A space for little monkeys to be monkeys :)

toddler gym

This post is something I’ve been meaning to write for a long time, as I feel it is of utmost importance. It is about letting children be children. Or rather, creating an environment for them where they can do so.

One of the things I feel our modern society really lacks is the environment for children to explore the world on their own — to go off to places of their choosing, to run, to climb, get muddy and so on! Yes, there are special children’s gyms and classes and playgrounds. Some more fun than others, but neither is something a child can have access to on their own whenever they feel like it. I think it is sad that our children can’t freely go on exploring the world around them, leaving house after breakfast and coming back at dark as many of us and our parents did growing up.

On the other side, I’ve been seeing a number of educators expressing their concerns that more and more parents are very interested in getting their children some early academic development which implies sit-down classes, structured actives, etc. I’m not saying I’m against academic development, by any means. But I believe that a lot of it is best achieved in an environment where children can be free to explore, where they reach and withdraw on their own from objects, subjects and activities.

This is a vast topic of course and I don’t intend to cover it all in one post 🙂 … Instead I wanted to share with you some of my inspiration and a few practical things we’ve implemented that enriched lives of our children right here at home and I hope it can help your family as well.

Inspiration

In the western world most parents heard of Montessori and Waldorf education approaches, both of which I hold in high esteem as well. But in former Soviet Union we also had the Nikitin Family approach, which is very close to my heart. It is impossible to cover what they were all about in a single post and unfortunately their books aren’t translated in English. But one of the fundamentals of children’s upbringing in the Nikitin family was physical actives — not structured, not planned, but free for children to choose and do on their own. Here is a video giving a little glimpse of what their family’s children’s room was like. I love every bit of it!!!

The complete video is rather long, the part I’m sharing only is about 1-2 minutes and starts at 15:52 into the video. And if you are interested keep watching to see the fun sports event organized by Boris Pavlovich Nikitn for his children and their neighbors. The energy and excitement is just so wonderful!

Our own house

Our house lot isn’t very big and all our trees are very young, so unfortunately I’m not able to create the play space I wish I could for the boys. But we’ve got few things set up for them on the deck and around our yard (see our lovely sandbox play space) that I wanted to share here, as they don’t require a lot of space or money, but all together have been a great success. And because they are rather compact they could be moved indoors during cold months.

Toddler trampoline (7’x7′ wide) and athletic rings

Note: while I share Amazon links it is merely because that is the only place I was able to find these items. If I could get them from a different store, preferably a small business, I would do so instead.

Who doesn’t love a trampoline? It’s just not possible. 🙂 If I had a room for a large trampoline I’d spend there a lot of time myself :).

I found this little toddler trampoline on Amazon and it has been great! It isn’t design-y looking (I wish there was more beautifully made athletic equipment for children out there), but it serves its purpose very well. Both boys just love it. I can not list all the fits of acrobatics Ale performs there and of course Eleon is trying to do the same. It is most fascinating to watch them! Ale is 3 and Eleon is 1. The trampoline is big enough for both of them to be there, although we always have to remind Ale to be careful and not get carried away if he is there together with his little brother.

We combined the trampoline with olympic rings and it has been such a great and fun combo for both boys.

I ended up getting 2 sets of rings for our gym area. First I got these nice looking wooden rings, however the thickness of them was good for a 3 year old, but was too much for the little hands of a 1 year old. So I ended up also getting these trapeze rings and they’ve been perfect for Eleon!

Rope ladder

The rope ladder was added recently. Ale hasn’t quite figured it out yet, but it presents a next physical challenge for him, which I’m very happy about.

Climbing dome

toddler outdoor gym climbing
outdoor kids play  toddle gym
outdoor kids play  toddle gym
outdoor kids play  toddle gym

I also really wanted to get them something fun to climb on. I almost ordered some crazy expensive, but really amazing climbing set all the way from Russia, but something didn’t work out in the last moment. So in the meantime I ended up getting this little climbing dome. It is plastic and much simpler than I wanted, but so far both boys are enjoying it. Ale, who is 3, can climb all around it and likes to show us different ways he can hang off it. Eleon so far can only reach some of the bars, but he is trying hard to catch up with his big brother in mastering the thing. 🙂

Future additions

I also got a set of rock climbing holds for them, but so far I haven’t figured out where and how to add them unfortunately.

