10 tips to have an eco-friendly Christmas this year

If every family took a few very small, simple steps to care for the environment this Christmas, the cumulative effect would be massive.

10 tips to have an eco-friendly Christmas this year

It's no secret that the holiday season can feel overrun with consumption—and it's not just your bank account that suffers. Buying gifts for everyone on your list, cooking an excess of food, even just hosting parties... those things can put quite a strain on our environment, especially when you consider how many people are celebrating the season in the very same way.

It's a tough issue because we certainly deserve the celebrate the most wonderful time of year, but we also want to mindful while doing so. But here's what we say: If every family took a few very small, simple steps to care for the environment this Christmas, the cumulative effect would be massive. It's not about being perfect, it's about taking little steps where you can.

So here are 10 very simple, incredibly easy ways you can look out for planet Earth this year.

1. Opt for a Secret Santa gift exchange

Buying gifts for each and every one of your loved ones may not be the way to go. Shopping for so many people is exhausting, expensive, and it's not exactly easy on the environment. Instead, reduce your consumption by implementing a secret Santa instead. That way, everyone in your family is buying fewer gifts (which means less packaging and fewer resources used). The best part? If each person is only responsible for buying on gift, that allows them to put more energy into selecting something that's truly thoughtful and appropriate for the recipient.

2. Shop in person

Shopping online may be the most convenient way to snag gifts, but it takes a major toll on the environment when you factor in what it takes to package and transport orders. Now, we're not saying you have to banish online shopping entirely (we know how much of a lifesaver this is for a busy mama!). But, if you make an effort to get out and shop for as many gifts as possible in person, that'll go a long way. Obviously, this is tougher if you live in a more remote location, but seeking out local stores can be a great way to reduce that negative impact on our environment.

3. Give gifts that promote day-to-day consciousness

Consider using this holiday season as a chance to give a gift that keeps on giving. Give the coffee lover in your life a reusable mug made with sustainable materials. Gift a pretty water bottle and encourage your recipient to use that every day instead of constantly buying bottled water. Give cute tote bags for the ladies in your life to use while running errands or shopping instead of asking for bags in-store. Pick up an e-reader for someone who adores books. Get creative here—the point is to promote day-to-day habits that benefit the environment.

4. Go unwrapped

We all love a beautifully wrapped holiday gift, but using tons of wrapping paper isn't super green. We suggest hosting an "unwrapped" holiday if you're looking to reduce this effect, or using paper you already have around the house to do your wrapping. And think of how much less cleanup will be required if you go this route!

5. Put Christmas lights on timers

No, we're not going to suggest forgoing Christmas lights entirely (of course, if you want to that's great, but we know how treasured this tradition is for many families). There is a simple way to enjoy gorgeous lights in a more environmentally-friendly way, though: Consider putting your lights on timers. That way, they won't use up energy all the time.

6. Go card-free

Consider encouraging family members to skip the sweet cards that accompany their gifts. We love reading them too, but we can't deny the environmental impact of using so much paper. An alternative idea? Ask members to write holiday emails instead... after all, we always seem to lose cards, and email is forever. You may even consider sending out a virtual family holiday card instead of printing one as well.

7. Turn consciousness into a family activity

The best thing you can do for the planet? Instill healthy habits in the next generation. That's why we love the idea of building a holiday tradition around consciousness. Think: A family trip to drop off recycled goods, a family contest where kids are rewarded for environmentally-friendly acts, or donating to an environmental charity as a family.

8. Implement a plastic-free policy

Commit to going plastic-free if you're hosting an event. Break out real plates and utensils, avoid plastic ornaments, and make sure none of the gifts you choose contain the material.

9. Ask family members what they really want

Unwanted gifts aren't just a bummer, they also create unnecessary waste. Instead, encourage your family members to come clean about what they really hope to see under the tree. But giving people gifts of their choosing, you reduce the chance that they'll discard the gifts.

10. Give experiences, not things

Ultimately, accumulating more stuff isn't great for the planet. That's why we love the idea of gifting experiences instead of material things. Concert tickets for your kids, a spa day for a fellow mama, a meal delivery gift card to the expectant parents... giving something that can be experienced allows you to take another step towards consciousness this holiday season.

