Spit That Out!

The Overly Informed Parent's Guide to Raising Children in the Age of Environmental Guilt by Paige Wolf

Blogging about green guilt, eco-anxiety, and finding practical, reasonable ways to keep our families safe and healthy.
November 11th, 2014

Speak Out About Philadelphia’s Plans for a Fracking-Fueled Economy

Corporate interests in Philadelphia have announced big plans to build more natural gas pipelines in Philadelphia. Some want to use this clearly hazardous system to position Philadelphia as “America’s Next Energy Hub” – at the same time forgetting the dangerous and antiquated pipeline system already in place and in dire need of repair.

We need to pay attention to what this could really mean.

Philadelphia City Council has announced public hearings this week surrounding the city’s energy future. They are accepting in person and written testimony. I urge you to consider attending or writing a letter on your own behalf.

Here is mine.

Dear City Council Committee:

I am writing to submit my testimony on Philadelphia’s energy future.

Building an additional natural gas pipeline in Philadelphia is an unsustainable and hazardous approach to energy growth, both economically and environmentally.

Philadelphia is held up as a model green city, having made great strides forward in various industries. A further investment in new natural gas infrastructure would be a huge step backward for this city, its workers, and its families.

Pennsylvania currently averages one natural gas leak for every three miles of distribution pipe, making the Pennsylvania one of the leakiest systems in the country. The highest concentration of risky pipe is under Philadelphia, with 89 leaks per hundred miles of mains — eight times the national average.

One in five miles of Pennsylvania pipeline — nearly twice the national average — is older than 1960, federal data shows. During the past 10 years, gas explosions killed 10 people and injured 21 in the state. A look beneath the surface of Philadelphia’s streets reveals a PGW system where potentially fatal hazards are commonplace

Governor Corbett has been quoted in saying this pipe needs to be repaired, but that funding it, “isn’t as nice as building a park or building a bridge, is it? Oftentimes, isn’t it the emergency that causes movement, rather than planning?”

I argue that we are, in fact, in a state of emergency.

Natural gas is not only a contributor to climate change, it significantly effects air quality. The Philadelphia area already has some of the worst air in the nation. The biggest single reason the region’s air quality is so bad is the South Philadelphia Refinery, which currently generates more than 73 percent of the toxic air emissions in Philadelphia, and 31 percent of all toxic emissions in the five-county region.

Perhaps that is why my five year old has severe asthma – and almost every single child in his preschool class carries an inhaler.

We know that true significant and sustainable job creation can be built on clean energy jobs. Philadelphia companies are innovators in solar, wind, geothermal, and other alternative energy sources. Researchers have shown time and again that it is possible to fuel the entire world on alternative energy, if we could only surpass the political barriers.

Make no mistake – it is the financial interest and false promises of natural gas companies that is holding us back. The number of long-term lucrative jobs created by natural gas drilling has been greatly exaggerated, and the economic benefit to Pennsylvanians has yet to be seen. And the plans to export the fuel overseas will do nothing for the energy bills of Philadelphians.

However, the jobs created by energy-efficiency (auditing and implementation through various means) and alternative energy production and installation are thriving.

Philadelphia can set an example of not only sustainability but of innovation. And, most importantly, this city can stand up for its most important asset – the health of our workers, our citizens, our families.

I hope that Philadelphia will be on the right side of history for the futures of our families. Please allow our children to breathe clean air, our innovators to thrive, and our city to grow in a way we can all be proud of.

Sincerely,

Paige Wolf

"Fracking Site in Warren Center, PA 06" by Ostroff Law - Fracking Injury Lawyer. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fracking_Site_in_Warren_Center,_PA_06.jpeg#mediaviewer/File:Fracking_Site_in_Warren_Center,_PA_06.jpeg

“Fracking Site in Warren Center, PA 06″ by Ostroff Law – Fracking Injury Lawyer. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

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November 8th, 2014

Annedroids Inspiration for National Recycling Week

“One persons junk is another person’s potential engineering solution!”

I adore 11-year-old scientist Anne on Amazon’s TV series Annedroids.

