Family

Why You Shouldn't Idle Your Vehicle In School Zones

Do your Part in Ensuring a Safe and Healthy School Environment for Children

The beginning of the new school year is right around the corner and school-aged children around the country will be heading back to an environment full of learning, creative expression, and…air pollution? Unfortunately, yes. Well, what does this even mean? And what can we do to help our children enjoy a safe and healthy environment at school? The answer is in idling! (or rather, NOT idling). Turn your key and be idle free!

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Roundups

9 Non-Toxic & Eco-Friendly Backpacks

Just in time for back to school

As soon as August rolls around, all we can think of back-to-school shopping. It seems like the list of new supplies to buy gets longer every year, but a new backpack might be the most exciting thing on the list if the one from last year is torn to shreds or not big enough anymore. Most kids backpacks are made from synthetic materials or even harmful plastics like PVC, which contains phthalates. This is why we searched for backpacks that are not only cute and functional, but good for the environment. Our backpack recommendations are all phthalate free, lead free, and some are even made from recycled water bottles! Talk about a triple threat. There are lots of colors and styles so that your kid can express themselves. Plus, most of the brands listed below have different sizing options so everyone from elementary to high school will be covered.


a) Apple Park b) Fjallraven Re-Kanken c) Fluf d) Garnet Hill Eco Backpack e) Milkdot f) Parkland Design & Manufacturing g) Petit Collage h) So Young i) Terra Thread


*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.

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It's almost the end of summer and time to start thinking about those back-to-school supplies. Backpack, lunch box, pencils, pens, crayons, notebooks, NSF/ANSI 53 certified water bottles to filter lead…wait, what was that last one? Yep, many children in this country will be attending school in a state where there is currently no requirement to filter and test school drinking water for lead. Even in states and counties where they do have laws on the books, there are still gaps that need to be addressed to better protect children. So, here is what you need to know and what you can do about it.

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Food

Endless Ideas for Healthy Homemade Popsicles (No Recipe Needed!)

A refreshing family friendly treat, without added food colorings, cane sugar, or plastic packaging.

Popsicles are such a fun treat for adults and kids whenever it gets hot outside! We put together a fun graphic where you can make your own recipe for a healthy homemade popsicle, using whatever you have on hand. We make all sorts of popsicles from leftover fruit, veggies, juices that we have laying around. It's a great way to use up that half of a banana or browning avocado that your kid didn't eat. And instead of becoming food waste (which is a huge contributor to climate change), it gets new life as an amazing treat. We like these silicone or stainless steel popsicle molds, cause they are super durable and we generally try to avoid plastics and food. Making your own popsicles is a great way to have fun, while being non-toxic. Many store bought popsicles contain load of cane sugar, food colorings, other additives, and plastic packaging. So pick one up a popsicle mold, choose a combination of tasty ingredients, blend, freeze, and enjoy!

In case you need some ideas to get started, here are some of our favorites:

Chocolate Fudge: Cocoa powder, avocado (or banana), coconut milk, and honey/maple syrup

Watermelon Strawberry Mint: Watermelon, Strawberries, Coconut water, and Mint

Spinach Blueberry Yogurt: Spinach, Blueberry, Banana, and Yogurt

Creamy Zucchini Pineapple: Zucchini, Pineapple, and Coconut milk

*A special tip on mixing colors. Mixing leafy greens with red or orange fruits/veggies (like carrot juice or strawberries) makes for a pretty brown popsicle. It will still taste good, but might not look as appetizing!


Family

5 Tips for Healthy Kid-Friendly Meals (cause the struggle is real!)

Dreading dinner time every night? We're here to help.

Let's face it, getting a child to eat, no less a picky eater, might actually be the most daunting task in the world. Whether you've been on the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches only train for the past week or past month and just want your child to add something green or leafy to their palate, we've got you covered. We've put together some overall suggestions to incorporate into meal-prep that are not only more kid-friendly, but will also help you avoid processed foods that might be less healthy or have added toxic chemicals.

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Family

What to Know Before Heading to the Playground With Your Kids

Hand washing and removing shoes at home protects you from more than just germs

As soon as spring hits, we find any excuse to go outside and spend time in the sun. If you have kids, outdoor time is often synonymous with heading to the playground. We LOVE the playground and always encourage kids to get outside and play! Washing hands and taking shoes off is a must after the park- so many germs! These habits could also help prevent exposure to two questionable materials that may be a part of your playground.

The first is wood pressure-treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA). This insecticide was sprayed on wood play structures because it made the wood resistant to degradation and insects. However, 22% of CCA is pure arsenic (1). Arsenic is a super nasty chemical that is classified as a known carcinogen by the World Health Organization. It can also cause "immune system suppression, increased risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, endocrine disruption and diabetes" (2). This chemical is not to be messed with!

Over time, the CCA can be released from the treated wood and can end up on the hands and clothes of your little one. It can also end up in the soil around the playground, so your child may still be exposed even if they don't play on the wooden structure (3).

The good news is that CCA treated wood was banned from residential construction in 2003. So if your neighborhood park has been recently built or renovated, chances are you don't have to worry about this. You can always check with your city or neighborhood association to see if CCA wood is in your local park. It also wouldn't hurt to double check with your kid's school to see what their playground was built with. Usually, CCA treated wood has a green tint, which can make it easy to spot.

