Better Toys for Tots

This holiday season, make a list and check it twice— with your conscience. Choose simple toys that will expand with your kids’ imaginations.

| November/December 2005

  • Global Exchange Snake
  • FURTHER READING For DIYers: "Knitted Babes: Five Dolls and Their Wardrobes to Knit and Stitch" by Claire Garland (Interweave Press, 2005
  • Tree Block furnished treehouse
  • Holgate checkers
  • Lego building blocks
  • Lion made from Legos

Maybe this scene is familiar? The kids beg for the latest whizmo gizmos (made of questionable content and unrecyclable plastic or electronic components that are possibly mass produced in an Asian sweatshop). You give in. And when the festive frenzy of unwrapping is finished, their favorite toy is . . . the big empty box. This year’s gifting will be different, you vow. But how? Choose instead to give playthings that are good for your children, good for the earth, and easier on your conscience.

Healthy materialism

Many toys don’t list "ingredients," so sorting out the good from the bad may seem daunting. It doesn’t have to be. Stick to reputable manufacturers and retailers, and seek out labels that tout the following eco-friendly materials, including:

Organic Cotton, Wool, Natural Fibers: Sadly, synthetic stuffed animals and dolls may be tainted with mothproofing, foam pellets, artificial dyes, and chemical stain resisters. Even cotton, when traditionally grown, uses notoriously pesticide-heavy methods. Toys made from certified organic cotton with natural dye and battings are more cuddly for your child and softer on the environment. Wool or leather may also be options if you aren’t opposed to animal products. Beans and rice are great fillers for soft toys for older children, but for toddlers, avoid these choking hazards.

Solid Wood:  Old-fashioned, timeless wooden toys such as building blocks, trucks, and puzzles inspire boundless creativity and infinite adaptations. Besides, solid wood is super-durable, and it’s healthier than plywood or particleboard made with questionable adhesives and preservative treatments. Choose Forest Stewardship Council-certified, local, or non-tropical wood. Then look for child-safe, nontoxic finishes such as milk paint, beeswax, nut oils, or linseed oil.

Unhealthy materialism

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