Eco Toy Packaging

As a parent of two small children, I find myself pontificating about things I never have before. Where my life formerly centered around friends, Friday nights and shopping, I now think more about the environment, my children’s health and how to get milk gob off of my clothes.

mother shopping

This leads into my pet peeve of the decade topic…consumer goods packaging, specifically, the packaging that accompanies children’s toys and crafts. I recently bought my daughter a doll that came with so much more than just a toy brush and hair clips. I realized this was truly a gift of copious amounts of cardboard, plastic clips, metal ties and glossy (toxic?) paint. After extricating the doll from the cardboard sheath and plastic clips and all the while wondering if an engineering degree and blow torch would have sped the process up, I realized I had more packaging than toy! I have to ask myself what I am sure thousands of parents around the world have thought at one time or another. “Is this good for the environment?”, “Is it setting a good example for my children?”, “Doesn’t the packaging add unnecessary costs to a simple toy?”.

So now I have to ask myself why manufacturers do this when it is so obviously wrong on many levels. My personal conclusion was disturbing and embarrassing. The companies that make and market these toys do this because of me! Lavishly packaged toys sell more units because I buy them. I didn’t buy the plain cotton doll; I bought this plastic and glitzy cardboard encased monstrosity. Take your children to the toy store and they automatically gravitate towards the shiniest, brightest and exciting looking toys on the shelf. Unwrap it at home however and it just becomes another plaything with all the rest.

Some recommendations to help you around this issue are:

1) Buy the toys you like but write a letter (email) to the manufacturer and ask them to change their packaging.

2) Boycott toys with excessive packaging and let your friends know too.

3) Buy eco friendly toys. There are many great brands out there….


Celebrate the Holidays Minion Style!

Gru, his adorable girls, and the mischievous Minions are back with a whole host of new characters in the blockbuster sequel to Despicable Me. Just as Gru has given up being super-bad to be a super-dad, the Anti-Villain League recruits him to track down a new criminal mastermind and save the world. Partnered with secret agent Lucy Wilde, Gru, aided by the wildly unpredictable but lovable Minions, must figure out how to keep his cover while also keeping up with his duties as a dad.


The top box-office comedy of the year Despicable Me 2 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment arrives on Blu-ray™ and DVD on December 10, 2013. A Blu-ray combo pack will include more than 45 minutes of hilarious bonus features plus three all-new mini-movies starring the film series’ breakout stars, the mischievous Minions.

You could be one of the first to own a copy of Despicable Me 2 if you’re the lucky winner of our giveaway.

To enter simply leave a comment below telling us the name of one of the three all-new mini-movies starring the Minions available in the DVD and Blu-ray Combo Pack special features.

After you’ve completed this mandatory comment entry you can do the following for bonus entries:

Please be sure to leave a separate comment below for each of your bonus entries.

  • Giveaway is open to Canada only
  • Winner will be drawn at random
  • Giveaway closes November 29th, 2013

You can’t beat a good bedtime story

DSC00992I cherish our fabulous collection of kids’ books. We started reading bedtime stories to our babies when they were six months old and it is very rarely left out of our bedtime routine. Reading stories at bedtime is Daddy’s job pleasure. As he is at work all day and sees little of the kids it’s nice for him to spend this last 20 minutes of the day snuggled up on the sofa reading with them.

Pickle is now nine and we are trying to persuade her that it’s time to start being weaned off bedtime stories and that she should read to herself in bed instead. But when the books come out for five-year-old Bowser she’s still to be found on the other side of Dad on the sofa listening to the same old stories she’s been hearing for the last nine years.

Kids love repetition. If you’re going to read the same book over and over and over… you might as well pick something that is fun to read. Some toddler books are dire lovey dovey drivel. I prefer one with a pinch of humour aimed at the parents to lighten it up.

This week’s post is dedicated to my top five kids’ bedtime stories from our collection.

