Science Books by Usborne

As an Usborne books organiser perhaps I am biased, but I personally think that Usborne produce the most fantastic introductory science books on the market. Their illustrations are inviting, their text engaging and their format exciting to young readers. In addition, Usborne books are web-linked to specially selected, trusted websites that allow you to further expand on the topics that interest you the most.

Here are a few of my personal Yes Bebe favourites:

Questions and Answers about scienceLift-the-Flap Questions & Answers about Science
Suitable for: 5+
Price: £9.99

Over 60 flaps answer common childhood questions about science, covering topics ranging from gravity to the weather and human bodies. Lift-the-Flap books are always a hit in this house – and while I still have to read the content aloud, the kids are much more invested in the answers when they get to lift the flaps themselves!

Look Inside ScienceLook Inside Science
Suitable for: 5+
£9.99

This book includes all the lift-the-flap benefits mentioned above and more, combining flaps-within-flaps and sliders with fun experiments to try at home. The Look Inside books are a must in my house, as I can so rarely answer all my children’s questions about their bodies, nature, space, our world…

science things to make and do50 Science Things to Make and Do
Suitable for: 6+
Price: £5.99

A must for home-educators, this hands-on approach to science takes learning out of books and into the wider world, through experiments and activities that make science fun! Following the clear step-by-step instructions and make use of the simple scientific explanations to inspire your young scientists to greatness!

Science Scribble BookThe Usborne STEM Science Scibble Book
Suitable for: 7+
Price: £9.99

I love how Usborne books put the emphasis on the learners rather than the book, and these scribble books are brilliant examples of this. All you need is your pencil case to explore the the physics behind forces and turbines, the human body and skeletons, animal migration, and more.

Also look out for: The Usborne STEM Engineering Scribble Book – for budding engineers and Lift-the-Flap Engineering.

100 things to know about science100 Things to Know About Science
Suitable for: 8+
Price: £9.99

If you – or your kids – are fond of infographics, this is the best introduction to science topics you could buy. Fascinating and inspiring for kids and grown-ups alike, find out about topics ranging from black holes to magnetic poles – and 98 other science topics too!

Dreaming of a Yes Bebe Christmas…

I’ve done a lot of Christmas shopping already – from Yes Bebe – of stocking fillers and odds and ends that will add up to make Christmas for my three boys. We don’t buy them individual presents, as they have ample grandparents  (two sets on each side), aunts and uncles (I have 6 siblings) who buy for them as indivuduals. We look to get greater value by buying toys that can be used in different ways at different developmental stages and won’t be outgrown soon, meaning we can continue to build on our collection year-on-year instead of simply replacing outgrown toys. This means lots of lovely open-ended wooden toys – rainbows and building blocks and animals – oh my!

Being Pagan, we begin our Yuletide celebrations on solstice morning, and celebrate 12 days of Yule. To celebrate the solstice we will bring greenery into the house – holly and ivy to represent the male and female and misteltoe for fertility, the evergreen tree to represent the new life of the coming Spring – and make a wreath to represent the cyclical nature of the year.

On solstice morning the children wake up to a gift, with a further small gift to follow on each of the 12 days of Yule, including something larger and a small stocking on the 25th to tie in with Christmas tradition. Last year I set up a story sack for each day; this year I am hoping to begin Yule with a stone circle scene with Ocamora teniques and Ambrosius fairies, with a Grimms fire in the centre, then something like hang a wrapped Holztiger animal for the 5 year olds and a Lanka Kade toy for the 18 month old on the tree to open each morning. I also have a few story sacks planned – I’ll write another post about those!

lanka kade jigsaw christmas

I hope to give them each a beautiful Lanka Kade jigsaw:

Coby: Lanka Kade 1-10 dinosaur jigsaw

Conall: Lanka Kade a-z dragon jigsaw

Harris: Lanka Kade 1-25 crocodile jigsaw

IF we did advent, I would have bought one of these 25 piece jigsaws for each of the twins and given them a numbered piece each morning, with the final piece on the 25th.

My Dream Yuletide

There are so many goodies on the Yes Bebe website that I would love to bundle together for the kids. If I were to somehow come into some extra cash between now and December, here’s what I would buy:

For the 18 month old…

dream christmas 18 month old

We have so many lovely toy cars which Coby loves to push around the house. I would love to extend this play with:

Way to Play King of the Road – or in fact, any of the Way to Play roads.

A Grimms Bridge – natural or rainbow… or both…

The Lubulona Lubu Town Winterberg Maxi would be ideal for building cityscapes (recommended for 3+ years but how gorgeous???). Alternatively, some Grapat houses and Nins would work to build a townscape.

Grimms 6 coloured cars – I know I said we have plenty of cars, but come on!

