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Powerful GREEN Cleaning Products You Can Make Yourself

Would you knowingly bring toxic products into your home? Products that could affect your family’s lungs, skin and even their hormones? Of course, you wouldn’t!

But you probably already have. And so have I.

Just look under your sink and in your cabinets at your cleaning supplies.

Many household cleaners contain toxic chemicals. Some are even potent enough to cause respiratory problems and even disrupt hormones. What’s even more frightening is there are no safety standards manufacturers must follow.

Rebecca Sutton, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG):

“In terms of household cleaners, neither ingredients nor products must meet any sort of safety standard, nor is any testing data or notification required before bringing a product to market.”

But opting for a ‘green’ alternative doesn’t automatically mean you’re buying a safer cleaning product. Maybe it's time to consider making your own cleaning products.

Use the menu below to navigate to to cleaning formulas by categories:

Use these Cleaning Formulas with Caution

Before making any of these cleaning products, please understand that products made with natural ingredients aren’t 100% safe – no matter what anyone tells you. Products are made with natural products are still contain naturally occurring chemicals. So use these cleaning formulas with caution – just like you would with any cleaning product.

Cautions: Do not use any homemade cleaner made with vinegar on granite or natural stone. The acid in vinegar can etch the stone. The same goes for waxed wood floors as vinegar can damage the finish. Always test in an inconspicuous area before proceeding.

You need to also be aware that essential oils don’t always play nice with plastic spray bottles or containers (the oils can degrade the plastic.) Store your homemade cleaning products in glass or stainless steel containers. Plastic #1 HDPE or plastic #2 PET are also excellent options.

To extend the shelf life of your homemade cleaning products, always use distilled (or boiled, filtered water) in any recipe that calls for water. Distilled water is free from impurities that can make your cleaner ‘go off’ before you can use it up.

Air Fresheners

Let’s face it – life can stink at times. From smelly bathrooms to funky laundry baskets and furniture, sometimes the air could smell a little sweeter.

The problem with commercial air fresheners is that they often contain synthetic fragrances (detrimental to anyone with respiratory illness or allergies) and phthalates (linked to hormone disruption in males.)

Who wants that in their house?

Try these all-natural air freshener recipes instead.

DIY Air Freshener (Don’t Mess with Mama.com )

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup witch hazel
  • 5-7 drops Lavender essential oil
  • 5-7 drops Lemon essential oil

1 reusable spray bottle

Instructions:

Fill the spray bottle with water and witch hazel.

Add essential oils and twist on spray nozzle.

Shake the bottle for a few seconds before each use.

Recipe Notes
Alternative essential oil combinations for this recipe:

5-7 drops Thieves + 5-7 drops Orange = Pumpkin Spice
5-7 drops Eucalyptus + 5-7 drops Peppermint = Minty Clean
5-7 drops Lemongrass + 5-7 drops Lemon = Lemon Zest
Vodka can be used in place of witch hazel. It’s actually a nice alternative because it dissipates faster than water.

DYI Natural Air Freshener Spray ( NaturesNutureBlog – Small Steps to a Non-Toxic Home)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon witch hazel (or isopropyl alcohol)
  • 30 drops essential oil
  • 1/2 cup distilled water  (distilled is best, but filtered tap water works for short-term storage)
  • 1-4oz fine-mist spray bottle

Instructions

Add witch hazel or rubbing alcohol to the spray bottle.
Add the essential oils of your choice. Swirl the bottle about 10 times to combine oils with witch hazel.
Top off with water, leaving a little room at the top for shaking.

To use:
Shake well, and spray into the air.

Recipe Notes
– Distilled water lasts longer because it doesn’t contain any impurities. You can also use filtered tap water, but if it starts to smell “off” then just toss it and make a new batch.
– Do not spray directly on fabrics. Use caution around children, pets, and pregnant women.

All-Purpose Floor Cleaners

Most of us are used to cleaning our non-wood floors with a range of products that could surely, given enough time, strip paint. And it’s completely unnecessary – especially if you vacuum on a regular basis and clean up spills as they happen.

Removing your shoes at the door (and asking your guests to remove theirs as well) keeps floors clean longer.

When you do need to wash your floors, you can get them clean with a few simple, non-toxic ingredients. A 50/50 solution of vinegar to water works great, but if you dislike the smell of vinegar, here are a couple of alternatives.

Ultimate All-Purpose Cleaner (NaturesNuture.com)

You can also use this recipe as a general all-purpose cleaner

Ingredients

1 cup distilled water (distilled is best, but filtered tap water is acceptable if you don’t plan on storing the formula for a long period.  
1/2 cup vinegar (white distilled vinegar)
1/2 cup isopropyl alcohol (aka rubbing alcohol or surgical spirits)
2-3 drops dish soap
25-30 drops essential oil (my recipe uses 7 drops lavender, 7 drops orange or lemon, 10 drops tea tree oil, and 5 drops peppermint)
Fine-mist spray bottle at least 16 oz capacity

Instructions

Add all ingredients to spray bottle and shake to combine.
Sweep/vacuum the floor, or remove stray crumbs from your surface.
Spray the cleaner on the floor.
Wipe up with a microfibre cloth or microfibre mop.

Recipe Notes
Do not use this formula on granite, marble, or other natural stone surfaces.

Homemade Floor Cleaner for All Types of Floors – Housewife How Tos.com

This recipe claims that it’s suitable for:

  • Laminate
  • Hardwood
  • Vinyl, linoleum & tile
  • Marble or granite (Note: I would use with caution because of the vinegar.)
  • Cement

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
  • 3 drops liquid dish soap 
  • 5-10 drops essential oils (optional)

Combine in a bucket or spray bottle.

All-Purpose Kitchen/Bath Spray 

For good health, we just need to sanitize kitchens and bathrooms, not full-out disinfect them.

Sanitize means to reduce numbers of pathogens to a safe level, while disinfection means to completely kill them. Unless a family member is sick (or has recently been ill), there is no need to thoroughly disinfect.

The chemicals in commercial disinfectants are harmful to our health – and are linked to lung problems and even to certain cancers with long-term exposure.

Nearly all of these recipes rely on vinegar. Because of its acidic nature, vinegar not only cuts grease but also wipes out many types of microbes. Others rely on hydrogen peroxide, a well-known disinfectant that isn’t hard on the lungs.

Popsugar.com has a great selection of all-purpose cleaning spray recipes to choose from.

Pet-and-Child Safe All-Purpose Cleaner

Tea tree oil has been used for centuries because of its powerful antifungal and antiseptic properties. (FYI: it also has a powerful aroma.)

