A guide to the best non-toxic and eco-friendly toys & products

Aware Family

Parent May 30, 2008

 

Look at the categories to the right in the green box to see the best eco-friendly and non-toxic products I have found after years of researching.

 

 

 

Eco-Budgeting:

 

I often hear “that sounds nice, but I can’t afford that” or “being eco-friendly is too expensive”. I agree and I don’t agree. Yes, it’s pretty insane that organic tomatoes can be $5.99 a pound, while chicken (a living creature that had to eat it’s entire life) can be $1.29 a pound. 

 

Being green can however be cheaper then being toxic. Cloth diapers end up being cheaper then using disposables, same with cloth wipes. Do you need to buy the nicest organic fabric? No, but if you don’t- recycle! If you can’t get items out there that are produced under good conditions without the use of toxins, get used items. Cut up old clothes to make cloth wipes, you can even make cloth diapers of old clothing (although try to use cotton materials, not synthetics, against your baby’s bottom). It actually looks really cool with wipes made from all kinds of old colored fabrics, unique and creative! Not creative? Just go online and buy organic used items.

 

How about toys? Kind of the same principal- if you can’t get toys that are made under good conditions without the use of toxins, get used toys or create your own. You have the advantage with kids that they have birthdays and holidays where getting gifts for the kids is an opportunity to get the items you otherwise couldn’t afford (from other people that is). Set up a green gift registry for example to make it easy for relatives to give non toxic toys, or encourage grandma to make a quilt of used fabric if she’s on a budget too. Grandpa can also get baskets to fill with pine-cones, rocks, crystals etc.

 

Which brings me to another subject; what kind of toys does a child need? I think that the best toys are where a child can use it’s imagination to create. I’ve seen teenagers that have grown up with TV and blinking noisy toys be so jaded and bored, because they were always entertained by an outside source instead of creating things by themselves. Some Waldorf schools have very limited amount of toys and they all encourage children to use their own imagination, like:

* Baskets filled with pine-cones, rocks, crystals, cloths, pieces of wood, wool, yarn etc. 

Let the children use their imagination to create whatever they want to create that day. You don’t need to buy an airport, car-wash, barn, lemonade stand, space ship etc. Let the children create it! Supply the kids with tools to create.

* A pile of old sheets, silks and wooden clothes pins

The kids can now build larger structures like forts, hide-outs, tents and rocket ships with the help of cloths and some chairs.

* Baskets with “blocks”

Blocks can be everything from pieces of wood, old cardboard boxes, milk cartons etc. Give the child building materials.

* A toy kitchen made of a cardboard box

Turn the box upside down and cut out 2 doors in the front and draw a cook-top and buttons. Then take out some of your pots and pans, and anything that looks safe. The contents of the baskets mentioned above can serve as play foods.

 

Certain things you might want to get new, and those items might be great to add to gift registries so relatives can contribute to items you really need. An organic natural mattress for your child might be the first expensive item you’d want to put on the registry for the baby shower. There is a small company in Oregon called Kelly Green ( KellyGreen.org ) that have a really inexpensive crib mattress that has the purest content. This company wants to give everyone a chance to afford organic items, they are making so little profit that they have to sit with their jackets and hats on sowing at winter time to save on electricity! They have other inexpensive organic items too. Kidbean.com carry many items and you’ll be sure that all items are “safe” and green. Underthenile.com has great prices for clothes and baby toys. 

 

Sometimes your best option might be to buy a used or new expensive heirloom quality item and then sell it used. You can end up spending no money at all buy buying a quality used item and later on selling it. A quality wooden kitchen from Camden Rose, Willow Toys or Elves & Angels is such an item.

 

The library is a great FREE source for books and many classes for children. We borrow most of our books from the library and buy the ones he loves or we can’t find there (like Elsa Beskow books that we adore). We also donate any books to the library that we no longer need, great for de-cluttering.

 

Keep things minimal, keep things clean, keep things simple. Our son has his toy kitchen and playstands in the living room, and we have half of a small closet for the rest of his toys. It is all organized in baskets or on a shelf. I think plastic noisy toxic toys are not only bad for children, but for adults too. I get stressed out when I go to a house where there are plastic toys everywhere and kids making noise with all kinds of plastic gadgets. You will do yourself and your mental health (and the environment) a favor by never buying a toy that makes a noise when you push a button. When the surroundings are peaceful, calming, clean and organized, it seams to rub off on the kids.

