Tips for Greener Spring Cleaning and a giveaway

Just in time for Earth Week, I have quite a bit of green coverage planned, but I thought I’d kick it off with some helpful tips on greening your Spring cleaning and an intro and giveaway for Scott Naturals.

If you’re like me, perhaps you’re eager to transition away from the cold weather and welcome Spring with a thorough house cleaning.  Ha! Who am I kidding?

Cleaning is not my forte, but it must be done. And with our homes full of kids, pets and loved ones, we can all do without all of these harmful chemicals contained in conventional cleaners.  Among the most cost-effective and convenient cleaners are ingredients that you can already find in your home.

At a recent Healthy Child Healthy World Twitter Party, we had a great discussion about this same topic.  And like most Healthy Child Healthy World discussions, I always come away with a lot of really great information.  Additionally, I’ve been reading Planet Home from Seventh Generation’s Jeffrey Hollender, which has a lot of great information on greening your home.

Here are just a few of my takeaways from those resources and tips for greener spring cleaning:

Baking Soda

Baking Soda is a versatile cleaner and an ingredient that can be found in most homes.  It’s composed of multiple mineral-derived ingredients, making it a safe, yet effective alternative to most conventional cleaners on the shelves that contain long lists of toxins. It can be used as a deodorizer, nonabrasive scouring powder and polisher smoother.

Make your own homemade soft scrub cleaner
2/3 cups baking soda
1/2 cup liquid castile soap (Dr. Bronners Tea Tree is a good option since it is antibacterial)
1/2 cup water
optional: 3-5 drops of essential oil–if using an unscented castile soap, you can add essential oils to create a natural scent.  Depending on what you like your house to smell like, I bet peppermint and lavender would smell great.  If you’re used to pine smells when cleaning, there’s also pine essential oil.
Squeeze bottle–this would be a good time to reuse an old shampoo bottle, cleaner or squirt container.  Just make sure it is thoroughly cleaned out before refilling with the soft scrub solution.  If you don’t have any old plastic containers to reuse, you can buy empty bottles or squeezing containers at stores such as Target.

Mix baking soda and castile soap until it is thick.  Add water and mix until it reaches desired consistency. A little soft scrub goes a long way.  This cleaner works well in bathrooms, kitchens and areas where surfaces are smooth.  I have a white porcelain kitchen sink and this soft scrub does wonders in getting out the gross discoloration.

In lieu of  expensive and extremely toxic oven cleaners, try this DIY option. While it takes a bit longer than conventional cleaners, it’s safe and just as effective.

Make your own oven cleaner

1/2 cup of baking soda
enough water in a spray bottle to dampen baking soda

Sprinkle your oven with dry baking soda, enough to cover all the grease and grime.  Once covered, spray enough water to dampen all of the baking soda.  Let this solution sit overnight or for several hours.  Wipe clean with paper towels or cloth towel.

White Distilled Vinegar

Throughout our family’s ongoing home renovation, vinegar has become my best friend.  An acid that’s derived from the fermentation of dilute alcoholic liquids, vinegar makes an excellent disinfectant.  It is known to kill most bacteria, molds and germs.  Vinegar can be found in most kitchens or for super cheap in the grocery store.

Besides being used as a disinfectant and mold inhibitor, vinegar can also be used as a hard water deposit remover, greasy buildup remover, tarnish remover, stain remover and wood and glass cleaner.

To replace conventional window cleaners

1 cup distilled white vinegar
5 cups of water

Mix one cup vinegar and 5 cups of water together. I usually eyeball this, because you really can’t go wrong with the two ingredients.  Pour solution into a spray bottle and go!  This cleaner doesn’t leave streaks or emit that awful smell of harsh chemicals.  Best of all, I can let my 3 year old chief window washer can do the windows all by himself with no worries.

Lemon juice

Another one of my new favorite cleaners, lemon juice, has a pH of 2.0, which makes it a great cleaning ingredient.  Lemon juice known to cut grease on tables and glass; can remove stains and rust; can be used as an alternative to bleach and is also a great alternative to conventional deodorizers.