Note: Full-strength tea tree oil is poisonous if ingested, so store it in a safe location.

Add 10 drops of tea tree essential oil to four cups of water, in a spray bottle and shake. Excellent for kitchen/bathroom counters and sanitizing hard surface toys.

Rosemary-Lemon Food Safe Cleaning Solution

Rosemary and lemon have natural antibacterial and antifungal properties. This is an excellent cleaner for the kitchen because it’s 100% safe on food surfaces. Plus it smells divine!

Ingredients:

  • 3 lemon ends
  • 10 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 cups vinegar

Instructions:

Place lemon ends, rosemary and vinegar into a glass jar with a lid. Shake to combine.

Let the solution sit for 3 days. Strain and put into a spray bottle.

DYI Citrus Spray Cleaner

As well as smelling delightful, this spray cut through tough grease with a citrus punch.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups orange and lemon peels
  • 2 cups white vinegar

Instructions:

Place the vinegar and citrus peels in a sealed glass container for seven days. Strain and pour into a spray bottle. The acidity in the mixture helps kill most mould and germs.

Note: the citrus peels can be saved to make another batch of cleaning solution.

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

This recipe will leave any surface in your house shining, with the grease-busting properties of vinegar and Borax plus the disinfecting bubbles of hydrogen peroxide.

  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Borax
  • 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide
  • 2 cups hot water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Spring of rosemary (optional)
  • Essential oil (optional)

In a bowl, add the Borax to the hot water and stir until dissolved. Add the hydrogen peroxide, vinegar and lemon to the mixture and stir.

Pour into a spray bottle and top with a sprig of rosemary or a few drops of your favourite essential oil.

Homemade Bathroom Cleaner for Tub, Tile & Grout

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup baking soda
  • ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 tsp. Liquid dish soap

Instructions:

Mix together in a small squeeze-top container. The baking soda will scrub away hard water spots and stains, while the hydrogen peroxide will whiten and clean.

Clothing Stain Removers

Stain removers may contain toxic ingredients such as Sodium Laurel Sulphate (a proven skin irritant), chlorine bleach (linked to respiratory problems), synthetic fragrances (which can cause migraines and allergic reactions) and phosphates, which can harm aquatic life.

These stain removers can knock out major stains, without harming your clothes, your body or the environment.

DIY Homemade Stain RemoverTiffany, DontWasteTheCrumbs.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • 4 tbsp dish soap
  • 8 tbsp hydrogen peroxide

Stir together in a small jar. Apply directly to stain and rub in with an old toothbrush. Let sit for 15-minutes to an hour. Wash as usual.

Miracle DIY Spray Stain Remover – Sarah Lipoff, PopSugar.com

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup dishwashing liquid
  • ½ cup rubbing alcohol
  • 6 tbsp. baking soda
  • 1 ½ cups warm water

Instructions:

Whisk the dishwashing liquid and baking soda together in a small bowl. Slowly add in the rubbing alcohol and the water. Shake before use. Spray stain with stain remover. Let sit 20 minutes and wash as usual.

Degreasers

Ugh. There is nothing worse than having to clean up a greasy kitchen – especially if the grease has been left on overnight.

Most commercial degreasers depend heavily on petroleum-based surfactants.

But these homemade degreasers can make short work cleaning greasy surfaces.

Homemade Degreaser (Manasa-Reddigari for BobVila.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • ⅛ tsp of Castille soap (e.g. Dr. Bronner’s)
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda
  • 3 cups warm water
  • 20 drops pH neutral essential oil (optional – fresh citrus scents such as lemon and orange work great)

Note: use unscented Castille soap if adding essential oil.

Instructions:

Combine ingredients into a spray bottle and shake well to mix.

Let sit on the greasy surface for 10-15 minutes. Rinse.

The following two degreaser recipes are from Audrey Pannell from Hunker.com

All-Purpose Degreaser.

Mix ½ cup lemon juice with 2 cups of vinegar and pour into a spray bottle. The natural acids in this mixture will make the greasiest surfaces squeaky clean)

Perfect for surfaces such as cooktops (make sure its cool before you start), backsplashes, range hoods and pots and pans.

Sink Degreaser

Ingredients:

  • Juice of one grapefruit
  • ½ tsp dish soap
  • 2 cups of water.

Instructions: Mix together in a spray bottle. Spray the dishes with this mixture and let stand for are few minutes in the sink before washing. Also works great for cleaning up greasy residue.

No Rub Degreaser for Your Kitchen Hood – by Elena K. for Hometalk.com

Instructions:

Remove filters from kitchen hood.

Fill the tallest pot you own with water until 2” from the brim. Add 1 cup of vinegar. Add one tablespoon of original Dawn dish soap (or Fairy if you’re from Europe.) Stir well.

Slowly add ½ cup baking soda in 1 tbsp. increments, stirring well after each addition.

(Note: if the bubbling gets too high, turn down the stove and let cool down for a few minutes.) After the pot comes to a boil, turn it off.

Carefully add your filters to the pot of hot solution. Let sit a minute or two. If necessary, scrub any remaining grease off the filter with a small brush.

Natural Kitchen Degreaser (TheKitchn.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • Natural liquid soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • Warm water
  • Essential oil (optional)

Instructions:

Add vinegar, a drop or two of the soap and the baking soda to a spray bottle. Fill to the neck with warm water. Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil if desired.

Homemade Citrus Degreaser – One Good Thing by Jillee.com

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons liquid Castile soap (Dr. Bronner’s, etc.)
  • 20 drops lemon essential oil

Instructions:

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle. Spray on greasy messes and wipe with a wet cloth.

Dusting Spray/Furniture Polish

A little spray, a little wipe and that fresh lemon scent! There is something beautiful about a freshly dusted home. But winning the battle over dust bunnies isn’t worth filling your home with toxic chemicals.

Household furniture polishes often include petroleum distillates, mineral spirits, C10-12 Alkane/Cycloalkane (which can be fatal if ingested) and phthalates (which is noted for its damaging effects on male reproductive organs.)

So it’s time to pledge to lose that can of Lemon Pledge polish.

Here are some safe dusting spray alternatives that smell great too.

DIY Dusting Spray Sarah Lipoff, PopSugar.com

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups water
  • ½ tsp. Dr. Bronner’s soap
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil
  • 10-20 drops essential oil of your choice (optional)

Instructions:

Mix together in a spray bottle. Shake before use.

Homemade Furniture PolishSarah Lipoff, Popsugar.com

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

Instructions:

Combine ingredients and add to a small squeeze bottle (using a funnel if necessary.) Shake before using. Squirt a small amount on a soft, dry cloth to polish your wood furniture. If you like a high shine, buff with a second dry cloth.