For 5 year old twin: Conall

dream christmas 5 years old

Conall loves all things fantasy: castles, dragons, knights, fairies, wizards and witches… He also LOVES building with blocks.

Hape medieval quest marble run – its a castle AND a marble run!

Ostheimer Dragon and Cave – he would tell me so many stories about this…

Conall is also austistic and has certain sensory needs. He loves our Creatimber but often has to fight his brothers for it. I’d love to buy him his own Spectra Swing to rock on. I would also love to buy him a Magic Wood Marble Tree as I believe the sound would soothe him.

For 5 year old twin: Harris

dream christmas 5 year old

Harris is currently viking and monster obsessed, and enjoys drawing. He is also showing a genuine interest in numbers.

Magic wood viking boat and vikings would be an obvious place to start!

Although not on his radar, I’d love to buy Harris some TicToys Binabo as I think he will love the creativity of this!

And as he loves to draw, I think these gorgeous Crayon Rocks might spark his imagination…

Sumblox have been on my list for ages, but as Harris is actually interested now I finally have an excuse to invest!

A Sustainable Secret Santa

secret santa claus doll

Ahh the workplace secret santa: that annual event we’re all forced to participate in even though we neither want to buy nor be bought another comedy mug. Rather than spending pennies pointlessly on most likely plastic-wrapped, throwaway items that will end up in the charity shop in a week/year’s time, why not buy something pointedly sustainable instead? Here are a few ideas…

Secret Santa: under £5

Skincare: Unless you know someone really well, soap can be taken the wrong way, but lip balm is always both useful and appreciated! The Organic Essence natural lip balm is universally appealing and a great option for men or women who are stuck in an office OR subject to weather, on a playground for example. (Which also makes it a great option for classroom assistants /nursery leaders /teachers etc…)

Travel: The Funky Soap Travel Tin can be used for so much more than soap, and as it’s made from aluminium it is fully recycleable. To make it look like more, pop in a few wrapped sweets or some fudge from your local sweet shop.

Kitchen: There is no excuse for using clingfilm any more – buy a regular offender an alternative like these vegan food wraps and they’ll never look back. And we would never encourage cheating, but if £5 is really more a guideline than a rule, splash out an extra £1 on a Keep Leaf baggie.

Lunch time: Who doesn’t love bees? This cool bag is waterproof, lightweight and will keep lunch cool until, well, lunchtime. If bees aren’t their thing there are other options – flamingoes, seaside or puffins, Eco Chic have got it all!

Out & About: These gorgeous organic short-handled string bags are deceptively spacious, holding far more than you’d expect but squishing down to nothing in a pocket. A bargain at £5 exactly.

Desk-top fun: Check out Goki’s fab brainteaser puzzles, many of which come in under £5.

Secret Santa: under £10

Garden: Surely no-one with a garden wouldn’t appreciate a bee bomb? Add a jar of local honey and you’ve got a gift everyone will be buzzing over! (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

Kitchen: In this price range straws are a great option! Bamboo or stainless steel, the choice is yours!

Lunch time: You can’t go wrong with a reusable sandwich pouch, such as those by Planet Wise and Keep Leaf – both have some stunning design options available.

Monbento have some really trendy options available for those who bring leftovers for their lunch. Their biodegradable cutlery is really stylish, while their chopsticks are frankly beautiful!

The Equa 600ml bottle just squeezes in under the £10 mark and offers a great alternative to single use plastic water bottles. There are several lovely designs available; my favourite is Universe.

Secret Santa: under £20

If you’ve got £20 to splash out there are endless possibilities! There are lots of lovely reusable drink options, from water bottles to insulated flasks to juice boxes.

Wooden toys are not just for children, as many of us can attest. How about treating a colleague to a desk-friendly Grimms small rainbow, some grapat mandala pieces  for mindfulness practice or a Goki puzzle 3D?

A hamper (see below) could also come in under £20 if you pick carefully…

Secret Santa: over £20

Why not make a personalised gift hamper? Some ideas could include:

For the lunchbox regular: choose from straws, beeswax wraps, reusable cutlery, sauce pots… monbento are a great place to start!

For the parent: build a fabulous rainbow picnic hamper from the amazing Re-play range – and they are so reasonable you could even manage a small hamper under the £20 mark!

For the commuter: Help them while away the train journey with some brainteaser puzzles from the Goki range, or a Grimms magnetic puzzle for the ultimate in compact open-ended “play”. Add an insulated flask for their mid-journey cuppa and a bar of chocolate as a treat!