Growing up in a beach town, we always enjoyed fresh fish, crabs and seafood.  Blue crabs were a summertime favorite; the best way to eat crabs is to spread the newspaper out on a picnic table and crack up the shells by hand. Yum! But of course, any time you eat crabs or enjoy any other seafood by hand, it leaves that fishy smell. Washing hands with fresh cut lemons was the best cleaner and deodorizer ever!  Likewise goes for garbage disposals and the like.

Fresh lemons aren’t the only way to use lemon juice! Stores like Costco sell economy sized Real Lemon Juice that is awesome to have onhand for cleaning and cooking purposes.

Meet Scott Naturals

So, the above are just a few of my favorite homemade cleaning methods.  But together with these cleaning solutions, you have to have something to wipe it all clean. Reusable cloths and old cut up t-shirts are the most eco-friendly options, but there are a few “greener” paper towels and paper products now available on the market, including Scott Naturals which uses 60% recycled fibers.

I’ve used Scott paper towels in the past, but was recently introduced to their Naturals line which uses recycled materials. Scott Brands describes the Naturals line as hybrid products because it’s made with a blend of virgin material and at least 20% recycled material in products or packaging. The quality and sustainable efforts make this paper towel option a “greener” alternative to what I’ve been using.  It’s absorbent and not papery like the other eco-friendly paper products I’ve tried.

Four Week Test Drive

Fact: If everyone who took a flight today took the 4-Week Test Drive, there would be 14,240 trees saved.

According to Scott Brands, substituting products including recycled fiber over 4 weeks reduces virgin fiber demand. Reduced tree harvesting based on average U.S. household sheet usage and saving 17 trees per ton of recycled fiber. So, take the Four Week Test Drive!

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Natural Wildlife Federation Partnership
As part of this project, Scott Naturals will be making a donation to the National Wildlife Federation.  For every unique click-thru at, Scott Naturals will donate $1 (up to $25,000 total) to the National Wildlife Federation.  One unique click equals $1 donated to NWF, so please help this great cause by clicking and telling all of your friends.

The Scott Naturals Pledge
Check out the Scott Naturals pledge between April 4 and September 30, where you can pledge to participate in the Scott Naturals 4-Week Test Drive Program and enter for a chance to win a Ford Fusion hybrid sedan.


Interested in giving Scott Naturals a test drive for yourself? Scott has offered to give a lucky NKT reader a Scott Naturals Prize pack that includes a pack of Scott paper towels, napkins, toilet paper and flushable wipes.

To enter: comment below and tell me your favorite “greener” cleaning method.

For extra entries

Comment below for all entries.  I will be doing 3 more of these giveaways, so be on the look out.  This giveaway will end 4/20 at 11:59 p.m.

Full disclosure: as part of my participation in this campaign, I am being compensated by Scott Naturals and TheMotherhood. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

Magnetic Alphabet Sets: Easy on the Eyes and the Noise

When we first bought our refrigerator, I pretended that we’d be one of those families that would keep it sleek and clean from any kid-scribbled artwork or other child-like paraphernalia.

Yeah, right.

Fast forward a few months later, and our fridge is graffitied with photos of our own kid, other people’s kids, said artwork and now, those ubiquitous magnetic alphabets.  Don’t get me wrong, I love LeapFrog’s Fridge Phonics, but just a few minutes at a time. So, out of personal preference, we opted out of the popular plastic ABCs in lieu of a set of the wooden (and quiet) kind.

As with most families of young ones practicing their ABCs and 123s, the magnetic alphabet has been an invaluable learning resource. Here’s a slideshow of our picks of alternatives to the more popular magnetic alphabet sets, and ones worth checking out.

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Play Kitchens Promote Imagination and Creativity for Girls and Boys

I was planning on writing about something completely different today, and then I saw this question posed on Twitter:

I was caught off guard since my boy, like I’m sure many of yours, enjoys play cooking.  As we finish our remodel and completion of rooms, we’ve been on the hunt for a kitchen that’s “just right.”  But the reason I was caught off guard was, since when did imagination and creativity become a gender thing, because isn’t that what role playing, such as kitchen play, promotes?