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    The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

    Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

    Conz Preti

    Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

    This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

    Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


    Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


    Belly oil

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Oil

    Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

    $58

    Belly mask

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

    Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

    $42

    Nipple + lip ointment 

    HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

    Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

    $28

    Belly tattoos

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

    A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

    $18

    This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

    The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

    We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

    All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

    And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


    Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

    Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

    Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

    Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

    When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

    Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

    Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

    You've got this.

    Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

    The Motherly Birth Class

    pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

    Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

    $79

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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    BABYBJÖRN

    This post is sponsored by BABYBJÖRN. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


    Secret Agent play set

    Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

    $40

    Stepping Stones

    Stepping-stones

    Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

    $99.99

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

    $120

    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

    $30

    Sensory play set

    kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

    Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

    $19.95

    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Foam pogo stick

    Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

    $16.99

    Dumptruck 

    green-toys-dump-truck

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

    $22

    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

    $14.99

    Pull-along ducks

    janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $16.99

    Rocking chair seesaw

    Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

    $79.99

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

    $79.99

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

    $30

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    The ultimate back-to-school shopping list for busy moms

    Use this list to prep for the best first day ever!

    CasarsaGuru / Getty

    After spending a summer reconnecting with friends and family, enjoying the outdoors and (hopefully!) making time for vacation, it's time for kids to head back to school. They're ready to learn, grow and get out of your hair again! But they'll need some help to get there. Before the exciting first day of school, you'll need to get all the gear together to make school a success.

    As a parent, use this basic but essential school supply list to find everything your little ones need for their classes—even on a budget.

    Loose Leaf Paper

    Even though there won't be any tests or quizzes when school begins, kids take plenty of notes, complete assignments and do in-class exercises. Every student needs at least a few packets of loose-leaf paper for quick notes and doodles. Check with your child's school to find out if they require college ruled or wide ruled before you fill up your shopping cart — odds are they won't, but it's worth being sure.

    $4

    Personal Planner

    Your child will need a personal planner to kick off the school year and keep up with all of their assignments. It's an opportunity to invest in cute school supplies that motivate your kids every time they open their planners. Plus, planners help kids learn time management and responsible scheduling, which they can carry with them throughout their academic lives and into college and adulthood.

    $22

    #2 Pencils

    Most classes require #2 pencils because they show up easily on test bubble sheets that machines scan and grade. Add them to your child's school supply list before they sell out at local stores. A great deal on a large pack will likely last through the year.

    $10.29

    Black Ink Pens

    Teachers grade in red ink pens so their notes stand out as study tools. Your student should use black ink pens that don't bleed on the paper. Their work will stand out and never smudge if you use a tried-and-true brand that knows how to make a quality pen, like BIC.

    $4.47

    Highlighters in Different Colors

    Highlighters help students study if they outline notes in different colors. Get your child a pack so they have all the help they need for their study materials. If they're stressed about the tougher classwork, don't forget to break the tension with jokes that will put them at ease.

    $9.99

    Big Pink Erasers

    The erasers on the top of pencils won't last long in classes like calculus or trigonometry. Give your kids a backup by buying packs of big pink erasers. They last much longer and often do a better job of wiping mistakes away.

    $.99

    New Headphones

    Headphones are one of the school supplies kids can use to express themselves. They'll wear them while studying in the library or riding the bus so they can focus or relieve stress between classes.

    $16.99

    Lined Notebooks

    Notebooks are cute school supplies that students always need. The spiral-bound pages are easy to flip through and lightweight in a backpack. They even help with virtual classes because each subject can have a different notebook and further organize notes that assist with online tests.

    $3.19

    Three-Ring Binders

    Students collect their loose-leaf notes in three-ring binders because they snap everything shut and keep notes safe. Find back-to-school binders that match your child's personality so they can stack everything safely in their locker without bending or crushing papers.

    $16.95

    Locker Decorations

    Most kids love decorating their lockers when they start middle school or junior high. Add locker decorations to your school supply list so they can personalize their storage unit and feel more at home.

    $14.99

    New Lunch Box

    Spoiled food ruins the first day of school. But a dual-compartment lunch box ensures your child's food stays fresh throughout the day by designating a special section for an ice pack. Your purchase could also start a new tradition of getting a different lunch box when the school year begins, easing your kids' nerves about beginning a new grade.

    $12.99

    Upgraded Backpack

    It's always fun to get a new backpack. Let your kids pick one that matches their size and expresses their personality with characters, colors, or other prints.

