Green Your Baby: Cloth Diapers

By Katie,

With Earth Day fast approaching, I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to write a piece about the environmental impacts of cloth diapers versus disposables.  It is really hard to talk about environmental issues without sounding like I go and chain myself to trees in my spare time, but I will do my best! I am not a hard core environmental advocate, but I am a normal (well, normal-ish) person who just wants to do their part to keep our planet nice.

I often hear the argument that disposables are more earth friendly because of the laundry necessary to cloth diaper. This to me is the same as arguing that using Styrofoam plates is more environmentally friendly than washing the dishes! For some reason, it would be obviously wasteful to use disposable dishes all the time, but disposable diapers have become the norm in our society. So, let’s take a look together of what the real impacts of both are, and you can make up your own mind. 

1)    Resource consumption: It takes almost 1 cup of crude oil to make the plastic in just ONE diaper.  That is a phenomenal amount of oil used just to catch poop. We all know that oil is a non-renewable resource that we are really dependent on, so let’s ignore that for a second. There are still the environmental effects of oil extraction and refinement, and the devastating effect of oil spills during transportation to think about. 

What about the rest of the diaper? A good bit of the absorbency in disposables is provided by wood pulp. A lot of wood pulp: approximately 4.5 trees per baby in diapers per year. Doing a little highly accurate math, if we multiply the number of babies in disposables by 4.5 trees, we get a whole lot of trees! Yes, forests are technically a renewable resource, but we aren’t planting them nearly as fast as we are using them, and it is impossible to replace complex, ancient forest ecosystems in a short period of time.

Cloth diapers are made using easily renewable materials like cotton, bamboo and hemp. They also use a lot less resources overall, as there is a lot less of them to make! A baby will need 5000-7000 diaper changes before potty training. If you had a stack of 5000 diapers, it would be a lot taller than a stack of 24 cloth diapers, right?

2)    Water consumption: This may come as a shocker, but disposable diapers use 47% MORE water than cloth, even including all the laundry. More? But how? Think of all of the processing that needs to happen in order to make those disposable diapers in the first place. For example, the wood pulp needs to be processed, which uses large amounts of water. All of this processing uses many different chemicals, which ends up polluting this water. 
 
3)    Energy use: Energy use is a concern to most of us, especially considering the current hydro prices! We are much more aware of the energy that we use in our homes, because we are the ones writing the painful cheques to the power companies. So it makes sense that disposables seem like they use less energy, because they have absolutely no effect on your bills. However, it takes huge amounts of energy to create all of these diapers and transport them to the stores, whether we notice it or not.  

Cloth diapers also give us a lot more control over how much energy we use. In our house, we have a high efficiency washing machine which uses a surprisingly small amount of electricity, and we dry our diapers on the line the majority of the time. Our energy costs have not changed at all even with two kids in diapers. 

4)    Garbage: Oh, the garbage. This is a pretty obvious one, but disposable diapers create a lot more garbage than cloth; about a tonne more. That is a huge pile of garbage! Do this for me: close your eyes (then open them when you realize you can’t read with your eyes closed) and picture your favourite outdoor place – a park, field, golf course, whatever. Then picture it with a 25 foot tall pile of garbage in the middle of it. It kind of takes away from the scenery, right? It is easy to forget about the waste we create when it is kindly whisked away to an unseen landfill, but it is still there, and will still be there in 250-500 years. Yuck!

Everything we do has an impact on our planet. While you are reading this, you are using electricity to power your device and breathing out carbon dioxide. The key is to minimize our impact, and I believe that choosing cloth diapers is a great way to do this. 

Katie is owner of Bumbini Cloth Diaper Company, and you can follow her business on Facebook.

Welcome to the Centre for Child Language Research!

We're very happy to welcome our new blog sponsor, The Centre for Child Language Research. As a health researcher by day, I can't stress how important it is to participate in research when we get the opportunity. And plus, who doesn't enjoy a fun, free activity for the kids? 

By Stephanie, Lab Coordinator

Are you looking for a fun new activity to do with your kids? Come visit the Centre for Child Language Research! The CCLR is a language development lab on the University of Ottawa campus that studies how your child learns language. We run studies for children from 2 years old all the way up to 8 years!

