I have a 6 year old and every year she gets hundreds of gifts for her birthday/Christmas (December baby) even before she breaks the toys free from their plastic and cardboard prisons to play with them, I am completely taken aback about the amount of waste is being generated. It has prompted me to think about the environment and what we, as parents, gift givers and donors are doing to the environment, so here is the thing about toys…
While we all know there is nothing quite like watching a child open up a gift containing a toy – the exhilaration, enthusiasm and joy – have you given much thought to what happens once the toy has lost its appeal? OR what happens if it breaks? Generally those toys end up in the bin and in a landfill (yes, Toy Story III tells the truth).
The cheaper toys – think the freebies you get with your kid’s burger, the toys you get from China mall – generally are not of the highest quality and will break easily. This means that they cannot be donated to a less fortunate child, but even more devastatingly, the material that they are made of is nearly impossible to recycle. The more expensive toys, while better quality and will last a little longer, cannot be recycled either and the chemical impact that they have in the earth while producing them, has a devastating impact on the earth. I googled some images and my heart ached for the broken toys that have been thrown away and long forgotten…
How do we change this? Well children, in general, are enormously empathetic and if we educated them about the plight of the planet and the impact their toys have on it, they would probably show a willingness to have less. We, as gift givers, can also choose our gifts more responsibly… Toys made from wood, cotton, natural rubber are considered to be more feasible alternatives to plastic toys.
For the past year – I have tried and alternative to store bought gifts (although admittedly I could not escape the Hatchimal phenomena), I have tried to either make gifts or buy gifts from local crafters (and not just for kids, adults too). Generally the feedback from parents is very positive, kids love the handmade toys… children appreciate the sentimentally behind these gifts (even more so if they are personalised with their name).
Once you start looking for these alternatives, you will be wildly amazed at what people have come up with in wood, cotton and wool based felts (see the examples below). Speaking from my own experience, the kids love them and cherish them that much longer than the store bought plastic toys. It would seem that kids have an inherent appreciation for something that real love and effort has gone into.
The thing about toys is that they need not cost the earth. Literally.