    $31.96

    Colorful Markers

    Young kids might need help adjusting to virtual school or having fun during in-person classes. Colorful markers are an easy way for them to relax while doodling, and they'll likely be part of daily assignments for elementary school students.

    $3.49

    Reusable Water Bottle

    Drinking out of water fountains helps spread illnesses. Your kids can avoid flu season by carrying a reusable water bottle in their backpack. Let them pick out whichever one they want and they'll look forward to using it instead of drinking from public fountains.

    $29.95

    Calculator

    Every teenager needs a calculator when they go back to school. A TI-89 model assists with graphing functions and lasts throughout their academic careers. You won't have to buy another one if they keep it in its case between classes.

    $130.99
    Back to School Landing

    This is the biggest indicator of a kid’s happiness, according to recent survey

    Getting enough sleep made children twice as likely to report feeling happy lots of the time.

    Most parents know that sleep is important for children's wellbeing. Adults, and parents in particular, generally value sleep and know too well the way it affects our own emotional wellbeing when we don't get enough sleep. But how important is sleep to your child's happiness?

    The 2017 BTN Happiness Survey conducted by the University of Melbourne and Behind the News TV program involved 47,000 Australian children. It found that sleep was the biggest indicator of happiness—getting enough sleep made children twice as likely to report feeling happy lots of the time.

    “These results provide compelling evidence that sleep is a key indicator of child wellbeing," said Associate Professor Lisa Gibbs, the Chair of The University of Melbourne Children's Lives Initiative, in an interview with ABC News.

    Before you start getting anxious about whether your child gets the prescribed amount of sleep for their age, it's important to remember that children who sleep well tend to feel safe and secure. In the survey results, children who did not feel safe were four times more likely to have atypical sleep patterns, meaning they slept too much or too little for their age group.

    While the survey shows the importance of improving your child's sleep habits for their emotional wellbeing, it also continues to highlight the role of feeling safe and secure on general wellbeing. Helping children with anxiety, stress and trauma is important.

    The survey also found a range of things help children feel happy including family, friends, music and sports. Younger children were significantly more likely to report that family, reading and artwork were sources of happiness. Cooking and being in nature were also linked to feeling happy for girls. Boys were significantly more likely to report sports and computer games helped them feel happy. Pets were also identified by many children in all age groups and gender as a source of happiness.

    So, what can you do to improve your child's sleep?

    These are the tips I recommend in my clinical psychology practice that are based on the psychology of sleep and children's developmental needs:

    1. Provide a safe and secure relationship with your child

    Children who feel safe and secure generally have a good emotional bond with their parents. Find ways in each day to connect with your child. Spend time doing things with them and really noticing them. Repair ruptures that happen between you and your child as quickly as possible. Many a child has worried at night that their parent blames them for everything or doesn't like them anymore.

    2. Have a regular bedtime routine that supports good sleep habits

    Set bedtimes that are consistent with the amount of sleep your child needs help. Developing routines that prime children for bedtime helps too.

    For example children might know that every night after dinner they brush their teeth, play a game, and then have a story read with their parent prior to being tucked in to bed. These routines provide a sense of predictability which encourages a sense of safety and reduces children's anxiety about bedtime.

    3. Ensure your child gets enough physical activity 

    Moving your body is a helpful tool in encouraging sleep. It helps use up physical energy, but is also positively associated with the brain chemistry people need to manage stress and anxiety and sleep well. Most schools have some daily exercise program but children may need more than what is provided.

    4. Reduce exposure to technology two hours before bed

    In this every increasing technological world it is not uncommon that children spend significant amounts of time looking at screens. The portability of these devices means they often find their way into bedrooms. Screens emit blue light which can prevent production of melatonin. Melatonin production is necessary for falling asleep at the right time. By preventing access in the two hours before bed your child is more likely to go to sleep at the right time.

    5. Remove electronic devices, such as iPads, from your child's room at night

    Many electronic devices emit noises and have notifications that can occur at all times through the night and can wake your child up. Electronic devices are very tempting for children and many a sleepless child has been found on a device at night. When your child is exposed to blue light from these devices, it signals its daytime to your child's brain and is not conducive with going back to sleep.

    6. Ensure anxiety and past trauma are treated

    If your child is not sleeping due to anxiety or past trauma, seek treatment. Make contact with your doctor or community agency to work out what your child needs. Professional and specialized mental health help is best.

    Raising a happy child comes down to a combination of factors. Good sleep is just one of them.

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