15 August 2012
By: Laura Trotta (BEng(Environmental), MSc(Environmental Chemistry))
Turn your winter leek crop into a hearty and nutritious meal for your baby or toddler
A couple of winter's ago we had a bumper crop of leeks in the garden. This coincided with my first son moving onto chunky solid foods and I spent much time in the kitchen devising recipes to best utilise our organic leeks. The dish that was the biggest hit with him was this tasty chicken, leek and potato casserole.
Leeks are a true superfood and add lots of flavour to your baby's food. They are full of vitamins A, C, E, folate and potassium. Leeks are also easy to grow in your garden and whereas commercial varieties may be heavily sprayed, home-grown organic leeks are super tasty and free from nasty chemicals.
Preparation: 20 min, Cooking: 20 min
- 1 large organic leek (or 2 small leeks)
- 2 organic potatoes, chopped in 1cm cubes
- 200g free-range chicken breast or thigh, chopped
- 1 cup organic full cream milk
- 1/2 tablespoon organic butter
- Brown chicken in a medium-hot pan. Remove.
- Turn heat to low. Add chopped leeks to pan with butter and sauté approximately 2 minutes until soft.
- Add chopped potatoes to pan.
- Cook, covered for approximately 10 minutes until soft.
- Add milk and chicken and simmer until potatoes very soft and creamy.
- Add fresh organic herbs (eg chives) to taste if available.
About the Author: Laura Trotta is an eco mum, environmental engineer and founder of Sustainababy. She lives in regional South Australia with her husband Paul and sons Matthew and Christopher. Laura is an avid organic gardener and home cook and enjoys experimenting with new recipes to best utilise her home-grown produce.
24 July 2012
By: Lisa Reid (BEng(Environmental))
Increase the likelihood of your toddler enjoying a range of healthy foods by making mealtimes fun!
When first eating solids, my son would gobble up anything put in front of him. He’d devour everything including vegetables with great gusto. Somewhere between 18 months and 2 years old, things changed. To our disappointment and dismay, our growing toddler decided that he didn’t want to eat his veggies or some of our family’s staples – soups, zucchini slice, lentil roast and quiche.
After reading a few parenting books, speaking to friends and family with older children, and watching our son’s eating habits, I realized that he would eat (or try) veggies if they were separated out rather than all mixed together or hidden. And if they were presented in a fun way! So here are a few ideas of how we’ve brought veggies back into our toddler's!
- Create a smiley face on the plate (this can be done with fruit or veg)
- Have a tasting plate of veggies which can be picked at during the day, therefore taking the stress out of meal times
- Make funny faces using rice/corn cakes topped with a healthy spread (avocado, hummus, peanut butter, cream cheese), fruit or veg pieces (thanks to Play School for this idea), and/or dried fruit
- Put together people made from fruit or vegetables
- Use dips (hummus or guacamole) with fruit or vegetable dippers (carrot, celery, cucumber, apple and pear work well).
So get creative and take the pressure off your family mealtimes!
About the Author: Lisa Reid is an eco mum and environmental engineer and resides in Melbourne with her husband Tim and young children Jacob and Edith. Lisa is working to reduce her family's eco footprint by growing her own vegetables, using less chemicals and making her home energy efficient.
23 April 2012
By: Laura Trotta (BEng (Environmental), MSc(Environmental Chemistry))
Photo Source: Narelle Debenham, NaturedKids
Nature play is lacking or sadly absent for many children of today. Increased urbanisation, smaller backyards, parents working longer hours with lengthy commutes, higher electronic screen times and tight schedules of organised activities have all contributed to making the outdoors a restricted place for our young ones.
Parents have the ability to give their children the outside playing opportunities and free play time they possibly enjoyed as a child.
Children are healthier and happier when they have the opportunity to play outside every day. A recent study conducted by the University of Western Australia reported the following positive benefits of nature play1:
- A decreased risk of children being overweight when more nature is present in their neighbourhood.