International Dot Day – mark-making with your child

Mark-making is your child’s first step towards handwriting and drawing. It’s important for motor skills but also for creativity and imagination – with a pencil in their hand a child is no longer limited to the realms of reality, and anything is possible!

mark-making crayons

Mark-making can begin as soon as your child is able to sit up in a high-chair unaided. Early mark-making ideas include hand-prints using finger paints, encouraging your child to draw in yoghurt on their high-chair tray, and drawing in sand, in a sand pit or on the beach. Mark-making activities can be great sensory opportunities, as a child explores the squidginess of finger paints, the graininess of sand, the scratchiness of chalk on a pavement, the sweep of a paintbrush on an easel, the swoosh of a marker pen on a whiteboard… Try:

FIRST MARKS

  • Using fingerpaints tomake handprints
  • Drawing patterns in yoghurt in your baby’s high chair tray and encouraging them to copy

TODDLERS/PRESCHOOLERS

  • Dot painting, using fingerpaints to create a pattern or pictures – leaves on a tree are always beautiful, or dots on a dalmation, patterns on a butterfly’s wings… you draw the outline and let them fill in the colours
  • Once your toddler has a fist grip they can use crayons or even pens, pencil crayons or paintbrushes, under supervision, to create art.
  • Encourage them to paint both on flat surfaces like the table and upright surfaces – an easel is great, but if you don’t have one, tape paper onto a window or door (if your paints are non-washable tape newspaper underneath first).
  • Chalk pavement drawing is always a hit.
  • Paint splatters can be made by dipping scraps of fabric into paint and throwing them onto a piece of paper on the floor.
  • Screwed up waste-paper can be used for printing.
  • Carve shapes out of halved potatoes to make simple prints (we did this with our preschoolers to tie in with dinosaur and wild animal topics, which they loved!)
  • Blow art is very popular with children who are old enough to understand the importance of not sucking paint through the straw! You can drop poster paints onto paper and blow them outwards, or add watercolour paint to washing-up liquid in a shallow container, blow bubbles then print the image onto paper by laying it on top.

PRESCHOOLERS – INTRODUCING LETTERS

  • Fill a tray with rice or lentils and encourage your child to use a finger to draw letters.
  • Easy-grip pencils are both practical, encouraging them by making it easier to hold the pencil, and exciting, as they are pencils of their vey own.
  • Encourage them to label their art with their own name.
  • Copying simple words to describe their art is also a good way to introduce writing.

AUTUMN FRUIT MARK-MAKING

Autumn is a great time of year to look to nature for mark-making resources. On the simplest level, you can collect blackberries or elderberries, place them between two pieces of fabric or paper, and squash or even hammer them to make fruit splats.

You can also squash berries with a little water to make paint, which can be painted with brushes or fingers.

Food-based activities are great for both weaning children, as they also encouarage them to explore texture, and “mouthers” of any age, as they can mark-make without worry if any finds its way into their mouths!

RESOURCES

Yes Bebe stock a fabulous range of art resources including my favourites, Crayon Rocks!

Raising book lovers – some tips

book shelf reading

Have you seen the new Books category on the Yes Bebe website yet?

Surely every parent – Mr Wormwood aside perhaps – wants their child to grow up loving books? Most of us start reading to our children when they are very young – still babies, or even still in the womb. We have favourite children’s books from our own childhoods that we want to share, and build memories around new favourites as our children grow up. Books are magical for parents and children alike, and quite capable of creating lifelong bonds between parents, grandparents, siblings – families.

But there are also many obstacles to reading that can derail all our best intentions as our children grow up. Here are some tips I’ve found useful for helping us all to raise book-loving children.

Tip 1: Perseverance.

Some children simply don’t have the attention span to sit through a story. I know my twins struggled through most of their toddler and preschool years with this. But I ploughed on regardless, reading aloud even while they wandered off, fidgeted, fiddled and even fought! The day finally arrived that they sat still through whole books. This summer, at 5-and-a-half year’s old, we have moved on to short chapter books, and they sit mesmerised while my husband reads to them every night.

Likewise, researchers are beginning to recognise the importance of continuing to read with our children, even after they are old enough to read by themselves. Older children continue to learn how to pronounce words and how to use context to decipher them if we continue to read longer, more difficult books with them. You can take turns to read with them if you prefer, but shared reading past school age is a great way to help your children become lifelong book lovers!

book reading creatimber

Tip 2: MAKE time.

Sometimes, despite our best intentions, it can seem impossible to find the time to read together. It’s so easy to get caught up in every day chores that run into bedtime and realise we’ve got through the whole day without finding time to read with our kids. By making time to read – and making it clear that you are making the effort to MAKE time – you are telling your children that reading is important. You are also telling them that they are important to you, which is equally important!

Tip 3: its not just about bedtime.

