DIY All-Natural Sensory Play Dough

DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
Play dough is such a great learning activity for toddlers. Unfortunately, I am allergic to a lot of artificial dyes, and it appears that little E is allergic to some as well. I wanted to make him some homemade play dough with natural coloring so that he could play with it without any problems with allergic reactions. I used to buy natural food colors at Sur La Table (for cupcake frosting, etc.), but they have not restocked them in a really long time. Every time I asked about them, they just suggested that I order them online. I felt silly paying for shipping for something so small. Then I realized that the same natural food colors are available on Amazon.com, and they come with free shipping with our Prime membership (I cannot say enough good things about how much I absolutely love having that Amazon Prime membership…I use it for so many things)!

I was quite excited to get started with making some homemade play dough! I thought it would be even more fun to make a bunch of different scents with the dough, enhancing the sensory experience.

Here is the recipe I used:

2 cups flower
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 cup sea salt

1. Mix all of the ingredients above into a pot on the stove, over medium-low heat.
2. Cook while stirring frequently, until the mixture resembles mashed potatoes.
3. Let mixture cool, then divide into 6 equal sized chunks.
4. Each chunk of dough got a different color and scent for a fun, sensory experience. I kneaded 3-5 drops of food coloring and 3 drops of essential oil into each chunk of dough.

Here are the color/scent combos that I used:
1. purple – doTERRA lavender essential oil
2. yellow – doTERRA lemon essential oil
3. pink – rose essential oil (purchased at Sprouts since doTERRA does not currently sell rose oil)
4. greenish blue – peppermint doTERRA essential oil
5. green – oregano doTERRA essential oil
6. orange – 1 pinch each cinnamon and nutmeg, to smell like pumpkin pie

Between uses, each ball of dough is stored in its own ziploc baggie in the refrigerator.

*Important safety warning: Since this recipe contains a significant amount of salt, do not let your child play with the play dough around dogs. Salt is toxic to dogs, and most dogs love to eat anything they can get their paws on. Our dogs are especially good at making sad puppy dog eyes at our son, manipulating him into giving them whatever they want, even when they are locked out of the room behind a baby gate. When our son is having sensory dough time, I lock our dogs outside or in one of our bedrooms. One of our dogs has tried a few times now to get E to give him the dough.

E’s favorite scents are the three that he is most familiar with from our garden: lavender, lemon, and rose. The oregano and pumpkin pie scented doughs are not his favorite…sometimes he is in the mood for those, other times those two get pushed away. Here is a funny video of him having so much fun smelling his dough. 🙂

DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

How Huggies “Natural Care” Wipes Burned My Son’s Skin

I have very sensitive skin. I know many of our friends and family probably thought I was being a bit nuts when everything on our baby registry was organic and for sensitive skin, but I knew there was a good chance that our baby would end up with sensitive skin like mine. So far, we have been very lucky that he hasn’t had too many strong reactions to anything we have used on him. Normally, we always use Earth’s Best Organic Chlorine Free Wipes for diaper changes (found here), and we have never had any problems. Recently, my husband noticed that we were running low on wipes in the diaper bag and picked up something at the grocery store. Since they didn’t carry Earth’s Best at that grocery store, he figured Huggies “Natural Care” wipes would be an okay option (they claim to be natural after all).

After using them a couple of times, I suddenly noticed a horrible rash all over our son’s crotch and thighs, everywhere I had used the wipes during a diaper change. It was diaper rash to the extreme, except it extended far beyond the reach of the diaper (we had a couple of pretty messy diaper changes that involved lots of wiping). By the next day, the rash had become raw and scabby. Whatever chemicals were in the wipes had literally burnt off his skin. Yesterday was absolutely awful…I wanted to get a picture of how bad it was, but that was impossible with the way he was wriggling and screaming from the afternoon all the way until bed time.

I am a huge proponent of natural health care and remedies, and have been making my own herbal remedies for us and our pets for years now. I am going to start a new series of blog posts about my recent journey into expanding my herbal remedy arsenal for our family’s health care. I happened to have just received my new shipment of dōTERRA essential oils yesterday, so I immediately started adding a few of the oils into the lineup to treat E’s raw, irritated skin. Within 24 hours, he is doing so much better. His skin has started healing up a lot. There is still a little bit of scabby area left, but yesterday his entire inner thigh looked raw like the small raw bit in the photo below.

