Thursday, July 15, 2010

Greening the Toy Box

Because A.'s birthday is coming up in August, we've been thinking about toys a lot lately.  Last year we made a commitment to stop buying all things plastic, to purchase or make only natural and Waldorf inspired toys, to support our local toy seller, and to encourage everyone we know to give up their dependence on Wal Mart.

We extracted two large garbage bags full of old toys for donation from A's room and we've enjoyed learning to make wine cork dollies with scraps of old fabric and wool roving hair.  We even tinkered some fairy furniture after finding inspiration at The Magic Onions.  This weekend we are set to make some wet felted Zen stones like these (above) from Etsy merchant Elinart.

All this thinking about toys reminded me of another toy story  -- the one recently in theaters.  Then I stumbled across this blog at Beliefnet...

It's a shame that a movie about the enduring pleasures of imagination and re-purposing and recycling treasured toys is also one long infomercial for more than 300 new products specifically tied to "Toy Story 3." Susan Linn of the Center for a Commercial-Free Childhood writes: "A search for toys licensed by the Toy Story franchise brings up more than 300 items on, most of which squelch exactly the kind of creative play the film celebrates."

Three-hundred toys?  Isn't this irresponsible -- if not appalling?  Hasn't anyone at Disney or Pixar heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Just one thousand miles off of the coast of California, lies a pile of plastic the size of TEXAS.  

Check out this four minute video:

Knowing this, how can any of us in good conscience purchase plastic toys?  There are so many other choices -- such as making your own natural toys or supporting an Etsy merchant such as Nushkie, Little Red Whimsy, or Mamma4earth who use natural and eco-friendly materials.  Or, support a store like Bella Luna Toys or the Natural Kids Store whose products support your child's imagination rather than a feed corporate giants like Disney and contribute to the destruction of our Earth.

When our kids touch natural, simple, non-noisy toys they are connecting with nature.  Touching the Earth this way supports your child's understanding that all things are connected and helps them see themselves as stewards or custodians of this beautiful place we call home.  What's more, playing with simple, non-noisy toys requires kids to use their imagination thereby stimulating their creativity and innovation.  And if we ever hope to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it's going to take some innovative thinking.

Making smart choices doesn't mean missing out on any of the fun.  To the contrary, it often means discovering a world you never knew existed.  The next time your child is in the market for a new toy, hop on your computer and do a little research first.  Before resorting to old habits, let your child see what else is out there.  Each eco-compassionate choice we make teaches our kids to live consciously.  At this juncture in human history, I can't think of a more important lesson to share with our children.
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