It’s Blog Action day! If you have a blog, take today to write an article on the environment and participate.

The modern way of having a child is possibly the most wasteful endeavor next to owning an SUV. All of a sudden, having a child is the quickest excuse to use things that are disposable: diapers, wipes, utensils, napkins. Second step is to cover everything up in petroleum; everything from your child’s bum to the bed he sleeps in are made out of oil byproducts. At birthday parties we’re fearful of both breaking plates and washing plates, so we go with either paper or plastic that gets “cleaned up” by being throw into a big black plastic bag.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s start a list, then go from the very beginning.

  • Breastfeed until the baby’s at least 12 months
  • Cloth diaper
  • Wear your baby
  • Buy clothes used, and freecycle his still new used clothes
  • Go with wooden, toxin free toys
  • Give your baby homemade food
  • Throw reasonable parties

Put your baby in cloth diapers. I can tell you first hand that it really isn’t that difficult, and it isn’t really that bad. Cloth diapers have came a long way; the old “flat” diapers are long gone, replaced by the prefolds, fitteds, all-in-ones, and pocket diapers. Prefolds are versatile and secured by little rubber reusable “Snappi”s and covered all by a nice snug water-proof cover, and fitteds are sewn so that they fit like a disposable diaper. All-in-ones comes with snaps or velcro-like Aplix as enclosures, and they go on and off like a disposable. Pocket diapers are the most convenient of all, with a “pocket” for extra layers, and comes apart for quicker drying. Cotton wipes are widely available as well (easily made from old receiving blankets too), and everything is reusable.

Family Guy’s Stewie – cloth diapered and breastfed baby

You know those icky blowouts that babies get? Little Curtis never got one in a cloth diaper. Cotton does a great job of holding the yucky stuff in. Besides, if you had a choice, what would you want to wear on your bum? Scratchy paper or soft cotton flannel?

Got cloth?

Instead of going with an expensive stroller made of metal and plastic, consider a cotton sling. I use one from Heart 2 Heart, a Canadian company. I bought mined used and it has already slung two children, both up until 12 months. It’s very well-constructed, doesn’t fade with successive washes, and Curtis loves it. The weight is distributed evenly across the back, the shoulder as well as the edges are all padded. Curtis is now just over 25 lbs, and I carry him everywhere.

The happily slung baby

Once your baby is old enough to play with toys, it’s time to make some major decisions. First, make plain your parenting choices to the people around you so you won’t get a collection of plastic toys as gifts. If there will be toys, they must be made of natural, renewable materials and lead-free. You can also make your own toys out of things around the house; Curtis’ favorite toy is an old water bottle with the label peeled off. Fill it with some colored water or rice and you’d have color learning toys on your hands.

Visit the local supermarket and you’re sure to find jars upon jars of baby food. Everything from veggies, fruits, to meat is represented. Have you ever tasted the stuff? It’s disgusting. A much healthier, cheaper, and convenient option is to make it yourself. Get an ice cube tray with a cover and you’re in business. Take steamed veggies, push through a sieve, freeze. $1 worth of carrots becomes 12 little meals. Get a mesh-feeder and your little tot can feed himself. At teething time, I give the food to him frozen, and the cold relieves the pain a little too.

Freecyle is a great tool for used baby stuff. When your baby’s done with his clothes, just pass them on to the next baby who needs them. There are great baby sections at Goodwill, Salvation Army as well as Value Village.

Best of all, the green approach to having a baby is also the cheaper approach to having a baby. The more you reuse, the less money you’d end up spending. The green approach is also contagious – if you cloth diaper and wear your baby, it’s an obvious visual choice that sets an example. I’ve converted many people to my babywearing ways. Check out the happy green baby!

Who’s got style?

[edit: good things comes in more than one? The top photo was taken this afternoon, and the bottom one was taken when he was only 6 months. He’s walking now!]

Curtis 1

Read the general hints in your help menu! After that, read this:

  • When you take in babies, count them. You want at least 4 babies who are of the following types: ghost, dragon, or cyclops. As soon as you have 4 of those, ignore the door. Tend to them religiously and you shouldn’t have any problems getting 5x purple halos for those 4 kids.
  • If you don’t get the kids you want, you can always “save and exit” and “play” again. The kids are randomized.
  • Keep a diaper on hand at all times and always change on “on the spot” instead of carrying them to the change station. If you must go to the change station, change and get an extra at the same time.
  • At the beginning of each chapter, familiarize yourself by running from one spot to another. Sometimes even though things look like they’re close together, they’re not. In some levels the hotspot (where Molly stands when she drops off the baby) for the mat is above, and some is below. Find out before you start picking up kids.
  • Prioritize the buying of items that shortens feed / sleep / play times. The extra chair / crib / play areas aren’t necessary if you master the art of swapping babies.
  • Swap your babies! Don’t move them unless they need something or another baby needs their spot.
  • Once you have the nanny you can handle 5 kids, since you can just leave one with the nanny unless there’s a need to change the diaper.
  • Break up fights immediately – boo boos take as long as diapers.