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This is the arsenal of supplies that I have been using on his skin:
California Baby Calendula Cream (this is what I usually use if he has any diaper rash), Burts Bees Res-Q Ointment (has comfrey as the main ingredient, which is great for soothing and healing all kinds of bumps, scrapes, bug bites, etc.), fresh aloe vera, dōTERRA Lavender essential oil (for soothing the skin), dōTERRA Melaluca essential oil (for its cleansing and antibiotic properties), and dōTERRA Frankincense essential oil (for its healing properties).
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I have used lavender essential oil for many things over the years, but I started getting disgusted by the chemical processes most companies use to extract the essential oils. Most essential oils that you find in stores are actually extracted through chemical processes instead of steam or pressure extraction. Instead of getting a concentrated version of a plant with healing abilities, you end up with a concentrated amount of toxins. I discovered dōTERRA essential oils, and have become enthralled with the company the more I learn about them. They only use organic herbs and produce for their essential oils, and the oils are never extracted by chemical means. You know that you are getting the purest form of the plant essence available. I am really excited to start documenting our family’s journey with using dōTERRA essential oils, as well as some new fresh medicinal herbs that I recently added to my herb garden. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions!

Some of the issues we have been tackling lately with herbal remedies (and will be coming to the blog soon) include extreme teething (getting the first set of molars), bug bites and prevention, digestive problems with one of our dogs and one of our cats, my journey with finding natural remedies for my severe and chronic muscle, bone, ligament, and arthritis pain, and other issues as well. For more information on dōTERRA, click here.

*Update: After I published this post, a friend sent me this news article link. Sadly, this is quite a common reaction to wipes in general. Be sure to check the ingredients on the wipes you use or make your own! The Earth’s Best wipes that we use thankfully do not have the chemicals that the article mentioned, which is why our son never had this problem before.

Our Little Fishie

Just a bit of end of summer fun! Little E loves swimming! We have taken him swimming a few times in the ocean and at Grandma & Grandpa’s house. I found this little baby floating raft that he loves since it gives him a bit of independence (and mom a bit of peace of mind). He loves the salt water in Grandma and Grandpa’s pool and likes to lick his hands while he is swimming (silly boy!). I am a fan of the salt water pool since I don’t have to worry about subjecting him to tons of harsh chemicals. Swimming with Daddy & Grandpa is one of his new favorite activities. 🙂

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Starting Solids!

Originally, I set a goal for myself that I would only feed our baby breastmilk and nothing else for his entire first year. I had read a number of studies that said that delaying introducing solids and doing breastmilk only for an entire year can help prevent/eliminate food allergies. Since we had such a battle from the start with him reacting to things in my diet, and the fact that food allergies seem to run rampant in my family, this was an idea I was strongly committed to (despite our pediatrician’s opinion that it was not a good idea). My best friend (who is quite an experienced mom now) told me that I would have to be mindful of that one day I may just notice that E is READY for supplemental foods. Unfortunately, that day came way sooner than I was hoping it would.

A little over a week ago, E started getting insanely hungry. Usually nursing on just one side is enough to fill him up, but for a couple of days he still seemed hungry after draining both sides. I knew that it was not a supply issue on my part since he was going through his diapers about twice as fast as normal. At the end of two very grueling days of pretty much non-stop nursing, I gave in and decided he could try some infant rice cereal. I had no idea it would be so hard to find a good one though! As I stood in the baby aisle at Target browsing through all of the different options, I got a little overwhelmed. Most of the rice cereals had either wheat, soy or dairy ingredients, so they were not an option for E. I was already sad about giving up on my goal in the first place, and this was even more frustrating. I finally found one that is organic and had no allergen ingredients. It also has the added benefit of pre and probiotics. I have read that probiotics can help with food allergies, so I am hoping introducing these into his diet may help him outgrow these allergies. The cereal that we have been using is Happy Bellies organic brown rice cereal.