Maybe it’s because I choose to ignore such conversations, but I never realized that play kitchens were considered “girl toys.” Quite honestly, I wish it didn’t have to be that way.  Ample research has revealed that exposing kids to the kitchen benefits them in the long run.  Whether it’s a play kitchen or a real kitchen, let the kids explore, learn and be creative.

Ever go to a toy store where the demo play kitchen is set up?  It never fails, the play kitchen, just like a real kitchen at family gatherings, has some sort of magnetic energy that lures people and kids.

While we’re at it, let’s talk kitchens.  Here are just a few kitchens that are perfect for cooking up a good (pretend) feast:

The Educo Gourmet Kitchen is made of wood with completely non-toxic, child-friendly paints and finishes.  I love that this kitchen features bright, bold and modern, a contrast from that gender-specific color palette.

The Deluxe Kitchen Play Centre from Melissa and Doug is the kitchen in question that always lures my kid in, whenever we visit our local toy boutique.  It’s made mostly of wood, features a myriad of controls, buttons, shelves and accoutrements.  Basically, like the marketing material implies, this kitchen has everything including the kitchen sink.

Another kitchen that’s made of wood that I love is the kid’s play kitchen from IKEA.  Like their furniture, it boast straight lines, euro design and most importantly, the kids love its “realistic” features.  Best aspect, though, is that its in the $100 range, with plenty of options to add personal touches.

Speaking of personal touches, what about DIY play kitchens?  I can’t think of a more sustainable option that involves interaction from parent and kids than creating a play kitchen from repurposed furniture.  This one, made by a set of grandparents, is probably my idea of the holy grail of DIY play kitchens.

Do you guys have any thoughts on kitchens? Any faves? Opposed or in favor of boys/girls playing in the kitchen?

ImagiPlay Dinosaur Puzzle Play Merges Puzzles, Activity Fun

Puzzles are well known activities that involve cognitive development, problem solving and hand-eye coordination for children of all ages.  Better yet, puzzles are awesome activities that can engage the whole family.  Who doesn’t love an activity that promotes brain power and team work?



ImagiPlay, a toy company that creates sustainable toys and games, has found a way to combine an activity set and a puzzle with their Dinosaur Puzzle Play.  The Dinosaur Puzzle Play is comprised of 13 puzzle pieces that are made of rubberwood.  When not being used as a puzzle, the pieces double as wooden dinosaur play pieces.



My dinosaur-loving preschooler recently acquired an interest in puzzles, so ImagiPlay’s Dinosaur Puzzle Play is such a fitting new activity.  The kid had a fun time with dad, putting the puzzle together over and over, and then going on to exercise their imagination to play a little Jurassic Park on their own terms, with a little help of some colorful dinos.  I appreciate the quality wood pieces, colorful and imaginative design, and the very reasonable price point.  ImagiPlay toys, always a perfect addition to our toy box, has great lineup of toys that would make great holiday gifts.  Don’t be surprised if you see more ImagiPlay on the NKT holiday gift guide.



Speaking of gifts, want a Dinosaur Puzzle Play for your kids?  Please comment below and tell me which ImagiPlay product you’d love to check out.


Want extra entries?

Follow ImagiPlay on Twitter

Find them on Facebook

Fan The Next Kid Thing on Facebook

Tweet about this giveaway and be sure to @jenrab

Please comment below for all entries

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Want to do some early holiday shopping?  ImagiPlay has kindly offered NKT readers a 20% discount from their website.  Just enter Play420 to receive a 20% discount from their website.  The coupon code is valid for 30 days and is only available in the U.S.


Full disclosure: I received a product sample to facilitate this review.  As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.


Review: 365 Everyday Value Baby Diaper from Whole Foods

Because the husband works in the health and beauty sector, and as someone who reviews children’s products, our family has been so fortunate to get our hands on the latest and greatest in consumables, among other things.  Some of these products are just eh, while others are a good fit for our family; take for example, the 365 Everyday Value Diapers.

