Toys that could actually be worth buying

I'm still a bit of a sickie, but figured I could pull together a 5 minute post to share a couple of useful links with you! 🙂

Wooden firetruck
For anyone still looking for something for the child or baby on their Christmas list, I just noticed this article on Toxic-Free Toy Shopping, from the Green Guide in my inbox. While I am not so into my children having oodles of plastic toys, that make noise and are covered with cartoon characters and inhibit creativity, I am certainly not opposed to toys in general!

We are slowly revamping the toy collection that has mysteriously emerged over the past 4 years of parenthood (someone please tell me, where on earth did they all come from???). Our criteria are fairly simple: long lasting, toxin-free, wooden or cloth whenver possible, and devoid of the need for batteries. They should accentuate our children's God-given creativity and imagination, rather than impede it. Better quality and long lasting appeal is of far greater importance than sheer quantity.

As our family room slowly transforms, we are ditching Fisher Price in favor of wooden push carts and building blocks, non-toxic trains and kitchen play sets. Call us old-fashioned, but the new Tickle-me-Elmo (or Wii or goodness knows what is actually popular these days!) just can't compete with watching our children build castles and forts, and cook us banana soup and tea for dinner.

My mom and I made an order from Oompa.com for the children's presents this year (since we will already be in Seattle for Christmas, it just made sense to order US), and I continue to have nothing but good to say about ordering from them. I know that my sister and brother-in-law have also had great experiences with Baby Naturopathics in Canada (the prices are more expensive, but when you figure in the exchange, it makes shopping locally a lot more desirable).

It's also worth taking a look at HealthyToys.org, a site that is creating a database of toys that are being tested for a variety of chemicals of concern, beyond testing simply for lead (they also test for Bromine, Chlorine- PVC, Cadmium, Arsenic, Mercury and others chemicals). The Cool Mom Picks Safer Toy Guide 2008 is also a great place to scope out some better options for your little ones.

Are you buying your children toys for Christmas this year?  What are your criteria for choosing toys, and where do you find toys that fit the bill?

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  1. We have also decided to eliminate the plastic from our kids toy collection and invest in non-toxic wood and cloth toys. We recently moved to a smaller house so it was a really good excuse to purge the play room. Now that we have higher standards about what we are purchasing for our kids the toy collection is much smaller and simpler, and honestly it is relief. I found that when I was willing to buy my daughter plastic toys they accumulated so fast because there were so many options and they were so inexpensive. We ended up with so many toys that it was overwhelming.

    It seems like wooden toys have really gained in popularity over the past year, which is great because they are becoming more affordable and easy to find.
    A couple of places that I have found to be good sources for safe, non-toxic and organic toys are:

    BabyNaturopathics.com; I really can’t recommend this store highly enough, their customer service AMAZING and they obviously care about what they do. They have a wonderful selection of toys and items for babies/children that is always expanding. They carry high-end European brands so it can seem a bit pricey, but their prices are better than a lot of other places. One item that I recommend to people is the Stockmar beeswax crayons – they are totally worth the cost because they are virtually impossible to break and they last forever. I firmly believe that in the long run buying them is far cheaper (and safer) then buying regular crayons.

    Chapters.Indigo.ca; Chapters now offers free shipping on their toys (purchase over $39) and their prices are quite good. They have a large selection of Melissa and Doug wooden toys, and also some items from brands such as Haba, Sevi, Selecta and Plan Toys. Right now Melissa&Doug toys are an additional 20% off and you can also use coupon code TOY08 to receive another $10 off of a $50 purchase.

    ToysRus; amazingly enough, in amidst all the plastic, battery powered stuff that they are selling, Toysrus has also started to carry a pretty good selection of natural and organic toys. Aside from some Melissa&Doug items, they also have their own brand of natural wooden toys and cotton stuffed animals.

  2. No problem, it’s all good! 🙂

    Thanks for the recommendations! I have also noticed that Amazon now carries quite a few toys, like Haba and others, for very reasonable prices!

  3. When we buy something for our daughter we get her things that are “natural” as well. I would love to be completely plastic free, but that is not going to happen as other people give her things and I can’t really take it away, and also she goes to a playgroup with me and there are plastic toys, other people’s houses, etc. So we are limited to the choices that we make- which we get natural toys then, and also suggest to others some good brands hoping they will hear the hints…but it doesn’t usually work that way. I guess we do what we can and don’t worry about the rest, just like everything else.

    I bought my daughter’s Christmas present from Baby naturopathics (thanks for the idea a few weeks ago!) I love plan toys and they carry a lot of them. I agree it is a great store, and I thought their shipping was more reasonable and their price was lower on the item I wanted than other places online in Canada I found to get the same item.