Our lab space is a welcoming environment for children with lots of books and toys for them to play with. A typical visit lasts just under an hour, with the actual studies  being between five and fifteen minutes. Parents are also able to park for free while they are here! Our experiments are designed to be fun and engaging for children. In fact, research in our lab has found that using elements from video games helps children to perform tasks more easily. To find out more about a typical visit, check out this first-hand account from when Kids in the Capital visited one of our partner labs on campus.

Experiments that are fun and interactive!

Experiments that are fun and interactive!

A lot of the research we do is focused on discovering how children learn the sounds and words of their language, and how children become so amazing at language within the first years of their lives. One of the ways we ask these questions is by looking at how language experience influences the speed and accuracy of children’s ability to name pictures. For example, are 3-year-olds faster to name a picture of a book (a word that starts with ‘b’, which is learned at a very young age) compared to a picture of a shoe (a word that starts with ‘sh’ which is usually learned later). We also look at how children to learn brand new words. For example, when a child hears a new word, is it beneficial for them to repeat it out loud? This is similar to learning a new language in the classroom when a teacher pronounces the new words and the students repeat them. Our results show that sometimes it helps to repeat the words, but in cases when children are learning something very difficult, repetition might not always help! 

We also look at how children perceive the language they hear. When we speak, the individual sounds of a word are not easily separated like you see in writing. Instead, they all start to blend together and change depending on the sounds around them. For example, say the word ‘key’ out loud, focusing on where your tongue hits the top of your mouth during the ‘c’. Compare that with the ‘c’ in ‘Coke’. The slight differences in the place where your tongue touches the roof of your mouth lead to differences in the acoustic signal that you hear. Adults can pick up on these miniscule differences and use them to identify a word without waiting to hear the whole thing. We are now discovering whether children can do this too.

The research at the CCLR is integral to our understanding of language development. This leads to better practices in education and in treating children with language disorders or delays. Parents can happily bring their children to our lab knowing that this research benefits society.

Junior Scientist!

Junior Scientist!

Children who help us out with our research get a Junior Scientist Award  and a t-shirt or small gift to take home! Participating with us is a fun, educational, and free activity that can be scheduled all year round. If you are interested, please sign up using our online form!  You can also check us out on Facebook


Kids and social media

I've been invited to appear on CTV Morning Live this morning to talk about kids and social media. I decided that I'd put some of what I'm going to talk about into a blog post and would love your thoughts and opinions on the subject in the comments.

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It's hard to avoid social media in this day and age but when should kids start getting involved? Should you be letting your kids have Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts?

Terms of Services

The first thing to note is that almost every single social network requires anyone who signs up to be at least 13. This is because of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act in the US which won't allow private information to be obtained from children.  Because that's what most of the social networks are actually doing, it's easier for them to simply not allow children under 13 on to their sites.

If you make your decision based solely on the actual rules, your children shouldn't be on any of these sites if they're under 13.

What if you want to let them anyways?

I personally am a fan of giving my children a lot of knowledge. A lot of parents don't think kids under 13 should be allowed on social sites because they aren't mature enough and others believe that the rules are the rules and you shouldn't break them. I don't agree with breaking the rules in general but I also want to raise children who learned from a young age what it means to be online. My eight and a half year old has a Facebook account, but he has very little access to it and it's very supervised (he mostly uses it to play occasional Facebook games or to post a few photos to his small network). 

Rules and Regulations

As such, I think it's very important, at whatever age you're starting your kids online to have a lot of rules and discussions.  The rules I recommend are:

- A parent must always have access to all passwords. If passwords aren't working or have been changed, access to internet and devices is removed. (In our house because my son is only 8, he doesn't even know his passwords, if he wants to do something online someone needs to log him in.)

- Don't expect any privacy online. It's not a private place and as a parent we are responsible for them and their actions. This means they can be spot checked at any time by us logging in and going through what they've been up to. They also must let us be connected to them on all channels.

- Privacy settings must be set up by a parent and aren't to be changed.

Discussions

Before kids go online there are a lot of important discussions that need to happen. Both of these topics are actually deserving of entire posts on their own.

Privacy: Don't share personal information online. Your kids need to understand this and why. First and foremost, it's for their safety.

Cyberbullying: It's easy to be mean online. Teaching your kids empathy and the importance of being kind online is critical and an important discussion to have before your kids start spending time on social sites.

Model good behaviour

The best way to teach your kids what appropriate online behaviour is is to model it yourself. Don't share inappropriate content online,  ask your children if they mind having information about them shared online before you share it, be respectful of others and always remember how permanent the internet is. I often show my kids what I do online so they can see what it's all about.

