Tag Archives: Green Holiday Gifts

12 Days of Green Holiday Gifts: Books for Children

While, for many, Winter’s major celebrations have come and gone, others are still celebrating — in ways lavish or cozy – whether by giving and receiving gifts on the 12 days that have just begun, or by simply relaxing together with a little time off from work and school.

Either way, there is hardly a better time to enjoy a book, the most beloved of which provide beauty and provoke thought in a measure that far surpasses their price. I’ve uncovered a few wonderful books for children that share a message of stewardship and of slowing down. In my next blog post, I’ll do the same for adults.

All in a Day, by Cynthia Rylant and Nikki McClure, is a very sweet and beautiful book that illustrates some of the simple things that can be done in a day – planting a seed, gazing at the sky. With pleasing rhymes and gentle and lovely two-color cut out illustrations, the message becomes clear, though never heavy-handed: A day is a gift, full of possibility, companionship and simple beauty. This is a book to be read again and again.

The message is somewhat similar in One Morning in Maine, by Robert McCloskey, an older sweet favorite that follows a girl, her father, and her little sister for a day of boating and clamming on Maine’s shore, only to lose a tooth and have the day go a little differently, but no less adventurously, than planned. It’s a lovely, gentle book (as are McCloskey’s other titles) that’s full of wonder, both of the natural world and in the relationships that pepper a family’s life.

The setting in Jason Chin’s new book, Redwoods, is the U.S.’s west coast, where a boy emerges from a city subway into an ancient, and awe-inspiring redwood forest. Chin offers an adventure story and a lot off information, along with great watercolor illustrations that capture the misty beauty and intensity of these giant trees.

A lot of older children are appropriately concerned about the environment and wondering how they can contribute toward making things better. Heroes of the Environment: True Stories of People Who Help Protect Our Planet,
by Harriet Rohmer, offers a dozen inspiring tales about real people, of all ages, who decided to truly make a difference in their world. They include a teenage girl who acted to remove an industrial pollutant from the Ohio River and a teenage boy who helped his state recycle electronic waste and keep it out of the landfill. Photos and illustrations help carry the stories, which let readers know that they can each have an impact.

Two very lovely and colorful tried-and-true books help children understand the cycle of nature in the garden: Lois Ehlert’s Planting a Rainbow and Ruth Heller’s The Reason for a Flower. Both are brightly illustrated, and simply and wonderfully show nature’s variety and the way each aspect of the ecosystem helps one another.

Aunt Ippy’s Museum of Junk, by Rodney Alan Greenblat, features the highly original Aunt Ippy, an early recycler and highly creative individual who never met an object she couldn’t make something useful and fun from. This is a delightful book, brimming with wonder, resourcefulness and an offbeat style of cheer that speaks to the free spirit in a lot of kids.

Marilyn Singer’s On The Same Day in March: A Tour of the World’s Weather takes readers on a round-the-world tour at a time of year when dramatic and contrasting weather events are occurring. Bold illustrations and simple prose help explain how and why different types of weather occur on the same day, and also help make the planet feel a little more familiar and connected.

Happy exploring through books!

My criteria for a green holiday gift? Items meet all or most of the following: Promotes nature play or care of the earth, Uses all or mostly natural ingredients, Fosters hours of open-ended creative play,  Doesn’t use extraneous plastic or other wrapping, Doesn’t break the bank to buy it.

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

12 Days of Green Holiday Gifts: Wind Power Renewable Energy Kit

Got a budding scientist or environmentalist at home? Or simply want to build something and then experience the way wind can be harnessed to create power?

Then consider the Wind Power Renewable Energy Kit from Thames & Kosmos, which, at its price point (found at Science City and Horizon Hobby for under $40), provides a lot of play and educational value.

This kit contains everything you need to build your own wind turbine and then use it to generate the electricity to light up an LED and charge a rechargeable battery, or the mechanical power to lift a heavy weight. Obviously a great way to learn about a natural energy source, the turbine is also fun to build and can be assembled alone or in a group. The accompanying book contains 20 different experiments.

The company also makes a hydropower kit for exploring the power available from water.

Other kits include a fun and elaborate Candy Factory, so one can explore the science and method behind making everyone’s favorite sweets, a Bubble Science kit, featuring tons of fun, soapy activities, a Perfume Science kit, with a mini perfume lab, for learning all about the creation of scent, and lots more.