A bedtime story is a brilliant place to start reading with kids. It sets them a lifelong pattern of reading before bed, which is doubly important now that our lives are spent staring into our devices. Did you know that the blue light thrown out by devices actually disrupts sleep, and that you will sleep far better if you spend at least 30 minutes before bed device free? You’ll sleep even better if your devices are in a separate room and so can’t disrupt your natural sleep patterns whenever they flash…

But it’s important to also read with your kids at other times. Next time your child announces they are bored, suggest that they look at a book with you rather than switching on the TV or tablet. Next time you go out to a restaurant, take a book to read while you are waiting for your food to arrive rather than relying on your phone. Next time they ask you a question, suggest you look for the answer together – in a book. Reading is not only about stories, and literacy is not just about reading for pleasure. Make sure your child has access to a range of age appropriate factual books that they can consult as well as fiction options.

Tip 4:  Lead (or read) by example

How often do your kids see you reading? Do you consult books for recipes? Do you make time to read yourself? Evidence suggests that children who see their parents read for pleasure are more likely to grow up reading for pleasure themselves. A more literate home will generate more literate children – and literacy can be as simple as looking up words in the dictionary, hand-writing shopping lists on a notepad and having a bookshelf full of well-loved, well-read books. Simply put, parents who want their children to grow up to love books, need to demonstrate their own love of reading.

Bonus tip: kids will be kids

book, story sack reading

If, like me, you love books, it can be tempting to want to look after them, to keep them pristine. And children do need to learn to respect books, with simple rules like not writing or drawing on book pages set out from the start. But it is also important that your kids can get hands-on with books. Let your kids PLAY with books; incorporate them into play scenes and story sacks and accept that they will get chewed, ripped, possibly lost… Book nooks, likewise, are great, but integrating books into life in general is even better!

If there is a book you really love from your own childhood, or that was a treasured gift from a friend or relative, keep it out of reach and read it with your child. But if your child loves A Squash and a Squeeze, The Dinosaur or Eggs for Benedict, make sure those favourite books are available and accessible from an early age. If you really want to make sure you have a copy of Moon for your child to hand on to their own kids, buy a second copy to keep on a high shelf!

Our Zero-Waste journey

A zero-waste week post.

It was Christmas last year that the sheer volume of waste we produce as a family really hit me. Everything we bought seemed to be wrapped in pointless plastic. I had received parcel after parcel from the postman and had more parcel bags than I could ever imagine reusing, and a brown bin overflowing with corrugated cardboard… We missed the last bin collection before New Year and I lost it:

“That’s it! We’re going zero waste!”
“Ok. What’s that?” asked my ever-patient husband.
“I don’t exactly know. But we’re going there.”

And so our 2018 resolution was born. We’ve always been environmentally aware – we’ve used cloth nappies with all 3 kids, buying our first bin bag-full of preloved TotsBots back in 2012 when I was pregnant with the twins. I had previously made our own soap, dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent, because until I found Yes Bebe I couldn’t find anything in this category that would keep the family acceptably clean without potentially damaging the wider eco-system. I started growing my own “organic” fruit and veg in 2012 before I fell pregnant, and believed from the start in using our dishwashing and bath water to water the plants – something I could not do with popular or supermarket brands of soap or detergent. Not to mention that my kids and husband are all somewhat sensitive to fragrance and start sneezing if they so much as smell commercial laundry powders (a problem I never have with Violets)…

But until this year I had sort of accepted plastic as a necessity of modern life. I hadn’t really thought about what happened to it after I had finished with it – we threw it in the recycling and it got recycled, right? I had no idea about the limitations of plastic recycling, had never thought about microplastics or microfibres getting into the water table.

one green bottle zero-waste

Once Christmas was over I started planning our next steps in earnest. I ordered a family of OGBs from Yes Bebe, alongside a couple of stainless steel lunchboxes for the sole purpose of bringing food home from the butcher’s. I found out which milkman delivered locally and started booking in regularly. We made a chart and stuck it on our fridge, writing in where we found plastic-free alternatives or which brands were plastic-free. We also made a note of those who had plastic packaging hidden inside a cardboard box, or even used plastic-lined paper which looked like waxed but, in fact, wasn’t (I’m looking at you, Weetabix!)

We also made a note of which products were proving difficult or even impossible to source. Cheese remains a problem, and I have been known to go to the cheese counter in local supermarkets and buy an entire waxed wheel to avoid having to buy pre-packaged portions. Yoghurt we overcame by making it ourselves; a simple if slow process (although slow does not mean time-consuming or labour-intensive – there’s just a lot of leaving it to do its thing!). Bread, we also found difficult, as all our local bakeries bag theirs up before it hits the shop floor – but we overcame this by investing in a bread machine which we use EVERY DAY and fills the house with the most inviting smell.

Fresh fruit and veg are bought weekly from our local greengrocer, who has become accustomed to me turning up with my own produce bags and has even reintroduced paper bags as an option after a conversation we shared back in spring. Meat is bought from the farm shop where we not only take our own containers, but are greeted with a blackboard that tells us exactly how few miles our meat has travelled before we buy. Double cream and creme fraiche are bought in glass jars, and frozen fruit and veg are bought out of huge chest freezers, scooped into our own containers each week.

