Knowing myself as I do, this could be a challenge. After all, I'm the kid that announced to her kindergarten class that Mr. Bubbles, the class puppet, was not magic.
"The teacher was just using food coloring," I spat contemptuously during recess.
As you can imagine, I was invited to all the parties.
Anyway, most of my green efforts stem from my general laziness and my natural tendency to nurture the cobwebs growing in my wallet. I'm sharing these because they have worked for me, and I hope that they might work for you as well.
I'll start today with green toys. I'm not talking about hand-crafted toys made by ancient Baviarian wood-sculptors, although those are very nice indeed. Rather, I'm talking about how to make toys out of common objects.
Before you liken me to Miss Hannigan from Annie or compare my sons to characters from Oliver Twist, let me assure you that the boys have toys. Lots of 'em. In fact, I'm not sure where my living room went, because it looks like Hoarders: Toddler Edition on most days.
But yet, their absolute favorite toys aren't really toys at all. These three objects are cheap, fun, and easy. As a bonus, they aren't packaged with twenty bazillion pounds of cardboard, nor are they (hopefully!) made in a third-world sweatshop.
Green Toy #1: PVC Pipes
For about six dollars, we bought some PVC pipe, stoppers, and connectors at our local hardware store. Owen's world has never been the same.
He makes sculptures out of them.
He runs sand through the pipes. He uses them as tunnels for his toy cars. On hot days, he runs water through them using a kiddie pool full of water. They have worked as makeshift baseball bats, swords, batons, and trumpets.
And yes, they work as showers as well.
(This wastes a lot of water, thus, isn't all that green. In my defense, this happened while I was inside making lunch. Since I wasn't watching them, I'm totally off the hook, right?)
Green Toy #2: Spray Bottles
I have bought many a cheap, one-dollar squirt gun at the grocery store. I am happy to bribe my children for a dollar's worth of peace. Unfortunately, most of them break before they are even buckled into their car seats for the ride home.
For the same dollar, I purchased a bunch of squirt bottles at the Dollar Store. I fill 'em up with water, and let the kids squirt away. They work in the tub, provide a nice mist to dry sandbox sand, and cool off the kids in the pinch. I've seen Joel pretend to wash my sliding glass door with his bottle, and Owen has used it as a "spray painter" on our deck.
This makes me very happy. Since I envision a long future of sitting on my ass, watching them work, they best start developing their skills now.
Green Toy #3: Water Spicket
We bought this two-gallon water-spicket so that Owen could serve water to guests at Joel's birthday party, thus forgetting he wasn't center of the universe for an hour or two.
We have since discovered that, in this age of water restriction, this bucket is a nice way to do water play with less guilt. I fill the thing up once, and tell the boys, "Once the water is gone, it's gone."
It becomes a game to see how long they can be water savers by reusing the water several times over the course of the day.
They play kitchen, car-wash, restaurant, and lemonade stand, while I sit back and try to stay out of the way.
Now, I recognize that all of these green toys involve water. That's my kids. They're obsessed. I'm hoping for future careers in hydro-engineering.
It works for us. It may, or may not work for you.
I would encourage you, though, to think creatively. Playing greener may be easier than you think.
What are your kids' favorite "non-toy toys"? What green toys have worked for you? Recommendations? Insights?