Where most people see junk, Anne sees possibility. When faced with a problem, no amount of failure ever dampens her spirit. That’s why her character was recently named one of TV’s Best Role Models of 2014 by Common Sense media. And that’s only part of why it’s a show I genuinely enjoy watching with my five-year-old.

Available on Amazon Prime Instant Video, Annedroids. is a live-action adventure series about a young female scientist, her human friends and their android assistants, and the amazing scientific discoveries they make. The series spotlights, through trial and error, how science, technology, engineering, the arts and math (STEAM) can inspire children to do great things.

Anne uses things found in her junkyard to create new inventions, so we celebrated National Recycling Week by making our own creation out of trash found around our house. We’d love to make a real-life android, but unfortunately, our “Steve Jo” doesn’t have quite the capabilities as the TV robots.

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On the “Reduce, Reuse, Robocycle” episode, Anne and the androids help Nick build a lawn-mowing robot to help him with his chores. Our robot’s capabilities include scaring the dog, antagonizing the baby, and displaying our love of both dairy and non-dairy products.

Fortunately we live in a city full of upcycling inspiration, living just a couple blocks from Philadelphia Magic Gardens, a massive, winding mosaic made up partly from junk!

 

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Tune in to Annedroids for your own inspiration and a show that will definitely make the most of screen time.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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November 5th, 2014

Promises Forever: New Philly Destination for Personalized Heirloom Gifts

I still have the personalized, hand-painted bench with my name on it that was bought for me when I was born. I can’t say the same for any of the other toys, clothes, or tchotchkes I’m sure my parents were inundated with over the course of my childhood.

That’s why people love to buy personalized gifts. And hand-painted quality wood is something that can sustain for generations, creating an heirloom rather than landfill fodder.

Now Center City Philadelphia has its own destination for hand-painted furniture and accessories, custom-designed in-store. Promises Forever is a new kids furniture, toy, and gift shop offering personalized, custom pieces. In-house artists strive to make each item a special gift, adding creative flair to produce heirlooms to pass down through generations.

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Promises Forever stocks high-quality wooden nursery furniture from brands like KidKraft and Lusso, as well as smaller room accessories like chairs, stepstools, frames, bookends, and toy-chests. The shop even sells one-of-a-kind refurbished antique furniture.

The shop also offers quality wooden toys from companies like Hape and Brio; handmade-in-the-USA 3-D pendulum clocks from Modern Moose; and organic mattresses and bedding from Naturepedic and Lullaby Earth.

Visit at 1912 South Street in Philadelphia or shop online at www.promisesforever.com.

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November 3rd, 2014

It Wasn’t a Zebra – It was RSV Disease

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for MedImmune. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Back when my now-five-year-old was about 15 months old he got sick. Not just run-of-the-mill cold sick, but inconsolable, high-fevered, and listless.

A trip to the pediatrician diagnosed him with a double ear infection and prescribed a round of antibiotics. But after a day or two, he still wasn’t seeming any better.

We took him over to the ER at Children’s Hospital where triage doctors and nurses seemed baffled. They scanned his belly for abdominal blockage and found bronchiolitis with a chest X-ray. But they couldn’t seem to account for why he was so incredibly feverish and lethargic. They even toyed with the idea of giving him a spinal tap to check for meningitis. Meningitis. 

Strangely, I was not panicked. I knew there had to be a simple explanation and my maternal instinct told me it was something less catastrophic – but what?

Fortunately after a few hours of administering fluids intravenously his fever came down and he started to act more like himself. We left the hospital with no real answers but the confidence that our baby was on the mend.

The next day we received a call from a hospital nurse to inform us that he had tested positive for RSV. Wait – I had heard of RSV. I knew it was a respiratory virus that could be extremely dangerous for babies but was usually manageable and passed without any serious damage. But why hadn’t that been the first thing the doctors and nurses mentioned? Why was I only hearing about this now? Why were they looking for zebras when he was so clearly demonstrating the symptoms of RSV?