Homemade Dust, Wood & Furniture Polish SprayKate Kordsmeier, RootandRevel.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Castille soap
  • 15 drops essential oils (citrus & herb recommended)

Instructions:

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle. Spray furniture or surface and wipe with a microfiber cloth.

DIY Dusting Spray – Sarah, OneEssentialCommunity.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup distilled water (can substitute boiled and cooled filtered tap water)
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup fractionated coconut oil
  • Your choice of essential oils (optional)
    • Fresh home scent: 20 drops lemon + 10 drops lavender
    • Citrus grove scent: 15 drops orange + 10 drops lemon + 5 drops grapefruit
    • Clean & fresh scent:  20 drops lemon + 10 drops peppermint
    • Clean & calm scent:  20 drops orange + 10 drops lavender
    • Cozy fall scent:  20 drops orange + 5 drops cinnamon + 3 drops cardamom + 2 drops clove

Combine in a spray bottle. Shake before using. Mist furniture lightly or apply the spray directly on a microfiber cleaning cloth and wipe.

Glass/Window Cleaners

Who doesn’t like shiny, clean glass and windows? With apologies to the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you don’t need Windex to make your glass shine! Try some of these simple formulas for streak-free glass.

All-in-One Glass and Stainless Steel Cleaner Kristin Marr, LiveSimply.me

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup rubbing/isopropyl alcohol
  • ⅓ cup white vinegar
  • 12 oz. water
  • Optional: A few drops of your favourite essential oil

Instructions:

Combine in a spray bottle. Shake well before using. Apply and wipe with a microfiber cloth.

Note: Some manufacturers of stainless steel appliances recommend that they are only to be cleaned with plain water. Check with your manufacturer before using this formula. Test in an inconspicuous spot before spraying down your entire appliance.

DIY Glass and Stainless Steel CleanerTracey Black, DontMessWithMama.com

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup rubbing alcohol or vodka
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch or arrowroot (prevents streaking)
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil
  • 5 drops orange essential oil
  • 2 cups distilled water

Instructions:

Add rubbing alcohol and vinegar to a 16 oz. spray bottle using a funnel. Add cornstarch and essential oils. Add water. Screw on the spray nozzle. Shake well before use.

Natural Homemade Window CleanerSarah Lipoff, Popsugar.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup  fresh lemon juice
  • Essential oil of your choice (optional)

Instructions:

Mix the ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake well before use.

Hardwood Floor Cleaners

Nothing is more inviting in a home than a beautiful hardwood floor. But hardwood needs some TLC to look its best.

The main danger with hardwood is getting it too wet when you mop. The wood can swell and buckle if standing water is left on it for too long. For this reason, it’s recommended that hardwood is cleaned with a spray bottle and mop, instead of a bucket. A little spritz and wipe are all that hardwood needs.

Make sure you test these formulas in an inconspicuous area before use. Always follow manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations for your hardwood floors. In some instances, nothing should be used on hardwood except plain water.

No Vinegar Hardwood Cleaning Formula – CleanMama.net

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1-2 drops Castile soap or Sal Suds (Dr. Bronner’s)
  • 3-5 drops essential oil (Sal Suds already has a slight pine scent)

Instructions:

MIx ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake before use. Spray floor lightly and mop with a microfiber mopping pad.

Cleaner for No-Finish or Naturally Finished HardwoodAshley Adamant, PracticalSelfReliance.com

Hardwood that has no finish, or is finished with oil instead of a factory finish or urethane need extra care because it can get dried out and brittle. This recipe uses a touch of olive oil to help put needed moisture back into the wood.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2-3 drops of your favourite essential oil

Instructions:

Shake well as you lightly spray and mop your floors. Use this recipe within 2 months since olive oil eventually goes rancid.

DIY Wood Floor Cleaner Recipe – HouseWifeHowTos.com

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
  • 3 drops plain liquid dish soap (original Dawn or Fairy recommended. Do not use dish soap with antibacterial, moisturizing or scented ingredients, or contains “oxygenating action:)
  • 5 drops essential oil

Instructions:

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle. Spray floor lightly and wipe with a dry microfiber cloth.

Black Tea Wood Floor Cleaner – TipNut.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap
  • ⅛ cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup brewed black tea (steep 1 tea bag in 2 cups of boiling water, let cool)

Instructions:

Add ingredients together in a spray bottle. Lightly spray hardwood and mop with a microfiber mop.

Note: The tea brings out the shine of the hardwood.

Kitchen/Bath Counter Wipes

Counter wipes are super convenient, but they are quite expensive and contain some quite toxic ingredients.

Specifically, many wipes contain dangerous ingredients like quaternary ammonia compounds, which can irritate the lungs, eyes and skin. Many contain preservatives with formaldehyde to prevent bacterial growth. Wipes that contain chlorine bleach are linked to asthma, and also contribute to a rise in ‘superbug,’ antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The good news is that you can have the convenience of wipes without the health risks. Instead of quats and chlorine bleach, these wipes use vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and essential oils with antibacterial properties.

Homemade Natural Cleaning Wipes that DisinfectBetsy Jabs, DIYNatural.com

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup filtered water
  • ¾ cup white distilled vinegar
  • 15 drops lemon essential oil
  • 8 drops lavender essential oil
  • 4 drops bergamot essential oil

Instructions:

Cut 15-20 pieces of lightweight, yet absorbent cloth into 10”x10” squares. (Old t-shirts work well.)

Combine ingredients in a mason jar or other sealable container of your choice (if you use plastic, make sure it won’t react with your essential oils.) Stir to combine. Add pre-cut cloths to the container and press down to soak up the liquid. Store upside down in a cool, dark cupboard to keep wipes moist and preserve the properties of the essential oils.

Homemade Cleaning Wipes and Canister – Sarah Lipoff, PopSugar.com

Materials:

  • One pound coffee canister with lid
  • Roll of paper towel
  • Serrated bread knife
  • Spray paint (optional)
  • Needle
  • Scissors

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 tsp liquid dish soap
  • 10 drops essential oils (optional)

Instructions:

If desired, spray paint your coffee can if you would like a more decorative canister.

Cut roll of paper towel in two crosswise with a serrated knife. Place one half of cut roll upright in the canister, with the cardboard center in the middle.

Mix together vinegar, dish soap, rubbing alcohol and essential oil in a small bowl. Pour liquid over the paper towel. Once the towels are saturated, remove cardboard center. Pull a single towel from the center of the roll.