Right away, he was beyond excited about finally getting to have some food of his own. He has been trying to sneak and grab our food for a while now, so he was quite proud of himself. After about a week of him doing okay with the rice cereal (minus a scary rash initially that turned out to be heat rash), I decided to make a bit of homemade spinach puree for him. He had been trying to grab my vegetable juice every morning, so he was quite excited to get his own bit of green fun. He absolutely loves spinach, and likes it even more than the rice cereal! Like mother, like son. 🙂
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My Guide to a Healthy, Toxin-Free Pregnancy

Alicia in Wonderland Blog - My Guide To a Healthy, Toxin-Free Pregnancy

If you read my previous post about my full pregnancy journey (seen here), you already know that it has not been easy for us to become parents. Since I knew that things would be difficult for me, I started early adjusting my lifestyle choices to try to get myself as healthy as possible to try to better my odds of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy. The most important thing that I adjusted was with what we were eating. While I have pretty much always eaten healthy, I took extra efforts to eliminate toxins from our diet, keeping it as organic as possible.

There are a million articles out there of things you should avoid while pregnant. To err on the side of caution, I eliminated anything that may be potentially hazardous while pregnant. I did a lot of reading, and put together my own master list of things to avoid. Here is my own list of things that I eliminated throughout the course of my pregnancy to try to ensure the healthiest possible outcome for our baby.

1. The obvious things like sushi & alcohol. I even limited myself to only consuming the host when going to Communion at mass (during the phases of my pregnancy when I was allowed to attend mass).
2. Cheeses made from raw milk (I know there is some debate on this issue, but again, I didn’t want to take any chances).
3. Soft and unpasteurized cheeses (e.g. brie, feta, camembert, blue cheese, and Mexican-style cheeses).
4. Coffee, soda & other sources of caffeine. Once I started developing issues with my heart later in the pregnancy, I even had to completely cut out chocolate per my doctor’s advice.
5. Any foods with nitrates (e.g. lunch meats, hot dogs, etc.).
6. Any high mercury seafood.
7. Any raw seafood such as lox.
8. Eliminated sugar as much as possible.
9.  GMO’s and fruits and vegetables treated with pesticides, etc. I continuously snacked on organic fruit and veggies (made easier since much of it was growing in our garden).
10. Canned foods (since these contain BPA).
11. Water in plastic bottles (I started carrying around my stainless steel water bottle everywhere I go).
12. Food with large amounts of preservatives and additives.
13. Anything with MSG.
14. Any food with any artificial coloring. I am allergic to red food dye, and figured I might as well eliminate the others as well.
15. Processed and bleached starch options (e.g. white bread, white flour tortillas, etc.) – replaced with whole grain alternatives.
16. Any artificial sweeteners. I haven’t read anything in specific showing any issues that these might cause with pregnancy, but with my goal to cut out anything that isn’t natural and healthy, I eliminated these as well.

In addition to eliminating certain types of foods, I also eliminated a number of things in my beauty routine as well.
17. Any skin care products with salicylic acid.
18. Any skin care products with retinols.
19. Standard perfumes (since these contain surprisingly high levels of formaldehyde).
20. Standard sunscreens – replaced with natural, paba free versions without lots of chemicals.
21. My regular facial moisturizer – replaced with a natural version with SPF 30.
22. Standard nail polish and remover – replaced with natural versions without acetone, formaldehyde, or other strong chemicals.
23. All over hair dye.
24. Any of my “fancy” lotions – replaced with lotions with natural and organic ingredients, all paraben and phthalate free.
25. Any self tanners. Even though I wasn’t going anywhere most of the pregnancy, I was tempted to use some on a couple of occasions but refrained. After months of only getting sun exposure through a window, I have never been so pale and pasty in my life! I haven’t specifically read anything discouraging the use of these, but again…why bother with any extra unnecessary chemicals going into your system?
26. Any “regular” makeup – replaced with natural and mineral products (although most days I just went without makeup anyway).
27. Any whitening toothpaste or tooth whitening products.
28. Basically any other products with any artificial scents, etc. That was also largely driven by my sudden super sensitive sense of smell and never-ending morning sickness. Even the pets had to switch to hair care products without lots of artificial scents. 🙂

Also, this was already part of my normal routine, but if it hadn’t been, I would have switched out to all natural cleaning products as well. You can read more about my eco-friendly cleaning routine here. I also started myself on organic prenatal vitamins with probiotics and herbal supplements long before I got pregnant, as well as some DHA supplements as well. Also something I had been doing anyway…we made sure any paints being used in our house were zero VOC paints.