Daycare Nightmare review

Following in the footsteps of similar games like Carrie the Caregiver and Birdies, Daycare Nightmare is yet another time management game that allow you to cater to cute kids. These kids, however, aren’t nearly as cute as ones in the aforementioned games. Slimes, vampires, cyclops are 3 of the 5 types of kids you’ll serve. On the first glance, the graphics looked pretty cheesy (especially the comic scenes where it’s downright amateurish), but once you dive into it, you’d realize that you’re playing a time management game with much more depth than, say, Turbo Pizza.

Your protagonist (Molly) started out as a girl running a coffee shop, then later “convinced” to run a daycare for monsters living in your midst. The task is simple – keep the babies happier at pick-up than when they were dropped off. These babies will play or fight together on the mat, demands to be fed, cry to be changed, whine for naps, and ask to go play in the play area. Your job? Carry them from one spot to another. You’ll find yourself always running around with one baby in hand and switching his place with other babies, since somebody almost always need something.

Each baby also has his own cycles of needs: feed -> change -> play -> sleep. If you manage to let a baby go through a cycle without getting upset from your taking too long to get to it, it will gain a halo multiplier. You can gain up to 5 of these by completing 5 cycles, but once you let it get upset even once, it’ll lose all of its halos. So you’ll soon learn to prioritize – if a 5x halo baby is demanding something, you look after him first, versus the one with no halos.

The babies are the life of this game. Even though there are only 5 different baby types, they are very much distinctive, and the interactions between the babies rival that of the employees in Miss Management. They play together, fight together (and if you let a fight go on for too long, they get boo-boos), and when a particular baby gets too angry, every other one is affected. Cyclops will let out a war cry and everyone on the mat will start fighting; ghosts will scare all the babies and they will immediately all need a change of diaper; dragons tend to burn everything in sight, including other babies.

In between missions, you can choose to buy something with your tip money before starting the next. You could purchase power-ups with funny names like the Eyeball Lollipop that reduces the chance of a fight breaking out, or how about a Cranium Bowl that cuts feeding time down by 60%? There are also extra highchairs and cribs you can buy, as well as “services” like the exorcist that would reduce the chance of a haunting by a ghost baby.

Molly never seem to run fast enough to tend to all her babies, and I guess that is what makes a time management game special. The only thing I had a bit of a complaint about is the unbalanced way the tipping system works. By prioritizing the more difficult babies like the ghost, dragon or cyclops, and working them to a 5x halo, you could make over $1000 in tips by ignoring the rest of the babies the entire day, and only caring for 4 of them. If you try to cater to everyone (at least feed the slimes once in a while), chances are you might end up with less than $100.

Gameplay graphcs in this game is not quite stunning as unbelievably cute. It’s obvious that a lot of work has gone into creating the game graphics, and the little touches really stand out. For example, the dragon breathes fire when they fight, vampires drink blood in the highchair instead of milk, and every monster has a different toy animation since they’re interested in different kinds of toys. Each of the locations also have completely different looking “task stations” – a crib may look like a crib in your first day care, but in a cave it’s a mud pile with straw on top, and in a castle it becomes a coffin. Music is appropriately creepy but cute, and the sound effects of the little vampires going “grwarrr” is just adorable.

Daycare Nightmare is not a long game, but should provide 5-6 hours of enjoyment. When you’re done story mode, you can play the Endless Day, which gives you all the upgrades you already bought in an unending day. Not a minute game (since it doesn’t save mid-level) but each mission shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes. It’s definitely worth getting if you’re in the game club.

Hints: Daycare Nightmare

Curtis says: I enjoyed watching this. There are lots of colors to discover, and the vegetables are really cute. When they get harvested, they go “yipee!” When I get older, I will learn from this game that blueberries and oranges are harvested in the summer, and you can get pumpkins and corn in autumn!

Harvest Mania is about harvesting fruits and vegetables. In the regular (classic) mode, there is no time limit. However, each time you make a move, more veggies will fill up your screen. Once you can’t make any more matches, you’ll have to start the round over.

The core gameplay is very simple: match 4 in a box or more. when you get a box, all the colors of veggies taht are attached to it will also disappear. The more the better, since as you advance in the “years” of the game, more veggies will start shooting up from the ground, blocking the paths that your veggies can move in. Sometimes power-ups will grow out of the ground, such as the crystal that can be counted as any color of vegetable, or the gopher, who will harvest 10 random veggies if you surround it with four same colored veggies.

