Safe toys

250+ Lead-free toys made in the USA Great article on the Daily Green with links to actual products at online stores. It is really nice to see a nice long, solid list of toys to actually buy rather than a long list of toys to throw away. So much of the news has been ahh! be afraid of more dangerous toys! don’t buy anything!! How positive to see a useful article on where and how to consume toys for your kids. I have been thankful we have not owned any of the millions of toys that have been recalled so far, but did use it as an excuse to purge ourselves of some things I felt were made with a little lower integrity than I would like having around. From the article, I noticed a few patterns in these products. 1) Natural Materials, 2) Small Manufacturing & Distribution, 3) No Licensed Characters.

Even before this whole recall hoopla started up we leaned pretty closely to these principals in the things we have bought for the kids. Before Araiya was born, Matt said all the toys we would own at any given time would fit in a shoebox. His parents cracked up laughing. In reality, we aren’t quite pared down to a shoebox, that could be close to impossible. But are very careful how we consume kid’s products and what kind of products we have around. Most of the kid’s toys, the majority are wooden, are kept in three 12″ cube crates which store under the crib. This is what they play with nearly every day. We grab a box, bring it into the living room, then when we need to clean up, everything gets thrown back into the box and goes away. I can rotate which box we bring out on any given day, so toys stay new. Even for Ariaya, toys she hasn’t seen for a week all of a sudden become exciting again. In addition to the crates, we have some other things that come out less frequently and all get stored in the kid’s closet, along with all of Araiya’s clothes: Books (we love books), a tub of blocks, 2 foam floor puzzles, smaller puzzles, a ball, finger paints and art supplies, and a little pop-up tent. Beyond that, Araiya has a small 12×14 inch play kitchen with some wooden food which we keep in our kitchen so she can help cook alongside us, a Bilibo which has been a great toy for her imagination, and a Trike which is kept in the entry.

I find that kids don’t really need a lot of ‘stuff’ to be happily entertained. Some of the simplest toys we have get the most amount of use. Araiya really likes blocks- sorting and stacking, putting them in bag to carry them around. She also really likes to draw, so scratch paper and a few colored pencils will keep her busy for a long while. She likes her dolly. This doll I believe was my sister’s and she has a sad little hack-job haircut from one of us as kids playing hairstylist. She will care for the doll, put a diaper on it, wrap her in a blankie to go to sleep, nurse her. I have made a few items of clothing for her to wear and a sling so Araiya can carry her doll around. Buttons are also a hot ticket, she will sit with a shirt for ever just to button and unbutton the buttons.

It is pretty funny to watch Araiya when she goes over to other kid’s houses and to see her overwhelmed eyes scan piles of toys with lights and sound and buttons and bright colors and characters then nearly pop out of her head. I have observed that she never plays with those kinds of toys as they are intended, she just hits the buttons because they do something like light up. I wonder if it is because a lot of toys aim to teach a child how to play instead of fostering imaginative and creative play. That and they aim for character identification of a marketed icon so the child becomes excited about and attached to the character rather than the actual intention of the toy. I think moderation is the name of the game here. If you don’t allow yourself or your kids to be marketed to by character identification, then you cut out the need for a large percentage of toys on the shelves.

Araiya does know who Elmo is (she calls him Melmo), she has a few books with Sesame Street Characters, but we have been careful about not playing into the hype. I have shown her some vintage Sesame Street videos on YouTube, back when Elmo was only about 26% as annoying as he is now. She doesn’t know who Dora is. She knows Pooh Bear as her stuffed animal. We do allow her to watch a bit of Veggie Tales, that is the closest we have come to becoming attached to characters. I haven’t seen a lot of their licensed merchandise around, though I am sure it exists. All in all, if standing in a toy store, I can’t say that she, given the choice, would select an Elmo lunch pail over a generic flower lunch pail because the icon of a flower is just as intriguing and just as likeable.

I think for us, the recalls have solidified our desire to have fewer, higher quality possessions. We speak strongly through our wallets, both inwardly and outwardly. Inward in the sense that where our treasure goes our hearts follow. I want to purchase my kid’s toys not to keep them entertained, but to open up opportunities for them to grow in knowledge, interact with me, Matt and each other, imagine and play creatively, as well as problem solve and think critically. Outwardly, in supporting smaller companies who have a commitment to quality and materials that are safe, green as well as producing well designed products. Sure it costs a bit more, and it should- you are paying for a superior product. I think in our society of instant gratification where we are so used to paying a fraction of the true cost of a product (time, energy, material, labor, transportation) it is an unfair comparison, it’s not apples to apples as we have been led to believe. It is the classic (cost + time) = (quality + scope). We sacrifice quality and scope to save on cost and time, yet demand quality remain at the same level while we pay less and get it faster. My hope is through our example our kids can learn how to consume conscientiously and healthily.

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~ by gdesign on November 9, 2007.

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