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A Greener Place to Play & Grow! greening your nursery & playroom


hildren are natural explorers; they use their senses to experience the world, putting things in their mouth, and touching everything. From birth, children spend hours playing on the ground, often in their nursery or playroom.

Pound for pound, children eat more food, consume more liquid, and breathe more air than adults. Their organs and respiratory, immune, and neurological systems are still developing, making children more susceptible to the negative efects of poor indoor air quality and chemical exposure. Good Morning America and the Greenguard

Environmental Institute conducted an experiment to investigate the number of toxins in the air of a newly set-up baby’s nursery, and over 300 chemicals were detected. The numbers are alarming, but as parents we have the power to change the math. Toxic exposure occurs in the following three ways:   Dermal: What we touch. Think: What might touch your baby’s skin?   Ingestion: What we consume or put in our mouths. Think: What might ind its way into your baby’s mouth?   Inhalation: What airborne chemicals we breathe. Think: What will afect your baby’s air quality?

By Sara Vartanian Take simple steps: You may not be able to do everything at once, but you can do something. When choosing items for your child’s space, consider where they will be spending the most time, and what they will be spending the most time doing. Make it a priority to choose greener products for items that are used on a daily basis. Try to make the best choices that you reasonably can with products that you use less frequently, and limit your child’s exposure to more toxic items. Remember that sometimes our budget needs to fall in line with our ideals.


Mattresses and Bedding

Lo o k fo r so lid w o o d fu rn itu re instead of wood composites, many of which contain formaldehyde; a nasty chemical that is a known carcinogen.

Lo o k fo r a n o rg a n ic m a ttre ss or one that is GREENGUARD certiied. Children spend a large percentage of their little lives sleeping, so the surface on which you choose to place them must be considered carefully. Most mattresses contain several chemicals like formaldehyde and anti-bacterial agents.

Lo o k fo r th e GREENGUARD se a l o f a p p ro va l. This symbol indicates that the product will have low, or no, chemical emissions. Be su re to o f -g a s a n y n e w fu rn itu re or large purchases you bring into your home. The smell of “new” is the scent of chemicals and you want to avoid bringing this into your home. Second hand furniture that is in good condition can be a budget friendly and healthy choice, as it has had the chance to of-gas.

EcoParent Tips:   We love lea market inds, like our antique solid wood rocker (#1 in picture), made in Ontario.   Mother Hubbard’s furniture is eco-conscious, has lots of great choices, and is Canadianmade too.

Co ve r a co n ve n tio n a l m a ttre ss w ith a n o n -PVC co ve r. Be sure to give it time to of-gas before covering it, preferably outside of your home, and deinitely not in baby’s room. Ch o o se 10 0 p e rce n t o rg a n ic b e d d in g to keep your child’s slumber non-toxic. If you’re concerned about issues of sustainability and ethical manufacturing - which I think you probably are - look for bedding labeled with GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) organic certiication or Oeko-Tex Standard 1000 certiication.

EcoParent Tips:   Kushies has a great organic line of bedding (#2) & actually does most of their manufacturing here in Canada !   Soma Mattresses has a wide selection of eco-friendly options and you can shop online.   We also love Dream Child organic bedding – beautiful product and an ethical mompreneurial business too!   Of course, nothing compares to a quilt handmade , with love (#3). Sam’s aunt Nancy Dubblestyne made ours.

Flooring Since children spend years of their lives on the loor, what they are playing on rightfully demands some investigation. If ch o se n w ise ly, b a re lo o rs a re b e st fo r m in im izin g to xicitie s. Consider reclaimed Canadian wood or FSC certiied wood. Cork is another great option but avoid anything treated with Microban that contains toxic triclosan. Avo id th o se b rig h tly co lo u re d fo a m tile s marketed for kids; they are non-biodegradable and often treated with Microban. Try re cycle d ca rp e t tile s, which can be washed and replaced when worn through. These are a sustainable and low-VOC choice.

EcoParent Tips:   Flor modular carpet tiles (#4) are such a fun eco-choice! Low VOC and recyclable, many styles are made of primarily recycled content. They’re a way better nursery choice than foam tiles, but just as convenient. SO stylish… we honestly can’t get enough of these.

Photo by Sam Stedman

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Choose zero VOC paint. VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) are known to contribute to smog, ozone depletion, and respiratory illnesses. As a general rule of thumb, the lighter the paint the fewer VOC’s. Be aware that any tints added to the zero VOC white base paint may have VOC’s.

