Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Tips On Safe Toys For Children Under Eight

Canada is a very safe place to live and raise children. And it keeps getting safer and safer. Statistically there are not as many drunk drivers anymore, and hardly anyone I know smokes nowadays.  But that trend toward safety isn’t happening in kid’s toys.

lean manufacturing in toy factory , South AmericaBuying toys comes with a lot of choices. There are so many considerations to make when purchasing play toys, especially those cheaper items that have been made and imported from all over the world. International companies have different assembly systems, lean manufacturing standards, distribution and marketing practices. When a kid’s toy in Chapters or Toys-R-Us carries a major label they are quick to respond to phone messages, emails and even tweets. But its much harder to hold a foreign company accountable, and many East Asian manufacturing centers won’t make any changes to their products until a scandalous incident blows up interest in mainstream media and there’s a ‘recall’ as happened when children became sick from lead poisoning from paint on toys.  African, Asian and South American companies, including Mexican companies are not on twitter yet.

stainless steel ice cube trays and popsicle molds are kid friendly toys for under 8 yrs oldWe need to be especially careful with the toys issued to children under eight years of age. Children in this developmental stage put things in their mouths all the time, and come in close contact with such items. There can be toxic side effects that alter the developmental progress of your child and effect their health. Often fancy toys are not always necessary for children under age eight, because they’d rather play with real life items. Plastics should be checked first before handed over to a young person. I know many people who have let their child have reign over the items in their kitchen due to their safety. Stainless steel kitchens are biologically safer and steel pots and pans make great drums, while popsicle molds and ice cube trays become wonderful xylophones. My family makes frozen treats to help us get through hot summer days and we play music. These items make for great interactive fun and are safe items for smaller children. They may be noisy and require clean up afterwards but they are a lot healthier for your child rather than the dollar store toy items you may think are harmless.

After a little research I found the The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) very helpful. It was founded in 1926 and is a good source for recommendations for purchasing toy items and considering the safety features for toys. It is the world’s largest organizations working on behalf of young children with nearly 80,000 members and a national network of more than 300 state and local Affiliates, and a growing global alliance of like-minded organizations.

Characteristics of Safe Toys

* well-made (with no shared parts or splinters and do not pinch)
* not painted, or painted with nontoxic, lead-free paint
* shatter-proof
* easily cleaned

Be sure to check the label, which should indicate the toy has been approved by the Underwriters Laboratories. In addition, when choosing toys for children under age 3, make sure there are no small parts or pieces that could become lodged in a child’s throat and cause suffocation. It’s important to remember that typical wear and tear can result in a once-safe toy becoming hazardous. Adults should check toys frequently to make sure they are in good repair. For a list of toys that have been recalled by manufacturers, visit the Toy Hazard Recalls page of the US Gov Consumer Product Safety Commission Website.

Older babies are movers – typically they go from rolling over and sitting to scooting, bouncing, creeping, pulling themselves up, and standing. They understand their own names and other common words, can identify body parts, find hidden objects, and put things in and out of containers. This is a great stage to allow exploration in the kitchen. Hide the sharp objects.

* Board books with simple illustrations or photographs of real objects
* Recordings with songs, rhymes, simple stories, and pictures
* Things to create with – wide non-toxic, washable markers, crayons, and large paper
* Things to pretend with – toy phones, dolls and doll beds, baby carriages and strollers, dress-up accessories (scarves, purses), puppets, stuffed toys, plastic animals, and plastic and wood “realistic” vehicles
* Things to build with – cardboard and wood blocks (can be smaller than those used by infants – 2 to 4 inches)
* Things for using their large and small muscles – puzzles, large pegboards, toys with parts that do things (dials, switches, knobs, lids), and large and small ball
* Things for solving problems – wood puzzles (with 4 to 12 pieces), blocks that snap together, objects to sort (by size, shape, color, smell) and things with hooks, buttons, buckles, and snaps
* Things for pretending and building – blocks, smaller (and sturdy) transportation toys, construction sets, child-sized furniture (kitchen sets, chairs, play food), dress-up clothes, dolls with accessories, puppets, and sand and water play toys
* CD and DVD players with a variety of music (of course, phonograph players and cassette recorders work too!)
* Things for using their large and small muscles – large and small balls for kicking and throwing, ride-on equipment (but probably not tricycles until children are 3), tunnels, low climbers with soft material underneath, and pounding and hammering toys
* Things for solving problems – puzzles (with 12 to 20+ pieces), blocks that snap together, collections and other smaller objects to sort by length, width, height, shape, color, smell, quantity, and other features – collections of plastic bottle caps, plastic bowls and lids, keys, shells, counting bears, small colored blocks
* Things for pretending and building – many blocks for building complex structures, transportation toys, construction sets, child-sized furniture (“apartment” sets, play food), dress-up clothes, dolls with accessories, puppets and simple puppet theaters, and sand and water play toys