RSV is a common seasonal virus, contracted by nearly all children by the age of two. It typically causes mild to moderate cold-like symptoms in healthy, full-term babies, but it is also the leading cause of hospitalization for babies during their first year of life in the United States.

Despite being so common, many parents aren’t aware of RSV; in fact, one-third of mothers have never heard of the virus. While every baby is at risk of contracting RSV, babies born prematurely are at increased risk for developing severe RSV disease. While my son was not a preemie, preterm infants are twice as likely as full-term infants to be admitted to the hospital for RSV-related symptoms.

RSV occurs in epidemics each year, typically from November through March, though it can vary by geography and year-to-year. Symptoms to look for include persistent coughing or wheezing; bluish color around the mouth or fingernails; rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths; and high fever (especially if it over 100 degrees in infants under 3 months).

RSV is very contagious and can be spread easily, much like a typical cold. There is no treatment for RSV disease once it’s contracted, so prevention is critical. To help minimize the spread of RSV disease, all parents should wash hands and encourage the same for all children and caretakers; keep toys, clothes, and blankets clean; steer clear of people who have recently been sick; and never let anyone smoke around your baby.

Don’t panic: Remember – for most babies RSV is not much worse than a common cold. But if your baby is one who presents serious symptoms, just make sure you know what to look for to get the care he or she needs. For more information, visit www.RSVprotection.com.

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October 31st, 2014

DIY Jake and The Neverland Pirates Costume

I refuse to buy made-in-China junky Halloween costumers for $50 a pop – simply refuse! In the past I have borrowed used costumes, bought used costumes on Ebay, and occasionally been known to piece together things on my own. But this year when Sam announced his plan to be “Jake” from DisneyJr’s “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” and have his little sister be “Izzy,” I was ready to go totally D.I.Y.!

It was still more than a month before Halloween when I passed a $1 costume rack outside a local fabric store and saw this bizarre blue and yellow top (which originally had sleeves and was not cut in half – got too enthusiastic before remembering to take a photo).

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I bought a couple yards of yellow ribbon for another $1. I don’t have a sewing machine (nor would I know how to use one), so I pulled out a hot glue gun that I hadn’t used since I was 12 (and way into very bizarre crafting). I’m pretty sure the hot glue is seriously toxic, but I figured this will only be worn once (and hopefully not eaten by baby or dog.) Fortunately clean lines were not a requirement for a child pirate costume.

I searched my bounty of buttons collected from the sewing kits of deceased relatives and found four perfect yellow buttons (sewing buttons I can do). And just for fun I sewed on a couple of cute gold pirate-looking buttons at the top – a true original!

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I also needed a red bandana which ended up being magically provided by Applegate Farms in my swag bag at ShiftCon.

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For the shirt, I took a random hand-me-down white t-shirt and used some leather string that I randomly had to create the “X-loop” at the top of the shirt.

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Hand-me-down blue jeans and timberlands complete the look. Total cost = $2.

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Now for the Izzy costume.

I wasn’t surprised to find a pair of purple pants in Evelyn’s stock of hand-me-downs. But I was pleasantly surprised to find a pink peasant-style blouse pretty much identical to the one Izzy wears. The boots I pulled out are pretty random, but definitely give the illusion of pirate style.

For the loot-bag necklace all I needed was a scrap of yellow fabric (I used a microfiber cloth), some more of that leather string, and something small and circular to wrap (I chose a wooden egg). The bandana – which she wore for exactly 13 seconds – was just some pink scrap fabric. Done. Cost = $0.

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Can you beat my $2 upcycled costume? Would love to hear about your DIY and upcycled costumes!

P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy my monthly newsletter. Receive green living news, discounts, giveaways, and events delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.

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October 27th, 2014

Mama May i: Local, Sustainable Toys For Learning Through Play

It’s no news that I love a local, sustainable company – especially one that creates better products for parents and children. Inspired by Waldorf and Montessori methods – as well as old fashioned, naturally-enhanced play – Mama May i’s handmade learning toys blend the best of developmental psychology and design to offer a unique learning-through-play experience.

