Out of all the toys that have been recalled this summer, there was only one thing that I was concerned about - the one Thomas the Tank Engine train that was given to us as a gift. But I looked it up and it was not on the list. Whew!
Sure was a wake-up call though - especially to realize that toys made from natural materials, like wood can be just as hazardous as the plastic stuff. So what do we do?
STOP BUYING CHEAP SHIT!! Sorry to be so blunt about it. But our collective shopping obsession is what's pushing companies to manufacture overseas and to cut corners in a big way. Not Quite Crunchy Parent covered this topic quite nicely in a recent post about toy safety. If we focus our dollars on a few well made products from reliable vendors rather than buying tons of cheap toys we will begin to have an impact - slowly but surely - the message will get through that parents want quality over quantity.
Shop Thoughtfully. Get to know a few good toy makers and stick with those you can trust. Again, a couple of other bloggers have already done the homework on this, so instead of reinventing the wheel, I'm going to pass along their great ideas:
- Mom Go Green, in her post on toy origins actually called a bunch of manufacturers of popular toys like Melissa & Doug, PlanToys and Playmobile to get the inside scoop on not only where their products are produced but also the materials used and their philosophy toward safety and sustainability. I was happy to learn that PlanToys are made from reclaimed rubberwood trees that no longer generate latex and would have been burned anyway.
- Take a look at Not Quite Crunchy Parent's list of where to buy good toys. She mentions Teacher Supply Stores (which are a fabulous resource for many things!) as well as Museum Stores and fairs and festivals - some great sources that you might not otherwise think of.
- EcoChildsPlay routinely reviews natural toys, including this Waldorf Mermaid Doll which I think is so cute and the Wooden Pirate Ship from PlanToys which my boys would just LOVE!
- Websites can be a great source for ideas and information. Check out Rosie Hippo and Willow Tree Toys for high quality wooden toys, games and music and Waldorf-inspired playthings.
Shop Locally. Search your town for the local toy shop that specializes in well made, educational toys. Get to know the salespeople and ask their opinion! They are usually full of knowledge - take advantage of it! Here in Minneapolis we have Wonderment and Creative Kidstuff. They are very selective about what they buy and I know that whenever I walk into these stores I will walk out with something good. They do the work for me!
One last thing...Drew went to his first ever NO GIFT birthday party yesterday...he's been to gift and book exchanges before which I think are great ideas too, but I applaud anyone who has the guts to say NO GIFTS! Have your kids been to a gift exchange or a gift-free party? I'd love to hear about it.