Knuffle Bunny1. Pickle’s favourite stuffed toy has always been Bedtime Bunny. She was more or less bald and was not much of a talker until she was 2 1/2. Consequently we warmed to the main character Trixie in Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, and felt Mo Willems could have written it about our family. I think most people would find the Knuffle Bunny books highly entertaining.

2. Julia Donaldson could easily take up all my top spots with all her rhyming gems. Which one of Julia’s books is my favourite? It’s just so hard to pick just one. Everyone knows the Gruffalo, but I don’t think that is my #1 pick. I’ll go with Room on the Broom, but it could just as easily be Tabby McTatt, Stick Man, Monkey Puzzle, Tiddler or The Snail and the Whale. All feature Julia’s masterful rhyming stories and Axel Scheffler’s ingenious detailed drawings.

511HXP01EHL._SY300_3. In Marjorie Newman’s Captain Pike Looks After the Baby new dad Captain Pike finds out that looking after the baby isn’t as easy as he thought which will make a lot of SAHMs smile. There’s a lovely moral of down with fighting, up with friendship and beautiful illustrations.

4. Julia Donaldson is on my list again but this time paired with illustrator Lydia Monks with a rhyming tale of friendship and cooperation in Sharing a Shell.

5. Adrian Reynolds bright, bold illustrations really steal the thunder in Someone Bigger. It’s a lovely, simple rhyming tale by Jonathan Emmet which appeals to the little ones who are always being told they are too small to do this or that.

All our picks are aimed at the 2-5ish age group, but as Pickle will attest there is no true upper age limit.

peter-pan-disney-poster-cartel-6This month on Disney Junior you can join Wendy and her brothers John and Michael as they are whisked away to the magical world of Neverland with the hero of their own bedtime stories, Peter Pan. Don’t miss the commercial free screening of this classic Disney feature film on Saturday November 23rd at 6pm ET.

And if you have a favourite bedtime tale in your house, please let us know – we’d love to try it!

Disclosure:  I’m part of the Disney Junior Mom program andI receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinionson this blog are my own.

Is It Bad To Eavesdrop on Your Kids?

Fisher Price ToysI feel like such a sneaky mom as I sit behind the doorframe eavesdropping on my 6 year old son.  It’s so cute that I just can’t help it.  My son will often sequester himself to the playroom to play with all of his toy trucks, cars and figurines.  He will start role playing with whatever character he’s got his hands and develop a whole storyline of how the castle has been invaded and a super hero has come to save the day.  It’s so neat to hear what actually comes out of his mouth as the story develops into a pretty sophisticated tale.

What’s even more cute is when my son rallies his friends on the playground to join in on his role playing.  They all choose a character to play and say funny things to each other like “Aliens are coming, hide with me in the time capsule where we can only talk and hear through our special agent language”…..what they really mean is “my mom is coming over to tell me it’s time to go home so hide with me under the slide where she can’t fit (after eating all those Halloween candies) and we can pretend not to hear her”.

In this great big world, Fisher Price’s Little People celebrate people, places and things through discoveries that spark little stories and big imaginations.  They work to empower the developing child toward greater self-directed play.

meet-friends-landing_tcm219-105569Every child is unique, and Little People want to celebrate that with their FIVE new Characters: Eddie, Mia, Sofie, Tessa and Koby – each with their own characteristics.  To learn more about each character visit the Fisher Price Little People Website.

In October and November Treehouse will hold the Little People, Big Discoveries contest.  Contestants will be able to play a hide and seek game to find new characters on play sets, watch the videos and be entered to win 1 of 5 $265 Little People Prize packs.

Disclosure: I am part of the Fisher-Price Little People Blogger Campaign with mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group.  The opinions on this blog are my own.

Too Excited to Sleep!

downloadThey tell us we should live in the moment. The past is behind us, we can’t change it. What lies ahead we can’t predict. What will be will be. “Your brightest future hinges on your ability to pay attention to the present.” Yeah, yeah, yeah, all very well and very wise, but surely that doesn’t apply when you’re looking forward to something?