Based in Philadelphia, founder and principal designer, Jessica Perkins, has been creating for as long as she can remember, originally helping her mama with her handmade toy store over 20 years ago. With the birth of her children, and all the new little people in her life, Jessica found herself searching for toys that met her educational and design standards. Inspired by these little explorers, and her understanding of Montessori and Waldorf methodologies, Jessica Perkins began making all of her creations with the belief that children make sense of their world through sensing their world.

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Just watching my children with these toys proves that simple and well-made beats out the plastic and batteries any day. My daughter played happily for hours with these non-toxic, hand-painted sorting eggs.

(That scratching noise is the dog). 

It’s no surprise that simplicity is key at this age – at 16 months all I wanted to do was put a Sea Breeze bottle in and out of a trash can. But can simplicity stack up for a hyper 5-year-old?

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Well, when I brought the Nature Scavenger Hunt to the park one day, my son and his friends went crazy for it. They immediately assigned tasks to each other and had a great time looking for worms, leaves, and oddly-shaped sticks! Who says kids don’t play with sticks anymore?

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See everything Mama May i has to offer online. And save $5 off your purchase of $30 or more with code SPITTHATOUT!

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October 21st, 2014

Experience Farm to Skin Beauty from Board and Batten

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We all know about farm-to-table. But have you ever truly experienced farm-to-skin?

When I first discovered Board and Batten, I was blown away by the elegance of such a young, homegrown line. I was lucky enough to sample several of the products at Healthy Brand Showcase and then convince the brand to work with me to spread the word!

Handcrafted on a 600-acre farmstead, Board and Batten’s products are designed to nourish and balance skin using organic plant oils, botanical extracts, and pure essential oils. Based on a plantation-style farm, Board and Batten’s name represents the back-to-basics construction it applies to all its face, body, hair, and even pet products. Since the products are handcrafted in small batches, every ingredient is carefully chosen to directly benefit the skin. Board and Batten’s farmstead is located on more than 600 acres, including a 40-acre tree farm, a greenhouse, 20 acres of citrus and 200 acres of grazing cattle. The namesake board and batten barn houses the company’s Nubian goats, horses, and chickens!

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New products include: the gift-worthy Grains & Honey Facial Set; Herbal Facial Masque and Crème; Eye Revive Serum with olive squalane, all-natural foaming soap; and a line of all natural soy-based candles in for completely natural scents (Cypress Moss, Chamomile and Lavender, Citrus Thyme, and Rosemary Sage).

My favorite products include the Seeds of Today serum which I apply every evening before bed, the Herbal Facial Cleanser, and the Bamboo Charcoal Soap, an amazing unisex cold-process soap that detoxes and refreshes. (I really need to do a whole separate post about how bamboo charcoal is the greatest ingredient in the world).

The boutique product line is rich in strikingly effective natural ingredients sourced right on the farm, like bamboo charcoal, free-range honey, and goat milk. All products are handcrafted by scratch, with additional skin superfood ingredients like allantoin (derived from comfrey plant), extra virgin refined carrot oil, chia seed extract, organic extra virgin coconut oil, orange peel wax, pomegranate sterols, and D’Orientine S, a date palm kernel extract with clinically proven anti-wrinkle properties.

After Patricia Walker was diagnosed with thyroid disease in 2004, she began to look at the products she was using on her skin every day. When she discovered that many chemicals in conventional skin care could mimic estrogen and other hormones, she began researching natural alternatives. Living on a large farmstead with an abundance of natural resources allowed Walker to create a skin care line to keep in harmony with her natural environment. In 2012, she founded Board and Batten starting with a single product and has since grown it to a line of more than 20 products for a wide variety of uses.

Use code healthyskin for 10% off your entire purchase!

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Disclosure: I have a paid relationship with the brand featured in this post. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here. 

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October 16th, 2014

Don’t Muddle the Movement: How Can the Real Food Movement Speak with One Clear Voice?