FLOWING WITH THE GOOD GUYS

It was with great sadness that I read about the recent Norwegian terrorist attacks. A tragic ordeal for any country to have to experience, yet there was a point in the story where I found one Norwegian’s comment to be equally absurd as the attacks were cruel. A woman’s response to the killings was, “Why are they killing us? We’re the good guys!” Most of us think the same way; we are the good guys, the ones who know what’s best or what is right. Adolf Hitler was convinced that his Nazi movement was the best solution for the world’s problems. And through his eyes, it was. The same can be said for Osama Bin Laden or George W. Bush and it is with this lack of awareness upon which most of mankind operates.

Albeit slowly, an increasing number of the world’s population is adopting a different viewpoint (or philosophy, or truth) that there is no right and no wrong, there simply is. This is not to say that whatever happens in the world is acceptable. It is to understand that only the flow of nature exists and that everything happening is a part of that flow. It is the understanding that there are no shoulds or shouldn’ts, only choices. The difference is that should’s and shouldn’t’s are constructs of our mind, while clear choices (I will or I won’t) come from the heart.

I recently witnessed a parent become very frustrated, claiming that her toddler was supposed to listen to her, as if it were her child’s job. In reality, her child’s only job is to act naturally, which is to be aware in some moments and unaware in other moments. If the mother chooses to parent consciously, then it is in fact her job to find a way to be in relationship with her child, discovering ways to flow with both her child’s awareness and lack thereof.

Essentially, life is about relationships, or how we relate to each of our experiences. Have you ever experienced physical pain and thought “This shouldn’t be happening!”? When we don’t flow with nature, believing that something should or shouldn’t be happening, we create suffering for ourselves. A common reaction I’ve seen after reading of earthquakes is “Why would God make such a thing happen!?” Conversely I recall many comments made of the Japanese response to their recent earthquake/tsunami experience, as they largely exemplified acceptance around what happened, while then responding to what needed attention. When we flow with nature, working with what is, we create more ease for ourselves.

Consider that all the ‘unnatural’ deaths that have ever occurred are serving to build our global collective pain that is now bringing about our planet’s current shift in consciousness. Consider that every cubic ton of pollution we’ve created thus far is serving to awaken us to the point where we once again realize the true value of our planet. Many sacrifices have been made in order to create the opportunity that lies before us all. Consider that there is no right and no wrong—only countless opportunities to, through awareness, healthfully flow with what is. After all, we’re all the good guys, each of us sharing a common desire: to be happy, as each of us does our best to find our way.

How to save money when having a baby…

bring home the baby without bringing down the house

Bring home the baby without bringing down the house…

Saving Money on Baby

Having children can be expensive. When you’re just starting out with a baby, it can be easy to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on new baby gear, clothing, diapers and other necessities. Fortunately, there are many ways to save money with a little planning. I am expecting my first baby in December, and I have already acquired two car seats, a crib, a swing, clothing, pregnancy books, and more without having spent any money. Here are some of the ways I did it, as well as a few other tips for how to save money when you have a baby:

Get it for Free

Of course, this is what we’d all like to do. Fortunately, when you have a new baby, there are many ways to get items for free. Take advantage of all the inevitable offers you will get for hand-me-downs from friends and family members. You can upfit the items by giving them a good wash, paint where needed, or add new embellishments. Many times, you won’t have to do anything since the items will be in such good condition. Another option for finding free goods is to look at Freecycle, an online recycling community in which members give away unwanted or unused household goods. You can even post “wanted” ads. Another Excellent Option is to download the Bunz App and find stuff you can trade for. It’s a cashless economy but you can trade your stuff for other people’s stuff or trade it for Btz coins that are good for anything in the Bunz community on Facebook and beyond.