    My criteria is basically as natural as possible, so no toxins etc., and also durability and long lasting, imaginative, no batteries/noise. Basically the same as you. 🙂 The only places we can get these things is in the city toy shops or online, but since we don’t live near the city, it makes more sense to buy online.

  4. Thank you for this encouragement, Stephanie. After I read Amanda Soule’s The Creative Family, I was all gung-ho to get rid of the plasticky battery-operated stuff and go all natural, but I lost steam along the way. I am trying to make better decisions with new purchases, but I really need to purge out the old, too. Like Sarah Michelle wrote, I am SO wanting to simplify the toy stash!!!

    Thanks for this today. Very timely.

    Hope you are feeling better!

  5. I honestly don’t get rid of toys because of the plastic. I can only do so much and that’s not on my list of high priorities. I really look for toys that are going to stimulate my child’s imagination. I love Ravensburger puzzles (and have actually found quite a number of them used for under $2 each.) One toy that my 3 oldest love (ages 7, 6 and 4) is playmobil. It is expensive (and plastic, but really they don’t chew on it) but so worth it. It doesn’t break and all the sets work together. They play for hours with it. In my opinion, totally worth it, and so much nicer than Polly Pockets or Barbies or any other role playing ‘doll’. And it’s for boys and girls. Another toy that is so good is Lego. Again, made of plastic. Is there a healthier version of Lego?? Lego, or any building toy is really good for kids development, imo.

    This year I am also giving my children and husband one hand made gift. A quilt, an apron, a skirt, a new sleep sack (for my 20 month old) and one more yet to be made, either a jacket or another skirt. My children love it when I make things for them, so I am combining some ‘needs’ with my gifts.

    And, this is totally unhealthy, but in the dutch tradition my family all received a chocolate letter on Sinter Klaas (Dec 5) in their shoes! Not so healthy, but very yummy!

    Just a little note on baby toys. Many people are concerned with plastic in baby toys, and there they have a point. But really, your baby is only in the chewing/sucking/slobering stage for a very limited time (2 years max.) Babies at that age don’t need too many toys. Things out of your cupboard may work just as well to entertain/stimulate them. And they are way cheaper. (Honestly, the more you stimulate your baby, the more he/she will need to be stimulated.) Also, fabric toys are nice, but are they really any healthier? When you look into how fabrics are made you will know that there are many chemicals/dyes used in its production also.

    This is a really long post, but I have one more thing to mention (I DO have 4 kids with toys 🙂 When looking for toys, much more than safety, I look for modesty. Toys in a department store can be downright disgusting. Immodestly dressed dolls (putting it nicely), and very wierd boy toys. Also many toys that are in line with Disney movies etc. So much so that I don’t even look there for toys anymore. I support my local independent toy store as much as possible. I am thankful that they are reasonably priced. It is refreshing to walk in there and see “morally healthy” toys that aren’t going to fall apart after a week of playing with them.

  6. Alisa, I have to disagree with you about the baby toys thing. I think that the chewing/sucking/slobbering stage is probably the point in your child’s life when you should be most concerned about the safety of their toys. I do agree that they don’t need many toys at this age, but I think that the few they have should be natural and organic.
    As far as fabric toys go, you are right that many fabric toys aren’t necessarily any better than plastic. When I buy fabric toys I always ensure that they are organic or natural fibers that have been dyed naturally.
    My daughter also has Playmobil. I don’t think that it is entirely possible to eliminate all plastic from your life, in the toy room or elsewhere, but I do think that it is important to ensure that the plastic you buy is safe and high quality. I have a lot of confidence in the Playmobil brand and think that it is a wonderful toy. I wouldn’t be too concerned about Lego either since it is also European made and they have high safety standards.

  7. Hi SarahMichelle!

    I probably didn’t word it very well, but my point was that during the sucking/chewing stage IS when you should be the most concerned about their toys. So yes, I agree with you. So glad you have playmobil too. I admit, I love to play with it too! 🙂 (I’m allowed to play sometimes right?)

  8. FYI: BabyCenter is having a HUGE sale right now. Organic Under the Nile fruit and veggie toys are only $3, plus they have the entire fruit and vegetable sets discounted by maybe 50%? They also have lots of wooden Plan Toys and HABA available! I spent just enough to get free shipping, and my total savings tallied up to twice what I spent! They also have lots of organic baby clothing on deep discount.

    We are also trying to phase out the plastic, and minimize our toy collection. It’s not perfect LOL but it’s nice to have quality toys, and fewer things to trip over/step on/pick up all the time!

  9. I’ve ordered quite a bit from Oompa too, and I’m always pleased. My hesitancy for the extra cost of nicer toys always goes away once I see how they are played with (and can withstand it). I love Haba wooden play food, especially since Lane will actually chew on them. I don’t have to worry about them, and they still look great.

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