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People have become increasingly aware in recent years that several of the most common home and personal care products pose dangers to people and our environment. With harmful chemicals either on the ingredient list or used to create these products, it’s easy to inadvertently put your family’s health at risk, as well as having a negative impact on the planet.


When considered individually, the dangers posed by such products might seem insignificant. But these things (and their toxicity) add up. Here are some of the regular products you should swap for their healthier alternative.

Insect repellent

Most insect repellents contain a worrisome chemical – the pesticide “DEET.” Scientists have found that DEET can cause damage to your central nervous system and impair functioning in parts of the brain resulting in problems with muscle coordination, muscle weakness, cognition, and memory. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, DEET has also been linked to seizures in children.

There are natural alternatives out there that can keep mosquitoes away and avoid damaging your child’s health. Lemon eucalyptus oil is the safest and most effective natural insect repellent. Several studies have found it to be as effective as DEET. It is even recommended by the CDC (Center For Disease Control and Prevention) as an alternative to DEET. Other natural repellents that contain neem oil, citronella oil, peppermint oil, and cinnamon oil are pretty effective and are especially safe for infants and children.

Switch to:  Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent or Ecosmart Organic Insect Repellent.

Toothpaste

Most conventional toothpastes contain sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), a detergent used to make the paste foam, has been linked to a number of health and environmental concerns. The manufacturing process releases volatile carcinogenic compounds into the environment. It’s also registered as an insecticide and has toxic effects on marine life. Finally, SLS can irritate the gums and cause recurring canker sores in those who are prone to them. 

Switch to: Natural and herbal toothpastes contain safe ingredients like mint and do not contain detergents, preservatives, or additives, making them better options for your family. Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint All-One Toothpaste is organic and detergent free. Another great option is Dr. Collins Natural Toothpaste.

Cotton

Cotton represents nearly half of all the fabric used worldwide. It is conventionally grown as a very pesticide-intensive plant. These chemicals not only eliminate pests but also their natural enemies and this interference with the ecosystem greatly reduces biodiversity.

Researchers have found that the fertilizers used to grow cotton are severely detrimental to the environment because they run off into freshwater habitats and groundwater and cause oxygen-free dead zones in water bodies. The nitrogen oxides formed during the production and use of these fertilizers also contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the agricultural sector.

Switch to: Choosing organic cotton ensures that you don’t compromise the environment and, in turn, your family’s health. Organic cotton farming eschews synthetic chemicals in favor of natural methods to ward off pests and maintain soil fertility. Naturapedic’s Organic Cotton Crib Sheets are a good and sustainable choice for your children. The Organic Trade Association can help you find other organic cotton products.

Hand sanitizer

You have bottles of it everywhere: in the bathroom, the kitchen, and even your diaper bag. The main ingredient in hand sanitizers is triclosan – which offers no benefit over soap and water. In contrast, research has shown that triclosan can disrupt the endocrine system, amplifying testosterone. It may also harm the immune system.

Switch to: A natural hand sanitizer can help protect the well-being of your children. When shopping for them, choose products that contain plant-based ingredients and essential oils. Hand sanitizers like EO Lavender Hand Sanitizer Gel and Honest Company Hand Sanitizer Spray are not only safer options, they smell wonderful, too.

Cleaning agents

Manufacturers of these kinds of products are not required by law to list the ingredients they use in making them – which makes choosing safe products a little more difficult. Several cleaning products commonly contain dangerous quantities of chemicals like 2-Butoxyethanol, which can cause kidney and liver damage, and chlorine which is poisonous and can negatively affect the lungs. By stocking natural cleaning products in your home, you no longer have to worry so much about your child accidentally getting ahold of them.

Switch to: J.R Watkins All-Purpose Cleaner rids your home of grime and dirt without using harsh toxins. Try Method Spearmint Antibacterial Toilet Cleaner, too.

Non-stick cookware

Chances are good that at least one of the pans in your home is non-stick. Regular non-stick pans are coated with polytetrafluoroethylene, which is also known as Teflon. The toxins released from Teflon pots and pans at high temperatures can cause flu-like symptoms (Teflon flu) in people exposed to it and can also kill pet birds. Teflon manufacturing also poses great risk to the environment and wildlife.

Switch to: Traditional cookware made of ceramic and stainless steel is the best option, but if you’re not willing to let go of the ease and convenience of non-stick products, GreenPan offers non-stick cookware made without Teflon.

Parent.co may receive compensation for items purchased via links within this post. 

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I had big plans to be a "good mom" this summer. There were going to be chore charts, reading goals, daily letter writing practice, and cursive classes. There would be no screen time until the beds were made, and planned activities for each day of the week.

Today was the first day of summer vacation and our scheduled beach day. But here's what we did instead: Lounged in our pj's until 11 am, baked the girl's pick, chocolate chip cookie brownies, started an art project we never finished, then moved to the pool.

It's so easy to be pressured by things we see on social. Ways to challenge our kids and enrich their summer. But let's be real—we're all tired. Tired of chores, tired of schedules and places to be, tired of pressure, and tired of unrealistic expectations.

So instead of a schedule, we're doing nothing this summer. Literally NOTHING.

No camps. No classes, and no curriculums.