Buy Used

Goodwill, Craigslist, Kijiji, thrift shops, and yard sales are great places to find items for babies and young children. Children outgrow their things so quickly that parents don’t have much else to do with them besides give them away. Items will still be in good condition, and most likely not more than a few years old (meaning that some trends may still be holding up). The best part is that you’ll get items at a fraction of the cost.

Use Cloth Diapers

They are a bit more expensive on the front end – materials cost more and you have to buy pails and cleaners – but they will cost far less than disposable diapers in the long run. Disposable diapers will have to be changed more times than you think possible in a day, and you’ll end up spending hundreds in a few short months. Cloth diapers are no more messy than disposable diapers; they just require more upkeep.

Breastfeed

It’s better for your baby, and it costs far less than formula. In fact, it costs nothing. (Obviously, you dads can’t breastfeed, but you can encourage your partners to do so.) Formula can also cost hundreds or thousands of dollars over a short period of time, and it contains chemicals and additives that can be harmful to your baby. Breastfeeding is free (unless you need to buy a breast pump to go back to work), and it allows you to be sure of what you’re feeding your baby.

Coupons

Many, many companies offer coupons, discounts, and other deals to new parents. Take advantage of these deals, and sign up for newsletters or other e-mail clubs, which can entitle you to exclusive savings and giveaways. Sign up for the major daily deal providers like Groupon, Dealicious, DealFind, WebPiggy and EthicalDeals. There’s no shame in getting something for half price, especially when you were going to buy it anyway.

Get Crafty

Finally, many costly baby items such as custom clothing or décor can be made if you have a little imagination and some crafty skills. Even if you are a relative beginner, you can modify or upfit items to your liking: add applique to onesies for cute customs, paint furniture for your own unique look, or make your own wall hanging with cloth or construction paper. If you really don’t know where to start, look for tutorials online or in craft books.

What other ways have you found to save money when welcoming a new baby?

Have any of these tips worked for you?

Send us your money saving tips and we just might publish them here on HeadsUpDad.

Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blogger for First in Education where she’s recently written about material scientist careers along with a guide to online electronics technology programs. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, traveling, and working with origami.

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How to be “good” at waiting…

 

“Waiting is painful.

Forgetting is painful.

But not knowing which to do

is the worse kind of suffering.”

~ Paulo Coelho


Imagine never waiting for anything again. Ever.

For sure, life would never be the same, but not for the reason you think.

Realistically, to wait is to suffer. The suffering can come in many forms. It can come in the form of being or feeling irritated while waiting five whole seconds for a YouTube video to be buffered before it starts to play (Irritated—really? Its coming from outer space!). Or suffering may also show up as anguish while you wait for your doctor’s phone call regarding the results of your biopsy. Simply put, this suffering is your spirit’s warning system that you’re missing out on life in some way, because you’re not present. Your spirit (or soul or heart) wants you to enjoy life and is devoted to guide you there in the healthiest way possible–if you’re willing and able to listen to it.

Waiting

My life changed in some way the day I learned that there are dialects in the world which contain no word for boredom. These would be languages (such as Hindi and Swahili) which emerged from a time when humans were much more interconnected with both their inner and outer environment. This is not to say that these old world cultures received everything they wanted through immediacy, yet were more in touch with their interconnectedness, particularly by way of their bodies being their guides. When one is connected in this way, one is aware, and when one is aware, one doesn’t wait. In a situation where we don’t immediately receive what we want, we can practice the art of being, or being present. And when we’re present, boredom doesn’t exist as there is no possibility of waiting.

Think of someone in your life whom you consider extremely patient. Your Mom? Your Dad? Your Grandfather? This would not be an example of a person who is ‘good at waiting’, but someone who easily finds acceptance around the things which take time to materialize. What other qualities does this person hold which can be related to their awareness? How about gratefulness, humility or wisdom? Interestingly the word patience has its origin in Latin, stemming from the verb pati or ‘suffering’. Meanwhile acceptance also has its origin in Latin; accipere or ‘to accept, or to take’.