I am not trying to encourage paranoia about what you should or should not do while pregnant, nor am I trying to pass judgment on anyone who does not avoid everything on my extensive list while pregnant. I instituted these changes in order to feel as healthy as possible, and feel confident that I am giving this baby the best possible start to his life that I can.

Our Favorite Hybrid Diapering System: Gdiapers

When I was pregnant, I started looking into various cloth diaper brands. It saddens me to read how many regular diapers go into landfills each year, and my husband and I just could not stand the thought of being a contributor to that problem. I was a little overwhelmed by all of the different options out there and wasn’t sure how the whole concept would work for us. All of the babies that I used to babysit used only disposables, so cloth diapering was totally new to me. When my dad said that he would not do cloth diapers if my parents were babysitting E, I started looking into a hybrid diaper system. I discovered Gdiapers, and am so pleased with how they have been working for us.

We initially started with the Gdiapers newborn bundle, and I figured we would see how things went with that and one package of the cloth inserts before we invested too much more in the whole system. My initial plan was to start off using the biodegradable inserts and the cloth inserts once we returned home from the hospital and see what worked best for us. When we returned home from the hospital and I could not walk for a while without my crutches, we decided to just buy a couple of packages of regular disposable diapers like we had been given in the hospital for the time being, putting off the cloth diapers for later.  One night when we realized we were down to our last few disposable diapers, and all of the grocery stores were closed, I told my husband that we were going to start using the Gdiapers instead, despite everything else that was going on. I love the freedom that cloth diapers provide…no panicking when you are running low on diapers and the stores are closed. All you have to do is start a load of laundry and you are all set.

We quickly realized that we much preferred the Gdiapers over the regular disposable diapers anyway. The disposables we were using were leaking everywhere and just did not seem to hold enough. They were also starting to irritate his skin, despite being from a “natural” line of diapers. The newborn diaper shells are a little different than the ones shown below; the snap in liner is sewn into the diaper shell. Our baby quickly outgrew those and moved into the size small, shown below.

When I was researching Gdiapers online, it all seemed a little confusing to me at first. It seemed like there were a lot of things we would need to purchase to use the system. I decided to put together a step-by-step breakdown of how we use them, hopefully helping anyone else considering trying out cloth diapering.

Below: The various components we use. You don’t have to go with cloth and biodegradable inserts. You could use one or the other, but I like having both as an option for different times. We use the biodegradable inserts when we are out running errands since they absorb more, are less bulky in the diaper bag, and can be thrown away in a trash can. We also use the biodegradable inserts before bedtime at night since they hold more and we don’t wake up with the baby in a puddle of wetness. We use the cloth inserts the rest of the time, with a paper liner over it. The paper liner catches any poop so it is easily discarded, and makes washing the cloth inserts easier. To use the paper liner, you stuff in a cloth insert first, and then put in the paper liner over it.

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With wet diapers, the snap-in liner can usually be reused for another round. For poopy diapers, the snap-in liner is usually best removed and replaced with a clean one. They come out very easily as seen below. Bonus…After you take out the paper liner or biodegradable insert, removing the snap-in liner like this keeps you from having to deal with touching any more of the mess.
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The dirty, reusable parts of the diaper are tossed in the dirty bag. The paper liners and the biodegradable inserts are tossed in the diaper bin. When it is time to wash diapers, I just empty the bag into the washing machine, and toss in the bag, eliminating the need to touch the dirty diapers again. We also have a travel bag for dirty parts that is kept in the diaper bag, shown here.

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Diaper shells that are damp but not dirty are hung up to dry between uses.
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One other important thing: the diaper shells must always be put on so that the “g” is facing the back. 🙂

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I end up doing laundry about every 2-3 days, which is not so bad. This is the list of supplies that seems to work best for us: 6 cloth shells, 18 snap-in liners, 24 cloth inserts, a box of the paper liners, a dirty laundry bag, and a smaller travel wet bag.