One thing we really miss out on is a zero-waste bulk-buy shop where we might source wholegrains, pulses, rice, pasta etc. Before we went plastic-free we ate a lot of wholegrains – brown rice, wholewheat pasta and so forth… As we have been unable to source plastic-free carbs, we compromise by buying in the largest quantities we can. Unfortunately, all the bulk bags I have been able to find have contained white pasta and white rice – a little better for the planet but far worse for our guts! This is top on our list of things to tackle in coming months.

bok

And what of our other waste? We are lucky that our council offer a really good recycling service which includes paper, cardboard, all cans/tins and glass. They don’t take plastic bags or batteries, which we instead take to recycling points at the supermarket ourselves, or any food waste, which we have plenty of with a toddler in the house! So we compost what we can, and bokashi the rest! I LOVE bokashi – being able to put all that food waste back into our garden and knowing that it is benefitting the vegetable patch is a great comfort to me, and almost displaces the guilt I feel at wasting that food in the first place…

We still have a LONG way to go to become truly zero-waste, but I do feel we’ve come along way already this year. And although it is true that businesses themselves need to start playing their part in caring for the planet, I believe it still matters what choices we make as individuals. For me, going zero-waste is about more than just cutting down on plastic. It’s about slowing down in everything that we do. It’s about stepping outside of the convenience bubble and recognising the constraints that “convenience” places upon us – and the freedom inconvenience offers in its place. It’s about reconnecting with everything from the earth to our children. And it’s about getting back a sense of perspective with regards to what really matters, the cycle of life and living, the holistic nature of existence. For me personally, going zero-waste began as a back-lash against commercialism that I suppose I often feel immediately after Christmas, but has become something much more spiritual. It has become a path back to who we are and where we fit in the world. And it matters!

Household chemicals and marine toxicity

lanka kade dolphins and grimms

David Atttenborough’s legacy will be huge.

The Blue Planet effect has made the whole world sit up and pay attention to the plight of our marine life. There really is no defense left for humanity’s reliance on single-use plastics purely for the sake of convenience. But there is another inconvenient truth that we’re all ignoring, and that is that it isn’t all about plastic. Sure, plastic bags, plastic bottles, disposable nappies and santiary products are a threat. But so too are microplastics in our bathroom products, and the chemicals we clean ourselves and our houses with every day.

So what can we do? It comes down to our choices.

Problem #1: Disposable nappies

Disposable nappies are made using an assortment of natural and chemical components. Petrochemical plastics (polythene and polypropylene) and wood pulp (bleached) are the main components: although the majority of manufacturers are pretty cagey about much else, typical listings include  sodium polyacrylate, dyes, perfumes, and dioxins. Dioxins are a by-product of the pulp-bleaching process that the World Health Organisation identifies as extremely toxic. TBT (Tributyltin) found in some nappies on sale in the UK and the US, is identified as extremely harmful to aquatic life and does not degrade. These chemicals may not be dangerous to our kids on a single nappy basis – the TBT found in a single nappy may not be harmful to ocean-life either – but the 8 million nappies sent to landfill EVERY SINGLE DAY in the UK alone might add up to something substantially more dangerous…

Solution: Choose real nappies

Problem #2: Laundry

Laundry is one of those daily chores we’d all rather have less of (although I may be one of the few people who finds hanging out the washing a great opportunity for a moment of mindfulness and folding laundry strangely therapeutic!) For some of us, the search for laundry products that don’t inflame sensitive skin leads us to natural alternatives early on. But even those of us who can cope with more synthetic chemical formulas could take into account the effects of those chemicals on the environment. According to the FPS for Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment, detergents are at least partly responsible for eutrophication of rivers; the decline of coastal plants subjected to polluted spray; and the disturbance of aquatic organisms. As a result of detergents released into the waterways, fish and invertebrates can’t find adequate oxygen and die by asphyxiation. When not treated fully in water treatment plants, the surfactants in detergents affect the natural defences of these organisms (their skin, scales, shell, walls of the plants or the bacteria) against chemical substances and pathogens. And some surfactants such as ethylene glycol disrupt the hormonal system of aquatic animals.

Solution: Buy natural laundry and detergent products

Problem #3: Laundry again

Laundry again because it is actually a major issue: beyond the effect of our detergents on the oceans, there’s the effect of all those microplastics released in every load of synthetic clothing. Research from Plymouth University in 2017 suggests that washing 6kg of clothes can result in anything between 137,951 fibres (for polyester-cotton clothes) to 728,789 fibres (for acrylic clothes) released as oceanic pollution. These microfibres are too small to be caught in the sewage treatment works, and usually end up ingested by fish larvae and ultimately in our food chain. Yum!