Think about quality over quantity. Consider investing in a few quality toys, rather than a mountain of cheap, harmful plastics. Children also like to play with everyday household items, so you can be assured that they will still have plenty of tools for their imagination.

Get yourself some milk paint. Milk paint is organic, biodegradable, and made from natural ingredients. It comes in powder form and requires some mixing. Paint well in advance of a new baby’s arrival, or before your child spends time in the space. Keep windows open while working and for some time afterwards to assist with clearing the air. Pregnant moms should avoid painting. Even when choosing better paint, I recommend exercising caution with your family’s wellbeing.

EcoParent Tips:   Natura Beauti-Tone Paints (and all colorants!) by Home Hardware are VOC-free, easy to get your hands on and cost efective, but did you know they’re also made in Canada? The pretty colour pictured here is “Hazy Summerset” (#5).

Opt for unfinished, solid wood toys and ones treated with natural inishes or nontoxic paint; these are safe and beautiful choices. Select toys made of natural fibres such as organic cotton, hemp, and wool. Wool is a natural lame retardant and organic materials aren’t treated with pesticides. Since your child is likely to spend hours snuggling these toys, you’ll also want to seek out ones that are coloured with non-toxic dyes. Choose non-toxic, recycled plastic toys, and always avoid these toxins, common in many plastics: BPA, phthalates, PVC, latex (natural latex, from rubber trees, is ine), lead, and lame retardants. Choose safer plastics such as those labeled 1, 2, 4, & 5. Deinitely stay away from #3 PVC plastic.

EcoParent Tips:   Cate & Levi are faves; one-of-a-kind creations (#6), handmade (yep!) out of reclaimed wool right here in Canada.   Green Toys are great go-to toys (#7) made of recycled plastic that are easy to ind in toy stores and made in the USA.   We also love craft-show and farmers’ market inds – these venues can be great for wooden toys (#8) in particular.   We avoid storing toys in plastic containers and use washable & reversible organic cotton bins by Fluf (#9) instead. This company is amazing – check them out.

Air Quality

Other Gear

With Canadians spending an average of 80-90% of their time indoors, according to the Canadian Lung Association, paying attention to indoor air quality is good for the whole family.

Start by considering buying less; are these items that you really need?

Incorporate these simple steps into your family’s routine to improve your home’s air quality: 1.


3. 4. 5.

Open a window daily to bring fresh air into your home. Use a range-hood when cooking and exhaust fans in bathrooms. Try an air puriier in playrooms and nurseries. Get rid of dust. Use a HEPA ilter vacuum, wash bedding and textiles regularly with a non-toxic, artiicial fragrance-free detergent, and wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth. Reduce clutter. That’s less stuf to dust and less potential ofgassing of toxic chemicals, too. Leave shoes at the door. Wearing them around the house tracks in pollutants. DO NOT USE ARTIFICIAL FRAGRANCES to mask odours. These contain many seriously toxic substances including hormone disruptors and known carcinogens. Use natural cleaners too – see the Green Mama’s column on page 38 for great tips!

EcoParent Tips:   We tested the Honeywell Air Genius 5 Air Cleaner and were impressed enough to choose it for our home. It has washable ilters (no waste!), is Energy Star rated & very quiet.   We also love the Moso Bag, a totally natural way to absorb odours.

Look for wool or organic cotton filled change pads with PVC-free waterproof materials when you can. Changing pads, car seats, infant swings and other items that contain foam are also likely to contain lame-retardants. Choose a natural nursing pillow, filled with buckwheat hulls or wool. Conventional nursing pillows are made with polyurethane foam and likely to be treated with toxic lame-retardants. Due to consumer demand, car seats, strollers, high chairs and many other items are now available in more sustainable and less toxic materials. Ask questions at the stores where you shop; it’s likely that greener products will advertise their sustainability proile as well as their avoidance of toxins. Keep an eye on swap-meets and online trading sites for deals on gently used items in order to reduce costs.

EcoParent Tips:   Heard of the Thula Mat (#10)? It’s a waterproof change pad that’s free of PVC, chlorides and synthetic latex, and totally biodegradable!   Three Pears is a great ind for the design conscious eco-family; it’s a toy, it’s a table, it’s just super-cool!   White-o-Coccoli kid’s tableware is a recent discovery for us; their personalized wooden spoons are just right in so many ways.

Taking baby steps, being reasonable yet cautious, and shopping conscientiously will go a long way towards reducing the toxicities your child is exposed to. Now, go forth and create a safer, greener space for baby!

Green Your Nursery & Playroom  

A Greener Place To Play And Grow: Greening Your Nursery And Playroom. Originally published in EcoParent Fall 2013.

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