- Playing in natural environments assists with building children’s motor skills.
- Nature contact enhances children’s learning and development including, but not limited to, children’s personality development, cognitive functioning, attitude and school behaviour.
- Contact with nature, especially during middle childhood, has an important role to play in children’s mental health.
- Children’s manage stress better when they have more contact with nature.
- Time in nature assists the performance of children with ADHD.
- Children displaying delinquent behaviour benefit from nature-based programs such as wilderness camps.
Photo Source: Narelle Debenham, NaturedKids
Teacher, nature playgroup facilitator and mother of three, Narelle Debenham runs NaturedKids an outdoor program for babies to five year-olds and their families to explore and connect with nature in their local area. Narelle also provides training for adults to inspire nature play.
She passionately believes "when regularly immersed in their natural environment, children’s involvement in nature during their formative years guarantees eco-literacy, care for our natural world and environmental sustainability."
Narelle encourages parents to introduce their babies from just a few months old to nature-based activities in the back yard and offers the following nature play ideas for children to enjoy.
- Make worm stew (mud pies).
- Feel moss, leaves, feathers and other textures.
- Tickle their cheek or tummy with a flower or feather.
- Walk bare-footed.
- Float petals in a bowl of water for a beautiful swirling water play.
- Read stories or enjoy family meals outside.
- Make daisy chains or put buttercups under their chin.
- Play drums. Put a stick inside a large gumnut to make a drumstick and turn some pots upside down for drums.
- Lie on your back under a tree to look at its canopy.
- Lie on tummies to sniff the grass and look for creatures in the “grass jungle’’.
- Make a dinosaur garden: use plastic dinosaurs, grab a potting tray and make your dinosaurs a prehistoric garden with loose materials from the yard.
- Plant a vegetable garden and tend it together.
- Look at raindrops on nasturtium leaves, with tiny magnifying glasses, and roll the drop carefully around the leaf without letting it fall off.
- Make a bird’s breakfast. Grow sunflowers along the fence and then watch when the cockies and parrots come along to eat them.
- Grow sunflowers in a circle then tie their heads together to make a cubby.
- Collect leaves, feathers, seed pods and other natural items from the yard or while on a walk. Put them in a dish or bowl near the front door to create a nature plate to remind visitors of nature.
- Don’t toss your child’s first, or outgrown shoes, away. Instead, keep the memories alive by planting a succulent or other small plant in the shoe and using it as garden art.
- Using a stick, scratch your child’s name, a smiley face, noughts and crosses or other shapes in the soil.
- Let children collect and play with sticks to build an elf or fairy cubby or a home for their small toys.
- Create a collage on the ground (no glue), using leaves, twigs, flowers and other items from nature.
- Fly a kite.
- Find a place to lie under a tree or in a secret place to close your eyes and focus on sounds. Ask children to respond to sounds. For instance, how do they make you feel? This can lead to poetry or discussion on the effect of sounds in a city, why animals use sound and so on.
- Talk about smells as you walk together to raise awareness of the subtleties and effects on feelings.
- Grow herbs, make potpourri and explore why and how plants smell.
- Allow children to make their own mini-landscapes. Encourage them to consider terrain, vegetation, rivers, drainage and so on. The landscape could be modelled on an imaginary place, a place from a story or a real place and could include toys.
- Put on a coat, grab an umbrella and go outside in the rain. Explore how things change in the garden when they are wet and have fun with the puddles.
- Go outside at night and look at the stars and moon.
- Plant seeds or seedlings and, armed with childsized gardening tools, give children the responsibility to care for their garden.
- Read outdoor-themed stories outdoors.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your kids and head outside and you too will reap the benefits nature has to offer.
1. Martin, Karen, Dr (Feb 2011), The University of Western Australia, Putting Nature Back Into Nurture: The Benefits of Nature for Children.
About the Author: Laura Trotta (BEng (Environmental), MSc (Environmental Science)) is an eco mum, environmental engineer and founder of Sustainababy. She lives in regional South Australia with her husband Paul and son Matthew. Thank you to Narelle Debenham of NaturedKids for contributing to this article.
