All You Need Is Less, Eco-Friendly Living, Natural Living

Green House Series Week 6: The Playroom

Green House Week 6: The Playroom -


Here we are! Week 6! Right on schedule! Published on the exact day it was supposed to be and not a second later! Let’s move on now, nothing to see here!

I am calling this week the playroom even though I personally do not really have a designated playroom in my house, but this section encompasses the Kid Zone. You know what that is, it’s all of the visually offensive crap you have in your house to keep your tiny people happy. Yeah, that.

Let’s dive in!

What to Phase Out: Plastic. You knew this was coming. Sorry to be so predictable but get riiiid of it. If you have a ton of plastic toys and other child-related paraphernalia don’t traumatize little Everly or Samson by throwing it all out, but as you move forward try to avoid, or at the very least reduce, the amount of plastic you bring into your home. I have written about plastic a lot, and the issue is huge. It encompasses everything from the chemical compounds involved in its manufacture, the off-gassing, the disposable nature of plastic items, and the teensy tiny fact that plastic will likely never biodegrade. Future archaeologists will be unearthing reams and reams of play kitchens and swing sets, Barbies and pint-sized basketball hoops. Lord help us.

If you want to declutter your life, consider removing about half of your child’s toys and putting them n storage for a while, then exchanging them, and rotating through the toys this way. You’ll have less to clean, less clutter, and your child will be able to interact with the toys more fully.

Green House Series Week 6: The Plauyroom -

Currently almost all of Olive’s toys are contained within this little raccoon bin in her room, and a small basket in the living room. BOOM. Parenting achievement level “Deprivation” unlocked!

What to Bring In: So what the hell do you fill the playroom with if you are eliminating 95% of the toys out there, and 80% of the kid-friendly products, too? Well it will will look different based on your child’s age and their interests, but Olive’s toy bin has a lot of stuffed animals, wooden puzzles, a toy fishing game made by my amazing sister-in-law, musical instruments (wood/metal xylophone, tambourine, harmonica, etc), crayons and colouring books, blocks, and the most recent addition, a wood train set. We also spend a lot of time outside exploring natural settings.

If you are worried about depriving your child, check out this study which talks about what happened in a German daycare when workers removed all toys for three months (summary: …”We find that children [on the project] concentrate better when they work, integrate better into groups and communicate better than the children who didn’t take part” )

And as for sippy cups, plastic plates and utensils etc., try giving your child real dishes and see what happens. I’ve talked about this before here, but Olive never really had plastic dishes and I think she’s broken maybe two cups in her lifetime. Totally worth it for an 18-month old who can drink from a real glass, I think.

Recipes: Kids are gross. Can we just agree on this? They are GROSS. Yesterday we were at the bank, and Olive had been eating a tic tac my sister had given her. Except her version of eating it was just spitting it out into her hand, looking at it, then putting it back into her mouth again and again (she later explained to me that she noticed it turning from orange to white and wanted to see if it would change colour again, which, I mean fair enough, that is kind of cool) but in the process her hands were getting just covered with a film of sugary spit.

And then of course as we walked to the bank she touched everything. The bike racks, building walls, bus stops, sign posts…she always has to touch it all and I’ve given up trying to stop her because this is life, and that’s what soap and water is for. But when we arrive at the bank, I go to grab her hand and this is some next level business. They are BLACK. Like, it looked as though I had never washed this child’s hands ever in my life.

So, I mean, these are the hands that are touching all of those precious wooden toys you will be so meticulously sourcing! I’m not a germaphobe by any means (I just finished writing a whole article about why it’s healthy and positive for kids to be a little bit dirty) but I am a clean person. So this spray has been a great one to wipe down toys with periodically, you know, when the crust of dried oatmeal becomes too thick, or when the tic tac spit becomes too sticky.

This one wasn’t in my book because when I wrote it Olive was a newborn and I had no idea what kind of fresh hell lay before me.

Disinfecting Toy Spray

White vinegar
Tea tree oil

You can either mix this in a spray bottle to keep around, or just make a small batch whenever your kids seem particularly disgusting (flu season, anyone?). Combine equal parts white vinegar and water, and add a few drops of tea tree oil to boost the antibacterial properties. For a spray bottle solution I would use 10-15 drops, for a small bowl maybe 5.  Wipe down hard surfaces with a soft cloth and this solution and your kids toys will be clean for a brief five-second span before they contaminate them again. This is particularly great to do before toy exchanges or donating/selling toys, or after you have received secondhand ones.


Extra Credit: Try to stop overconsumption and toy clutter before it begins. As birthdays and the holiday season approach, come up with a plan you can communicate to family and friends to deal with gifts. In previous years, I have written something like “Please, no gifts! Your presence is the only present we need.” on Olive’s birthday invitations and found that it’s not very effective – people hate showing up empty handed! A better idea, and one I will try this year is asking for donations to a specific cause or charity. People won’t feel like chumps for showing up with nothing, but your playroom won’t be overrun with more crap, either. Grandparents and close family and friends could be asked to chip in for a pass to a museum, art gallery, or recreation centre your kids love, and consider selecting just 4 gifts for your child – one they want, one they need, one they wear and one they read.

Let’s ALL become miserly hippie parents! It will make me look better if nothing else.


Previous Weeks:

Week 1: Intro
Week 2: The Bathroom
Week 3: The Bedroom
Week 4: The Kitchen
Week 5: The Living Room

Hey! Did you know I wrote a book! I know! I’m surprised, too! My publisher smiles every time I hawk it here. So this isn’t for me, this is for YOU, Brenda!

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  • Reply Janet June 17, 2015 at 5:44 PM

    Hey Madeline – love your blog and this series! Just wanted to pass along another birthday party suggestion. This year we had a joint party for our 2 and 4 year-olds and asked people to bring either nothing (which nobody did) or a copy of their favourite children’s book. It was the best idea – we got so many wonderful books that remind us of our favourite people…and NO PLASTIC!

  • Reply Katie June 17, 2015 at 10:10 PM

    I have a love for sustainable children’s toys… Palumba, Bella Luna toys and Elves and Angels… Amazing toys and book options! My playroom is full for my children from wooden toys to the dollhouse and dolls my husband and I have made for our 2 and 5 year olds 🙂 these are US sites but etsy will find similar things for you!

    • Reply Leah July 23, 2015 at 12:46 PM

      Have you seen Plan Toys? I absolutely love theirs. We have an unfortunate amount of plastic in our playroom, but it’s all hand-me-downs from friends. Everything we’ve bought (and most of what family have bought) are wooden toys.

      I do plan on keeping our hand-me-down plastic toys clean and nice so we can continue to hand them down. That also helps with the plastic guilt. If the item is already made, best to get the most use out of it possible. My kid will be playing with the Lego sets I played with as a kid.

  • Reply Green House Week 7: Ladies Room - Sweet Madeleine July 1, 2015 at 10:10 PM

    […] Week 1: Intro Week 2: The Bathroom Week 3: The Bedroom Week 4: The Kitchen Week 5: The Living Room Week 6: The Playroom […]

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