The Great Toy Roundup

DISCLAIMER: The Dreamboat pointed out that some may read this post and believe that I am judging them.  Please note that I am not pointing the blame at family and friends for purchasing any non-organic toys for Little Man.  I am simply opening up the topic of gift-giving for polite debate and consideration.  🙂

In two weeks Little Man will be the big 0-1.  With his birthday in close sight, I found myself thinking about the birthday toys he will soon receive and the army of toys he already has.

It is amazing how someone of such a tiny stature has amazed such a large repertoire of toys.  The toys are mostly brightly coloured, made up of plastic or artificial materials with very few organic, natural fibres in sight.

Considering that the Dreamboat and I are determined to reduce the amount of chemicals that Little Man is exposed to day-to-day, it was a shock to see that we were so far behind in the toy department.  While we were sure to have toys and teethers made of organic cloth or untreated wood before he was born, we started slipping once he arrived.

For one thing, anything organic is expensive, making non-organic toys seem all the more tempting.  But there is also the simple fact that having a child means that sooner or later he or she will receive gifts from others. Those gifts may be organic, but then again they may be made of PVC plastic, light up and play insanely loud music. What do you do then?

What is the etiquette on telling family and friends about your concerns with toys that are not from organic, sustainable materials?  How can you ask them to forgo the cute plastic toys in favour of the, generally more expensive, alternatives?  And what about brand name toys? Is it offensive to tell someone that you want to keep anything related to film and television shows out of your home?

On the one hand, I want to avoid saying anything because I don’t want others to think that I am rude for dictating what they can purchase for Little Man.  On the other hand, I want to be clear so that I can save them the trouble of getting Little Man a gift that the Dreamboat and I feel is not suitable for him.  And on a final note, I want to save myself the trouble of having dangerous toys in my house.

So I find myself sitting here, deliberating over what to do about the gift debate.  What would you do if you were in my shoes?  If you have approached this topic with family and friends, what did you say?  How did they react?  Or did you decide that this issue was not worth the potential hurt feelings it may cause? I would love to hear any comments on the topic of gift giving.

Further Reading

If you would like more information on PVC, and other chemicals commonly used in children’s toys and school supplies, and their effects on the health of little ones, click on the links below:

Centre for Health, Environment and Justice (2012) Back-to-School Wallet Guide to PVC-free School Supplies. [online] Available at: http://www.healthyenvironmentforkids.ca/…[Accessed: 10 Mar, 2012].

Mascarelli, A. (2010) Before you buy that train set, do your homework. LA Times, [online] 22 November. Available at: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/nov/22/health/la-he-safe-toys-20101122 [Accessed: 14 March, 2012].

Safe Alternatives for Baby and Child (2008) How Dangerous is PVC in Toys?. [online] Available at: http://www.safbaby.com/how-dangerous-is-pvc-in-toys-weve-got-the-answers-from-the-expert [Accessed: 10 March, 2012].

For brand specific information, see also:

Healthy Stuff (2008) One in Three Children’s Toys Tested by HealthyToys.org Found to have Significant Levels of Toxic Chemicals Including Lead, Flame Retardants, and Arsenic. [online] Available at: http://www.healthystuff.org...[Accessed: 12 March, 2012].

Safe Alternatives for Baby and Child (2009) Lead-Free, PVC-free and Fire Retardant-Free Toy Manufacturers. [online] Available at: http://www.safbaby.com/lead-free-pvc-free-and-fire-retardant-free-toy-manufacturers [Accessed: 12 March, 2012].

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6 thoughts on “The Great Toy Roundup

  1. I do sympathize with your dilemma. When my young men were children I made it known to family and friends I didn’t believe in war toys – guns as suitable articles for kids to be playing with. My phrase was “guns are not toys”. It still amazes me how people thought I don’t like guns or approve of them – I do. I just don’t think they are toys. They are tools to be treated with respect, playing with them can desensitize a child to the dangers of the things. Anyways the upshot was that to this day I ‘m ridiculed by that belief even by my sons – So be it. It is a value that has stuck with me and will continue to do so.

    When they received guns I would thank the person and after a few days would get rid of the thing. When the child is older this is difficult, but you could replace it with something else. Unfortunately Children like bright colours and parts that move – wooden toys don’t offer that same tactical experience. We use to have some wonderful wooden trucks at the toy lending library and the kids left them on the shelve. 😦 However there were wooden farm sets and Noah’s ark sets that they loved.

    Good Luck with this never ending issue.

    • I was going to say “way to stick to your guns” and then decided it was simply too ridiculous. But I am glad that you made a choice and stuck with it regardless of what others around you said. I think people tend to roll their eyes when parents make specific statements regarding toys and clothes, thinking that they are just following trends. I, personally, have done a lot of research on the chemicals used in traditional clothes and toys and both the Dreamboat and I are firm believers in reducing chemicals in our Little Man’s life. Writing this post renewed my determination to honour our beliefs in organic toys and clothes. If it means saving up to buy pricier items, then that is what we will do.

      I see what you say about kids preferring colourful, shiny, loud toys (especially if they light up). I think that it’s all a matter of perspective. Kids who’s playrooms only have organic and wooden toys will use those toys. Little man goes through phases with all of his toys, and has loved both organic and non-organic toys so far. I guess I equate plastic toys to candy. Kids love candy, but I am not going to stop feeding Little man fruits and veggies use because of that fact. Thanks for the insightful comments Aunty.

  2. My family knows how I feel about the environment and toxins,and they also know that we are trying to live waste-free. They have been told before they can buy conventional clothing for little E, but if they get one outfit made form organic cotton instead of a dozen of regular cotton or polyester, she will wear the organic outfit all the time and the toxic laced ones not so much. Where would you rather spend your money- on something they will wear or a bunch of things they won’t? Also, they know about what I want her playing with and not. They can buy whatever they want, but it doesn’t mean I am going to keep it or allow her to play with it. Great article~

    • Thanks for the compliment, Stephanie.

      I like the logic that sustainable items will be used a lot and conventional items will be used only a little bit. How did you find that your family and friends reacted to that? I would like to think that most people would understand your concerns.

  3. I think you can’t tell people what to get your child, unless they ask. I think it’s a bit rude otherwise, Even though I do see your point. I would suggest accepting the gift with the same generous intention with which it was given. THEN, if there is a gift receipt, return it, or donate it to a community centre or other charitable organization. Of course, you can’t do that with gifts from people who will be visiting often and looking to see their gift in use. I guess for them you could put it away, and then bring it out when they are over! lol.

    It’s a tough call. I suppose you could always start a registry for him every birthday? or request ‘no gifts’. Any way you slice it you’ll probably still receive something you would rather he not play with. Then you just have to say thanks and move on.

    • Thanks for the comment Jane. I like the idea of birthdays with no gifts or donations for charities, but I also don’t think it is just up to me. What happens, happens and we’ll just see how it goes. It is definitely a tricky subject, full of debate. It was great to hear your thoughts on the matter.

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