Toddler’s First Community Service

With parenthood also comes an awareness of how much trash is left on sidewalks, parks, and nature trails. Kids love finding trash treasures, picking up a sticky bottle cap with glee as you rush towards them before they put it in their mouth. While we all know that being exposed to germs can help the little ones’ immune systems, we all have limits, and unknown sticky items left on a sidewalk is one of those limits.

As we celebrated Earth Day last week, it has me reflecting not only on my own practices, but on how I can help to instill environmental knowledge in my son. Hanging out at a playground with an abundance of trash items, I wondered if I could combine my son’s love of picking up trash with intentional teaching on recycling and litter clean up. Instead of ripping bottle caps and candy wrappers out of his hand as he screams with frustration that I am taking his treasure away, I decided to let him gather these items. I keep a clear gallon plastic bag in my purse and have him place his items in the bag. If he wants to hang on to them, he can view the trash through the bag. Allowing him to collect his trash treasures in a productive way has helped to decrease his frustration. Toddlers hate being told not do something, but if you teach them how to do it in a healthy way they are thankful and appreciative (well, not all of the time, but it sure does help!). I will say that there are some items (like glass shards and other unmentionables) that I make sure to keep him far away from.

When we get home from our outing, I place the items in the trash or recycling. In the future, I will let him sort the items into the proper containers. As he grows up, I look forward to extending this activity to community clean-up events.

Toddler picking up a piece of trash on a playground
My little guy finding a trash treasure on the playground

Talking and explaining to children the importance of recycling at a young age is important- repetition and consistency with our practice will help to instill this environmental standard in the next generation. What Earth Day traditions do you have with your children? What ways have you found helpful in teaching children about recycling?

If only I could get over the irony of using a plastic bag…

Cost: $0

Advanced Learning: Incorporate talks on minimizing the trash we create, the importance of reduce, reuse and recycle, look up community cleanups to participate in together.

Rainy Day Blues

There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather Book Cover

After hearing about this book from multiple sources, I decided to check it out from the local public library (the best way to read books: support local libraries and reuse materials). What an important book for me to read! Growing up in Seattle, Washington, I lived in the rain throughout my childhood. I don’t remember the rain, or being bummed if it was cloudy; I just remember being a kid and playing in the woods behind my house. I remember disappearing for hours with my neighborhood best friend, coming back after climbing trees and catching tadpoles.

When I had my son, I realized I had become a fair weather outdoors woman. I loved backpacking, but not if it was too hot or too buggy. I loved hiking, but definitely not in the rain. I enjoyed a bike ride but only if it was a crisp and clear day. The long Tennessee winters, the dreary sky, lack of snow and abundance of cold rain wrought havoc on my spirit. I wanted to be different for my son. I didn’t want to be timid and dreary. This book was exactly the motivation I needed to get off my couch and get us outside. I read this book in January and promptly scoured the local thrift stores for rain gear and boots for my one year old. Apparently going outside isn’t very popular with a one year old who just started walking, I had such a difficult time finding used gear and waterproof boots for my toddler.

I switched from looking at thrift stores and consignment shops and went online. After awhile, I found a waterproof onesie from Mountain Warehouse.

Light Blue Rain Suit

It was on sale for $30 and included a removable fleece liner, so that I could continue to use this through the summer and fall. I purchased a 12-18 month size and it was almost comically too big. He could still walk around and so I was glad it would last so long.

With the rain suit bought I needed waterproof shoes. If his feet gets wet he gets really cranky and wants to be held, but still wants to be outside. How do you keep a newly walking toddler’s feet dry? Rubber rain boots seem too heavy for a new walker. I had heard that Croc makes a lightweight boot but their smallest size is 6 and my son is a 4. I had to sacrifice my pocket book and I found a company in Vancouver that makes boots for the little ones. MyMayu makes boots for the very very young. They are flexible, lightweight and seemed like they would be perfect. I bought a size 5/6 with a liner so that they would fit for a long time. I justified the price with the fact that the next child would be able to wear them too. They were a tad big, but with the liner and heavy socks he learned to walk around just fine. They aren’t 100% waterproof, the liner will feel wet, but his socks never feel wet. His feet stay dry and warm.

My son loves going outside from the minute he wakes up, he likes to find his shoes and then put them in our lap, pointing at the door, “Da da da da”. While I am still not entirely thrilled that I have found myself on more than one occasion standing outside in the 45 degree rain before I have finished my first cup of coffee in the morning, I must admit, I feel better after being outside, even in these conditions. With each cold and wet morning I spend standing in the grass, I know I am learning to love all kinds of weather again. Here’s to hoping that my son will keep his enthusiasm for the rain.