Kids are often playing close the floor, with toys in their mouths. This means we need to be extra cautious of the areas we create for play and remove as many of the items that contain toxins as possible.
Here’s a run down of how you could improve or create a dedicated play space for your kids that is also a healthy indoor environment.
Often times, carpet is the base we have to work with. And while carpet CAN be a healthy option (I cover more about the toxins in carpeting in my book, Healthy Nursery Happy Baby), more frequently its slathered in chemicals and toxins to preserve it.
Don’t start ripping out your carpet just yet though! You can work around it until you’re ready to make a more permanent switch. Adding an area that is make of organic, natural material is the best way to start. You’ll also want to make sure to vacuum frequently to avoid the dust from carpet traveling into the air and throughout your home.
Here’s my master list of safe and healthy flooring options for your playroom:
- Add a 100% organic rug made of cotton, hemp, juut or sisal (check for third party certifications like GOTS and GreenGuard)
- Cork Flooring (helps dampen sound, insulate and has antistatic properties)
- Toxin free carpeting and pad (Get my list of approved brands and companies in the Healthy Nursery Happy Baby Course)
Playrooms often need to be wiped down after art projects, snacks or during cold and flu season. Make sure your cleaning products are safe for little hands and lungs before using them. The chemicals from cleaners have been found in urine samples of children just from the exposure they have within their own homes. This is why it’s important to be intentional about our cleaning practices. Many cleaners have added scents, which can be irritating and harmful to respiratory systems in little ones. And while it’s important to disinfect when it comes to play spaces, you don’t have to use a chemical cleaner to do it anymore.
There are some exceptional cleaners that will disinfect and keep your indoor air and surfaces safe. My favorite and the one I recommend to my clients and friends is Thieves Household Cleaner. It’s concentrated and lasts FOREVER; plus it has many uses beyond just wiping down the kitchen counter.
FRESHEN UP STUFFED ANIMALS
In the past I’ve actually found that getting rid of and donating as many of the stuffed animals as possible can actually help. It seems we have a lovey from every minor event and holiday around here, so we kept only the really important ones and donated the rest. With the stuffed animals we had left I routinely washed them in hot water and dried them on the hottest setting. Adding some dryer balls and a few drops of lavender made them extra fluffy and smell wonderful.
Another method you can try (especially if it’s a stuffed animal not recommended for the washing machine) is to occasionally spray them with a natural dustmite deterrent made a spray bottle of water and 5-10 drops of Lavender Essential Oil and Rosemary Essential Oil.
REMOVE SOME PLASTIC
The toys with the highest risk potential would be the soft plastics and the plastic that goes into the mouth or those with small pieces coming off.
It may sound impossible to remove plastic from the playroom, but it doesn’t need to feel overwhelming. First simply take out the toys that aren’t played with or used as much. From there remove things as you see fit, but you don’t have to do a mass overhaul.
To be honest, we’ve found and learned that less toys can actually create a better play environment for kids. Janet Landsbury and Peaceful Parents Confident Kids site is one of my favorites in regards to creating a play environment where kids thrive.
And if you’re looking to replace some of the toys, I love the store on Life Without Plastic to find toys that are safe and natural for kids.
Basements tend to be damp and can have a higher humidity level than the rest of the house. Making sure the room has ample ventilation can help, but the first step would be to check the humidity within the room. You can do this with a simple hygromoter purchased on Amazon. Or if you’re taking the leap, I recommend purchasing an Awair Indoor Air Monitor. It’s a great tool to check more than just the humidity within your home.
Attics are another space to take extra precautions. The warm environment in the summer can create a hot, humid environment that can increase the amount of chemicals that off-gas from products and building materials. Proper ventilation with windows, HVAC systems and fans is your best bet to creating a safe space.
Do you know your current Radon levels?
If you are creating a space to play in a lower level, I highly recommend testing for Radon. Tests are inexpensive and easy to use, and sometimes your State Health Department will even provide you with a free one. You can get all the information you need about Radon in my self-study course.
AVOID PRESSED WOODS
Anything other than solid wood is generally not as safe for the indoor air quality when it comes to furniture.
If you have pressed wood furniture already, the important thing to remember is that the warmer and more humid the environment, the more those toxins are off-gassing. Try to keep the room at a humidity percentage closer to 35% and make sure the room doesn’t get too hot.
NATURAL LIGHT & OPEN WINDOWS
An important thing to remember is MOST windows filter out the healthy rays of the sun as they enter our home. This means while natural, unfiltered sunlight is a good disinfectant to our rugs, carpets and personal items, it is not being disinfected through windows.
With that being said, when you open the windows and let light in through screens, this could be a good way to sanitize in a more natural way. Open windows will also let air flow through the inside of the room keeping it well-ventilated.
Many paint brands offer VOC-Free options and I’d highly recommend splurging for it if possible. Another thing to note is that the lighter the paint color, the fewer VOCs in the paint. Which means darker, richer colors have more VOCs than light colors.
ART SUPPLIES THAT ARE SAFE
As kids get older their creativity soars and they often times become interested in arts and crafts. I love letting them create and make things without my input and see what they come up with, but I also don’t want to hand over supplies that aren’t safe for them to use.
Most art supplies and materials are safe to use, but there are some key ways you can double check and make sure what your child is using is indeed safe.
Look for these two labels which will ensure that art supplies like crayons, markers and paints be safe as mandated by the ACMI. The AP label (approved product) ensures it is non-toxic. And the CL label (cautionary labeling) means it may cause harm if used improperly.
Another tip? Keep items like paints (which can have trace amounts of VOCs stored in sealed containers (like these rubbermaids from Target) to avoid any toxins off-gassing into the playroom air.
Keeping toys put away inside of cabinets and baskets will help prevent dust build up and in turn prevent some unhealthy things from infiltrating your playroom. Studies have shown that dust in homes contains more than just a little dirt. It can contain chemicals from cleaning products, pesticides from outdoors and bacteria from our shoes.
Other ways to keep dust at bay is to maintain a routine cleaning schedule of vacuuming with a HEPA filter vacuum and wiping down dusty areas with a wet cloth when needed.
BONUS: GET OUTSIDE!
Creating a natural place space outside is one of the best gifts you can give to your child. Nature outdoors has endless possibilities for the mind of a child. Natural sunlight that is unfiltered and fresh air are beneficial to both mind and body as they develop and grow. If it’s at all possible, take a space outdoors and make it a safe place to play for your child as they grow.