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Babies love to put things in their mouths; it’s one of the ways that babies learn about their surroundings. These activities teach them about taste, texture, sound, and shape among many others. Exploring in this way is important for their development, so it is no wonder that the toy industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise! Just visit any childcare center or my home and you’ll see why! Parents gives their babies and older children toys to help them grow mentally, foster creativity, and of course, to be entertained by them. For me, I like to buy my children toys of interest to them and foster their individuality and interests. I also happen to be a garage sale, thrift shop, I can use that toy person! Bad, I know.
We all know, there’s a great variety of toys available on the market you will inevitably have to choose which ones to give your baby and a growing number of parents are choosing to go the all natural route. They are selecting toys made from natural and possibly organic sources, such as wood, bamboo, cotton, and wool. Most of the all natural toys aren’t found in your big box stores. Some are beginning to offer a few selections here and there but they are few and far between, in my shopping experience anyhow.
Why are parents trying to go less conventional and more natural? This is in large part because many conventional toys are made of plastic and it is becoming increasingly well known that certain plastics can be unsafe. Just visit my BPA post here and here for more information on plastics. According to CHECnet.org “phthalates are added to PVC (polyvinyl chloride) to make it soft and flexible. Some phthalates have been linked to cancer, kidney and liver damage, harm to developing reproductive organs, and premature breast development in baby girls. Inhaling these chemicals can also worsen asthma in children.” PVC itself is also dangerous. The manufacturing and disposal of this substance creates dioxins, one of the most toxic man-made substances known. Okay, yikes. That is scary stuff! Having an asthmatic daughter, makes me very concerned. For safe teething toys and other BPA free products I suggest The Soft Landing.
Cloth toys can also be potentially hazardous if the cotton they are made with has been grown with pesticides and artificial fertilizers. Nearly half of the most commonly used pesticides used to grow cotton have been labeled “probable” carcinogens by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Due the small size and vulnerability of babies and small children and their propensity to “mouth” or cuddle everything it is best not to expose them to harsh chemicals that could pose a serious health risk. Natural baby toys are the better alternative, when possible. They might be more expensive but does your child need a million toys? My son says yes but in reality he doesn’t play with half the toys he has. Luckily, our family has inherited used toys from six older cousins!
What are some options for safer more natural toys? Wooden or bamboo toys are natural materials and they are much more durable than their plastic counterparts, creating less waste and less need to constantly replace broken toys. Wood can be harvested from sustainable forests and bamboo is a grass that grows to maturity in only four years, so both options are better for the planet too. Look for toys that have been painted with natural, plant-based dyes. Also, since quality wooden toys cost more than plastic in most cases, you can try and save money by picking them up second hand at thrift stores and yard sales.
Organic cloth toys and dolls are chemical free and if you can sew or knit then you can even make some of these yourself. I’m not in the sewing or knitting department but if you are, more power to you! There are many patterns available online for cloth dolls and doll clothes as well as faux food for little play kitchens that you can knit yourself. Just pick up some organic cotton or organic wool and you can create a family heirloom that is sure to entertain. And of course the best part is that they will be natural and safe. Feel free to help me out by sending some my way!
Here are a few of my top picks for safe natural baby toys but I also invite you to visit Kangaroo Boo:
Photo: Morgues File