Solution: Buy organic clothing

Problem # 4: Microbeads

Microbeads were banned in the UK in January of this year, meaning that we can rest assured we are no longer releasing microplastics into our oceans when we scrub, clean or exfoliate, right? Well, sort of… the UK, like the US, introduced a ban of microbeads in “rinse-off” products. That means that they are still used in products that are NOT expected to be rinsed off – including suncreams, where they act as barriers to reflect harmful rays, and make-up, for their light-reflecting properties. Nano-particles are also exempt from the ban and remain present in household cleaning products, amongst others. “Sunspheres”, particles of 0.0003 mm that are put in sunscreens, can be present in quantities of between 10 and 100 trillion particles in one single product.

Solution: Avoid products containing microbeads

Problem #5: Sunscreen

Sunspheres aside, sunscreen is a major player in marine pollution on a chemcal level too, to the point that many coral reef parks, eco-resorts and swin-with-the-dolphins aquariums now insist on reef-friendly sunscreens from a pre-approved list. An estimated 25 per cent of the sunscreen ingredients we apply end up in the water. Chemicals including oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, octisalate, avobenzone and homosalate have been identified as especially harmful for eco-systems, making coral more susceptible to bleaching, deforming baby coral (causing it to encase itself in its own skeleton and die) and degrading its resilience to climate change. Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3, BP-3), found in over 3500 sunscreens, is also harmful to algae, sea urchins, fish and mammals, showing amongst other things to disrupt their hormones.

Solution: Buy marine-friendly sunscreen

Non-plastic = ocean fantastic

  • Between 5m and 13m tonnes of plastic leaks into the oceans each year
  • By 2050 the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight
  • Those who eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 pieces of microplastic a year

(Source: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation)

We all know plastics are bad for the oceans, and we all know that refusing a plastic bag at the checkout or a straw at the bar can help us do our bit for marine life. But what if we want to do more? Here are some simple swaps to help you save even more plastic from going to landfill…

Plastic-free bathroom:

plastic-free, deodorant

Deodorant

Organic Confidence deodorant shuts down odor causing bacteria with baking soda and organic coconut oil. It is gentle, effective and made using USDA-certified organic ingredients. But most importanty, it comes in a recycleable paper tube. No more plastic containers going to landfill, breaking down into microplastics and leaching into the water table, and eventually polluting our oceans.

Bamboo toothbrushes 

Did you know that every plastic toothbrush you have ever used still exists somewhere? It’s a horrible thought! Bamboo toothbrushes like those by Hydrophil are far better for everyone. For the little ones, these biodegradable and compostable Jack N Jill toothbrushes are a great alternative. For plastic-free floss, give Georganics a try.

plastic-free periodCloth Sanitary Protection 

Approximately 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million sanitary towels are flushed down the toilet in the UK every single day. (Statistics from in the Journal of the Institution of Environmental Sciences.) When you consider that each pad can take 500 years to break down – and by “break down” we mean disintegrate into microplastics – and the average woman will use 11,000 in her lifetime, you get an insight into just how big a problem this is. It’s now easy to have a plastic-free period by opting for eco-friendly alternatives.

Plastic-free nursery:

Cloth nappies and wipes

baba + boo tree frog nappyIt is true that the laundering of cloth nappies has a carbon footprint. But it is now widely acknowledged that this is a drop in the ocean when compared to the environmental costs of producing and disposing of disposables. The production of disposables alone uses 3.5 times more energy, 8.3 times more non-renewable resources, and 90 times more renewable resources than real nappies. The average nappy takes between 250 and 500 years to degrade, all the while seeping microplastics, bacteria and harmful chemicals into our earth and oceans. As for wipes – which also contain plastic, by the way – in 2017 they came in at #7 in the top ten items found by beach-cleaners. This is a very real problem.

All seem like good reasons to invest in real nappy alternatives!

plastic-free badger balm

Plastic-free nappy changes

Badger Balm Chamomile and Calendula balm contains no  harsh chemicals, synthetics, fragrance, parabens, GMOs, or anything else you wouldn’t want on a baby! AND it comes in a tiny tin with a cardboard sleeve – no plastics in sight!

Plastic-free toybox:

More and more of us are switching to choose open-ended wooden toys, and for good reason – they are better for our children’s development, encouraging imaginative play and discovery through exploration, building resilience and critical-thinking. But there are also environmental considerations at play here. In North America, 90% of toys are plastic and the majority are simply not recyclable, so destined for landfill. There are exceptions to these: Green Toys are made from 100% recycled plastics with replacement parts readily available to ensure your already-recycled toys will last as long as possible.

