Fun and simple ways to green up the kids

The concept of “healthy living” is everywhere these days. You want the best for your family, but where do you start? There must be a happy (and realistic) medium between not letting your kids gobble sugar puffs while watching 14 hours of reality TV and having them train for a marathon while on a wheatgrass shake diet. Right?

Here are a few easy ways to start greening up what your kids eat, where they play and what they play with:

The less processed a food is, the better. The more colorful and cartoony the package, chances are the more sugar and unpronounceable additives are inside. Just skip those. I like starting the day with a green smoothie. That sets the body up with clean, nutrient-dense energy—plus, kids love when the blender comes out.

Here is one smoothie recipe even the pickiest eater will gobble up: peeled ripe banana, handful strawberries, handful blueberries, half of peeled mango, handful baby spinach, 1 cup filtered water, ice. Blend until smooth.

“If you can change just one thing, it should be what goes in your mouth,” says health coach Glenn Hutchinson. The most important daily decisions happen when tummies start to growl.

Chewing pencils, sucking paintbrushes, inhaling cherry-scented markers— consider it a creativity side effect, just make sure you are buying non-toxic supplies that won’t be harmful to your colorful creators. There are many recipes online for homemade play dough and vegetable-juice paint that children love making.

Yarmouth mom Kate Altman shares her delicious idea for fingerpaints: “Reducing my children’s exposure to unnecessary and harmful chemicals has always been important to me,” says Altman, mother of two. “I stock the kids’ art room with upcycled items and eco-friendly, kid-safe supplies. I don’t trust that finger paints, although labeled non-toxic, are actually safe to be consumed, and my kids eat more paint than makes it to the paper.

I make edible fingerpaints with pudding and natural food coloring. The results are beautiful and completely safe.”

momsense-kid grassRolling around in the grass is one of the best parts of being a kid. Sadly, in search of “perfect” lawns, people have no qualms about spraying incredibly toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers all over their property. I could write a book about why this is so detrimental to the health of our soil, water, pollinators, pet and human health, but trust me that the most significant step we need to make is to regulate the use of these chemicals.

Momsense hand full of dirtHow many honey bees and butterflies are in your yard? The drop-off of these precious pollinators is alarming. Encourage a safe and beautiful habitat by planting organic, native plants that attract our winged friends, like rosebay rhododendron, honeysuckles and milkweed. And please cease using sprays that harm them. Many farms and nurseries have stopped selling plants treated with toxic neonicotinoids, but it’s always a good idea to ask.

Momsense-hands in dirtJournalist Avery Yale Kamila and I co-founded a community group called Portland Protectors in order to educate citizens on effective, organic approaches to lawn care that will make our communities a healthy space for all. See for more information on keeping your outside space green and pesticide-free.

Maggie Knowles used to cover the dining and theater scene in Boston. Then she had her son, so now she writes about all things kid. She and her family live in Yarmouth, where she gardens, keeps bees and refuses to get rid of her stilettos.

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