Instead, we're going to see where each day takes us. I've dubbed this the "Summer of Me," so workouts and clean eating are a priority for me. And also giving our girls the freedom to pick what they want to do.

We may go to a local pool and check out the swimming programs. And we join the local YMCA. But whatever we do—it will be low key.

It will include family time, too much TV, a few trips, lots of sunshine, some new roller skates, water balloons, plenty of boredom, rest, relaxation, and reading. (Because mama likes to read!)

So if you haven't figured out what you're doing this summer, you're not alone. And guess what? It's OKAY! Your kids will be fine and so will you.

Originally posted on Kristen Hewitt's blog. Check out her post on 30 ways to have fun doing almost nothing this summer.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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When we consider all the skills our kids will need to succeed in the future, what comes to mind? Perhaps creativity, tech skills, or an excellent understanding of math might be at the top of many parents' lists. Social-emotional skills, like empathy, compassion, or the ability to understand another person's viewpoint may not be the ones you thought of right away, but deep down you know they matter.

We've all had those co-workers who didn't know how to listen to our ideas or friends who couldn't compromise with others. We know that in the work world and in our personal life, emotional skills are key to developing and maintaining healthy relationships.

If you are the parent of a toddler, you know that young children are inherently self-centered. It's not some faulty aspect of their character or a misstep of parenting skills. Young children simply do not have the brain maturity to consider another person's perspective or needs just yet—their brain physically is not ready to handle that kind of mental work.

However, child development research shows us that we can do a few things along the developmental path to help foster social-emotional skills in our kids. With a little help from us, our kids' brains can develop with meaningful connections that tune them into the feelings of others.

Here's how:

1. Treat others how you want your kids to treat others.

How we talk to our kids becomes their internal dialogue. We know from research that this goes for emotional skills as well. A recent study showed that when parents talk to their kids more about how other people might be feeling, the kids had better perspective-taking abilities—the ability to see a situation from another person's point of view.

This, of course, is the basis of many emotional skills, especially empathy. Just by talking about another person's feelings, kids begin to develop those crucial brain connections that help them develop empathy.

It's worth pointing out that very young children under ages 3-4 do not have the brain maturity to really understand another person's perspective. They lack a crucial skill that psychologists call Theory of Mind, meaning they can't understand the mind of another person.

However, our urgings and thoughtful phrasing to point out how another person might be feeling can only help them down this developmental path. Then, once their little brain matures, they will be in the habit of hearing and understanding the feelings of others.

2. Model positive emotional behavior in daily life.

It's probably not surprising to learn that how we react to our kids' feelings influences their emotional development. When your child gets upset, do you get angry or ruffled by their big emotions? We are all human, of course, so sometimes our kids' emotions are the exact triggers that fuel our big feelings, too. However, if we can remain the calm in the emotional storm for our kids, their development will benefit. Through modeling emotional regulation, over time our kids will learn how to self-regulate as well.

One study, in fact, showed that toddlers whose parents exhibited anger or over-reacted to tantrums were likely to have more tantrums and negative emotionality by the end of the study. However, the opposite dynamic can happen, too. Parents who model firm, but calm emotional regulation help their kids learn these skills as well.

3. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions.

Many times, we feel that one of our main jobs as a parent is to protect our children from the big, often overwhelming emotions of adults. For instance, we try not to break down crying or become red-faced with anger in front of our kids. It just feels too big for them to handle and perhaps not developmentally appropriate.

As they mature, however, older kids are able to handle a bit more discussion and expression of honest emotions. Have you noticed that kids usually pick up on the fact that you are upset even if you try to hide it? Kids are naturally curious and, many times, very sensitive to the emotional tenor at home. If they are developmentally ready, this can be a good time to have more discussions about emotions and how to handle them.

For example, my 9-year-old is playing a lot of baseball this summer and always wants me to pitch to him so he can practice batting. Now, I am not a very skilled player so my pitches often go off course or are too weak. He had gotten in the habit of correcting my pitching or (more likely) complaining about it every time we played.

After repeated experiences with this, I was not only annoyed but it also sort of hurt my feelings—so I finally told him how I felt. Guess what? His behavior at practice time changed dramatically! The mere fact of him realizing that his mom has feelings too really made him think about his words more carefully.

These types of interaction can become part of your "emotion coaching." It may sound silly but it can make a big impact for kids, especially as they grow older and are more able to really understand the emotional lesson. On some level, it's nice that our kids think we are superheroes, but it's also crucial that they understand that we are still human, with real feelings.

The magic of helping our kids develop empathy doesn't happen in well-planned lessons or elaborate activities. The real magic happens in the small, simple interactions and discussions we have with our kids each day.

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Sometimes it can feel like you never get a minute to even finish a thought—let alone a to-do list. When your day is packed with caretaking, your own needs get pushed back. So when you finally get to lie down at the end of the day, all those thoughts are waiting for you. While we haven't figured out the secret to keeping you from over-analyzing every.single.thing. (sorry, mama!), we do believe you must carve out time for you. Because that rest is just as important—and you've certainly earned it.

XO,

#TeamMotherly

PS: We spoke to Jessica Alba and she gave us the lowdown on why she stopped breastfeeding, and Nordstrom is having their anniversary sale until August 5th. Here's everything we want!

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