And just last week I found this indoor climbing wall. It looks like a more basic version of the amazing sets I saw being sold in Russia. We haven’t received it yet, but I am very excited about adding it to the boys play room and will post an update soon.

And here is my Pinterest board with various outdoor fun things, in case your yard allows for more fun stuff than mine! 🙂

What play things do you have going for your little monkeys? I’d love to know!

Simple sandbox DIY

outdoor kids play sandbox diy
In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet and growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it for the most part spent out in the fresh air. — Charlotte Mason

The very first outdoor play spot we added was this sandbox back when Ale was just 1 year old. And it has been continuously a popular play space for both boys. As Ale has grown his games around the sandbox have changed, but he still loves it. And of course, anything that Ale is interested in Eleon is there as well!

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Best summer sandals for the little feet

pololo children leather sandals nontoxic children footwear

With the long awaited summer being upon us I wanted to do this little post about children’s sandals that are so loved in our family. One of the main reasons for this blog was to share the products for children that are non-toxic, comfortable and sustainably made. I found such items hard to find in US, unfortunately. I think it is sad that craftsmen and boutiques have hard time staying in business due to competition with big corporations that flood the market with cheap, low quality merchandise which is often toxic and was produced at great cost to our environment and people making them. So when I find yet another brand, store, maker who offers us a different choice — I’m particularly excited to get it for my children and to share it with others.

This is not a sponsored post in any way. Just sharing the good things, since they aren’t easy to find in the ocean of the internet.

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Where we shop for natural toys (no plastics!)

natural

Alexandros turned 3 years this weekend! Few weeks before I asked him what he’d like for his birthday. This is how our conversation went:

— Me: “Ale, what would you like for your birthday?”
— Ale: “Garbage track! Yellow one. No, blue. No, white. No, red!”
— Me: “But you already have 2 garbage tracks…three actually.”
— Ale: “I want GARBAGE TRACK!” Big beaming smile! 🙂

So, we got him this big beautiful Fagus wooden garbage track from Wooden Wagon.

wooden tracks Fagus tracks wooden toys
wooden tracks Fagus tracks wooden toys
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Zero-waste and non-toxic baby care

nontoxic baby washing and baby care

These three products, or their variations, are all that we use. No shampoos, no fancy lotions and special baby things…none of it. It saddens me to see all the chemically laden, plastic wrapped so called baby products all over the internet, magazines, not to mention supermaket shelves. Parents are made to believe that they need those to take care of their most loved little ones. But in truth our children need none of that. And with these basic products they could be cared for in a healthy, simple and sustainable way. 🙂

This isn’t a sponsored post. These products are just the ones we are using. You could use other similar ones. There are many small businesses offering great natural care products. You could also make your own.

No shampoo is needed. E.V.E.R.

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Alphabet chart DIY

alphabet chart DIY

A few months ago I came across these charming alphabet cards. I particularly liked them as they introduce both capital and small letters in a very associative and visual way. Ale already knows many Russian and English letters as we often talk about them a bit while reading our bed time stories. But the idea that same letter can have two different versions was rather confusing for him. And while in Montessori approach it is recommended to only introduce small letters at first, I found this to be impractical as all the books have both letters on their covers and naturally the subject of small and capital letters would always come into our discussions when we would start reading our bedtime stories.

So in these cards a small and a big version of the same letter is very nicely tied together through the same animal — the grown up one for the capital letter and a baby one for the small letter.

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How does my garden grow

How does my garden grow by Gerda Muller, children's book

As the spring season is just around the corner I wanted to share this wonderful children’s book. This book was our favorite for many months when Ale was about 1 year old. We love gardening and so it was very relatable to him. And in its turn the book would make gardening activities and garden creatures even more interesting for him and offer him new knowledge about the garden’s goings.

