Every kid deserves toys to play with, but so many of them are still made from plastic. For now, all we can do about this, aside from boycotting all new toys (which would go down tremendously), is to carefully choose what we buy. Until the companies we buy from make much-needed changes, here are a few alternatives and suggestions to reduce the environmental footprint of your child’s toys.
The first and simplest option is to buy fewer toys, full stop. However, this is unlikely to be very well received by your child. Instead, try buying second hand from a charity shop or thrift store. If you’re lucky enough to be in an area where car boot sales are held (obviously not during the time this piece is being written), they are the perfect place to find all sorts of toys, including more modern toys and some you may remember from your childhood. These sorts of sales are also the perfect opportunity for your child to pick something out that they may never see anywhere else again. Not sure if you like the idea of giving your child a pre-loved toy? Try new wooden toys instead.
As with any wooden or wood-based item, it is best to try and find sustainably sourced wooden toys. Whilst choice of manufacturer may be more limited when sustainability is a factor, there are some options, Etsy is a good place to start and to support small businesses. It’s much easier to get hold of an Etsy shop owner and ask about the responsibility of their wood sourcing practices. Wooden toys are usually aimed at younger children, as their larger blocky nature means they are easier to handle for less nimble fingers. A wooden doll house is suitable for pretty much any age, and you can have fun making things to go in it from anything lying around your house.
It’s not just accessories for doll houses that you can make either. Why not make the whole house from empty cereal boxes using scraps of fabric for furnishings, lolly sticks to add structure, and cuttings from magazines for wallpaper! Racetracks can be made from string glued to cards or even just laid on the floor to denote the sides, while lolly sticks or pipe cleaners can be used to separate out lanes and the finish line. The possibilities are endless and you can let your child lead the way while you supervise. Making something with your child can be exceptionally rewarding for you both. It keeps them entertained, gives them attention (meaning later it will be easier to do what you need), you can learn about your child’s interests and personality, and when the crafted piece is no longer needed, it can be thrown away (preferably recycled of course). If you have an older child, maybe you can let them do it by themselves while you are doing something else in the same room; this will help build their confidence and trust in you as well as your confidence and trust in them. Making their own toys could also be transferred to arts and crafts.
Creating their own toys or allowing a child to run with their imagination in an artsy way will benefit their adaptation and problem-solving skills for the future. You may even find that your child prefers to craft and create than play with store-bought toys. It’s not just your child who can have fun crafting either. You could stretch your own arts and craft muscles by kitting, stitching, or crocheting a teddy bear, doll, or something completely imaginary for your child.
Another option for more sustainable ways for your child to play is through books. Encouraging reading, whether independent or with you, is just as important as playing and crafting. Sometimes you may want to get your child the latest toy. Try to limit the number of new toys purchased and explain to the child the importance of taking care of the toy.
So, there you have it, a few options for more environmentally friendly toys while we wait for manufacturers and designers to bring about the change many other sectors are already addressing.
Would you consider ditching the mass-produced toys and making your own with your child?