Above: My daughter is playing with her Spellmaster by Tag Toys
Is Christmas on the brain yet? Every year parents hear about toy recalls and the latest toys to have failed safety inspections and expectations. Tighter regulations passed but that ultimately ended up meaning we had fewer options and the huge corporations making the toys typically recalled got free passes to go about business as usual. Cause you know… safety legislation is too tedious for mega corporations to deal with. From lead paint recalls to small parts that pose a choking hazard, we have to be careful when buying children’s Christmas presents. Here are some tips for buying safe toys:
1. Go for toys that are free of toxic chemicals. Many plastic toys contain or are made from PVC, a potentially harmful form of plastic. PVC contains dioxin, which is a toxic chemical implicated in breast and other cancers. Many action figures and other small figurines are made from PVC – in fact, they are often simply called “PVC figures.”
2. Avoid plastic altogether. If all the acronyms and chemical names overwhelm you, or if you just don’t trust plastic, avoid it. Wood, bamboo, cloth, porcelain, and glass are safer toy materials. Checker and chess sets, unpainted wooden cars, trains, marble runs, doll houses, and baby toys are just some of the many wooden options available. You can always paint these items yourself with safe paint. Dominoes and other games with pieces made from porcelain are virtually unbreakable. Glass marbles and other sturdy glass items make good toys as well. You can get MANY of these items second hand too, making them a double green whammy purchase.
3. Look for toys that are made in America or Europe. If you want eco-friendly, organic, safe toys, they will come from the USA or Europe. Toys made in China may or may not be okay, but your best bet for eco-friendly, organic toys are not manufactured in China. That means German made Haba may be preferable to Melissa and Doug.
4. Look for locally made toys. Many communities hold fairs and festivals where craftspeople sell their creations. Handmade, wooden toys and safe, lead-free ceramics and jewelry are common at these fairs. Many of these vendors also have sites online. Etsy is an online marketplace for the same folks.
5. Stay away from small, detachable parts. The sewn-on eyes and plastic noses of stuffed animals could be swallowed by small children or babies, and pose a choking hazard. Any toy that has small parts that may come loose is not necessarily safe.
6. Quiet toys are better for your children’s health. Noisy, loud toys can damage hearing, and grown-ups can find them very annoying! Some sources say that there are children’s toys capable of producing sounds as loud as a jet plane, and toys with sirens, horns, and sound-emitting battery toys can all damage hearing in children and babies. If it bothers your ears, it’s not good for your kids. And is a toy that does all the work for the child the best toy for their brain development? No. Their mental health will benefit from simple toys without bells and whistles.
7. Sturdiness is paramount. If a toy is going to be ridden or sat upon, make sure it’s stable. Also note the shape – does the seat back rise in the back to provide support? Could clothing or skin get pinched easily between moving parts?
8. Research the safety tests. There are various governmental agencies that monitor toy safety. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can be searched online for toy recalls and other safety information. But in my mind stay away from mega corporations like Mattel and Fisher Price and you are already half way there.
Check out the Green Christmas Gift Guide for some recommendations if you opt to buy… just remember that second hand and handmade are greener all around if you can swing it. BUT you may not find my #1 top pick for Christmas in second hand stores because I doubt people give these up after they purchase… the Wildcraft Herbal Board Game. We heart this game!
Remember my post awhile back about toxic nail polish and my search for something better for my daughter. Some of the ingredients of conventional nail polish are scary…Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde and toluene so of course I hesitated to let my daughter polish her nails. But I did find many safe options and just stumbled upon another this weekend, Piggy Paints! They are non-toxic, odorless, and very kid friendly. Their slogan is “natural as mud”. They use natural ingredients that dry to a hard, durable finish. There are no toxic chemicals; it’s free of formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates, biphenyl A, ethyl acetate and acetone. They also have a safe nail polish remover. Piggy Paints are a big hit with my daughter. The nail polish dries pretty quickly (1-2 minutes) with a blow dryer and the color is very vibrant and pretty. I love the suggestions on the piggy paints site for distracting young kids while their nails dry too. While I got my camera my own daughter gave herself a blue eyebrow. They have some amazing colors my daughter is in love with. I like Dandelion Dance and Dragon Tears. In the picture below my daughter is wearing Tea Party for Two and Girls Rule! Piggy Paints get two very emphatic thumbs up from us!