Poke the needle through the center of the lid several times to make a pilot hole. Fit scissors in the hold and cut a ½” diameter circle. Feed paper towel from the middle of the roll through the hole cut in the lid. Secure the lid over the wipes. Pull out one-at-a-time for cleaning countertops.

DIY Reusable Cleaning Wipes – Tracey Black, DontMessWithMama.com

Materials:

  • Package of reusable cleaning cloths (e.g. J-Cloths)
  • Airtight glass container (check out your local dollar store, or use a large glass jar with a lid)

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups warm water (depending on the size of your container)
  • 2 tbsp. Liquid castile soap
  • 5 drops Lemongrass essential oil
  • 5 drops Lavender essential oil
  • ⅛ cup hydrogen peroxide (helps extend shelf life)

Instructions:

Add ½ of the water and the soap to the container. Add the essential oils and mix well.

Cut reusable towels in half. Roll each towel and stand them up in the container. Add remaining water and hydrogen peroxide. Seal jar and shake well. The solution will last about a week. Wash dirty wipes in your washing machine and reuse.

Disinfecting Bleach-Free Bathroom Wipes – LivingOnaDime.com

Materials:

  • 24 rags, cut into 4”x6” pieces 
  • Plastic container (old baby wipes container works well.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup rubbing alcohol
  • 2 tbsp. Dawn dish soap (do not substitute)
  • 2 tbsp. ammonia (optional)

Mix up the solution and pour over the rags. Use as much solution as you need to moisten the rags; you don’t want them sopping wet. Store leftover solution for future use.

Soft Scrubs and Scouring Powders

There are times you just have to put in a little elbow grease to remove soap scum, hard water marks and assorted hardened crud. That’s where scrubbing gels, powders and creams come in.

Some commercial formulas are harsh and will scratch surfaces. Many also contain chlorine bleach, which is terrible for your lungs and skin. The good news? You don’t need ‘em!

Check out these homemade cleaning pastes. They’ll make short work of your nastiest, grimiest crud – even the dreaded ring around the tub.

Natural Cleaning Paste for the Tub – ApartmentTherapy.com

Materials:

  • Jar with lid

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 10-12 drops antibacterial essential oil (suggestions: Tea Tree, Rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus)
  • 1 tsp. liquid soap
  • Water

Instructions: Combine baking soda, essential oil & liquid soap in the jar. Add just enough water to make a paste and shake to mix. Seal jar and use to scrub your bathtub and sinks.

Simple DIY Scouring PowderErin Huffstetler, TheSpruce.com

A lot of grime can be removed with a bit of baking soda on a sponge or damp cloth and some elbow grease. But if you need more cleaning power, try these additions to the baking soda. Always rinse surfaces with plain water after scrubbing.

Additions:

  • Make a paste of baking powder and water and let it sit on the stain for a few hours before scrubbing.
  • Add 1 tbsp. borax to ⅓ cup baking soda and mix well
  • Pour a bit of white vinegar on the stain and scrub with baking soda
  • Grate a ½ bar of soap (not antibacterial) and mix with 1 cup baking soda.

Note: If there is a film left after rinsing, dilute some vinegar to do a secondary rinse. Wipe dry.

Optional: Add 3-8 drops essential oils to ½ cup baking soda if you’d like a scented scrub. Store your scrub in a sealed jar.

Grapefruit Soft Scrub – MommyPotamus.com

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. liquid castile soap
  • ¾ cup baking soda
  • Just enough water to make a paste ( about 2-3 tbsps)
  • 10 drops grapefruit essential oil.

Instructions: Combine baking soda, castile soap and essential oils. Add enough water to make a paste. Transfer to an empty squeeze bottle (old ketchup, shampoo and dish soap bottles work well) Squirt on a damp sponge and rub into grimy surface. Store in a sealed container for up to 12 months.

Homemade Bon Ami Alternative Scouring Powder – Katie Wells, WellnessMama.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • ½ cup non-iodized salt
  • ½ cup washing soda
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil (optional)

Instructions: Pour ingredients into jar or bowl and stir to mix well. If you’d like a shaker, poke some holes in a pint or quart mason jar lid. Lightly wet down the surface to be cleaned. Sprinkle scouring powder on the wet surface and let sit for 5 minutes. Scrub and rinse.

Mildew Removers

There is no other way to put it – mildew stinks. Literally.

Mildew is fungi and a close cousin of mould. Its typical appearance is grayish-white and powdery.

Here’s how to get rid of it and keep it from coming back.

Tea Tree Oil Mold & Mildew Killer – Sarah Lipoff, PopSugar.com

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 20 drops tea tree oil

Instructions:

  • Combine in a small spray bottle. Use in showers, tubs and sinks where mould or mildew exists. Spray and leave sit.

3-Ingredient DYI Mildew CleanerJennafer Ashley, PaleoHacks.com

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • 10-20 drops citrus essential oil

Instructions: Combine in a spray bottle. Spray directly on affected areas. Leave for 10 minutes before scrubbing.

Shower/Tub Sprays & Cleaners

Much of the grime in showers and tubs are from hard water buildup and soap scum. These non-toxic sprays will cut through the gunk and leave your shower sparkling.

A Natural Shower, Tub, and Tile Cleaner – Katie Vance, DIYNatural.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 4 tsp. fragrance-free dish soap
  • 10 drops tea tree oil
  • 10 drops eucalyptus essential oil

Instructions:

Add white vinegar and dish soap to an 8 oz. or larger spray bottle. Swirl to combine. Add essential oils.

Spray tub/shower generously and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Wipe with a soft, clean rag. For best results, use daily.

Homemade Daily Shower Cleaner SprayJessica, Mom4Real.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup distilled or boiled and cooled filtered water
  • ⅛ cup hydrogen peroxide
  • ⅛ cup isopropyl alcohol
  • ½ tsp. castile soap or dish soap
  • ½ tsp white vinegar

Instructions: Using a funnel, add all ingredients to a 16 oz. spray bottle. Shake well before use. Spray shower and let sit for 10 minutes to loosen built-up soap scum. After the initial application, spray shower walls daily to prevent soap scum build up. No rinsing required.

Daily Shower Cleaner SprayBeverly, MakeYourOwnZone.com

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup hydrogen peroxide
  • ½ cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 tsp.dish soap
  • 1 tbsp. Dishwater rinse aid (Like JetDry)
  • 3 cups water (approximate)

Instructions:

Add first four ingredients to 32 oz spray bottle using a funnel. Slowly add enough water to fill the bottle and swirl to combine ingredients. Mist walls of shower daily with this solution after showering. No rinsing or wiping needed.  

