Toys generate a huge amount of waste in the world and in my experience it’s the hardest area to reign in, particularly if the horse has already bolted. Like most kids in the overdeveloped world mine have too many toys. This wasn’t done intentionally but they just seemed to pile up after birthdays and Christmases despite my efforts. If you find yourself having to buy toys here are some suggestions on how to make more planet positive choices.
Nothing mentioned in this article has been sponsored. It’s all just my own personal opinion.
Image source: A Reusable Life
Quality over Quantity
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the choice that exists in the world? Well we’re not the only ones. A study in the University of Toledo in 2018 established that the more toys a child had the less imaginative their play is and that fewer toys may help toddlers focus better and play more creatively (Source: returntonow.net. So bear this in mind next time you’re exposed to those puppy dogs eyes in the toy aisle
My kids are still into toys but at their age it’s nigh-on impossible to buy them sustainable ethical toys. The market seems to be mostly focused on babies and toddlers, with very little on offer for kids over 6. I always prefer to buy pre-loved where I can and with toys it’s no different. We have saved an absolute fortune by buying toys in charity shops and second-hand from adverts.ie, Facebook Marketplace or Ebay. Not only does this conserve the planet’s energy and resources, doing so also reduced our kids’ exposure to the dangerous Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) from new plastic toys – think of that new plastic smell, and toxic chemicals.
When buying second hand toys buy well know brands that you know have been tested for safety, and if hygiene is a concern throw soft toys in the washing machine or wipe them with Milton or vinegar. And don’t be put off my broken or incomplete toys. Orchard Toys offer a free replacement service on it’s games for UK customers and you can buy replacement lego pieces to complete sets. Also the 3D printing platform Dagoma has a whole host of files for printable replacement toy parts. You’d just download and print yourself or bring to your local library or 3D printing shop. And if you’ve a precious teddy that needs some TLC contact the Teddy Bear Hospital in Cavan.
Not quite repair but if you have a load of lego and don’t know what to build, the app Brickit will scan the pieces and suggest models!
Here are some place you can source second hand toys
- Your local charity shop
- musicmagpie.co.uk (lego – UK)
- Preloved Wooden, Vintage & Educational Toys
- Preloved Plastic Toys Ireland
- Preloved Toys Ireland – Imagine, Create, Build
- Brick Link (global second hand Lego marketplace)
- Young Planet is an app dedicated to helping to rehome kids stuff. Based in UK but there may be users in Ireland
I did suggest a toy rental scheme to my kids but they were having none of it – they’re very sentimental / materialistic and get quite attached to their toys. If you’re kids are more ‘progressive’ than mine here are few places to check out for toy rental / borrowing;
- Dlulukaloo. (toy subscription scheme for 0-4 years)
- Loop Toys. (toy rental)
- Clever Tots Toys (toy club)
- Jiminy (toy rental)
- Carrickmacross toy library
- Bainbridge Toy library
- Cork Toy Library
- getting free ones in Freecycle groups like Zero Waste Freecycle Ireland
- renting toys from Whirli (if you’re in the UK)
And if you’re interested in setting up a toy library in your area, give Sharon in Jiminy a shout. She’s organising people to do this very thing. Go Sharon!
If you’re buying a gift for someone who wouldn’t appreciate a pre-loved item, or a non-physical gift like an experience, then the next best option is to buy from companies doing their best to lesson their impact on the planet. In this article I’ve loosened up my criteria for ‘sustainable and ethical’, primarily because beyond toys for babies and toddlers there’s very few companies operating in this market. As always I aim to give as much info as possible so that you can decide for yourself which company suits your values best.
One word of wording though before you start perusing. I noticed that not all companies state whether they meet safety regulations. In Ireland we’d be most familiar with the CE Marking , which is a manufacturer’s declaration that their toys meet the essential requirements of the European Toy Safety Directive (TSD) 88/378/eec. That said a joint customs and market surveillance operation by four EU countries in 2018 found that more than a third of toys checked contained illegal levels of phthalates and that 92% of the offending items carried the CE marking that indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area. So be careful what you buy and who you buy from.
Following on from last week’s article on handmade presents I want to start my list of sustainable ethical toys with Alice and Rose Handmade Toys who make well-priced stunning cutest crochet toys right here in Ireland.
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Wooden toys are a favourite with eco-savvy parents of small children but not all wooden toys are equal. Even if the wood has been sustainably sourced, i.e. FSC certified, has it been painted with non-toxic paints free of heavy metals? have the makers of those toys been paid or treated fairly? what is the waste management policy of the manufacturer? Worry not, here are some brands that address all those issues and more.
Flutter Tree is an Irish company that makes play kits from 100% natural birchwood that you can colour in yourself.
Saturday Workshop in Dublin 4, Ireland make toys from sustainable Irish beech painted with ‘child-friendly’ paint for children >3.
Wild Child Toys handmake balancing wooden blocks for kids & adults from offcuts from a joinery company. They plant one tree planted for every set sold
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E-tailers in Ireland and Europe
If you can’t pick up toys from bricks and mortar shops (which is the more sustainable option) then check out these e-tailers of E-tailers of sustainable ethical toys in Ireland and Europe. They sell some of the brands listed above and are a good way to compare prices.
- Jiminy (Ireland) sells a huge range of eco toys and craft kids to suit kids of all ages.
- Beoverde (lreland) sells brands of eco toys including Trixie baby and Sigid mentioned above.
- Discovery Playtime (Ireland) sells quite a few wooden toys and have some bio-plastic toys too.
- My Cotton Drawer (Ireland) sells brands bioblo, Biobuddi, Rubens Barn, Alphabet Jigsaws, Junko, and Stuka Puka.
- Annie Pooh (Ireland) sells brands Bioblo, Animal Pals and Petite Collage. She now has a store in Greystones, Co Wicklow.
- Snuggle Fox (Ireland) – sells some of the brands here, mostly to suit <5, except for a wood carving set which would possibly suit older hands
- Mira Mira (Dublin 4, Ireland) sells Plan Toys
- Wooden Heart (Ireland) sells some of the brands listed above for children under 7
- My Eco Hub shop (Ireland) sells science based learning kits
- Educational Toys (Pick up Dublin 12, Ireland) sells some of the brands listed here for ages under 8
- Little Ones (Clare, Ireland) sells some of the brands listed here for under 7s
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If you’re buying toys as a birthday present and want to try your hand at a homemade card these homemade animal cards for kids from Wee Society come with printable templates and are sooooo cute.