Wooden toys are often more costly than plastic toys, but in my experience, they also last longer on two levels: 1) As heirloom pieces, that can be boxed up and kept for future generations without any fear that the plastics will be degrading when they are next put to play; and 2) As cross-age, even cross-generational pieces that can be played with by, for example, my 1-year-old, my 5-year-olds, my teenaged niece and myself, alike! While I found our plastic toys were quickly boxed up and put away as soon as they were “no longer age-appropriate”, our Grimms, Grapat and Raduga Grez are permanently out and consistently played with. So many brands  – Ocamora, Black’s Toys, Gluckscafer to name a few – produce amazing open-ended toys that won’t lose their play value as long as your children have imagination. Even my autistic spectrum son, who has struggled in the past with “imaginative” play loves the order of creating a mandala with grapat pieces, or building with the rainbow pieces, and now creates whole playscapes with boundless imagination. SHOP TOYS

Plastic-free everywhere!

BYOB: Reusable drink bottles

The average person in the UK will use 150 single use water bottles every year – that’s 13 billion each year to be chucked away. But how do they end up in our oceans? Well, they are quite light, so often get blown into streams and rivers, which naturally lead to the sea. Our landfills are overflowing, increasing the potential for lighter plastics to “escape” this way. Much of our plastic used to be shipped to China to be recycled in poorly-organised recycling plants, providing opportunity for yet more “lost” bottles, either on the open oceans or into the waterways at the far end, where it is now thought much of the plastic sent to be recycled was, in fact, incinerated or dumped.

That’s where reusable drinks bottles can really make a difference. There’s one for every pocket and one for every style, and if you are looking for an entirely plastic-free option – there’s one for you too!

World Breastfeeding Week 2018: Day 3

Today marks day 3 of World Breastfeeding Week 2018. To celebrate breastfeeding in all its forms, we asked the people of Babble to share their stories. Here are introductions to the journeys of real mothers and links to the full stories. More to follow tomorrow.

Jemima: Boobing with a Bump

I’ve always wanted kids, I think I’ve always wanted to breastfeed but I don’t remember ever giving it much thought. I was very lucky when I had Luna that she took to it quite well after a difficult first few days (she was too tired to suckle/didn’t know how so we did a few guiltless formula top ups) and then getting over the initial nipple pain. I have loved feeding her so far and have always been happy to do so when out and about and don’t think I’ve had any negative reactions, or if I have I haven’t noticed it. There have been some issues, mostly when I’m hormonal (super painful nipples) or when she’s teething and forgets how to latch properly (super painful nipples…!!) read more…

Marissa: Happy Mum = Happy Baby

I am originally from Sri Lanka where breastfeeding is considered the norm (Sri Lanka is ranked in the top 23 countries on global breastfeeding rates) so when I got pregnant with my first baby I knew that I would try my best to breastfeed him from day one. I had seen my own mum, aunts, cousins and a lot of extended family breastfeed their babies and toddlers when I was growing up in Sri Lanka and expected it to be smooth sailing from day one. What I wasn’t prepared for was the endless feeds during the first few weeks of my son’s life, the cracked nipples and slow weight gain. I would be lying if I said that I enjoyed breastfeeding during the first few weeks after giving birth. The shock of having to suddenly be completely responsible for a new life and the physical and psychological healing process after child birth definitely threw me off guard. Add breastfeeding to the mix of things and it really took its toll on me. However, I do not regret for a minute that I breastfed my little one because I knew that from day one I was giving him the best possible nutrition for his little body and brain to grow. read more…

Saara: My Breastfeeding Story

During pregnancy I had assumed that I would breastfeed. The mantra is always ‘Breast is best’ and you are bombarded with this as a mother to be. Of course I wanted to do what was perceived as best for my child.

My beautiful son decided to make an unexpectedly early arrival; nearly 5 weeks in fact and from the moment he came out he was not interested in breastfeeding at all. read more…

More will follow tomorrow, 4th August. Please stay tuned to read the stories!

Part of the Yes Bebe breast feeding series for World Breastfeeding Week 2018: read more>>

Twin peaks: my experience of tandem feeding twins

Part of the Yes Bebe breast feeding series for World Breastfeeding Week 2018: <<read more>>

Premature

twins, premature, kangaroo cuddles, skin-to-skinMy twins were born at 34 weeks by emergency c-section. My husband got to hold twin A (Hal) while twin B (Conall) tried in vain to escape the consultant’s clutches and hide under my ribs. While Hal wanted out, Conall was definitely not ready to be born yet, a fact which became even clearer when he began to struggle to breathe. He was whipped off to the NNU and straight onto breathing apparatus without my even glimpsing his face. Hal followed shortly afterwards, and it would be almost 36 hours before I’d get to see either of my boys again.

