Thursday, 3 July 2008

the children's toy dilemma

You know how some things you have very strong opinions about and others you don't? Well I have very strong views about children's toys. I don't want them to have computers, video's and plastic toys of super heroes, I want them to have natural materials, paints and good imaginations. This is easy whilst they are still young, I admit and I have only just had my first test. We were invited to a Cowboy party, nothing wrong with that, we have a great 1970's ladybird book, packed with pictures of cowboys and maps of the USA, so to me this is educational and am more than happy to encourage subjects that they are interested in to encourage learning.

My problem was the gun! Firstly, you read a lot about guns and violent toys so I was worried about what it stood for and the effects it may have, secondly it is plastic and noisy and thirdly it is made in china, probably by children not much older than my own! but I backed down, I mean he couldn't be the only one without one could he? I didn't buy or make him an outfit afterall, a checked shirt, handkerchief and jeans would suffice, well I did add a handmade holster! He of course loves it and fires it all the time - whether it is the pleasure of being allowed something that he knows mummy feels quite strongly about I don't know and I'm sure I am reading too much into this!

I was delighted to read Sheherazade Goldsmith shared my dilemma about children's toys in her column in Sunday's You Magazine, which I have copied here...

"Want to know my biggest eco-challenge when it comes to converting my family to organic, natural and fair trade? Simple: the children. Yes, they can get enthusiastic about recycling, or a ‘combating climate change at home’ star chart. But hand them a wooden fairy wand instead of the latest, all-singing, all-dancing, must-have plastic toy, and baby polar bear death statistics become meaningless.

However, I’m on an ongoing mission to convince my children that wooden toys, books and rechargeable batteries are just as desirable. And by providing them with toy boxes which echo to the peaceful clatter of nontoxic, FSC-certified wooden toys, I may be getting somewhere.
It’s certainly possible to take advantage of the years before your child learns to say, ‘I want THAT one’, to look out for soft toys made with organic textiles – which, since they seem to spend so much time in children’s mouths, avoids exposing them to pesticides and other toxic chemicals often used in fabric production. As they get older, avoiding all forms of plastic toys becomes near impossible, but being aware of exactly what you are giving your child is central to making the right choice.

With more than 21 million toys recalled in 2007 alone due to unacceptably high levels of toxins, buying plastic toys is not just an environmental and ethical issue but also a potential health risk.
Many of these recalls were due to the presence of plasticisers known as phthalates (mainly found in toys made with PVC): potential hormone disruptors which have been linked with reduced sperm production, among other effects. And despite there being a ban on toys containing phthalates aimed at children under three, and well-known brands such as Lego pledging to phase these chemicals out, there is still no complete ban in the UK.

Although I can’t claim that my own children’s bedroom shelves are exclusively filled with the latest, ethically-certified offerings, I try to ensure that my son’s toys don’t feature chemicals that might potentially decrease his ability to have children of his own, or pollute the world my children will inherit."


  1. This is a constant problem I have, especially since members of my husband's family do NOT understand what we are trying to do and we have weeded out countless elmo, obnoxious noisy singing books, and plastic dump trucks. Oh and guns - my oldest seems to get over the pistol thing pretty quickly, but i will admit we do have a plastic shotgun that is one of his favorite things. I try not to make a big deal about it, and Papa shows him how to use it safely, just as though it were real. I guess for me the biggest thing is to make sure that the nice things are there in plain view and to encourage play with those. (even though those noisy ones are attention getting)

  2. I've done fairly well on this so far, but its easier for me. My son is 3 1/2 and I don't have a lot of family, plus he only watches Noggin and does not go to preschool. We will not have guns, anything that talks or thats mass produced. So far he loves what he has and doesn't know any better. Plus I got lucky he loves books and art!

  3. great post Emma. We are quite fortunate that most of our friends&family respect our choice of toys and we have a collection of toys that i hope will pass on to my children's children. Of course we have the odd items which i'm itching to be rid of but our more urgent issue is the abundance of toys. We have so many great toys and yet i wholeheartedly agree with Waldorf teachings that less is best. i feel quite far from that in this moment and the boy is about to have a birthday...uh oh.
    i think a small gun in context of a cowboy party is relatively harmless. i do however have issues with those HUGE water pistols i see at the water parks. Little A is rather alarmed by them and most of the kids i see with them are pretty riled up and without supervision.? that's not cool imo.
    i'm really enjoying your recent posts. i haven't had time to comment but i'm here, reading.

  4. Hi there martha, nodin's nest and ella - thank you for sharing your thoughts and views, it is great to hear from you and welcoming to know I am not alone in facing the challenges that motherhood brings. What will be the next challenge I wonder?

  5. HI Emma,
    Just found you via ella and commented on your 'natures children' post...and then I found this post which covers what I discussed in my other comment. Confused yet? Sorry! The toy dilemma is so difficult...let their imagination grow but in no means do I want Baby Che to feel excluded. I'm glad I found you and your thoughts...made my day x

  6. Hi
    This is a difficult one. It depends on the child themselves,on peer pressure and how a child uses toys.
    I have no really issue with superheros my son can play with them for hours inventing his own ones and using his imagination.

    If you have toys you need to sell.I have found a great place to sell used games online. The site is jumbleworld -toy auctions.

  7. I've definitely struggled through the same dilemma with my children. It helps that we have two kids that can keep each other occupied with simple interactive toys. Art supplies and building blocks are always good, but stuffed animals have become a favorite for my kids, and we especially like shopping for them at Douglas Cuddle Toys. They have a great selection and their plush toys are natural and realistic.

  8. emma - i just found this and thought you might be interested

  9. I agree with the writer in this article. Its a dilemma for us to have children toys that they could interact with and at the same time learn something bout it.Great news they have this one to enlighten and ease the mind of everyone.

  10. It's interesting and inspiring that there's still a lot of moms spent their time finding new and educative toys for their children. Waiting for progress post regarding your children.


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