13 February 2012
By: Laura Trotta (BEng(Environmental, MSc (Environmental Chemistry))
Watch your toddler or pre-schooler delight in using their natural environment for inspiration and materials as they make their own nature collage.
Most pre-schoolers love craft activities, however there's no denying that they can make a huge mess! With just a few minutes of planning, it is possible to combine craft with the outdoors and set the stage for your child to create their own nature collage.
Nature collages have many benefits for both parent and child, which include:
- indulging children's love of craft without destroying the house,
- educating children about their natural environment,
- not costing you a fortune in craft materials
- having minimal environmental impact!
Requiring minimal effort to set up, nature collages are the perfect craft activity for children over two years, however are simple enough for toddlers to also enjoy. Simply follow the steps below and your child will be creating their own nature craft in no time:
- Set up a large sheet of paper and glue with paintbrush on a flat surface outside
- Explain to your child that they can collect any items in the garden to glue onto the paper (of course, if you don't want your prized pansies included you may need to say so)
- Take the opportunity while your child is collecting their "craft materials" to explain what they are, where they come from and/or why they are in your garden
- Watch your child enjoy both gathering the materials and constructing their own nature collage.
Last week my son Matthew made a nature collage using materials from our backyard. As you can see from the photos, he really got into the activity and enjoyed collecting (and pouring) the sand and gathering feathers from our chicken coup!
As we live in Outback Australia, our garden composition varies greatly to many other homes in Australia. I'd love to hear what items your child used in making their nature collage, or even better, see their collages! Feel free to post photos of your child's colourful creations on our Facebook page.
About the Author: Laura Trotta (BEng(Environmental), MSc (Environmental Chemistry)) is an eco mum, environmental engineer and founder of Sustainababy. She lives in regional South Australia with her husband Paul and son Matthew.
30 January 2012
By: Tanya Fyfe (B.Eng(Environmental))
Rather than throwing out used lids, upcycle them into a fun, cheap and eco-friendly craft project with your toddler or child!
My 13 month old son Billy is fascinated by lids. His collection includes lids from jam jars, milk cartons and soft drink bottles. One of his favourite games is simply putting them into and out of a variety of containers. I have demonstrated sorting them by size or colour, but he hasn’t quite got that idea yet! The other day I decided to try something different and reuse some lids to make a ‘necklace’ for him to play with (under my supervision of course).
This is a cheap and eco-friendly craft activity and is very easy to do with your child! Very simply, I punched holes in some plastic lids with a metal skewer and threaded them onto a piece of hat elastic, which being stretchy poses minimal strangulation risk. I also added some colourful pieces of cardboard for a bit of variety, but you could use dried pasta or any other interesting odds and ends you can find. Billy enjoyed fiddling with the ‘beads’ that were already threaded while I finished the necklace, and older children could also help with the threading and material selection. It is probably best for an adult to punch the holes though.
In the end, Billy didn’t really take to the necklace as an accessory but he certainly likes it as a handheld toy!
As bottle lids can’t be recycled, remember to remove them when sorting your recyclables. Here are some other suggestions for reusing lids into eco-friendly craft and play activities for your toddler or child, and we’d love to hear others.
- Glue to a piece of recycled cardboard or other craft project for an interesting collage
- Use as counters or to demonstrate concepts such as colour and size
- Set up a slide using a large book and roll lids down it. Alter the slope to alter the speed!
- Thread onto bamboo skewers to make your own mini abacus
- Thread onto string with streamers to make a hanging Christmas decoration.
About the Author: Tanya Fyfe is an eco mum and environmental engineer and lives in the WA goldfields with her husband Andy and son Billy. The family’s aim is to live sustainably and for Billy to grow up understanding where food comes from and how it is produced. They generate solar electricity and have an organic vegie garden and modest orchard irrigated entirely with grey water.