Isn’t the excitement of an outing or holiday a big part of the enjoyment? Something as exciting as a first trip to Disneyland is really hard to keep a lid on: the build up; the countdown of how many more sleeps; Eeeeep!

A big part of any adventure is the planning process: spending countless hours poring over the destination website; reading through guidebooks; dreaming of what’s to come. The holiday may only be booked for ten days, but if you add in the anticipation and it starts sooner and lasts longer. My kids love to download a theme park map and pour over it for days, weeks in advance, planning the day to the last detail: which part of the park they want to hit first; which rides are at the top of the list.

The thing is, when you factor in kids, the excitement can bubble over to disastrous levels. When kids get wound up emotionally, their bodies need to discharge all that energy – they become boisterous, hyperactive and might be more prone to bad behaviour or tantrums. They typically have trouble sleeping. We all remember that Disney World commercial where the mom tells the little boy to go to sleep, and he responds to her, with Disney fantasies in his head, “We’re too excited to sleep!!” In extreme cases getting over-excited can lead to illness. More than once my brother spent the first day of our annual summer holiday in bed with a temperature due to being over-excited. And for children who suffer with asthma, excitement as well as laughter can bring on their asthma symptoms.

That’s why some parents with over-excitable children would say the best way forward is to surprise their kids. My cousins took it to the wire by telling their kids they were going to the mall. Instead they drove to the airport and it was only when they met their grandparents sporting Mickey ears that the surprise Disney vacation was sprung!

Disney Junior’s Princesses & Heroes Contest

Disney Junior is giving you a chance to win an exciting trip for your little ones – and if you’re a lucky winner, whether you tell them all about it or keep it as a surprise is entirely up to you! In this latest Disney Junior contest you could win a trip to Toronto to experience the live Disney on Ice Princesses and Heroes show.

left_imageThe Grand Prize includes:

* Round-trip flights for a family of up to 4
* 2-night hotel stay for a family of up to 4
* 4 rink-side seats to Disney On Ice presents Princesses & Heroes
* A backstage character meet-and-greet
* A $1,000 Disney Store shopping spree experience

Enter now by following this link and for more chances to win:

* Enter every day until November 13th.
* Receive 25 bonus entries by watching Belle make a special appearance on Sofia the First! Look for the Bonus Code to appear during the special on Sunday November 10th between 11:30am and 12pm ET, and enter it on the entry form.

Disclosure: I’m part of the Disney Junior Mom program and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Bed, Bath and Beyond

NaturalBabyShampoo295Bedtime is such an enduring time with your baby. It’s a time when the house is quiet (if you don’t have other children running around), the lights are low, everyone is calm and you and your child slip into the familiar bedtime routine. You know, maybe a bit of spit up and a wet poop to start your evening off right.‎

At our house the bedtime routine was running a bath for my daughter directly after dinner. We would take some quality time to play and splash around. My babies always loved their bath and it was a very special time for all of us. After mopping a gallon of water off the floor and toweling off the walls, I would swaddle her tight in her night time onesie and we would cuddle together in the rocking chair while doing one last feed. It was such a magical time where I was able to slow everything down and connect with my little package.

mom and baby cuddlingEven when we had a busy day and it was getting a bit late we would never miss the time in the rocking chair. It was our special bonding moment together that could not be compromised.

Then I had my second child. The bedtime routine changed drastically from that point forward. Instead of one, I had two small children to get ready for bed and spend quality time with. I remember thinking that I didn’t know how I was supposed to juggle the bedtime routine effectively with both children. After a period of time I was able to work things out. I would bathe both children together (they loved that….the games they would play would be so much fun). Then we would go into my son’s room (the youngest) and I would rock my son while my daughter (the older one) would stand beside the chair. I would tell them stories or we would sing songs. Once my son was asleep I would spend some quality time with my daughter in her room.

This new bedtime routine meant that my son didn’t get to experience the one-on-one time with me before bed that I always gave his sibling. The saving grace was that he never knew anything different and his time was still so special for him. Making it special for each child, no matter how you do it is the important part.