Glass Shower Door Scrub – Sarah Lipoff, PopSugar.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Epsom salts
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • ¼ cup liquid dish soap

Instructions:

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Scoop a small amount of mixture on a soft, damp cloth and apply in a circular motion over shower doors or tiles. Can also be used to shine tub spouts. Let still for a few minutes, the give another light scrub. Rinse with warm water and polish with a clean paper towel.

Toilet Bowl Cleaners/Bombs

No one likes cleaning the toilet. There are few jobs as gross and disgusting.

But that doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to use a harsh chemical toilet bowl cleaner, either. Commercial toilet bowl cleaners often contain chlorine bleach and hydrochloric acid, which is extremely corrosive.

To follow are some highly effective DIY toilet cleaners. They’ll help you get a dirty job done dirt cheap using non-toxic ingredients.

DIY Toilet Bowl Cleaner – Karen B. Gibbs, Today.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup salt
  • 6 drops Tea Tree oil

Instructions:

  • Combine dry ingredients and stir in Tea Tree oil. To use, turn off the water to the toilet and flush so the bowl empties. Sprinkle the powder into the toilet bowl and scrub the bowl (wear gloves.) Add 1 cup white vinegar and let sit for an hour. Turn on the water and flush. Scrub weekly to keep your toilet sparkling clean.

Heavy Duty Toilet Formula – Betsy Jabs, DIYNatural.com

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup borax
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 10 drops lavender oil
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil

Instructions:

Combine ingredients in a bowl or squirt bottle. Wet inside of the bowl with a toilet brush. Pour entire mixture into the toilet bowl. Allow it to sit in the bowl overnight. Scrub bowl and flush to rinse in the morning.

DIY Cleaning Disinfecting, Deodorizing Toilet Bowl BombsDebra Maslowski, DIYNatural.com

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup baking soda
  • ½ cup citric acid
  • ½ cup borax or cornstarch
  • 25 drops essential oils to disinfect and eliminate odours (recommended: Tea Tree, lemon, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus, bay rum)

Where’s the Laundry Detergent Formulas?

 I’m not convinced that homemade laundry detergent does a good job of cleaning your clothes. And here’s why.

Both soap and detergents contain surfactants. Surfactants attach themselves to the dirt, oil and other particles in your laundry, and suspends them until the rinse and the final spin removes the soil before it can be redeposited back on your clothes.

There the similarity ends.

One of the primary ingredients in soap is fat. The fat in the soap attaches itself to the fibres of your clothing where it can’t easily be rinsed away. Over time, (you guessed it) the soap builds up and becomes stinky, nasty soap scum. (And if you have hard water, it makes the soap scum problem even worse.)

Uh, isn’t the point of washing your clothes to remove soil and make them smell fresh and clean? 

I’ve read several accounts where people said homemade laundry soap damaged their HD washing machines to the point of no return. Why try to save a few bucks on detergent if it destroys your washer?

That seems penny wise and pound foolish to me. 

On a closing note, if you’ve tried any of these cleaning product recipes, let me know! I’ve got to say the ACORN glass cleaning formula from OneGoodThing.com is better than any commercial glass cleaners I’ve tried. 

 

The Real Reason You Struggle with Meal Planning

You’ve just added up last month’s takeout receipts — and it’s clear that eating out is bleeding you dry.

Still, meal planning feels daunting.

Planning out an entire month’s menu, complete with recipes and ingredient lists? The shopping, the chopping, the hours of cooking and the endless pile of dirty dishes when it’s over?

The very thought of it stresses you out.

But here’s the thing. Meal planning shouldn’t be stressful. It should be easy and…yes, even fun!

So why does it stress you out so bad?

5 Reasons Just the Thought of Meal Planning Fills You With Dread

It’s easy to talk your self out of getting started with meal planning. Because everything you’ve read makes it seem so damn complicated!

Maybe thoughts like these run through your mind:

  1. You dread sitting down and figuring out how many onions you need for 2 1/2 cups diced. Ugh.
  2. So many recipes are stupidly complicated, take too long to make — they just have too many ingredients to deal with. Or they feature foods that would incite a riot in your house (kale, anyone?)
  3. And what happens if your plans need to change suddenly? For example, what happens to your planned meals if you have to work late, or if your kids stay overnight at their buddy’s house? Do they get tossed into the bin?
  4. Accepting a last minute dinner invitation means you’ll have an extra dinner thawed out. Then where does it go in the meal rotation?
  5. You only get two days off, and you don’t want to spend one of them cooking all day long

No wonder it seems easier to pick up the phone and order takeout!

Your Meal Planning Efforts Don’t Need to Be ‘Pinterest Perfect’

Too many of us get caught up in feeling our lives should be as perfect as a Pinterest board. And when we can’t measure up, we feel inadequate.

But here’s why you shouldn’t feel that way.

Newsflash…nothing on Pinterest looks that good without a Photoshop assist.

You don’t need to feel unworthy if you’re not ready to plan out a month’s worth of menus just yet.

Meal planning doesn’t have to be the all or nothing proposition it’s made out to be.

Baby Step Your Way to Success

Taking the time to plan and cook just a few simple meals per week will save you tons of time and money. Not only that — you can avoid takeout food loaded with sugar and sodium. (That stuff’s as hard on your body as it is on your wallet!)

Here are a few tips to make your first meal planning efforts successful:

  1. Stock your pantry with staples before you even think about starting meal planning. It takes a bit of a cash outlay to build up your pantry, so get that stocked up first. Having a well-stocked pantry helps you avoid last minute trips to the store. (Need a printable list of basic pantry staples? Grab one here — feel free to skip the suggested snack items.)
  2. Shop during off-hours if you get overwhelmed by a busy store
  3. Don’t buy a set of coordinated containers to store your meals right away. Ziplock bags will work just fine for now.
  4. Stick to simple recipes and family favourites like chilli, spaghetti sauce, and soups if you’re not an accomplished cook. Expand your recipe collection once you build up your cooking skills and confidence. (Need help picking out recipesTheKitchn.com has some excellent advice for planning novices.)

Remember: Every Meal Planning Winner Was Once a Beginner

Forget ‘Pinterest Perfection.’

You need meal planning that fits your family’s life — not the other way around.

Allow yourself some wiggle room.

If you enjoy a weekly pizza night, don’t feel guilty about it.

Meal planning is about saving time and money where you can, not about blindly following someone else’s plan. Don’t stress yourself out. Do what seems manageable right now.

When you cook dinner, cook a little extra and save it for lunch the next day. Or this Sunday, maybe just prepare lunches. Or maybe just a couple of dinners. Whatever feels manageable.

Your efforts will soon pay off for better health and a fatter wallet!

