Adults are able to look at marketing with more objectivity (though not always, of course, as the multi-billion pound industry shows: it works!), whereas advertisers know that children are less able to disassociate and more likely to believe in the fantasy.
Anyone who has seen the film Corporation will be aware of the moral make-up of the people selling products to our kids – those who haven’t watched it, might want to. The big toy companies in the film openly congratulate themselves on how well-aimed advertising of their products during children’s TV programs leads to ‘pester power’; children pestering their parents for the latest item until they eventually give in.
China produces three quarters of the world’s toys and most of the toys we see on the shelves arrive on huge container ships, direct from factories and sweat shops. It’s no secret that child labour is used in the manufacture of some of the West’s favourite toys – yet an expose in 2007 revealing a 13 year old Indonesian girl making Barbie dolls in a factory still shocked. The toy industry is still rife with bad practice; in 2007 21 million toys were recalled overall, some after toxic levels of lead were discovered in the paint. One 2007 recall was because of a chemical found in the coating of plastic beads led to a toddler going into a coma.
But kids love toys. And Christmas is the time when they will be bombarded with them from well-meaning friends and relatives. So what can you do to ensure your child isn’t gnawing on a chemical-laden rattle or contributing to unfair trade in the developing world? There are so many wonderful companies now, offering beautiful, hand-made and imagination-inducing toys. There are plenty of companies who have jumped on the eco bandwagon too, so when you’re choosing toys, check the company’s ethical ratings to make sure they really are committed to fair trade and safe, natural materials.
Here are a few of our favourite eco toy suppliers to get you started:
Imagination Grows - Where Play Drives the Imagination
Since having children, founders of Imagination Grows, Carla and Luke saw the benefit of wooden toys and fell in love. “We watched in amazement as our children showed us that blocks became towns and cars became different vehicles (even planes!) From then we wanted to share the love that is wooden toys and our business was born. Find plenty of wooden construction kits and a savers club to make budgeting easier.
Toys To You the UK’s largest ethical toy shop
Toys to You is a mother and daughter team, whose children help select the toys they sell. Because they don’t believe in the commercialisation of preschool children with licensed toys, they set up Toys to You as an online ethical and educational toy shop to provide a large selection of toys that boost babies and children’s growth and development. Here you’ll find a huge range of toys to help children learn through play. This Christmas, they are sending each customer a free packet of Scots pine tree seeds as part of their Grow Your Own Christmas Tree scheme.
Ethical Kidz Green Toys, Gifts & Ethical Products for Ethical Kids
At Ethical Kidz, they believe that being a green and ethical business is a way of life rather than a “jumping on the bandwagon” marketing campaign. They have adopted their own set of green practices, as well as sharing useful information with other individuals and businesses. Their aim is to support creativity within local communities by promoting, making and selling handmade products. They look for products that have been made ethically, using sustainable materials and with the minimum of damage to the environment, and their wish is that the products will encourage kids to have fun, to be healthy and active, environmentally friendly and interested in the world around them.
Myriad Natural Toys Natural Toys and Crafts
Myriad specialise in quality natural play products, toys, art and craft materials, made with reverence for the child and the environment. They have a particularly wide range of natural wooden toys. Their toys are all chosen to awaken your child’s creative forces, in line with the Steiner belief that children learn through play. Check out their gorgeous wooden toys, natural art and craft materials, magical musical instruments and wooden LikeaBike children’s bikes.
BioBuddi - Build a Better Tomorrow
The world’s first eco-friendly toy blocks for children. BiOBUDDi is committed to make toys that do not harm the environment, are safe and educational. Building blocks made from leftovers of the sugarcane plant. They help to stimulate creativity and imagination and to develop spatial awareness and motor skills. We like the sets - marketplace and circus for example.