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Being part of a movement is empowering and inspiring. Nothing fuels one’s passion and purpose like being surrounded by likeminded people – whether in person at events like ShiftCon or even on a Facebook group or message board. It’s thrilling to see the power of numbers, working together for a common cause.

But what happens when not all of your causes are common? What if something you spend your life working towards gets lumped together with something you don’t even agree with?

Not all animal advocates agree with PETA’s tactics (Hi!). Not all liberal democrats are against the death penalty (Right here!). And not all advocates for real food, GMO labeling, organic farming, and a sustainable, healthy food system are anti-vaccinnation!

In fact, the connection that is made in this final instance has me extremely troubled.

There is a movement against healthy food advocacy and GMO-labeling that labels us all as “anti-science.” These groups use examples of extremist news sources like Dr. Mercola and Natural News to feed the notion that all health and environmental advocates also believe we should eliminate vaccines and can cure Ebola with essential oils and prevent polio with breastmilk. So I can see why they might find us all a little crazy. There’s just one problem. MOST of the folks who want to see a change in the food system don’t agree with these things!

According to a recent study, 93% of Americans show support for GMO labeling. I don’t have any statistics on how many Americans are keeping their children entirely unvaccinated, but it’s probably the vast minority.

I have quite a few friends and colleagues who I deeply respect and who chose not to vaccinate or not to follow the the prescribed schedule. This is an instance where we simply agree to disagree. People and their belief systems are not black and white. I know environmental advocates who carry a gun in their purse and love to go hunting on the weekends. I also know environmental advocates who are so vegan they wouldn’t even be comfortable if I ordered a steak at dinner.

By definition, environmentalists are pro-science. We believe the 99.9% of scientists that say climate change is real and man-made. We think it’s crazy that only a small percent of the 80,000 chemicals used in our products are scientifically tested for safety. We think it’s insane that the food and products produced for other countries are held to a higher health standard than what is sold in the U.S.

And that link brings us to FoodBabe, the subject of so much controversy and ire. There are at least three separate well-followed Facebook pages dedicated solely to making fun of her and “taking her down.”

In my opinion, Food Babe is not the ideal spokesperson for the healthy food movement. I don’t agree with her post on claiming to have food allergies in restaurants and I sure don’t agree with her stance on flu shots. I don’t like her policy of deleting comments from her social media, and she wouldn’t be my personal choice for leader of the food movement. BUT, she has managed to rally people against misleading marketing, unfair health double standards, and horrific ingredients in manufactured food. And by rallying these people, she has produced great change and gained plenty of attention. Do I wish she agreed with me on everything in life? Sure. But I have to be realistic and appreciate her for the good she has done.

It’s the “liberal lumping” that’s the problem. And it goes both ways. Certainly, not all Republicans are pro-life or against marriage equality.

Just because I consider myself a “green mom,” doesn’t mean I don’t take tylenol (and Zoloft). I use air-conditioning. I’ve bought cases of baby formula. I have never, nor do I intend, to brew kombucha. And I was first in line for the flu shot this fall.

Everyone within a movement has their own views and opinions – Occupy Wall Street went to hell in a handbasket because no one could articulate  a clear vision. So as different as we may be, us “healthy  green moms” have one clear vision in common, and it has nothing to do with vaccines or religion or veganism.

Our vision is for transparency and honesty from the food, cosmetics, and other manufacturing industries.

We undeniably agree that products produced for Americans should be held to the same standards as those manufactured for use abroad.

We want more accessible, affordable access to food that has not been genetically-modified or treated with dangerous pesticides.

We want fair farming practices that support the farmers, the environment, and humanely raised animals.

We want to be heard. And when too many other controversial issues get lumped in there, we just become white noise.

Promote any lifestyle you like and shout your beliefs from the mountaintops.

But we have to find a way to make the public hear us speak to these key issues with one clear, unwavering voice.

P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy my monthly newsletter. Receive green living news, discounts, giveaways, and events delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.

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October 14th, 2014

Giveaway Naturepedic Trio Organic Pillow System

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We talk a lot about the importance of an organic mattress and organic linens. But what about your pillow? This is where your face is spending about a third of your life!