My criteria for a green holiday gift? Items meet all or most of the following: Promotes nature play or care of the earth, Uses all or mostly natural ingredients, Fosters hours of open-ended creative play,  Doesn’t use extraneous plastic or other wrapping, Doesn’t break the bank to buy it.

12 Days of Green Holiday Gifts: Eco-Dough

When my family first heard about eco-dough, from the eco-kids company, we all immediately knew it was a winner. Everyone loves traditional Play-Doh, from Hasbro, or play dough made in ones own kitchen from simple ingredients.

But what if your child is allergic or sensitive to wheat? In that case, Play-Doh, with its starch-based binders, is no longer a good play option. (A full list of Play-Doh ingredients, and an explanation of its chemistry, is here.) Enter eco-kids, a Los Angeles-based family company that handmakes natural gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free eco-dough! The dough comes in six wonderful colors, which are dyed from plants, vegetables and fruits. The dough is soft and very pliable and doesn’t dry out quickly, the way regular Play-Doh does. (If it should dry out, a little veggie, olive or flax oil brings it back.)

Eco-kids also sells natural finger paints and puzzles. They provide  a terrific product for those seeking a natural, gluten-free dough, and a toy that offers open-ended creative play, as limitless as ones imagination.

Photos: Eco-kids

My criteria for a green holiday gift? Items meet all or most of the following: Promotes nature play or care of the earth, Uses all or mostly natural ingredients, Fosters hours of open-ended creative play,  Doesn’t use extraneous plastic or other wrapping, Doesn’t break the bank to buy it.

12 Days of Green Holiday Gifts: Butterfly Girl Dolls

I adore these Butterfly Girl Dolls from the Canadian company, Little Humbugs. Each of the cute 12″ plush dolls comes snuggled inside a chrysalis, the way a real butterfly is. It’s a great idea — The chrysalis provides further play, teaches about nature, and doubles as the dolls’ packaging as a way to cut down on waste. Each doll is cutely designed in a color-coordinated outfit and bright wings, and each has a nature-inspired story, whether the doll be a protector of nature, a bird keeper, or a planter of seeds.

One of the dolls includes an added benefit: For every doll purchased a tree will be planted in the Monarch butterfly conservation area, to help save that endangered butterfly.

Little Humbugs also offers Butterfly Girl ebooks, party invitations, sleepover kits, and other items. There’s even an eco superhero for boys, Flint the Dragonfly Boy.

Little Humbugs is the creation of children’s book author and illustrator, Marghanita Hughes. Marghanita is passionate about connecting children to nature and encouraging them to enjoy and steward the Earth. She notes on her web site that she hopes her work can help influence children to care for the environment in a fun and gentle way. I think the Butterfly and Dragonfly dolls would do just that and, best, they are just fun to play with, without all the consumerist trappings that similar plush dolls include.

Photo: Little Humbugs

My criteria for a green holiday gift? Items meet all or most of the following: Promotes nature play or care of the earth, Uses all or mostly natural ingredients, Fosters hours of open-ended creative play,  Doesn’t use extraneous plastic or other wrapping, Doesn’t break the bank to buy it.

12 Days of Green Holiday Gifts: Root Viewer Garden

I recently saw this wonderful toy and immediately got very excited about it. The Root Viewer Garden, from Toysmith, allows you to see what’s happening underground when you grow root vegetables like carrots, onions, radishes, and beets. And, best, it contains everything you need to grow your own root veggies and watch the show: a wooden tube holder; three 5 1/2” plastic tubes; growing medium; carrots, onion and radish seeds; instructions; and a journal for recording their progress from sprouting to harvest.

I’ve forced flower bulbs before, by growing bulbs in a water-filled bulb-forcing vase, but I think growing root vegetables in the Root Viewer’s tubes is far more visual, and therefore rewarding, for kids. With root vegetables, all the action is normally underground! Plus, there’s something about growing a food and learning about that process that is educational and stays with one for life.

I happened to see the Root Viewer Garden at a store called Farmer’s Friend in Columbia State Park, in California’s Gold Rush Country, which I highly recommend as a fun, colorful place where a lively chapter of California’s history comes to life.

If you’re not planning a visit to Columbia, the Root Viewer Garden can be found online at Kiddly Winks, Toy Blaster, and Amazon.

I plan to feature 12 green holiday gifts, be they toys, objects, activities, or contributions to others. If you have any ideas, send them my way!