Thursday, May 30, 2019

"Greener" Parties

I've tried very hard in the last couple of years to reduce our single use products.  We use containers instead of plastic bags whenever possible, we use wash cloths instead of paper towels for most things, Archer is in cloth diapers, etc.  As I approached Archer's birthday party, I was looking for ways to minimize the amount of stuff leftover that would wind up in a landfill.  While we weren't perfect, here are some of the things I came up with to reduce waste.

Normally, I decorate for kids parties with balloons.  Instead, I decorated with paper pom poms and streamers.  The crepe paper itself is recyclable, plus I was able to use them for both the cake smash photo shoot and party decorations.
I also made this birthday banner out of card stock.  Since it is just primary colors, I can use it for other birthdays.  It is also recyclable when it gets too old.
I borrow a couple of six foot folding tables for the party.  Instead of disposable table cloths, I bought a couple of fitted twin bed sheets from Walmart. They were $5 each. I got navy, figuring it is neutral enough to go with lots of parties and dark enough to wash out well.
I realize that there are plenty of paper and bamboo party plates available.  I am always hesitant with products that claim to be biodegradable, because they generally are not in the anaerobic conditions of a landfill.  Instead, I purchased cheap BPA free plates from Walmart (yes, I've tried to eliminate plastic from our kitchen, but these will be washed by hand and only used a handful of times a year). While they cost more than paper plates, they still end up being less than a quarter each, so if they get tossed by accident, it won't break the bank. I'm figure that using them for parties and family gatherings over the years will make them pay for themselves compared to paper plates. We've already used them again since the party.

I put out this party tub for people to leave their plates in, as a reminder not to throw them away.
Silverware took a little thought.  I did not want to do disposable, but did not want any of my regular silverware set, that was my grandmother's, thrown away.  After brainstorming, my silverware solution is twofold.  I still have plastic silverware left over from old parties, so throwing that out seemed counterproductive.  I ended up putting that out and encouraging people to put it in the tub.  I figure I will wash them until they get broken.  Secondly, I found some mismatched silverware at a garage sale that I put out in cups.  My hope is to eventually collect a big set of designated party silverware from thrift shops. The nice thing about using real silverware, is it can go in the dishwasher!

Drink Containers:
At parties I used to buy bottles of water for adults and juice boxes for kids, in addition to soda and beer.  This time, I wanted to try to eliminate some of those containers.  I still purchased soda and beer, and provided a tub for recycling.
To replace the water bottles and juice boxes, I used these containers for water and lemonade (I already had them from past gatherings, so didn't have to purchase them special).  Once again, I had a little bit of trouble with the cups.  I had leftover disposable paper and plastic cups from old parties.  I decided to put both out, as well as some expo markers for people to mark their cups.  I figured people could throw away the paper cups and I could wash the plastic ones.  If the plastic ones got broken, at least I could recycle them. Once I run out of disposables, I think I could put out the stainless steel cups I have for the kids (and would like to get for my husband), as well as some reusable BPA free cups.  I have also heard of people having parties where everyone brings their own cups, although I'm not sure how I feel about that idea.
Party Favors:
Party favors at kids parties are tough.  A lot of times if you have a theme, there are all sorts of adorable themed favors available.  However, most of these are cheap plastic little toys that get used for about 30 seconds and then get thrown away.  I really try to avoid those types of toys in general (as you can tell by my toy lists).  On the other hand, there's no guarantee that what you do buy for party favors will be used.  It's kind of a gamble.  Anyway, for Archer's party I got these little knobby balls for the kids.  The held up well and my boys have loved all the leftovers.  Hopefully, the kids who took them home enjoy them as well! 
Wrapping Paper/Gift Cards:
So this one is tough because I can only control the wrapping paper and gift cards I use.  Wrapping paper/cards with any sort of plastic, glitter, foil or fabric cannot be recycled.  Neither can ribbon or bows.  Usually, I skip the gift card or have Xander make one out of cardstock.  I'm also trying to be a lot more conscious of buying paper and cards that are recyclable. I also save as many gift bags to reuse as possible.  If I'm giving a gift that is too oddly shaped to wrap, I try to give it in a reusable grocery sack.  That's all I can do for now.

Do you have any other ideas for avoiding single use party products?  I'd love to hear.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Books on the Shelf: Forest Animals

Here were last week's Books on the Shelf!
We decided to go with a Forest Animals theme.  Technically, we have more books we could have included, but ran out of room on the shelf. Forest Adventure was really the only one at Archer's level (kind of), but I did read him a few of the others and have him look at the pictures.  While he definitely has books he LOVES to read, I also try to do a lot of reading to him even while he is playing other things.  Xander also read some on his own.

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Monday, May 27, 2019

Flashcard Obsessed

Archer LOVES his Your Baby Can Read flashcards!  He knows where we keep them and will randomly bring me a set.  When we finish, he will go back to the bin and bring me another until we've done them all at least once.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Baby Sensory Play: Gel Bag

I've been trying to do more sensory play activities with Archer, which is challenging since EVERYTHING goes in his mouth.  Last month I shared the window paint bag we did. This was an adaptation.

I used a freezer bag and filled it with cheap hair gel.  I added some pony beads for interest.  Then I taped the top closed and taped it to the window.  You could definitely use it on a table or the floor, I was just trying to prevent Archer from trying to eat it. 
Which didn't work. 
While he enjoyed playing with the bag, he also saw the tape as a fun challenge.  He spent a lot of time trying to get it off the window.  Oh well, still good fine motor skills!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Books on the Shelf: Electricity and Magnetism

Here are last week's Books on the Shelf. Xander had been asking about electricity one night at dinner, so it seemed like the perfect time to pull out our books on electricity and magnetism.  I know he didn't read every book in its entirety, but I did see him reading a few of these throughout the week.  Since the whole goal is to increase the amount of our nonfiction he reads, that's enough to make me happy.
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Friday, May 17, 2019

11.5 Month Learning Shelves

Here are the learning shelves we had up for the last couple of weeks.  Archer was 11.5 months.

First, we had a little basket with shape beanbags.  The beanbags say the name of the shape in English on one side and in Spanish on the other. Both boys had fun throwing these around. Archer thought it was funny if I tossed them to him one at a time while I said the color and shape.
One shelf had this wooden mailbox.  This was one of those amazing garage sale finds, because it held Archer's attention for so long.  He liked putting all the stamps in and watching them fall down into the door.  He also likes opening and closing the door, and taking everything out of the mailbox.  As he gets older, it'll be easier for him to sort the letters.
Another shelf had our Treasure Basket.  It has lots of random objects with different shapes and textures.  Mostly he chews on them and throws them around the room.  Some things he tried to put in the mail box.
Another basket had these little shape sorting turtles.  Archer can't put them together yet, but he likes taking them apart.

I hadn't gotten out our little hedgehog in a while, so that was on another shelf.  I am never quite sure about this one, but Archer always really enjoys it.  He likes to take all the little spikes out.  He also likes to chew on them or just carry one around with him.

I also had out our disk sorter (this one is similar but much nicer). He liked taking all the disks off, but not actually putting them on.  I also found disks in random bins or shelves throughout the room.
When you're too tired to sit up but still want to play.  He just stayed on the floor pushing the disks behind himself.
The bottom shelf (I've learned not to put puzzles up high), had his house knobby puzzle.  It hadn't been all that long since we had it out, but this was the first time he was actually able to put some of the pieces in.
He also just held on to pieces while cruising around the room.
Finally, we had this Animal Talk book  and some Toob Animals to match.  This book has been a favorite for both boys.

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