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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.

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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.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're 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 toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

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

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden 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

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop 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.

$100

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

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

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

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.

$33

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.

$88

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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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

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

Life
International Network for Aid, Relief and Assistance (INARA)

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We're only a few months into the new year and there are already some new celebrity arrivals making headlines while making their new parents proud.

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