How to Have a Productive Day at Home (Even if Your Kids Are Driving You Crazy)


“Work from home,” they said.

“It will be fun,” they said.

“They” couldn’t have been more wrong!

When you work from home, you’ve still got the pressures and deadlines that come with a regular job.

Combining working from home with the demands of parenthood(“You want me to read that AGAIN?”) can make you doubt your very sanity.

As a work-from-home parent, you often feel like you’re short-changing yourself, your clients and your kids.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel for work-from-home parents.

There are many ways to make the combination of working from home and parenthood easier on yourself.

Phase I — Shift Your Expectations

Welcome to your new reality.

Even if you pride yourself on never missing a deadline at your old office job…it’s a brand new ballgame as a work-from-home parent.

In fact, you can only plan on one thing with absolute certainty.

And that’s nothing will go 100% as planned.

So don’t set yourself up for failure with an overly ambitious work schedule. Give yourself a pat on the back if you can get halfway through your to-do list while your kids are awake.

There will be days when your child is sick or needy, and you just have to roll with it.

Tomorrow is another day.

Phase II — Soothe Your Mind (Safety First)

Every parent alive has had the sudden realization that the kids are way too quiet. We all know what that means.

They are into something they shouldn’t be!

When you work from home, you’re not going to be able to keep your eye on the kids every single second of your day. Not if you want to get your work done.

That’s why if you do everything possible to ensure your kids are safe, you’ll be more at ease. You won’t be jumping out of your skin every time you hear a noise.

When you’ve done everything you can to protect your children, you’ll feel more relaxed. You’ll be able to finish up those last-minute TPS reports without jumping out of your skin every time you hear a noise.

Here is an excellent checklist from Parents.com about how to kid-proof your home.

Phase III — Schedule for Your Success

Set up a schedule to accomplish as much as you can in short bursts. Make the most of the time your kids are sleeping.

Step 1Get up earlier.

You can get a fantastic amount of work done in just a couple of hours when the house is quiet. Your productivity will go through the roof when you don’t have to herd kids. To increase it even more, don’t stop to answer emails or texts during these quiet hours.

Step 2Use nap time productively.

Most kids aged from 2–4 will nap in the afternoon for an hour or so. Plan activities that require extra focus during this time.

Step 3Work after the kids are in bed.

Sneak in an extra hour or two after you get them settled down for the night. Establish regular bedtime hours to make the most of your time.

Step 4Schedule online meetings when kids are sleeping (or when you have childcare.)

It’s not realistic to expect small children to maintain radio silence while you chat up clients.

Step 5 Schedule some breaks into your day.

Give the kids your full attention during break times, and they’ll interrupt you less during working hours. Set a timer to help kids countdown to your next break.

Phase IV — Quiet, Please!

Everyone who works from home with kids needs some uninterrupted time to focus. You’re probably not going to be able to get all of your work done when the kids are asleep.

And that’s why you need to pre-plan some daily activities to engage your kids in quiet play. Create a weekly calendar where you rotate these activities so your kids don’t get bored by the same-old, same-old.

It might seem like a hassle to sit down and plan a week’s worth of kid activities in advance, but the benefits are enormous.

Your kids won’t be whining “We’re bored,” and you won’t be scrambling finding something for them to do at the last minute. As well, planning ahead lets you stock up on any needed craft items.

Suggestions:

  • Sorting games, threading large beads on pipe cleaners, puzzles, building towers, forts made with sheets, playdough, activity jar. (There are some great suggestions for pre-school age activities on Pinterest and YouTube.)
  • Empty cardboard box & crayons — kids love an empty cardboard box. Having one gives their imagination full-rein. Give the kids some crayons and stickers to decorate their boxes to their hearts’ content.
  • Sticky easel. Tape a piece of contact paper sticky-side out to an easel or cutting board. Kids will have a ball sticking craft sticks, buttons and other small items to the easel. (See www://learnwithplayathome.com for more info.)
  • Have some special movies on hand for when you just have to get something done
  • “Paint” toys with water. Give a kid a small container of water and a paintbrush so they can paint waterproof toys.
  • Daily busy boxes. Busy boxes are small containers with books, a sensory item, small toys, puzzles and other items that keep kids amused for long stretches. Kids love the element of surprise busy boxes offer — it’s like opening up a new gift every day.

Phase V — Get Some Help

Reconsider if you think that childcare is too expensive.

Having childcare frees you up so you can be more productive.

This means that you can bill out faster — which will often more than cover your childcare expenses.

Here are some other childcare options to consider:

  • Your spouse takes over when they get home. This is many people’s go-to option, but it can be tough on relationships. Your spouse doesn’t get any downtime when they get home from work, and you don’t get any time to enjoy together as a couple. You can start to feel like you don’t know each other.
  • Swap childcare with a friend a couple days a week. This can be a great option if you work remotely, or you have tasks that need to be completed on specific days of the week.
  • Consider a nanny — Hiring a nanny can sometimes be a less expensive option than daycare. This could be an ideal position for a college student.
  • Part-time daycare — This isn’t an option everywhere, but certainly one to consider. Daycare for a couple of afternoons per week can make a real dent in your projects.
  • New option on the horizon — Workspaces for freelancers combined with on-site childcare are starting to pop up. This is an excellent option because you don’t have to commit to full-time childcare. (Typically, you book your workspace and childcare a week or two in advance.) You’ll also get to network with other freelancers — a real bonus because working alone for long stretches makes you feel isolated.

Phase VI — Smile (They Won’t Be Little Forever)

While your days as a work-from-home parent are bound to be hectic, remember there is light at the tunnel. Kids grow up fast. Every day they get a little more independent.

So, plan your work around your kids’ schedule as much as you can. Try to get in some uninterrupted time while they’re asleep or napping. Shut off your phone and ignore emails during this time.

You can make huge strides towards your goals with even a couple of hours of intense focus.

Use a calendar to plan some quiet activities for the kids on a rotating basis. Planning an activity schedule ensures you have all the materials you need on hand — and avoids any last minute panic or interruptions.

Don’t go it alone. Arrange for some childcare so you can really focus on your projects when deadlines loom.

Balancing the needs of your kids and the needs of your clients or boss is probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do.

“Trying to do it all and expecting that it all can be done exactly right is a recipe for disappointment. Perfection is the enemy.” — Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg

Forget about perfection when you work from home.

Cut yourself some slack. Go for good enough.

Enjoy your days as a work-from-home parent as much as you can — because they won’t be here for long!

Social Media: The Pressure On Our Girls to Be Perfect

Social media pressure puts a lot of pressure on girls to be perfect. When you’re a teenage girl, your public image means everything to you.