As all Gerda Muller books it is exceptionally beautiful with very charming, realistic and detailed illustrations. And like all her books it is very informative for the little readers. One thing I especially love about Gerda Muller’s books is that due to the wealth of detail and information we can go back to them later again and again, each time discovering something new or re-discovering already known facts in deeper detail.

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Beautiful animated films: Snow Queen

I decided to start a little series about beautiful animated films for children. Although I’m against children spending time in front of a screen and would rather have them running around and exploring the world around, I found myself using the iPad on a regular basis to keep Ale (our 2.5 year old little wildling 🙂 ) quiet when his little brother is asleep. So, it became important to find quality content for him to watch. Fortunately, there are a lot of beautiful children’s animated films from the Soviet era that he can watch and that I don’t object to as they are very artistic and have always a great positive story. Recently I found some of them to be also translated into English and thus this little series of beautiful animated films for children. I hope you enjoy them just as much.

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Zero-waste dog food

zero waste door food

Recently I have discovered a Zero-Waste community over on Instagram. It is inspiring to see people around the world striving to live without leaving a trail of trash behind them. Through this community I’ve learned a number of good tips and merchants where one can buy package-free goods (here is a good one). A blog post on this is coming soon… providing my boys nap at the same time at least couple times this coming week, so I get a chance to get to my computer. 🙂

One thing I noticed people have difficulty with even among the Zero-Waste community is finding a package-free (read trash-free) way to feed our four-legged buddies both canine and feline. So, I wanted to put this little blog post together, because this area is one where one can easily shift away from packaged goods. In fact, in Russia and Kazakhstan where I come from we never bought dog food and always fixed dog food at home, using the same produce we had for our family.

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No-shampoo and zero-waste hair care

no shampoo nopoo zero-waste hair care

It’s been about 4 or 5 years since I last used a shampoo or conditioner on my hair. And it’s been about 2 years since I’ve been using soap nuts exclusively to wash hair.

The reason I started on the no-shampoo path was because my hair was getting dirty so fast that I had to wash it daily and still by the end of the day it was not a pretty sight. I went through many different brands of fancy and expensive shampoos, but the result was more or less the same… or worse. My first no-shampoo experience was with a dry mix of some herbs and clay my mom send me from Russia. It worked remarkably well, but we could never find that particular brand again. So the search for natural ways to care for hair ensued.

It’s been few years now since I’ve been using only natural products to wash my hair. I’ve also successfully replaced various other conventional body care products with clean natural ones (see my post here). And for the past year I’ve been trying to figure out how to bring our household as close to zero-waste life-style as possible. I’m hoping you’ll find my experience and the information I share here helpful.

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Grooming babies and toddlers even when they won’t let you :)

baby haircut toddler haircut tutorial

Oh the little humans and their absolute confidence in their point of view, determination and defiance. Toddlers and babies can really teach us all a lesson as far as standing up for our believes in life. In their case the beliefs seems to be that it is sufficient to take a bath once every 6 to 8 months, that washing hands is most unacceptable form of infringement on their freedom just like any other hygiene related fussing attempted by mom. Navigating this territory takes a fair huuuge amount of patience and also ingenuity and still success is not guaranteed :))

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Sustainable guide to Holiday gifts | Children edition

wooden children toys nontoxic handmade

[ On the photo: Gnomes from Mama Owl; Ostheimer wooden animals from Wooden Wagon ]

How beloved is the beautiful tradition of decorating a tree, lighting the lights on it and waiting for the magical winter-y man to bring us some sweet gifts under the tree! This tradition has survived the rises and demises of kingdoms, cultures and religions. It has changed the name from Yuletide to Christmas and even became a New Year tradition in some countries. Yet, the tradition itself has barely changed in centuries and all of us big and small are excited every year to light up the tree and unwrap our gifts when the time comes. 🙂

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Raincoat made from 100% recycled plastic bottles

non-toxic children rain gear
A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change… Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean. The Guardian

Which is why I’m particularly excited to share with you these beautiful coats by Lea & Jojo that are not only non-toxic (no PHTALATES, nor PVC, nor PFOA’S / PFO’S, nor AZO DYES, nor NONYPHENOL ETHOXYLATES), but are also made form 100% recycled bottles!

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