Part of making it special was my routine of always using the JOHNSON’S® BEDTIME® bath soap with my kids when they had their bedtime bath. I bought the lavender scented one and it always made my kids smell so good. Since I was cuddling them after their bath I loved how they smelt. It was also soothing for them to have the lavender right before bedtime.

The improved JOHNSON’S® NATURAL® range of bathtime products are free from parabens, dye and phthalates. With over 100 years of baby care knowledge, moms can always trust JOHNSON’S® to be gentle on baby’s skin and of course, every JOHNSON’S® NATURAL® cleanser still contains the gentle NO MORE TEARS® formula.

I find that every mother has their own bedtime routine with their baby. Tell us about yours!

Disclosure – I am participating in the JOHNSON’S® NATURAL® Blogger Campaign by Mom Central Canada on behalf of JOHNSON’S® NATURAL®.  I receive compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion.  The opinions on this blog are my own.

Trick or Treat with America’s ToothFairy!

Welcome the folks from America’s ToothFairy as this week’s guest bloggers

At this time of year when the Halloween candy buckets are about to overflow we need to pay extra attention to those teeth! Make this year memorable and sweet without all the sugar with these fun tips for a healthy Halloween!

  • Give ’em a treat without the sweet! Hand out sugar-free candy, toothbrushes or fun little toys to trick or treaters!
  • Make sure your child has a healthy meal before Halloween festivities to avoid snacking and a sugar overload!
  • If you are hosting a party, use healthy foods to make fun treats that the kids can enjoy. With a little fruit, some paper plates and toothpicks, children can create their own Monster Face. Melonballs or grapes make great monster’s eyeballs, simply spear the melonballs with the toothpicks and poke through the paper plate. For the monster’s nose, spear strawberries or orange slices, and for the monster’s smile, a banana will do just fine!
  • For a healthy smile year round, remember to brush, and floss your teeth twice a day and visit your dentist once every six months! For children ages 6 and up, use a fluoride rinse.

originalDid you know that there are MILLIONS of at-risk kids that can’t sleep at night, eat properly or even concentrate in school because of painful tooth decay? Without the financial resources for dental care or even a toothbrush or toothpaste, these kids find themselves caught in a downward spiral of pain and humiliation, from getting bullied in school to enduring an agonizing toothache on a daily basis.

Trick or Treat with America’s ToothFairy this year and help raise awareness and support for kids whose families can’t afford good dental care. For example just $10 gives a child toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, rinse and oral health education – all the tools they need for a healthy smile. Your donation will go directly to helping children in need, and by making a donation you will be eligible smilemakersjackolanternto enter to win a Halloween Jack-O-Lantern bucket from SmileMakers filled with 144 toys and prizes! Great for trick or treaters or for Halloween parties!

Kids can get involved too and receive fun stickers and a certificate recognizing them as an ‘Official ToothFairy Helper’ by the ToothFairy herself! Click here to download your great Halloween games, a song, and a calendar filled with super spooky fun activities for the entire month!


pro health toothbrushThe Oral-B Pro-Health for Me rechargeable toothbrush is the perfect electric toothbrush to gently power all that Halloween gunk away. This electric toothbrush has a waterproof handle with fun designs and is compatible with multiple toothbrush heads. The brush head provides a gentle brushing experience. It also features a brushing timer that ensures their brushing style goes the extra mile for the dentist-recommended 2 minutes.

The Oral-B Pro-Health For Me Vitality Toothbrush and Oral-B Pro Health For Me Sensitive Clean Brush Heads are available at your local Walmart, but we have a set to give away to one lucky reader.

To enter, simply leave a comment below telling us your idea for a healthier Halloween treat.

headsAfter you’ve completed this mandatory comment entry you can do the following for bonus entries:

Please be sure to leave a separate comment below for each of your bonus entries.