This week my son has been testing a new mom gadget called My Plate Mate. Basically is a band of circular plastic that fits snugly around 8″-9 1/2″ inch plates. It acts as a barrier or wall so that little hands aren’t pushing their food onto the floor or table while they eat. It basically gives them a leg up on the self feeding arena by making it easier to get food on a utensil and keep it on the plate.
I was impressed not so much by the idea of the product as I was the ethical way in which this company, HATCH in Danville, CA has decided to produce and market this product. It is made in the USA which is a rarity these days and it is made with safe plastics, making it BPA, PVC, and Phthalate Free. I just LOVE that so many companies are stepping up to make sure toxic plastics are a thing of the past.
The product is easy enough to use. You just fit it around the plate and let your 2+ year old go to town with it. It can be washed in the dishwasher (top rack) or just washed with soapy water. More so than giving it to your toddler I love the idea on the company site for using it as an assisted eating aid for the elderly and for those with special needs. It promotes independence, self confidence, and dignity at meal time. That is pretty cool. And of course the fact that using it won’t bring toxic chemicals and hormones to the dinner table is awesome too. They come in several colors including red, white, blue, and pink.
My youngest son has really gotten this self feeding thing down so I think we will donate ours to a local nursing home but overall it gets a thumbs up from us.
Ugh…I thought maybe I would have a little more time before I got hit with this again the kids are already asking if we will be getting a pool this summer. Last year I dodged this issue more times than I can count and I am not looking forward to that again. But I can’t blame them. I had a pool growing up and I loved it so I know how they feel.
But I have two objections. First is the massive amount of work involved in keeping a pool clean and second is the chemicals required to keep the water clean and clear. I am not keen on either. I remember all to well the chlorine and acid my dad poured into our pool on a regular basis and how it stung your eyes and irritated the skin. Kids don’t want to hear about these things though.
So….I have been looking around a bit for alternatives to chemicals to clean pools and and I encouraged. I recently found this chemical free pool company called Eco Smart Pool. They offer a 100% chemical free pool and spa treatment that uses natural oxygen technology and a pool ionizer. It is kind of fascinating the way it works with a safe low voltage DC current being applied to copper electrodes. Copper ions have the ability to pierce the protective outer membrane of a cell and disrupt enzyme balance which then kills algae. Although lethal to bacteria and algae, pool ionizers are completely safe for humans and much more effective and safe then a chlorine and acid cocktail.
These types of systems are credited with eliminating:
Offensive chemical odors
Damage to our environment
Damage to pool equipment
I remember reading something similar and blogging about it….the water quality sounds heavenly. This same company also has info about salt water pools and how they are a bad idea. They also donate 5% of their profits to environmental charities.
I am looking into pricing now but objection number one remains unaddressed…having a pool is a lot of work! And of course drowning is no small concern! I pretty much let my kids run wild in our back yard and those carefree days would be long gone if we had a pool. Ugh…anyone else have to face this recently?
Natural Swimming Pools: Inspiration For Harmony With Nature
Natural Swimming Pools: A Guide to Building
Natural Swimming Pools: A Guide to Designing & Building Your Own (DVD)
There are many occasions for which we might seek to buy toys…holidays, birthdays, graduations, and other special events. These days though, walking into a big box store or shopping on Amazon to buy toys can be a dangerous thing. Foreign made toys can be downright unsafe if you don’t know the company or what they stand for and you might end up buying toys with toxic chemicals or lead paint. I am pretty sure that poisoning the children in our lives is NOT what we had in mind, so I have started compiling a list of the some of the better toy alternatives available to us. If you have any ideas to add please leave me a comment and let me know!