That’s one reason why social media has become such a force in girls’ lives. It allows them to portray themselves in the best light.

When you’re a teenager, controlling your image is appealing because so many aspects of your life aren’t in your control. You’re discovering who you are. You’re figuring out the give-and-take of relationships.

Social media gives users the image control they crave. But it also opens a Pandora’s Box.

Too many users’ self-worth comes just from likes and follows.

Manipulating Reality Through Social Media

Girls want to be attractive. Social media gives them instant validation of that.

While social media gives girls the image control they crave, it gives them false feelings of self-worth too.

“The ease with which we can edit and manipulate our social media accounts proves that any of these sites allow us to create a false reality, a version of ourselves as we want to be seen, a false self to increase the feeling of self worth, reflected by the number of likes and followers.”  TodayPictures.com

Laura Buffardi and W. Keith Campbell from the University of Georgia made the same connection about how social media gives users control over their image.

“Owners have complete power over self-presentation on Web pages, unlike most other social contexts. In particular, one can use personal Web pages to select attractive photographs of oneself or write self-descriptions that are self-promoting.”

But having control over their profile isn’t the only thing that encourages girls’ social media use.

The Dopamine/Social Media Connection

When a girl posts a flattering photo on social media, getting likes and positive comments sends a surge of dopamine through her brain. Dopamine increases feelings of reward and motivation as well as addiction.

“Dopamine starts at “seeking” behavior in each example. Then you get rewarded, which makes you seek more — to do it again. And again. It’s hard to stop. Chances are you have checked your email — or at least thought about it — in the past few minutes. Or Twitter. Or both. That’s not technology knocking. It’s your brain. It’d like some dopamine — now.” – Phil Pruitt, Chance Seales

When you understand the positive connection between social media likes and dopamine, you see the addictive power of social media. Many users freely admit how addicted they are to social media, like Jessa Haines.

“I am addicted to the adrenaline rush I get when my phone tells me someone commented on a photo I posted or link I shared. I am addicted to the connection I feel when members of my social network post about their families, travels and lives. I am addicted to sharing information about myself that generally no one should ever care about.”

But what happens when a girl’s photo doesn’t generate the ‘likes’ she wants? Or what about negative comments on her posts?

Negative feedback sets the stage for a hit to a girl’s self-esteem.

Low Self-Esteem & Social Media Pressure

 

Let’s be clear.

Social media isn’t the cause of low self-esteem. However, if a social media user already has low self-esteem, it can contribute to her anxiety and depression.

Here’s what body image expert Claire Mysko says:

‘While social media is not the cause of low self-esteem, it can contribute to it. Social media creates an environment where disordered thoughts and behaviours really thrive.’ 

 

Surprise: It’s Not Celebrity Photos on Social Media that Make Girls Feel Inadequate

According to Mysko, social media can ‘serve as a catalyst for more insecurity.’

You might think your daughter’s anxiety comes from celebrity profiles. Think again. Teen girls are smart enough to realize celebrities have trainers, personal chefs and stylists.

Friends and classmates are a bigger source of anxiety for many teen girls.

“These days . . . . impossible standards are set much closer to home, not by celebrities and models but by classmates and friends. With social media, teens can curate their lives, and the resulting feeds read like highlight reels, showing only the best and most enviable moments while concealing efforts, struggles, and the merely ordinary aspects of day-to-day life. And there’s evidence that those images are causing distress for many kids.” – Rae Jacobson

She May Not See the Whole Picture

Social media makes us think other people have perfect lives. But that’s not the truth.

A girl feels jealous when she see’s her friend’s stunning photo. But she doesn’t see the fight her friend had with her mom ten minutes earlier.

When she sees her classmate looking flawless in a photo, she doesn’t see the filters that made her that way.

Exotic vacation photos? No one mentioned that Grandma financed the trip.

Social media lies – and that’s what girls need to understand.

“People need to learn to take other people’s social media posts with a grain of salt and recognize that it represents how people want to share their experience. . . all the facts are not there. – Karen North, Ph.D

Encourage Your Daughter to “Think Outside the Crop”

Encourage your daughter to think critically about the images she sees on social media. There are lots of images obviously cropped or edited.  Ask her to question why? That are they trying to hide? 

This opens up an entire discussion about people not always being what the seem on the surface.

The video below gives some food for thought on how social media is so deceiving.

What’s Your Take?

Have you discussed the pitfalls of social media with your daughter? Comment below!

How Much Screen Time for Kids is Too Much?

Screen time for kids is a topic of concern for parents, especially for parents of kids under 5. Everyone can agree that excess screen time isn’t good for anyone. But how much is too much?

 How young is too young to watch TV or interact with a video, DVD or games on mobile devices? What about educational games?

Experts agree that too much screen time comes with some serious consequences, especially for the youngest children. Touchscreen technology has also added another wrinkle because while it is interactive it can also interfere with sleep patterns.

Here’s what the experts have to say.

Too Much Time On Screens Contributes to Speech & Language Delays 

Kids don’t learn better from a screen than they do from you.

A study by Weerasak Chonchaiya and Chandhita Pruksananonda found a relationship between early onset and high frequency of TV viewing and language delay.”The researchers say children who start watching TV at younger at than 12 months, and for more than two hours per day, were six times more likely to have language delays.

One of the worst possible effects of screen time on the youngest kids is delayed language development. Every minute spent with a screen is a minute that a child doesn’t learn the give-and-take of a real-life conversation. Children don’t receive any needed feedback, encouragement or language correction from a screen.

Babies and toddlers learn best from interacting with a loving caregiver, not from a screen. Reading to your child, singing and playing with your child helps them develop their language skills. A child needs to be able to ask questions and interact to become a confident speaker. There is no electronic substitute that comes close.

Our window of language acquisition is very short, and most language learning occurs before the age of two. If a child doesn’t receive the interaction they need before that age, speech delays are possible.

Cognitive Delays from Excessive Screen Time

Aric Sigman, a fellow of the British Psychological Society is concerned about kids who get hooked on screens at an early age. Excess screen time harms more than just speech development.

The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed”

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/behind-online-behavior/201604/what-screen-time-can-really-do-kids-brains

Watching videos on a tablet is a passive way of learning. It doesn’t engage the child’s mine the way that a one-on-one interaction with a caregiver does. When children are read and spoken to, they create a mental picture from the words spoken and create a storyline to follow in their mind. Kids also receive non-verbal cues from interactions with their caregivers that are important for them to learn, such as tone of voice.

The bottom line? There is no educational video or app that can ever come close to what your child learns during one-on-one time with you.