Where should they start?

Regardless of what age you start your kids on social sites at (before 13 or not) a great way to start is with a closed network. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all examples of networks that allow you to keep your information in a private setting and that's a great way to create a safer environment for your kids to experiment in. 

For more information there are a lot of great resources on Common Sense Media including a post on what a good age to get started is.

This was just a quick overview and we can go into much more depth on a lot of the subjects. If there's anything in particular you want to know more about - let me know!

I know this can be a hot topic so please share your comments (respectfully of course :) below.

Worth a Visit: A Gym Tale

by Andrea

Every year, my twins would celebrate their joint birthday celebration at my parents’ house. It was always just family, and being born in March, it was never guaranteed that backyard play would be included. This year, we decided to try something different, and chose to host the party at A Gym Tale in Barrhaven.

At A Gym Tale, you can host different themed parties. We chose a pirate theme for my son, Seth, and a mermaid theme for my daughter, Rayna. I didn’t really see much of a theme at the party, though they did gear some of their private play games toward pirates (maybe I wasn’t paying that close attention, but I have no recollection of any mermaids. I will chalk that up to it being a double party and the boys were far more rambunctious).

For $169, you can invite eight children, with thirty minutes play in the indoor playground, another thirty minutes in the private themed area, and one hour in the private party room where lunch is served (hot dogs or pizza). You have to bring your own cake, but the staff will serve it.

The staff are VERY patient and knowledgeable. As the parent, however, you are in charge of making sure that the group behaves. That aspect can be a little trying, as it is a very busy place and children just love to scream. It was a little chaotic in the beginning with kids trickling in, but everything was sorted out once everyone arrived. Normally with a jungle gym atmosphere, you might encounter some nasty mystery puddles, but I found the place to be very clean. 

The climbers are part of a big pirate ship, complete with slides and multi-level play structures. The private play area is in the centre of the place, fenced off with crash mats, a trampoline, and plenty of things to play with. I’ll admit the kids would have preferred to have played on the structures, but they still had fun in the private play area. After the kids were done in there, we were brought to the private party room to enjoy a slice of pizza, some lemonade, and finally, cake. 

We all had a very good time! You can also check out A Gym Tale's drop-in playtime, special “Kids Night Out”  events, as well as nursery school and school-age care. This place is perfect for children ages 6 and under, and I would recommend it for your little one’s party - especially if they have a lot of energy to burn! 

Andrea is a freelance writer and mom of twins, and resides in Barrhaven.

Indian Food Kids Will Eat

I realize there are probably kids out there who will gobble up spicy chana masala or matar paneer. But despite showing early enthusiasm for Indian cuisine (it might have helped that I ate it every day while pregnant), my girls started rejecting these yummy dishes around age two. The spiciness factor is certainly an issue for some kids, while I think general toddler pickiness plays a big part.

So here is my "go to" Indian recipe for when I'm really craving all those gorgeous spices - and surprisingly, my kids love it! (It may help that we often order naan bread from the Indian restaurant down the road to go with the meal).

Kiddy Curry

2 tbsp coconut oil
1 small onion, chopped (or if your kids hate onions, just use onion powder!)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece of ginger, minced (or half tsp dried ginger)
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp curry powder (I love Cardomom and Cloves for fresh, tasty mixes)
1/2 tsp cumin, ground
1/2 tsp ground coriander
Salt and pepper to taste
1.5 cups chicken or veggie stock
1/4 cup ground almonds (almond flour)
2 apples, peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen peas

Garnishes: greek yogurt, chopped fresh cilantro, SPICE (this one's important, as I don't spice the dish before I serve it to the kids. I add my own spiciness!)

Heat the coconut oil, and saute the onion, garlic and ginger for five minutes. Add the chopped potatoes and spices and mix to coat. Pour in the stock (you may need slightly more than 1.5 cups or slightly less - you don't want it too runny!). Add the almond flour, and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and add the apples. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, and then mix in the frozen peas. Give it a taste, and see if it needs any more curry powder, coriander, salt, whatever!

Serve over a bed of rice. I also make raita (a yogurt dip) to go with this.

Tip: sometimes I make this dish too runny. If it ends up like that, I will mix 1 tbsp of arrowroot flour (or corn starch) with 1 tbsp water, and pour it in. This will thicken it up to a curried consistency.

Do your kids enjoy Indian food?