Personally, I need a firm pillow, and many of the organic pillows on the market just weren’t cutting it. So when I tried out the Naturepedic Trio Organic Pillow System I was thrilled to find something natural, pure, and sturdy!

A great pillow requires a soft surface for comfort and a contouring support system for proper postural alignment. Many pillows approximate this balance, but to fully realize it requires some out of the box thinking. The Naturepedic Trio Organic Pillow System, is an innovative and customizable pillow designed to address this inherent duality. Featuring dual action compression, the quilted outer encasement offers a fluffy cloud-like feeling, while the shredded latex core provides comfortable balanced support. You can even machine wash and dry the quilted encasement!

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Of course, there are no flame retardants for a healthy non-toxic design.The inner core is made of organic cotton sateen fabric and organic shredded latex fill, with an easy access zipper for adjusting the amount of fill. The quilted encasement is made from two layers of organic cotton stretch knit fabric and PLA filling for resiliency and washability. And the outer pillowcase is made from luxurious organic cotton sateen fabric.

Naturepedic specializes in the design and manufacturing of quality organic mattresses for infants, toddlers, children and adults that promote natural and organic materials, a non-toxic design, fire safety, and overall health & safety. All Naturepedic natural and organic mattresses have been designed with the help of pediatricians, orthopedic specialists, chemists and engineers, and are constructed by Amish craftsmen. They have done the research and gathered the right materials so that you can focus on what really counts – giving yourself or your child a healthy sleep environment.

Giveaway: Enter to Win a Trio Organic Pillow ($139 value) 

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Disclosure: I received samples of these products for review. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here. 

P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy my monthly newsletter. Receive green living news, discounts, giveaways, and events delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.

Naturepedic Organic Baby Mattresses

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October 8th, 2014

TV That Inspires Kids to Get Crafty: Amazon Studios: Creative Galaxy Review

Screen Time, Screen Time – it’s always a controversy. But realistically, children are going to be using gadgets for everything from communication to schoolwork. So if we are going to let them watch and play, it’s a huge plus if it’s something interactive and educational.

We are always looking for new craft ideas and a new show on Amazon Studios offers great incentive and imagination. Creative Galaxy, produced by Out of the Blue Enterprises with Angela Santomero (Blue’s Clues, Super Why!), is a make-along, create-along, interactive art adventure series for preschoolers. Characters Arty and Epiphany travel around the galaxy to solve problems with art, inspiring creative thinking through crafts, music and dance. To give kids and parents the real-life tools they need to re-create Arty’s experience, a live-action piece at the end of each animated episode will take viewers through the craft project that Arty showcased in the galaxy.

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Without even being prompted, my five-year-old informed me that he liked how the show “teaches you how to be creative.” And our creativity started with a lesson in “pointillism,” which may seem like an advanced concept for a preschooler, but is actually pretty simplistic – paint with dots! We just happened to have a couple of artist canvases and a “Do-a-Dot” paint set Sam received as birthday gifts. The paint set didn’t entirely conform to my standards of non-toxic and left days of hand stains, but he thoroughly enjoyed them.

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This series is designed to support a child’s natural inclination to use their imaginations, make, and create.  In every episode, the characters will use “fix it with art” to model the importance of art as a resource for life. The series helps kids at home feel as if they are making art along with Arty, through its interactive story format. As “helper artists”, the kids at home will “create” alongside Arty, empowering them as “makers” in a media format.

It is important to develop a child’s relationship to art to get them comfortable with the idea of taking chances both artistically and throughout their other spheres of development. Art is instrumental in building fine motor skills, engaging the senses, and opening up problem-solving abilities.

The series also brings awareness to the fact that people literally find themselves immersed in art most of the time: Sculptures, posters, fashion, music, landscape design – whether we think of our world as art or not – it is!

If a show can actually encourage my child to want to turn off the TV and create when it’s over, it’s worth the screen time to me.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

 

P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy my monthly newsletter. Receive green living news, discounts, giveaways, and events delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.

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