Screen Time and Childhood Obesity

There is a link between how much screen time kids get and childhood obesity.

The more time a kid watches TV or plays video games, the less time they have for physical activity.  There are other factors at play in childhood obesity too – advertisers target kids with unhealthy food choices.

It’s important to note that too much TV can affect children’s BMI. But that’s not all. Excess time spent watching TV as a kid is a factor in adult obesity too.

A 30-year long study in the UK found a direct correlation between the number of hours of TV watched on the weekends to BMI. The more hours TV was watched, the higher an individual’s BMI was at age 30. For every additional hour of TV watched on the weekends, the risk of adult obesity increased by 7%.

A study of 8000 Scottish children found those who watched more than 8 hours of TV per week had increased the risk of obesity by age 7. Japanese and American studies report similar findings.

Having a TV in their bedroom is a strong risk factor for childhood obesity, regardless of kids’ physical activity. Kids with TVs in their bedrooms eat fewer meals with their families, drink more sweetened beverages and eat fewer vegetables than kids without.

Children who spend more time watching TV and engaging with visual media also tend to have reduced and disturbed sleep. Lack of sleep can contribute to metabolic changes, including Type-2 diabetes, which has skyrocketed in children.

Baby & Toddler Screen Time Risks

Screen time for kids is not recommended for children under 2

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that “Infants aged 18 months and younger should not be exposed to any digital media.” The ban includes background noise from televisions. Lights and sounds coming out of your TV are enough to cause “distress and sleep problems” in babies, even the TV is only playing in the background. 

And I probably don’t have to tell you that tired kids are cranky kids.

After 18 months, the Academy allows screen time on a limited basis, as long as parents view the digital content with their toddler. This allows you to ask your child questions about the content and have a conversation about it. 

The American guidelines make an exception for video chats (like FaceTime or Skype.) Video chat is an important way for kids to stay connected to parents who travel for work, or with grandparents or other family members – and gives them all-important personal interaction. 

The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends no screen time at all for children under 2 – and that includes background TV. Paediatrician Michelle Ponti, the chairperson of the task force states:

 “The youngest children cannot learn from screens. They’re not developmentally ready to transfer what they see on a screen to real life.” 

Children aged 2 and up can learn from quality programming, but it has to be at their developmental level.

Screen Time for Kids Aged 2-5

Limited screen time for kids is permitted for 2-5 year olds

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

Experts say screen time for 2-5 year-olds should be limited to under an hour per day. Kids aged 2-to-5 can benefit from quality TV shows as long as they are appropriate for their developmental level.

However, for your toddlers to really benefit from programming, you should watch the show with them. (Yes, I know you’re thinking, “Say it ain’t so!”) Viewing with your child allows you to ask them questions about the content and interact with them. This helps them retain more information than passively watching a screen does.

So what should you look for in programming for preschoolers? CommonSenseMedia.org recommends that parents follow these 5 tips when selecting shows for their kids.

  1. Look for shows with short episodes –  the length of the segments inside the episode count as much as the length of the entire program. Shorter segments mean it’s easier to turn the TV off without causing a toddler meltdown.
  2. Choose a show that doesn’t drive you crazy – let’s face it, some of the dialogue on kids’ shows is annoying. Pick a show that doesn’t make you feel like you’re bleeding from your eardrums listening to whiny, sing-song voices.
  3. Pacing and tone – a fast-paced energetic show may be great for your toddler at 10am, but at bedtime? Not so much.
  4. Avoid programs with ads –  shows aimed at the younger set generally avoid ads, but certain networks may cross promote shows. Record your kids’ favourite shows with your PVR to skip the ads.
  5. Choose shows with messages you care about – exercise buff, science supporter, healthy food advocate, bilingualism booster? You’re sure to find shows that help your kids develop curiosity and enthusiasm about specific topics.

For more information about picking out great shows for your kids, visit Common Sense Media’s post with their picks for Best Preschool TV Shows. 

While there are clear viewing guidelines for age five and under,  appropriate screen time for age six and over gets murky.

Elementary Age Kids and Screen Time

Surprisingly, there hasn’t been a lot of research on the effects of screen time on school-aged kids. Older kids benefit from age-appropriate TV programming and app usage, but moderation is the key.

Technology makes learning theory a lot more fun than just reading it out of a book but there is a trade-off. Information received from screens promotes only shallow processing, which means information received isn’t deeply encoded in memory. Jotting down notes by hand forces students process and prioritize information before they can write it down, which makes for deeper levels of learning.

So what’s the best way to manage screen time for older kids? Many experts say the best way is to draft a family media plan.

How to Create A Family Media Plan

A family media plan the ages of your children into account. The plan sets out guidelines for when screens shouldn’t be used (for example, at mealtimes, and an hour before bed, no texting when someone is talking to you, no screen time when you’re doing homework, no devices or chargers in the bedroom, no screens in the car, etc.)

Kids watch their parents closely. When your kids see you put away your phone at mealtime, or turn it off when you are having family time or reading, you’ll get less resistance from them to follow suit.

The Canadian Paediatric Society has four common-sense guidelines for screen time. The guidelines help parents manage screen time as much as it helps their kids.

General Screen Time Guidelines for Kids

The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that parents follow the “four M”s when it comes to young children and screen time:

Minimize screen time – No screen time for kids under 2. For 2-5-year-olds, limit screen time to under an hour per day. Make mealtime a screen-free time, and keep kids off screens for an hour before bedtime to lessen sleep disturbances.

Mitigate the risks associated with screen time – Be present when screens are used – don’t hand over your tablet or smartphone to your child and walk away. Be choosy and make education, interactive and age-appropriate content a priority for your child.

Mindful about screen time – Sit down with your family and access how much time you spend as a group on screens. Develop a plan for how, when and where screens can and cannot be used.

Model healthy screen time for your kids – Turn off your devices when they aren’t in use and during family time. Avoid using the TV for background noise. Turn on some music instead if the house is too quiet (quite a feat when kids are around!)

 

Give Yourself a Break – No One is Perfect

Don’t feel like you’re a bad parent if you turn on a video for your toddler while you grab a shower. We can’t be everywhere at once.

The thing is to be aware of why you’re allowing your child some screen time. If your child constantly has meltdowns because they want to play with the iPad, then it’s time to rethink why you’re allowing them to have it.

Is it to calm them down, or is it having the opposite effect and over-stimulating them?

Even ten years ago, parents didn’t have the electronic options they do now to entertain their kids. Maybe it’s time to go analog again. How did you decide how much screen time was appropriate for your child? Let us know in the comments below!