    • Giveaway is open to the USA only
    • Winner will be drawn at random
    • Giveaway closes October 25th, 2013

Win Personalised Fine Art from Sears Portrait Studio

Sears Portrait Studio can turn your portrait into an artistic masterpiece! Their Portrait Art collection provides a variety of innovative products, from contemporary to classic, for showcasing your favourite portraits.


vintageClassic_10x30The #SearsBabysRoom bloggers are hosting a fabulous giveaway of a framed 20×20 or 10×30 custom portrait from Sears new Vintage Classic range – a series of portraits grouped together to create a beautiful piece of wall art. And of course you’ll receive a complimentary photo shoot as the start point to creating your masterpiece.

This fabulous prize is valued at $244.98.

For a chance to win simply pop to the Sears website and leave a comment below telling us one of the shopping categories in Sears baby departments (eg ‘Playtime’).

Once you’ve completed this mandatory first entry you can do the following for bonus entries:

Please be sure to leave a separate comment below for each of your bonus entries.

  • Giveaway closes October 20th.
  • Potential grand prize winner will be chosen at random.
  • Open to all Canadian residents over the age of 18 (excluding Quebec).
  • This giveaway is being run across all #SearsBabysRoom blogs. There will be only one winner across all the participating blogs. You may enter across as many blogs as you want.
  • A potential winner will be selected from each #SearsBabysRoom blog and the grand prize winner will be randomly selected from these names.

Disclosure: I am part of the Sears The Baby’s Room Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

It’s worth waiting if you’re meeting royalty

“How did this happen?” I asked myself more than once a hundred times as we waited in long line-up after longer line-up at Disneyland. It was Spring break. How did we end up at Disneyland during Spring break when our little one was only two? Bad planning, that’s what. Being a Brit out of water I was under the misconception that US and Canadian school holidays were like the British ones that I was used to – basically everyone has them at the same time, give or take a day here or there. So when I’d Googled ‘Sping Break dates’ and booked our holiday NOT to coincide with them, I didn’t realise that Spring Break varied from state to state and in fact our visit to Disneyland coincided with what seemed like the holidays of most of North America. The place was heaving.

I’ve been to Disneyland a few times as a teenager and adult, but this was my first trip with my own child and I was so excited to be there with her. Pickle was 2 ¾ and, like most little girls her age, a huge princess fan. I just knew she was going to love it! Yet I couldn’t believe Disneyland was the busiest I had ever seen it. I was astounded that we needed to queue for 30-45 minutes for the classic kiddie rides in Fantasyland. We bit the bullet and got into our first line-up waiting over 30 minutes for the Mad Tea Party after which our little Pickle turned round and asked “Can we go home now?” My face fell, my shoulders slumped, my heart dropped. This was Disneyland and she wasn’t enjoying herself – she wanted to go home!!! After that my hubby embarked on military operation ‘She WILL enjoy Disneyland’. We scampered round the park making full use of the FASTPASS system; while one parent took her on one ride the other parent would be in the line-up for the next one and we’d pass Pickle over the fence. It was exhausting, but worth it to see her delighted little face as she experienced the rides without experiencing the waits.

DSC_0057Towards the end of the day we still had the Princesses to visit, but the queue was over an hour’s wait. By this time Pickle was having a blissful nap in her stroller so I paced up and down to keep the nap-inducing-stroller-motion going and Hubs got in the queue and dutifully waited…and waited. By the time we got to the official red roped off entrance it was nearly 5pm and the royal ladies were about to go off and attend to their princess duties for the evening. We were among the last royal visitors of the day. We gently woke Pickle up and told her she was about to meet the princesses. I will never forget her face of wide-eyed wonderment as she stood waiting her turn and the look of pure joy as she raced into the arms of Belle. It was well worth the wait. When I look at the photos of my joyous toddler that day I’m reminded of the fabulous time she had on her first Disney experience, not the hours we spent in line ups (much).

4-princessI know my little Pickle would have been delighted to find the new surprises hiding in pink Kinder Eggs this month are Disney Princess collectibles! In fact, both your Princess and Superhero fans will be happy with the new specially-marked Kinder® Surprise® packages because in two out of the three eggs they’ll find a limited edition Princess or Marvel Super Hero toy. Take a peek at the new toy collections on Kinder’s facebook page.