Even if your playground does have CCA, tt's pretty easy to limit exposure. If you're planning to have a picnic or snack at the park, make sure to use hand wipes or wash hands (if a bathroom is nearby) before eating. After returning home, thoroughly wash your and your child's hands. It also doesn't hurt to wipe everyone down with a wet wipe too! This will help get rid of any chemicals and other undesirables like pollen as well. Leaving shoes at the door can stop CCA-contaminated soil from tracking all over your house.

Crumb rubber is another questionable material that could be found in your playground. Crumb rubber are those small black particles you find in artificial turf that seem to always end up stuck in your shoe/sock/bag/shirt/life/etc. It's actually made from old, used tires that have been chopped up into really tiny pieces. While this may seem like a good idea from a recycling standpoint, it's not great for health. Tire rubber contain a ton of bad chemicals like PAHs, phthalates, phenols and benzothiazoles (4), and the tires are not treated before they end up as crumb rubber. These chemicals are linked to serious health issues like endocrine disruption. The crumbs are so small that they have a habit of getting in your clothes and hair, accidentally getting eaten by curious babies, or sticking to your skin. Crumb rubber can also give off more chemicals as they're heated up in the hot sun. There's even speculation that crumb rubber might have played a role in the cancer of adolescent soccer players (5).

When returning from the playground, you can leave shoes outside so soil and rubber doesn't get tracked around the house. Also make sure to wash your hands or shower! Avoiding play time when it's really hot outside can also limit the amount of exposure. If you've been around crumb rubber, make sure to dust yourself and your play equipment off before you leave the playground to get rid of any hitchhiking rubber pieces. Changing your clothes after returning doesn't hurt either!




References:

  1. https://www.ewg.org/research/poisoned-playgrounds

2. https://www.ceh.org/campaigns/legal-action/previous-work/childrens-products/arsenic-in-play-structures

3. https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/science-public/toxic-playgrounds

4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0045653512009848

5. https://www.cnn.com/2017/01/27/health/artificial-turf-cancer-study-profile/index.html

Family

3 Fun and Easy Ideas to Get Your Kids Playing Outside That You Need To Try This Summer

And Why It's A Good Idea to Spend As Much Time Outside As Possible

Let's face it, the allure of screen time is hard to pass up for kids... and parents too (who can deny that those 30 minute of silence when Paw Patrol is on are pure bliss). As tempting as it is to have shows on repeat all day, getting your kids to play outside is so important. Not only will it knock them out for bedtime, but outdoor playtime is good for your kid's body, mind, and happiness!

There are so many health benefits of outdoor time for kids that it's hard to keep track of them all. Researchers have shown that it can reduce the risk for obesity and diabetes, and decrease ADHD symptoms. On top of that, it can increase Vitamin D levels, improve critical thinking skills and can help boost test scores. (1). You might be saying, "this is great and all, but how do I actually get my kids excited about going outside?!" We hear you! In order to encourage more outdoor play, we came up with three outdoor activities that are super fun for kids but easy for parents to set up. Try them out this weekend!

1. Outdoor Art Time

Doing arts and crafts outdoors is a great way to get kids outside even if they aren't the run-around-in-circles type. Plus, all the mess is outside and you can just hose everything off after. One of our favorite outdoor arts and crafts is rock painting. We have the kids hunt for rocks in a variety of shapes and sizes and then bring them back to a station where they can paint some funny faces on them. It's so fun to see their creativity at work!

Another activity is creating hammered artwork from nature (we'll explain). This one requires a bit more parental supervision, but it's totally worth it. The kids go and collect a variety of leaves, grasses, and flowers and then pound them between sheets of paper with a wooden mallet or hammer. The colors and shapes transfer to the paper to create some seriously cool art. We find that a thicker textured paper like watercolor paper produces the best results. Kids enjoy this so much they'll ask to do it over and over again!

2. Adjective Scavenger Hunt

What if we told you that with just a few minutes of prep you could keep your kids outdoors and occupied for what can seem like countless hours? Sound too good to be true? An outdoor scavenger hunt will do just that! We like to make lists of adjectives (like soft, hard, green, round, pointy, long...etc.) and give the kids a basket to go find things in the backyard or neighborhood park that fit the description. Sometimes we even have the kids come back and do a show and tell and compare the objects they found.

3. Water Gun Freeze Tag

This one is a great activity as it starts warming up outside! Get a couple of water guns or squirt bottles and use them to play a version of freeze tag. Our version: someone is designated "it" and if they spray another player with water, they are frozen. If another player tags them, then they are unfrozen and can start running around again. Sometimes the game just devolves into everyone running around spraying everyone else, and that's fine by us! Feel free to kick back and enjoy a glass of wine and watch, but we find it pretty tempting to play too.

So there you have it- three easy outdoor activities that will help your kids get off their screens and back outside. We hope that they are a hit with your kids and will be on repeat all summer.


References

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/...
Roundups

6 Non-Toxic Children's Toothpaste Options

They taste like "fruit," will clean their teeth, and are totally safe

No matter how many teeth your kid has, they still should brush them all. These toothpaste options have all gotten great reviews online and are vetted to be safe for your kids. You could technically use them too, but if watermelon toothpaste just doesn't sound appealing to you, you might also want to check out our regular toothpaste roundup. Smile! (Because you are excited we did the research for you and to show off those pearly whites.)

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