As technology gives cutting-edge innovations to improve our homes, it's no surprise that the kids' category is offering up new and improved products to care for our little ones, too. Whether you're the sort of parent who's super aware of your carbon footprint or you're just looking to brush up on safety standards, here are five easy upgrades—from smarter paint choices to natural-fiber swaps—that will make your kids' room a healthier place. Get ready to breathe easier—literally!
Paint on a Fresh Coat
If you haven't already, paint your walls with zero-VOC, organic paint. Not only is it healthier, it can also speed up the decor process: less time waiting for fumes to dry means you can move in faster!
Older homes can leak fumes into the air long after the paint has dried, too. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine found a connection between mothers and children exposed to VOCs like benzene found in older paints and developmental disorders. If your home was built before 1978, take extra care when painting and check for lead paint before starting any renovation or home improvement project.
Some paints like AFM's Safecoat are the formulated to block off-gassing of old fumes. Find our full guide to zero-VOC paints here.
Let in the Light
There's a reason blue-light glasses are so popular: light temperature affects your health. Blue light keeps the brain awake and focused, while warm light promotes relaxation and prepares the brain for sleep. (Note how your smartphone screen dims to a warmer setting at night to help you rest more soundly!) The same theory applies to lightbulbs in your nursery: use warm-colored lights so late-night wake-up calls don't last any longer than they need to.
Go the extra mile with protective bulbs. Popular in food and factory settings, many lightbulb manufacturer's make plastic, rubber-coated or double-sealed light bulbs to prevent exposure to inner wiring. The best part is they can be swapped into your favorite light fixture. Need ideas for the perfect nursery light? Check our list of the best online lighting stores here.
Choose Natural Fibers
You've baby-proofed the living room and anchored the furniture to the wall, but what about the pieces themselves? As babies grow, everything becomes a toy. Opt for untreated or non-toxic furniture pieces made from natural materials for when baby starts to teethe. Or skip the baby-proofing all together by choosing curved furniture with closed doors to prevent climbing.
Pay attention to what's underfoot, too. Natural fibers that are easy to clean, like wool, are a great choice for rugs that won't emit dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde. Take it a step further by using a non-slip pad to keep them from slipping under little feet.
Get the Most Out of Your Mattress
As brands try to find ways to prevent SIDS, air-permeable or breathable mattresses have entered the market, promising to be the next safety standard for infants. But their efficacy is still up for debate. A lack of regulation, paired with inconclusive research (like this NIH study on breathable crib mattresses and infant body temperature) has had scientists stepping back from recommended breathable mattresses as a cure for SIDS.
Coil and foam-based crib mattresses are both still considered safe for use, as long as they are Greenguard certified for safety against off-gassing VOCs and treated fabrics. If you're considering a used mattress, you might want to think again: used crib mattresses can lose firmness and breed bacteria that can be introduced during re-breathing.
When buying a new crib mattress, consider a double-sided one, which features an ultra-firm side (recommended for newborns) and a softer side (which you'll want to swap for as your baby grows).
Now that the walls have a fresh paint of coat and the furniture's in, it's time to clean for your new arrival. Just like treated furniture and off-gassing from fibers can hurt children long term, some cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that are dangerous for inhalation or skin transmission.
Cleaners formulated with thymol are a great natural alternative for strong chemicals and are safe to use around children. Made with the oil from the thyme plant, some cleaners have even received EPA approval to protect agains the coronavirus. Bonus: Unlike similar herbal cleaners, thymol is pet-safe for family homes with furry friends.