Waiting

The person who appears extremely patient is likely accepting what is happening, or taking that time, that opportunity to be in that very moment.

 Consider the gift that comes with having to wait. For the student on a conscious path, waiting is the opportunity to check in and notice how the suffering is being self-created.

How can you become more aware and in the present?

Have you tried meditation? Take twenty minutes each day to just “be” on your own. Studies show that individuals who practice meditation can clear distracting thoughts (like impatience) from their minds more quickly than individuals who don’t meditate. That sort of ability comes in handy when you are sitting in the Frankfurt airport waiting for your connecting flight which has been delayed—again.

You can prepare for moments when you need to wait by spending just 20 minutes a day meditating. You don’t have to do anything actually. Just sit in a quiet place and focus on your breath going in your nose and out your mouth. Whenever a distracting thought pops up, don’t allow yourself to go there. Just note the thought, let it go, and focus back on your breath. With practice, your mind will quiet down, and your ability to dismiss unwanted thoughts will improve. Being aware and in the moment will come to you.

Yoga? If you are practicing yoga, bring it back to your practice. Invite your awareness inside the body and notice it’s attempt to generate more ease, relaxation and stability. 

‘Wait and see’ is a commonly used phrase in the English language–one that often creates suffering. Rather than suffering, empower yourself by turning this phrase into a choice; ‘wait or see’.

What works for you? Let us know.

Haven’t tried any of these yet? Why not give it a try?

Until next time,

Don

Toxic Chemicals in personal skin care products?

Dirty_hands

I have been doing a lot of gardening over the past couple of months and it has been great. Lots of fresh air, hard work and I am learning a lot.

It’s killing my hands though. Shovelling, digging, gettting dirty, washing, getting dirty. Washing again has taken its toll. I use a lot of moisturizers but it does not seem to make much of a difference. It feels good once I put products on, but as soon as my hands are back in the dirt and back into the tap water, dry as a bone and chafing. It occurred to me that maybe these moisturizers aren’t really doing such a great job after all.

After looking into some other more effective options for skincare products that might heal my busy, abused hands, I learned a lot that really surprised and alarmed me. Did you know, that most of the products you buy at the drugstore, or at the grocery store, contain a bunch of nasty stuff that is toxic and harmful to humans? The more I dug, the more I discovered how everyday personal care products are laced with stuff you would never want in your bloodstream if you knew it was there.

If only we knew about the hidden toxic chemicals that can be found in everyday personal care products… Chemicals that are cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting and allergy-inducing.

The presence of these toxins isn’t new:

They have been there all along.

We think it’s time to shed the light on the hidden, dangerous toxins that exist in body care products for men. But we need your help. We need you to roll up your sleeves and help us flag the products that you would like to know more about.

Cologne, bar soap, deodorant, shaving cream. These are all common products that we use everyday. Used by us, by our sons, brothers, fathers or husbands. On a daily basis, these products are rubbed and absorbed into our skin, with very lax regulations on the ingredients used to make them.

Environmental Defense

Environmental Defense is an organization that looks after us, fights for us and helps make the government take action on our behalf. Their new Just Beautiful campaign is all about testing products we use everyday to see just how safe they are to put on our skin. How safe are the personal products we use on our bodies? The answer: nobody knows. The cosmetic business is a deregulated wild west.

They would like to test ten common products that are part of the basic morning routine many men go through on a daily basis. And, reveal their findings to you.

As a parent myself with a young daughter and two small boys, I want to know whether the products I use daily are safe for me and for my kids. We thought you might too. With our children’s health in our hands, we need to ensure that we are taking each step we can to protect them – today, tomorrow and as they grow older. When we can’t do it for ourselves, its great to know that people like Rick Smith from Environmental Defence has got our backs. He did it already with Bisphenol A in Baby Bottles and now he is on the case searching for hidden toxins that we know are lurking in our everyday personal care products.

By identifying the ingredients hidden in these products, we can continue to push for stronger federal regulations and accountability. But, this research will not be cheap.

As each product is put through a series of laboratory tests to detect different chemicals, testing will cost $710 per product.

Can we count on you to help Environmental Defense make men’s personal care products safe from harmful chemicals? Will you make a donation today?

Each gift will help cover the cost of a product to be tested. And, what better time than to do it today!

