The number of toy recalls this year has been nothing short of astounding. Everything from lead paint to GHB. It really is sad that so much can get into the stores that isn’t safe for our children.
All of this is going to make Christmas gift shopping a lot harder for parents. While I had no intention of buying them, my daughter had expressed a strong interest in those Aqua Dots that have now been recalled.
While I don’t always succeed in keeping my toy shopping green for my kids, I have managed it some of the time, and a lot of the toys are pretty neat. Even Amazon has a fair selection of bamboo toys. My daughter has the bamboo dominos, for example, and really enjoys them. Amazon also carries a selection of handmade toys.
Of course you can shop with smaller companies too. There are a lot of companies online, such as WoodGamz.com, which makes cornhole games, Kazoo Toys which sells many toys that are made in the USA, and other such companies.
The challenge can be in denying your kids the hot toys that all their friends want. The point I like to remember is that my daughter won’t be upset with me for long. She has fun with the toys I choose for her, and generally doesn’t even think of the toys she had wanted unless she sees them again elsewhere (at which point the answer is simply ‘no’).
Admittedly, this is easier since she’s just 5.
What I like best to get for kids are toys that strongly encourage creativity or activity. Kids are generally pretty content with such toys.
Craftbury Kids, for example, offers a lot of old fashioned and wooden toys that look just wonderful to me. I haven’t checked all of the toys, but I think most of their toys are made in the USA or Europe, which is a nice start for not needing to worry about lead in the paint. They even have a log cabin toy set that is very similar to Lincoln Logs.
The Discovery Channel also offers a selection of green toys that your children may enjoy. I do miss seeing their stores in the mall, but at least they’re still online. Not everything that they sell is green of course, and some things such as the Discovery Hydrogen Fuel Rocket are only semi-green, being made of plastic but teaching about alternative energy sources.
While for younger children you shouldn’t forget how wonderful a plain set of wooden blocks can be, older kids can be more challenging, especially as they see what their friends get. The pressure starts more or less as soon as they have friends that they talk toys with… say, preschool age, and keeps building.
The best general advice I can give in that area is to do the best you can and talk to your kids about why you don’t want to buy certain toys. My daughter, for example, badly wanted Aqua Dots, which initially received a general ‘no’ but since the recall have had an explanation in depth that she understood. She was just about frantic for a friend of hers who she knew had received them for a birthday.
She’s less understanding about why she can’t have a Bratz doll, but a part of that is rather abstract and hard to explain to a 5 year old.
As you shop, think about the reputation of the product you’re buying as well as the store. Even good companies sometimes make mistakes. But a good store will quickly clear out anything that has been recalled, while cheaper stores may be slow to do so. Look for toys that encourage creativity and interaction, not ones that direct the child. Go green when possible, but if you’re stuck, sometimes you have to decide if it’s worth it to you anyhow. If the toy is durable, at the very least it could be reused by someone else.