Toys that are Shiny and Bright...and full of chemicals?

by: Sara on 12/06/2017

Many people say, “Christmas is for kids” and while I understand the sentiment, the pressure to fulfill the wish list full of BPA and cadmium ridden shiny, plastic, play things, can be hard for anyone trying to buy gifts that align with their values. As much as our kids beg for the newest toys, can we really in good conscious give them a gift that may ultimately harm their health?

Today’s blog is an edited excerpt from Spit That Out: The Overly Informed Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy Kinds in the Age of Environmental Guilt by Paige Wolf. Wolf dives into the dilemma of the  children’s toys and offers “Tips for the Toy Box” to help you fill that wish list in a manner that will make you feel good all year round.

My grandmother’s favorite story about my childhood underlines the simplicity of entertaining a toddler. Apparently, I spent a long afternoon taking an empty astringent bottle in and out of a wastebasket.

When my mother came to pick me up, I became inconsolable when torn away from the trash can.

While a baby probably would be content to play with a few wooden spoons and homemade sock puppets, the conventional consumer world would not tend to agree.

Eco-savvy moms may register for toys made by companies with the highest records of safety and sustainability, but a run-of- the-mill plastic toy is bound to make it into the playpen.

Every day we hear about massive recalls of toys made in China. Children’s costume jewelry laden with cadmium, toys coated with lead, and BPA leaking from sippy cups. Shiny, plastic things have foiled even my most noble attempts to furnish a green toy wonderland. Just try finding the equivalent of a wooden Exersaucer.

We don’t want to deprive our children of the joys of toys, but we’re desperately afraid of what permanent effects may be leaching from temporary fun.

Should we really just limit our child’s toys to organic corn husks and wooden sticks?

 [Mom] Corina says her house overflows with toys supposedly designed to help her son have fun and reach his next milestones.

I think I’m doing him a favor by getting him the newest and the best things. But then news stories come out almost daily about toxins or unsafe materials. After checking the dates and countries of origin on my son’s favorite die-cast cars, I threw them out because I was afraid of lead paint. You can’t even give the toys away because they may be poisonous. You just have to chalk them up as a loss, dry your kid’s tears, and get the next hot thing — after checking the label, of course.

Corina’s frustration underlines the fact that while we try to make the best choices as consumers, we also need to lean on ourgovernment to make sure they do a better job protecting us from these things. Rick Smith, author of Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The SecretDanger of Everyday Things and Toxin Toxout, cites labeling requirements as one of the biggest challenges for consumers.

You shouldn’t have to be a rocket scientist or chemical engineer to shop for toys for your kids. You can be the most active, engaged, savvy consumer in the world, but if you don’t have proper labeling on products, you can’t tell what you’re looking at."

This is why most scrupulous manufacturers label the absence of phthalates and BPA, Smith says. With strong links to breast and prostate cancer and reproductive abnormalities in little boys, phthalates may be as dangerous as they are difficult to spell. Smith says phthalates are arguably more common in kids’ toys than BPA. Until very recently, most things soft and squishy — i.e., the illustrious rubber duck — would contain phthalates to some level. And if it doesn’t say “no phthalates,” it probably contains them.

Questionable trinkets are unavoidable, popping up everywhere from the dentist’s office to your great aunt’s purse. We can hide objects, toss things, and steer clear of the toy store, but it sounds like the best strategy is to teach our children the true value of playthings. Sure, they will want to collect all the Shopkins and complain that everyone else has Bratz dolls, but opportunities to play with things not of our choosing will present themselves no matter what. So we can set our own boundaries and arm ourselves with the knowledge that a dearth of cheap plastic toys does not make them deprived.

Our children will find much more joy in the long run from learning to care for special things, using their imaginations, and being resourceful.

Just remember, no matter how hard you try, it’s only a matter of time before you will step on a Lego block.

Tips for Toys

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