative play. Little eco footprints

As the recent school holidays drew near, I started planning activities and outings – but then I stopped. I realised that what Little Eco needed most was free time. She’s only in her first year of school – but already I feel that the business that accompanies school and after-school activities leaves little time for play. I kept organised activities to a minimum and watched as she remembered how to play.

Unstructured play, the kind of play that happens without adult guidance, is worth encouraging. Research has shown that unstructured play helps children develop their creativity, imagination, and physical and emotional strength.

Making a mud pie picnic 2. Little eco footprints

Unstructured play among children is particularly valuable for teaching them how to share, negotiate, communicate and resolve conflicts. I invited her friends over to play and sat back and watched the children create their own world – usually involving a good dose of mud.

Mud pie birthdy cake. Little eco footprints

Natural environments are particularly good for unstructured play. Natural objects such as sticks, stones, dirt, leaves, mud and water lend themselves to exploration and creation and can be used in a multitude of ways. Mud pie picnics and fairy gardens made of sticks and flowers are common at our place.

I particularly love that nature provides a place seemingly separate from the adult world. Natural spaces can give children a much-needed sense of freedom - even if only in the backyard within the gaze of mum. It may only be a tree, a puddle, or a gap under a shrub to us, but to a child it’s their own secret space, somewhere where they rule – if only for just a moment.

Originally published in my Newcastle Herald column 'Less is More' 12th October 2013.

A DIY worm farm and a Stinging Nettle frittata recipe

A DIY worm farm made from recycled materials. Little eco footprints.

Making a worm farm using free and recycled materials is easy – easy enough that children can do it themselves with just a little help. I'm sharing how to make a worm farm over at Childhood 101

A Winter foraging feast. Stinging Nettle frittata with a side of Chickweed. Little eco footprints.

As you may have noticed, I'm a little obsessed with foraging. I recently shared a recipe for a Winter foraging feast over at the 1 Million Women blog. Can I tempt you to try Stinging Nettle frittata with a side of Chickweed? 

3 Tips for Getting Outdoors When It’s Cold

I’d like to welcome you to Little Eco Footprints first ever guest post. For something a little different, today the Childhood 101 contributors are planning a game of online tag. Debi of Go Explore Nature is here sharing tips for getting outdoors when it’s cold, while I’m over at Small Potatoes sharing tips for encouraging independent creativity in kids.

For those that haven’t met Debi before, she’s a Los Angeles-based wife, mom and adventure guide for two young boys. Her blog Go Explore Nature is all about getting kids and families outdoors and connected to nature in the backyard and beyond. Check out Debi’s tips below and then follow the link at the bottom of the post to join our game of online tag.

Cold weather play-001

Colder, shorter days can only mean one thing: Winter is coming. And let’s be honest, it’s tough to get motivated to spend time outside when it’s cold.

It might take a little more preparation, creativity and an adventurous spirit, but spending time outdoors when it’s cold can be done.

Here’s how we keep ourselves motivated to get (and stay) outside as temperatures fall:

1. Dress the part.

The most important thing you can do to embrace the cold is to make sure you have the right clothing for both kids and adults. To keep warm and dry, dress in layers (that is, a base, mid and top/outer layer) and look for lightweight, waterproof clothing.

Don’t forget to keep heads, hands and feet warm as well with hats, gloves or mittens, and waterproof boots.

2. Keep it short & active.

In cooler weather, set realistic goals about how much time you think you can spend outside. Don't expect to spend your whole afternoon outdoors; aim for just 15 minutes instead. The fresh air will boost everyone’s moods and once you’re outside, you might wind up staying there awhile. While you’re outside, choose fun activities that keep the kids moving. Think running, dancing, jumping, digging, building, chasing and walking. Not only does active play help get the blood flowing, it’ll keep everyone engaged and forgetting about the fact that it’s cold outside!

3. Have warm food & drinks on hand.

Even if you’re only outside for a little while, bring along something warm to eat or drink. Kids (and adults) do better when they are full and warm from the inside out. Some ideas: A thermos of hot chocolate, soup, chili, stew, or macaroni and cheese.

Happy exploring!

Thank you Debi for sharing these great tips. I’ll be taking a thermos of hot chocolate along on our next cold day adventure. You can connect with Debi on her blog, InstagramFacebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. I invite you now to head on over to Arlees’ blog Small Potatoes, where I’m sharing a post about encouraging independent creativity in children. Each post in the game will lead you to another until you find your way back here. I’m certain you’ll discover loads of creative parenting inpiration. Enjoy :-)