Wooden Tool Set – This USA made tool set is beautiful. An oak carrying box holds a toy hammer, screwdriver, saw, a square, old-fashioned hand drill, and a 6 inch ruler. The tools are made of various solid woods including walnut, maple, and oak, with a natural oil finish. It is perfect for the little Mr. Fix-It in your life. Made in the USA.
Roy Toy Log Cabin Set – This set is very similar to Lincoln Logs (which my sons love) and it is made in the USA since the 1930s. All pieces are 100% hand cut wood. The red wooden gables and green roof planks are stained with non-toxic dyes. It is an American classic!
Wooden Doll Cradle – Little girls love their dolls and a wooden cradle is much more sturdy and safe than the a plastic one. This 1930s-style wooden cradle will be a charming addition to any play “household.” Handmade and handpainted in Morocco by Zid Zid Kids. Includes embroidered doll mattress, pillow, and blanket.
Wooden Sushi Bento Set – I got this for my kids and it is soooo cute. Although it is made in China it does come from a company in the natural toys industry that has a very trustworthy record, Melissa and Doug. It has wooden sushi, California rolls, soy sauce, wasabi, chopsticks, and cutting tools. The foods fit together with Velcro so that your little chef can cut them into pieces.
The Little Engine That Could Train Set – This train set is adorable and made in the USA so forget about that other train named Thomas, although this set can be fitted to that one. Includes the engine, three cars, and red caboose. Buy it along with the classic book and you have a great gift!
Wooden Lawnmower – Made in the USA. A unique old fashioned push lawnmower design handcrafted from hard maple with bright colorful wooden balls contained securely within a cage of matching colored dowels.
If you are planning on getting a wooden kitchen set or you already have one, there are many wooden food or cloth products that you might like. My daughter is getting a lovely wooden kitchen set. It is in the basement just waiting to be opened and filled with faux food. Here are some of the food options I like:
Melissa and Doug Wooden Play Food – Rice, cereal, soup, sugar…all wooden of course and built to last. I also like the Spice Rack.
German Design also has some great wooden food from milk, to eggs, to mushrooms, to onions. They are adorable! Lots of “raw” or “vegan” food options for families that eat along those lines.
Haba is another company I love and they have a soft cloth sandwich that I recently discovered. Sandwich fixings include 4 slices of deli meat, 4 slices of cheese, 2 slices of bread, 1 slice tomato and 1 lettuce leaf….all cloth.
Wool Food! This is one of my favorite faux food options and it is oh so easy to find US made and even work-at-home-mom (wahm) made selections. Hyena Cart and Etsy are my two favorite places to look.
Pick Your Own Wool Food – Pick from a carrot, pumpkin, peapod, tomato or corn on the cob made from wool. The price is awesome.
Käthe Kruse “Nicki” Baby – These washable cloth dolls are adorable and they come in pink and blue. Dressed in a one piece velour jumper and colorful hat, these dolls are the perfect size for small hands to grasp and hold. They are made in Germany.
Mini It’s Me Waldorf Dolls – The Waldorf dolls are all individually handcrafted and not mass produced. They are warm and cuddly, tempting children to place them in their arms. The neutral features help to develop a child’s imagination to see the doll laugh, cry, sleep, be sad or happy. These dolls are also made in Germany. And don’t forget the Waldorf Doll Stroller.
Classic ABC Blocks – What child doesn’t have blocks like these at some point? These are made in the USA and they are beautifully crafted and sure to last for a long time. These deluxe alphabets are patterned after classic blocks from the Golden Age of Toys. Sold worldwide since 1983, Uncle Goose ABC blocks are made in Michigan from basswood and child-safe, non-toxic ink.
Other Toys and Items
Fortamajig – The Fortamajig allows children to create anything in any space! Imagine building a fort, teepee, tunnel, canopy, out of one ingenious square of nylon material. It is extremely portable with no hard pieces to break or lose. The Fortamajig is the ultimate washable, portable, storable and durable all in one play space. Comes in 3 colors: purple, blue and green. My 7 year old is sooo getting this!
I hope this gives you some ideas for your natural child…do you have any YOU want to add? Comment below.