How to heal your dry, chapped skin without slathering on harmful toxins?

If you are looking for some great options for effective skin care products that are all natural, non toxic and free from dark, hidden secrets there are options out there. They are just not as easy to find. One place you can look is Made From Earth Organics.


I have been using some of their products recently and I really love them. I have a couple of bars of lovely soap that gets me and my kids dirty hands clean without drying them to a chafe. I also use an amazing face wash that cools, cleans and refreshes after a long day without stripping your skin of its natural moisture. I am a chapstick guy who always travels with one in my pocket and another in my car. You will love theirs. Blows the drugstore variety off the shelf. The only problem is, now that I am addicted to these, I will never be able to buy a cheap and cheerful drugstore product again.

Do you have any questions, products you would like Environmental Defense to test or men’s grooming products you would like us to review and share with our audience?

Please feel free to comment below, email me directly or send us a tweet @HeadsUp_Dad

How to: Urban Back Yard Farming for Rookies…

Organic_Garden

Sprouting an organic garden is fun and easy

What’s this world coming to?

I have been thinking for the past few years that the amount of pesticides, herbicides and other toxic chemicals in food is getting out of control. Genetically modified foods, mass enterprise farming and the demise of the small family farm all over the world makes me sad. I read an article last year that mentioned how vegetables grown in 2010 had half the nutrients that they did 50 or 100 years ago.

No one seems to have time for dinner at home anymore and increasing numbers of families worldwide are eating in fast food restaurants. Obesity is on the rise, cancer is on the rise, mental illness and hormonal imbalances are screwing up families all over the world. What is going on? Have we lost touch with what is important in the pursuit of progress, bigger TV’s and fatter wallets?

Eating healthy and wholesome food that is nutritious and tastes great is important to me. As a parent of three very young kids, it is extremely important that I give my kids the types of fuel their brains and little bodies need to keep them healthy and give them the best shot for success in life.

So, with the options in grocery stores getting more and more toxic, generic in flavour and lower and lower in nutritional value, it seems obvious to me that something had to change. I have always been curious about organic food. More and more over time I started to do some research on this and felt it pretty important to adopt more of this into our family lifestyle.

Going Organic

Going organic is more of a lifestyle change than just a decision we make. Buying everything organic sounds great in principle, but once you get over the sticker shock, you realize that it is kind of impractical given the fact that not everything is available as Organic, and the corresponding enormous jump in your grocery bill when you factor in all the elements in your shopping cart. So, then it makes sense to balance out with some good choices to get what you need while minimizing your exposure to toxic intake.

  1. Buy organic the ten top things that are most obvious to avoid otherwise—the stuff that has the most toxic footprint (there is a top ten list or two out there) on the human body.
  2. Buy from local farmers (that do not put nasty chemicals and fertizers in their soil) where possible. Go to your local farmer’s market or take a drive in the country if that is easy for you.
  3. Grow some of your own vegetables (for those of us with a back yard or a sun drenched balcony). It s not that hard, and you would be amazed what you can learn in a pinch.

Urban Organic Farming

So it was that this year I decided to take the plunge into Urban Farming and attempt to grow some of my own organic vegetables in my back yard. It has been about two months since I started, and I put in a lot of hours into research, spent many a back breaking hour converting some of my yard into a vegetable patch, and have learned a lot.

Success is still a ways away, some time towards the end of summer when I can really begin to harvest many of the crops that I have planted, but there have been some small wins and a few setbacks. All in all, I have been having a great time with it, but the story is just beginning to unfold. I will my Urban Farming experience with you here, beginning today.

Growing your own vegetables is great

I took this challenge on this year, with no expctations other than I was going to give Organic Farming a try and see what happens. I have never been a green thumb. If anything, I was more of a plant killer than a grower. I have never intentionally killed a live plant, but most plants entrusted in my care do not seem to survive the long haul. This, I hope to change.

Start with Organic Seeds

I started with one of those seeding kits you get from the garden centre (plastic tray and a bunch of expanding growers medium (Peat Pucks)) and a bunch of Organic seeds that I purchased online from the Salt Spring Seed Company on Vancouver Island. I had a lot of questions and Dan Jason was really very helpful and super nice to do business with. I felt like my rookie season was in good hands and there was nothing he could not help me with.