Disclosure: I’m part of the KINDER® Mom program and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

A Fast Cure for Diaper Rash

Welcome back Dr. Kim Newell as this week’s guest blogger

Red, inflamed, irritated skin in the diaper area: oh no!

Diaper rash is a common problem for infants and toddlers, and can be very worrying and frustrating to parents. And when the wee one is screaming in pain with every diaper change, parents are desperate for a cure–and fast. After a quick lesson on the cause of diaper rash, treating and preventing this frustrating condition is no sweat!

Most diaper rash starts as an irritant dermatitis: the skin that is exposed to urine and stool gets irritated and raw. (”Dermatitis” means inflammation of the skin.)

k9289237The first step to treatment and prevention of diaper rash, then, is to use an ointment that acts as a barrier between the irritated skin and the baby’s urine and stool. Most diaper ointments contain one of two main ingredients: zinc oxide (thick and opaque white) or petroleum jelly. To this a host of vitamins and other ingredients are added: fancier ingredients and packaging = more expensive products. But in the end, a simple paste with either zinc oxide or petroleum jelly generally works well. Since diaper cream is meant to be a barrier, a generous application is usually more effective than a thin coat. More is, in this case, better.

Most minor diaper rashes respond well to treatment with a barrier ointment. And gentle skin care can help. Frequent diaper changes keep the irritants off the skin. Bathing your baby frequently in gentle warm water baths (even 2-3 times a day for the worst diaper rashes) also helps to reduce the inflammation. Keeping the diaper off and airing the skin out several times a day can be helpful too, though you have to watch for unwanted sprinkles and explosions with this approach!

What if the rash is not resolving in spite of gobs of diaper cream and good skin care? A simple irritant diaper rash can be exacerbated by several interlopers.

Yeast like Candida albicans (which lives on our skin and is usually harmless) gravitates to the warm, moist diaper area. Overgrowth of yeast can worsen diaper rash and prevent healing. A yeasty diaper dermatitis is often very beefy red and may have small red bumps or pimples at the edges of the central red area. Applying an over-the counter antifungal medicine like clotrimazole or miconazole two or three times a day can clear this condition rapidly. These ointments are available in the pharmacy for treatment of women’s vaginal yeast infections or for athlete’s foot.

Sometimes the bacteria that normally live on our skin can complicate the rash, causing small pustules (red bumps with a white or yellow head of pus in the center) or blisters. In this case you may need to add an antibacterial ointment. Start with an over-the-counter double or triple antibiotic and talk to your pediatrician if the rash is spreading or not resolving.

You may also add to the mix some hydrocortisone (0.5% or 1%) which can decrease the inflammation associated with severe diaper rash.

With vigilant care and a few tricks up your sleeve, you are now prepared to attack one of the scourges of infant life.

Tips for Parents:

  • As soon as your baby’s bottom begins to get even a little red, start using a barrier ointment: this can prevent worsening of the rash.
  • You cannot “overdose” your baby on diaper ointment. Go ahead, slather on a thick coat!
  • When babies get sick or have diarrhea, the stool becomes more acidic and can rapidly create diaper rash: it’s like a chemical burn. Frequent diaper changes and lots of diaper cream during these times can prevent a bad rash.
  • Warm water baths do wonders for inflamed skin, especially diaper rash.
  • In the case of severe or persistent rashes, you can make a paste by mixing an over-the counter antifungal medicine like clotrimazole or miconazole with an antibiotic ointment and hydrocortisone: apply the magic mix several times daily and watch the rash disappear.
  • See your pediatrician or healthcare provider if the rash has significant blistering, skin peeling, or pus bumps (pustules); if it persists despite home therapy; if the rash spreads rapidly; or if your baby develops a fever or appears ill.

Dr KimDr. Kim Newell, MD is a young, hip, approachable pediatrician whose aim is to help parents build healthy families by arming them with knowledge and tools, as well as a bit of lightness and laughter. 

Follow @DrKimMD on Twitter.