I tell you this because I genuinely believe it affected my breastfeeding journey. The lack of instant physical bond was a barrier that would prove difficult to overcome. Being 6 weeks premature, the twins’ sucking reflex was not strong enough to breastfeed, neither were their tongues strong enough to initiate latch. A few weeks down the line we would overcome this with the help of nipple shields, an aid I know gets a lot of bad press, but which were the lynchpin factor that enabled me to fulfil my ambition to feed them at all.

Guilt, self-blame and NHS angels

twins, incubator, neonatal, tube-feedingWhen your babies are struggling in the NNU/NICU/PICU there can be a surprising amount of pressure on you to change the way you feel about feeding. I always hoped to breastfeed my twins, but the NNU staff’s priority was not actually to adhere to my wishes, but to care for my babies – for which I will be eternally gratfeul. So when, 3 days later, my milk still hadn’t come in and my twins were still incubated and tube-feeding, they decided to top them up with formula. I hated it. I felt desperately guilty and blamed myself and my body for failing them.

Later that night, while sobbing inconsolably at 4am, I was approached by the Ward Sister. There had been a staff change the previous evening and as I had been crying non-stop for several hours, she had left me to the very end of her rounds so that she could spend a little time with me. She asked me what was the matter. I showed her the tiny syringe of colostrum I had managed to produce, tinged brown by my blood. She asked me when I had last slept through the night. I explained that I was waking every three hours to attempt to pump, as had been recommended. She asked when I had last had painkillers or a meal. I explained that I hadn’t, as both mealtimes and drug rounds clashed with feeding times in the NNU, when I was able to enjoy kangaroo cuddles with my boys in an attempt to forge that skin-to-skin bond.

She brought me a sandwich, knocked me out with morphine and woke me 8 hours later. My milk came in that afternoon. Her name was Dawn and I will never forget what she did for me: I felt – and feel – that she was the dawn breaking after my darkest hour.

Compromise

After that, things became a little easier. It would still be 3 weeks before I could get the twins to latch at all, and a further week before we could wean them off bottle top-ups (of expressed milk at this point). In fact, we later returned to bottle top-ups when we hit upon the compromise that was combi-feeding. On the consultant’s advice -and under the threat that my boys would be returned to the NNU if their weight gain didn’t improve – we topped the boys up at bedtime with formula, to increase their strength and allow my body the chance to recover from feeding two hungry babies all day, and on the health visitor’s advice, to give me the chance of more than 20 minutes’ continuous sleep. For me, this combination feeding was the optimum option for mine and my babies’ needs at that moment. While the romantic idea of tandem feeding two babies at once certainly manifests on occasion, if you follow on-demand feeding it is simply not the norm, at least in my experience. The majority of the time one twin is simply not interested in feeding at the crucial moment, and you end up with a sort of tag-team routine of one-on, one-off! After 4 months of that routine I sorely needed a solid hour’s sleep if I was ever going to be the mother that they deserved!

brelfie, breastfeeding, selfie, feedingAs for the nipple shields: Conall was crying for a feed at a hospital appointment one day, and I thought I’d just try him once more without to see if it would quieten him down while we waited – and he simply latched. Hal never managed to feed without his, and when my youngest was diagnosed with posterior tongue tie last year, the midwife took one look into his mouth, Hal’s mouth and my husband’s and proclaimed they all had it, which possibly explains why…

Feeding the Stigma

There’s a lot of stigma attached to the way we choose to feed our babies – and parent in general – and I think it’s such a shame. I read widely about the benefits of breastfeeding, and decided it was right for me. I wasn’t unrealistic about it – when people asked whilst pregnant about my plans (and they did – even the random elderly lady on the train!), I would answer that I hoped to breastfeed if possible. I know that some people are unable to do so, for medical reasons, and others choose not to. My choice to breastfeed is not a comment on anyone else’s choice either way. For me, it was practical – no sterilising bottles, no leaving one baby to scream whilst another feeds – and economical, the cost of buying double the formula, unthinkable. I also believe wholeheartedly in the health benefits of breastfeeding. The data is, to my mind, unequivocal. But that doesn’t mean I believe those offering formula alone are failing their babies in any way.

As parents we all do the best we can in any given moment. With the twins, combi-feeding allowed me the time and energy to actually enjoy them on occasion, to sing nursery rhymes or play with them in moments that I would otherwise have been a breastfeeding zombie. With my third (now 16 months), I have exclusively breastfed from day 1 and will continue to until he self-weans. But however you feed your babies, whatever choice you make, you should feel proud of you. If you are breastfeeding on-demand, day and night, through all those peaks and troughs and 24+ hour growth spurts – you go mama! If you are getting out of bed every 2 hours to wash and sterilise bottles and mix formula – kudos to you! I know that you, just like every parent out there, are doing the very best you can to give your baby the very best start in life. And as a fellow parent, sharing all the joys and pain of living every single day responsible for one or more wonderful-but-demanding tiny people, I say good on you. Good on us!