The game isn’t that hard if you think about what’s going to grow, and how you’re going to take advantage of where colors are coming in in the next round. It is going to be impossible if you mindlessly drag them around. When your screen fills up, it’s GAMEOVER. As in you have to start OVER. This may seem harsh, but since the goal of the game is to just accumulate as much veggies as possible, it’s not so bad. There is also a prize-winning element involved: if you set up your POGO Account (they’re part of Electronic Arts) you can use the credits you accumulated in the game (by hitting bonus goals and such) to win prizes off their web site.

Once you harvested a good amount of veggies (say, 200+) you can take it to the farm screen where you can use your vegetables to buy things for your farm. There are basically just animated sprites – they don’t really add anything to the game, but you (and your tot) can build things on this map and save it to the desktop as a wallpaper.

The graphics are a little dated but vibrant all the same; the music is catchy and the sounds are appropriate and really, really cute. Did I mention that your vegetables are cute? If you have a baby that thinks vegetables are icky, it might just be time for a little bit of brainwashing. Since this is a color matching game with no time limit, it’s also a great oppurtunity for little hands and eyes to do a little bit of clicking, dragging, and color matching.

A fun and educational game all around with zero violent elements. The buying and building screen also gives the opportunity for a little talk about value for money and makes room for creativity. Definitely a great game to play with your tot!

(edit: added a gameplay video I found on YouTube.)

Curtis says: Usually games like these bore me. But this one has baby coo-ing sounds, and that somehow made me feel at ease. I couldn’t tear my eyes away for a good 10 minutes. Little girls would probably like this way more than I do.

Most definitely a Diner Dash clone, Carrie the Caregiver will be serving babies in a nursery instead of customers in a restaurant. Babies’ needs are represented in thought bubbles, and as the game goes on, you get the storybook (podium in Diner Dash), the pacifier (coffee), and the mobile. You need to warm up bottles, feed the babies, burp them, change them, and clean up the bassinets.

Customer types are replaced by baby types. Sometimes you get the happy baby, which doesn’t need a lot, but can take up your bassinets for half the shift. Sometimes you get the fussy baby who will demand that you get there RIGHT NOW or the hearts level will drop very quickly. Then there’s the hungry baby who will need to be fed and burped twice – he’s also impatient about food! There are more baby types as well but they come in the latter half of the game. The standbys of restaurant management sims, such as the blanket colors and stack bonuses also apply. There’s also the addition of one time power-ups that appear at the door – roller skates so you can move faster, soap to clean yourself up after one too many diaper changes, and food to keep your energy up.

This is the first round. It doesn’t really do the game justice since it has the least colors / power-ups, etc, but you can get the idea of what I mean by “gee that sounds CUTE.”

Carrie the Caregiver does a few things well: first of all, it’s CUTE. It’s cute with a capital C. There’s nothing quite like a room full of babies cooing (the ultimate nursery fantasy) and even the cries are plaintive and cute, not shrill and annoying like real life. The music is lovely, and soothing (though there’s only one tune playing the whole time, which gets really repetitive after a while) and Carrie has a lovely voice as she says things like “here you go”, “there…” and “all clean!” She’s like the perfect caregiver that you always wish you are when you have a 3 month old screaming colicky baby asking for … something.

It’s unrealistic, but I can dream, can’t I?

Carrie moves from one country to another, and the scene of the nursery changes, but the core gameplay stays the same. There’s also a very thoughtful training mode where the hearts don’t go down, so you can go through the level and figure out the sequence of what to do. However, after a while the game does get a bit repetitive – the music, for one, never really changes. It’d be nice if there’s a theme at each location to enrich the atmosphere. The upgrades aren’t very rewarding; you hardly notice them.

When it comes down to it, Carrie the Caregiver is another Diner Dash Clone that adds new dimensions to the genre while injecting it with massive cuteness points. Worth trying to hear the coos of a roomful of babies alone. The one hour trial will probably get you to the end of the second country. Check out the screenshots and details from their official site if a download is too much commitment.

Curtis just learned the art of the squeal a few days ago. Ok. Nevermind squeal – the kid learned how to scream. He doesn’t really know what it means yet, but he does know that forcing air through those little pipes of his makes a high, screechy, and different sound than any he’s used to hearing from himself. So he’s been practicing.

He’ll scream when he’s happy, he’ll scream when he’s bored, he’ll scream just to hear himself scream. My neighbours probably thinks that we’re either torturing him or changing his diaper 20 times a day. I wonder if other babies go through this stage. I certainly don’t remember my little brother going through a scream stage or hearing other people talk about it.

He’s happily screaming at the moment and my ears are starting to ring. Note to self: get some ear plugs.