Don’t Surround Your Baby in Plastic!

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One thing that has always worried me a little bit about the typical baby’s life is the amount of plastic they are surrounded with. From swings and jumperoos to high chairs and diapers to an incessant amount of toys and tethers, it seems that everything the modern baby touches is plastic! In light of recent studies about the dangers of BPA and the chemicals that are leached from plastic in general, it seems only fitting that we should look for healthier and more sustainable alternatives to plastics for our children.

Lucky for us, there is a surge of artisans waiting to make our babies beautiful wooden toys, playlets, and high chairs! Not only are these items perfectly designed, but they are often sustainably sources, made by individuals in small companies, and are of heirloom quality. Of course, that means a higher price point, especially when compared to China-manufactured big box store toys. This begs the question: is it worth it, this quest to avoid plastics? Let’s take a look at the benefits of choosing wooden toys:

Healthier for your child. BPA has been villianized in recent years for it’s hormone-disrupting properties and cancer-causing agents, and rightfully so. But in addition to this, there are many other chemicals of concern in plastic toys, which often require batteries, are of concern for off gassing, and are regularly recalled for safety concerns. Wooden toys, void of these chemicals and never requiring batteries, can set our minds at ease.

Less environmental impact. Plastics rely on the crude oil industry, and take years to breakdown, if they break down at all. Many wooden toy manufacturers, in contrast, focus on using sustainable methods to source their wood, using wood sources that grow back easily or even that are somewhat of a nuisance (such as in the case of bamboo). Look for companies that work with the Forestry Stewardship Council! In addition, you can find great companies that not only source sustainably, but use plant based dyes and natural glues if they need to use these things in the design. Many toys are simply carved out of a solid piece of wood, perhaps embellished with a wood burning tool.

Heirloom quality. Plastic toys break, they are designed to. They are created to be a temporary fixation for your child, to be battered and bruised and then tossed away, easily replaced by the next chemical-laden gadget on the market. However, wooden toys are designed to last for generations- and they do. One toy can be passed down as an heirloom and barely look used at all. While the price point may be higher, you get so much more for your investment.

Encourage imagination and cognitive development. While plastic toys are designed to entertain, usually with a very specific purpose in mind, wooden toys have limitless possibilities. A set of blocks can become a princess castle, a boat, a tower, grocery store items- the possibilities are limitless. This flexing of the imagination paves the way for heightened cognitive development and encourages the child to think for themselves and be independent.

Here’s some of my favorite wooden toy companies:
Tegu
Grimm’s Spiel und Holz Design
Plan Toys
HABA Toys
Little Sapling Toys

On the whole, I would so much rather my child be surrounded by wood than by plastic. What do you think? Are there plastic toys that your child just couldn’t live without?

Heroes: Big Box Retail Stores

This is actually a pretty difficult Hero for me to pinpoint. For as many bad things there are about Walmart, it is an unfortunate reality that many big box chain stores commit many of the same fallacies, just on a smaller or less public scale. Knowing this, I keep thinking back to a previous post I wrote, in which I asserted that sometimes it is better to bow out of an economy than to stimulate an unjust one. With that in mind, I will officially crown the Hero of retail stores: the local thrift store.

It may not be as glamorous or exciting as a trip to Target (that is what you were hoping for, correct?) but your local thrift store can provide you with many of the things you might go to a place like Walmart to get- clothes, shoes, electronics, decor, furniture, toys, and accessories. The beauty of thrifting is that the prices will likely be much better than Walmart, and not a dime of your purchase is going to an evil box store or a manufacturer making bad ethical decisions or employing children or destroying the environment. In fact, in most cases, proceeds from thrift stores benefit certain nonprofit or go towards beneficial programs within the business, such as Goodwill’s job training programs or, locally, the Westminster Rescue Mission rehabilitation program.

Admittedly, it takes more time and even a certain amount of practice to find the things that you need at a thrift store, but thankfully trends recycle and it’s easy to find something special these days! I completely believe that it’s worth the bit of extra effort to avoid supporting companies and industries that tear down the Kingdom that we are to be building with our money.

Do you have a favorite local alternative store you like to patronize? What other categories do we need a Hero and a Zero for?