 

Look inside yourself next time you go to buy a toy- am I buying this out of guilt (too busy to play with your child) or do I think the child NEEDS this toy (or do you need it because of a slight shopping addiction, if not, then wait until you get home and can buy a non-toxic green toy). I have friends that spend more money combined on constantly shopping junk because things are on sale. Buy ONE nice thing instead of a bunch of junk. Things add up, not only in your house, but in your wallet. Quality items have a resell value, junk will always be junk.

 

What toys do you remember from your childhood? Not many, only those special favorites. How about items you made yourself or experiences like camping? I can still recall arts and crafts I made as far back as the age of 2! Toys are not meant for memory as to measure if you were a good parent or not, toys are tools for children’s growth and imagination. Any child will choose to kick a borrowed soccer ball with their dad then to own 10 balls.

 

When it comes to food, co-ops are great! You get fresh produce directly from the farmer in the area and at a price that is usually better then buying non-organic imported items at your grocery store. Health food stores have bulk items, so you get things cheaper that are healthier by putting it in a plastic bag instead of buying a fancy box. It is the inside of the box, the food, that you pay for, not the box and the advertisement. When things you use on a daily basis at a health food store go on sale, that’s when you want to stock up. 

 

You’d be surprised on how inexpensive you can find organic clothing. I just bought 3 organic yoga pants for my son for $16 at positively-organic.com on clearance. I always buy larger sizes, he looks so cute in a t-shirt that is too big, although he is almost 3, he has T-shirts at size 6T that fit him perfectly! Get items with room to grow. 

 

Sometimes rethinking or thinking out of the box could make things more affordable and non-toxic. Instead of buying a crib and an organic mattress, how about considering co-sleeping and getting an organic king size mattress for the entire family to sleep on instead? Put the mattress on the floor for safety and read up more on co-sleeping if you choose to do this. I like having one organic set of sheets and pillow cases. When it needs washing, we take it off in the morning, wash, dry, then put it back on that same evening. I don’t like having a bunch of things stuffed in my closet and really only need one set of sheets for each bed. I’d rather have one nice organic set then 10 toxic ones.  

 

Saving the best one for last, how about this one, cloth toilet paper! It is funny how the thought of this gross out many, I think it’s gross to use toilet paper! A scratchy piece of paper against your privates that doesn’t clean properly and can both irritate you and leave lint… yuck, how stone age! What about poo? Seriously, do you think that wiping yourself after you poo is going to leave a bunch of poo on the wipe? No, it doesn’t, and if it for some odd reason would, add more fiber to your diet and wash the cloth in the sink before putting it into your laundry bucket (a bucket where you collect the wipes so that you can wash them alone on a sanitizing cycle). I take a container, fold in cloth wipes, then pour on a solution of water, organic tree tree essential oil and organic aloe vera liquid. The wipes soak up the liquid nicely and I have fresh moist healthy wipes to really clean down there, once you do it, you won’t want to use toilet paper ever again. Hey, beats using your left hand and some water like some people do in India! Kind of nice to know that you’ll never run out of TP and are not dependent on any store, plus, did I mention what an enormous thing for the environment this is to do? Listen to this fact: if every household in the U.S. replaced just one roll (500 sheets) of virgin-fiber toilet paper with 100 percent recycled TP, we’d save almost half a million trees ! Now imagine how much we could save with NO trees used next time you wipe…

 

Actually, here’s an even tougher one then cloth TP, how about turning off the TV and saving on that cable bill? Please don’t throw tomatoes at me! I just can’t tell you how amazing the past 9 years without a TV has been (still rent movies at time, but I watch the movies when I WANT and WITHOUT ADVERTISEMENT, our son does not watch any TV nor movies). I have worked as an Art Director in advertising and I can tell you that I quit because I felt we were using psychology and tricks to tell people that they are ugly, unloved, and loosers unless they buy the specific product. Few ads nowadays tell you what is actually good about a product, nope, it is far more effective to evoke a feeling of need inside the consumer, then repeat it so it becomes, well, brainwashing. I still cannot believe that they allow advertising for kids on TV, that is not allowed in most other western civilized countries! I really like what Waldorf education says about TV- it is too strong of a visual impact. So it really doesn’t matter if it’s Baby Einstein or Barney, it’s still too much for the child. If you want to compromise, how about doing movie-night once a week and rent a good movie for the family? People usually see huge improvements in their child’s behavior after turning off the TV for a few days. Try it for a week and see if you like it.

 

To be continued…

 

 

 

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