Start with good quality organic seeds and a cheap and cheerful seed starting kit

I wanted this to be an experience I shared with my kids—a great way to teach them about where food comes from (other than the grocery store). From seed, to the garden, to their plate is a much healthier and more sustainable path than the one we normally take. It is easy for them to dis Daddy’s dinner when they have no idea where it comes from.

Starting out is not that complicated or difficult, just takes a good variety of seeds, some potting soil or cheap and cheerful a seed starter kit and some pots. You’ll need some time on your hands for a little bit (or a lot) of online research if you are like me and have never grown anything intentionally before. The rest is up to mother nature and it really is a miracle.

Plant seed, water and wait…

So one day in late April, one by one, each of my kids and I spent an evening planting 1, 2 or 3 seeds into each of the little pucks in a little plastic greenhouse tray that held 72 in all, watering them, covering them and stuffing them under the bed. Each had their own technique, and I tried not to get too worked up when they spilled seeds all over the floor or planted them too deep. All in all, the seeding was pretty painless. We planted Spinach, Kale, Arugula, Cucumber, Squash, Broccoli, Summer Peas, beans, two kinds of heirloom cherry tomatoes, Sweet Yellow Peppers, Carrots, Basil, Summer Savoury, Cilantro and a bunch of fancy lettuces. We watered, we covered and we waited.

Every morning we would get down on our knees, slide out the tray and see if anything had happened the night before. It took a few days, and a lot of anxious anticipation, but on the fourth day, surprise! Out poked a few little sprouts. Life!! We had given birth to a bunch of beautiful little seedlings. It was so exciting that we could not contain ourselves.

Sprouts everywhere!

By the end of the second week, we were very pleased to be staring down every day at about 100 little sprouts working their way up through the soil. We carefully set them out in the light, not far from the window, watered them every day or two, and constantly checked in on their progress. As the spring was moving along, we were anxious to get going on the planting part. There was no rush though, every day it was raining buckets outside and there was no break in sight.

We learned the hard way not to rush things. Earlier, we planted three kinds of potatoes right into the yard that all failed miserably. I was so sad about this, because all of the research I did said that Organic potatoes were so incredibly delicious and super easy to grow. Promptly after I planted four or five rows of these fantastic heirloom seed potatoes, it rained cats and dogs for days and days. By time the sun came out, and the soil had a chance to dry, the potato seedlings had rotted right in the ground. I guess maybe it just was not meant to be this year. I will definitely try again next year.

Organic_Tomato_Plant

Once the sprouts became more like plants, I transplanted them to 4" pots and put them out on the roof to get some sun and harden them off (acclimatize) and get ready for transplanting into the ground ...

Phase two: Transplanting to pots…

Once the sprouts start to grow with their first set of real leaves, it is time to weed out the strong from the weak, separate the men from the boys so to speak, and plant the strongest plants into pots of their own, into organic potting soil. This is where you see the fruits of your labour begin to take shape. While not every seed turned into a plant, and some of the plants were kind of lame relative to some of the others, on the upside, I ended up watching about 100 seeds transform into well over 6o beautiful potted plants which I am proud to say, have all been planted in the ground by now and are doing just great. I have had a few setbacks, but all in all, things are growing just fine. I will talk more about the successes and failures in successive posts throughout the summer.

Phase three: Getting your beds ready
In my next post, I want to go over getting your planting beds ready. If you are like me, your back yard was not ready to just plant vegetables into. There is a lot of research to do and a lot of preparation to get everything ready if you want to do it right. It is a lot of work, but in the long run, success will be a lot sweeter at harvest time. What you do this year, will continue to give back year after year if you decide to carry on with your Urban Organic Farm. I am definitely looking forward to reaping the harvest.

Thinking about giving organic gardening a try?

It is not too late to get started. If this sounds like something you would like to give a go, then order some seeds today—you could be growing a green thumb by next week.

If you have started your own back yard Organic Garden, and have some success stories and or disastrous tales of failure to share, please post them here. We all can learn from what you have learned and then it will not have been for naught. For better or for worse, we are definitely looking forward to hearing from you.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to post them here as a comment or @HeadsUp_Dad on Twitter.

Until next time, be well!