JOIN A TOY LIBRARY
These toy lending facilities work in the same way as a regular library, loaning out toys for several weeks to local families. The best thing is swapping them for a new selection of playthings once the old ones have lost their appeal. Many toy libraries also organise social events such as play morning and fundraising efforts. Visit: www.natll.org.uk to find your nearest.
Toys made from PVC plastic can contain phthalates – hormone disrupting chemicals that can alter testes development as well as causing liver and kidney damage. Reports show that some plastic toys produced in China contain up to 55% phthalates, whilst the workers in the factories are more at risk from liver and other cancers. In fact, research suggests that the risk of liver cancer for these workers is 200 times higher than average. Choose wood to protect your child’s health and ensure that his playthings are not contributing to someone else’s ill health. We like Bella Natura, Little Eco, Green Me and Ninny Noodle Noo.
You can have fun making your own toys for your children. We like the ideas at CraftyCraftyTV, including how to turn shelves into a playkitchen, how to turn a doll into a mermaid and some gorgeous soft seahorses, like the one shown here that can be made out of felt. For older children, this paper toy circus can be constructed quite easily. More quirky projects like this can be found at The Toymaker.
BE MEDIA AWARE
Violent video games and television shows can be damaging for a child, who is less able than an adult to separate fact from fiction. If in doubt, see the KidScore ratings at MediaWise for family friendly verdict on popular games and films. If at all possible, avoid the TV and games consoles and encourage imaginative play instead.
PLAY, NOT WORK
Often child labour is involved in the manufacture of toys in Asia, in fact the International Labour Organisation reports that over 200 million children worldwide are involved in child labour, 95% of these in developing countries. Reports circulated several years ago about the abysmal working conditions in a Bangladeshi factory employing women and children to make garments for a well-known cartoon company for just 12 cents an hour. The massive hamburger chain that gives away free toys with meals has been vilified for using child labour to produce them. Other reports highlight issues with other major toy retailers and manufacturers. Choose fairtrade toys to ensure that the people who make your children’‘s toys have been paid a fair price for their handiwork.
This ensures that workers are paid a fair price and that strict ethical standards are adhered to. There are so many wonderful fairtrade toys to choose from, from footballs to jigsaw puzzles, soft toys to finger puppets. Check out the British Association for Fair Trade Shops to find a shop selling fairtrade toys local to you.
PASS IT ON
When you have finished with toys and games, pass onto friends, freecycle or, if they are in good condition, donate to the charity shop. 13 million toys are chucked into landfill every year in the UK. Find out more about recycling at Toys to You.
DITCH THE BATTERIES
Batteries contain heavy metals such as cadmium, nickel and mercury that leach into the water system when thrown away. If you need batteries choose alkaline manganese ones, free from heavy metals. For a range of battery-free people-powered gadgets see www.ecotronictoys.com.