With Christmas on it's way we are all on the hunt for the best toys on the market. The biggest, the newest, the tallest, the noisiest, the shiniest. Whatever it is you are looking for you will find it. Remember last year when we blogged about What Your Kids Don't Need for Christmas?
Well this year we are talking about ways to find toys that your kids will enjoy and use for years to come (aka. so you don't fall into the trap of the next best thing).
Each holiday season my kids create a list filled with "stuff" they want. Each year my husband look at the list and choose carefully which items they will receive and which ones will be left behind. By the way, your kids don't need everything on their list (unless of course their list only has one item then perhaps do your best within reason to make it happen!). Usually when the kids bring me their list we will have a conversation about the items on the list and why they are good choices and why some of them may not be good choices. For example, they may choose a plastic toy and we will have a conversation about a more environmentally friendly and safer toy to choose. It will go like this (keep in mind that we talk often about the effects of our choices on the planet).
Parent: I see that you chose a plastic toy boat. Why do you want one of those?
Kid: To play with in the bathtub
Parent: Do you think plastic is a good choice of material for our body and our planet? Will a plastic toy hold up for a long time?
Kid: (rolls eyes) No because it stays here forever and can break easy.
Parent: What kind of toys can we find for the bathtub that are safe and will last?
Kid: What about those rubber animals?
Parent: Yes, that is a good choice. Let's put that on our list instead.
As you can see having conversations with children is critical. Don't just avoid the subject or tell them no. Share with them your reasons for making those choices. Many children care deeply about the planet and the beings that exist. Relating our choices to others (animals or humans) can have a meaningful impact for children. Children can empathize and have compassion for so much more than we give them credit for. Example: This plastic bag is dangerous for animals living in the water because they can swallow it and choke or they can get it stuck on their body and limit their ability to move.
With all that being said what is a parent to do when choosing gifts for the holidays? Avoid anything fun? Give no gifts to your kids? Of course not! Here are some ideas to get your started
1. Buy Less: Kids are happy with what they receive. While you may think they need 20 toys to have a happy holiday season, they probably only need about 2-3. Choose toys that are made well and that will last through the years. Wondering how you can do that?
2. Choose natural materials: Toys made from wood, wool, and cotton will be well designed, well made and will stand the test of time. Wood is extremely durable and is less likely to break or fall apart as your children use and play with the toys. Wool and cotton are more natural materials that will be healthier and stronger than their synthetic counterparts. For instance, our Peppa Waldorf Dolls are a popular item in our household and have lasted through several children with intense play. We have had a to make a few repairs along the way. Avoid plastics when you are purchasing toys. Tip: If you receive plastic toys and you don't want them in your house, they make a wonderful addition to sand boxes!
3. Steer Clear of Batteries: Avoid toys with batteries. They are my least favorite because they require constant monitory (for safety) and maintenance. Those d*mn batteries are always dying. Batteries are harmful to the environment and are also typically found in plastic toys.
4. Shop local: Everyone benefits when you shop at a local business. Many local business owners are familiar and particular with the brands they carry. For instance, we carry only high quality, well made products. We look for products that are made in Canada or whereby workers are paid fairly. We don't want to support companies that are creating harmful products or do not care about the health and safety of their workers.
5. Swap with friends: Could you do a toy swap with friends? This is a great way to bring new to you toys into your home. Have your friends children grown out of toys that perhaps your kids can still use? Or what about extra toys they may have. Share, share, share! So often we want to sell all our items on kijijij to make a few extra bucks to buy the next best thing, but consider sharing and exchanging your items with others.
6. Check out second hand stores: If you are careful and look regularly you will come across some amazing deals at second hand stores. Keep an eye out throughout the year and you will find some high quality, well made toys at second hand stores. Just don't go toy crazy when you get there. Keep the same standards and requirements you have if you are buying new!
7. Books: Choose books for a more eco friendly holiday. You can purchase new books or second hand, obviously second hand being much more friendly on our planet. We love Dr.Seuss' story The Lorax for older children and for younger children we enjoy Claire Beaton's Nursery Rhyme Board Books.
8. DIY: Make your own toys for your kids. Can you create a small cuddle doll? What about decorating some wooden blocks? Here are a few more ideas: Painted Rock Stories, Handmade Stuffies using socks, Water Color Art for their room, Create a Book about your Child (images and stories), Handmade necklaces or jewelry, Matching Games.
9. Instruments: Maracas, drums, xylophones oh my! Get jiggy with it by choosing fair trade instruments for the holidays. A multi purpose "toy" that will last for years and will bring about more joy, education and experience than any plastic button pusher that yells out songs.
10. Gift Experiences: Obviously this is not a toy but this is a great way to choose an eco friendly gift for your kids. If you are gifting an experience you can often find a small object or item to pair with it. Gifting a gymnastics experience? Include a new pair of leotards. Sending the kids downhill skiing? What about some goggles to go with the gift.
What ideas have you used for offering and creating more environmentally friendly toys for your children?
Be sure to check out our Gift Collections for inspiration.