The 365 Everyday Value Diapers, Whole Food’s store-branded diapers, recently changed their product by improving their sizing, securing a better fit and living up to their name by lowering the pricepoint.  Their diapers are made with chlorine free materials, are hypo-allergenic, latex free, and contain no perfumes or dyes, which are extremely important factors for many families.  It’s true, way too many disposable diapers end up in our landfills.  But let’s face it, not everyone can cloth diaper all the time.  And because 365 Everyday Value Diapers are chlorine, dye and latex free, they’re gentler on baby’s skin, and they are less harmful to the environment, making them a more sustainable choice for disposables.

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Modern Playhouse Debuts Modular Play Structures

I’ve been more MIA than usual the past few weeks since we’re finally in our “new” old house.  As part of our ongoing renovation and the eventual move-in, I’ve been researching ideas for the kid’s playroom.

There’s so many options, so many ideas, but only so much budget to go around.  I know the hurricane may or may wreak havoc on some parts of the east coast, what better time to share a new option for indoor playhouses.












Modern Playhouse recently debuted their new line of minimalist and sustainable indoor modular play structures.  Designed by momprenuers and San Francisco based designers Gitane Royce and Nisreen Witt, the playhouses were designed to be durable and safe for the children and environment.  Modern Playhouse uses FSC Certified wood products that are treated with non-toxic, non-formaldehyde containing, and naturally pigmented finishes. The metal fasteners and hardware contain no lead.

The Playhouses, which come in the Wedge or Circle option, also have furniture accessories that can be purchased separately.



I love the simplicity, yet contemporary edge to these playhouses, and their sustainable features make them even more attractive.  These gorgeous playhouses would be a great fit in our new playroom, but alas, at $1450, it’s not quite in the budget right now.

Bamdino Plates and Bambu Utensils Make Picnics Greener

One of the best parts of spring and summer is the joy that is eating outdoors.  In fact, tomorrow celebrates just that!  June 18th marks national picnic day.

With keeping sustainability in mind, paper plates and plastic forks and spoons have gone by the wayside for many families.  So, besides using reusable picnic gear, what’s a family to do?

Go the bamboo route.








Yes, bamboo!

Bamboo, well known for its ability to grow quickly and decompose just as fast, has become one of the most sustainable materials out there…and that goes for kid plates and utensils.  As much as I dislike the idea of disposable gear, sometimes, for the picnic or beach, there’s no way of getting around it.

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Summer Fun with Polarn O. Pyret

This weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, and I hope everyone is prepared for fun in the sun!  I’ve got quite the backlog of posts, so I thought I’d dedicate the next few to fun summer-inspired gear.

Speaking of which, I just eyed some fun whimsical summer prints, from the well-loved Swedish line, Polarn O. Pyret.

Polarn O. Pyret, synonomous with classic, well-made children’s clothing, has a distinctive European flair that stands out among the crowd.  Polarn O. Pyret accommodates sizes from babies to big kids and even mamas, too.  I love that so many of their prints and designs are gender-neutral, including this fun sailboat-clad Summer Fun T for baby.  The line also offers a fabulous variety of eco-friendly clothing that uses organic cotton, with sizes also available for baby, big kid and mama.

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In the NYC area?  Citibabes is having Polarn O. Pyret trunk shows at its Scarsdale and SoHo locations.

Check out the Scarsdale Citibabes on June 3 for the Polarn O. Pyret trunk show.
RSVP to or 914.725.3334.

Check out the SoHo Citibabes on June 9th and 10th for the Polarn O. Pyret trunk show.
RSVP to or 212.334.5440


Makedo Makes for Crafty Construction

Earth Day has come and gone, but hopefully, the important lessons from the day continue to linger in your home, as I hope it will in ours, too.

There are so many fun and fabulous green toys on the market, especially now that the eco-friendly segment continues to grow as parents become increasingly more aware.  But one concept of green toys I hope to see more of, are upcycled toys such as Makedo.

Makedo robot


Makedo, a concept that I learned about at Toy Fair, is a connector system that enables materials including cardboard, plastic and fabric to easily join together to form new objects or structures.

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