Give Greener Toys This Holiday Season

When you give a child a gift of course you want to see their face light up in excitement as they beg to play with it right away. If it can engage their imagination and enrich their mind, all the better. But not all toys are created equal and even some of the most popular, highly sought after toys out there this holiday season can be harmful to children and the environment.

Toys considered “greener” pose no health risk for children (especially the very young ones who put things in their mouths), are made of sustainable materials, and are manufactured in way that produces less environmental waste and pollution. Here's what to look for when shopping for greener, safer toys this holiday season.

Start by taking into consideration the toy's durability. What fun is a toy that only lasts a short time? Plus, parts that break off easily can be dangerous. A multi-faceted toy that can be used in multiple ways (think blocks and simple dolls and cars) is more likely to engage a child's imagination and will last longer than a gadget toy that only performs one function.

Crafts are another great way to get kids using their imagination. Give the little artist in your life a few simple supplies like non-toxic paints and glue, scissors, and recycled paper and watch what masterpieces they create.

Avoid toys made with polyvinyl chloride (i.e., PVC or vinyl). PVC releases toxins into the environment through every step of its life cycle – from manufacturing to disposal. Many PVC toys also contain phthalates, hormone-disruptors with strong links to cancer. Opt for plastic-free toys made of wood, cloth, wool, or paper instead.

Avoid metal kids' jewelry and toys with small metal pieces or magnets. These items are perpetually being recalled due to lead content or paint. Despite all the recalls, a study by the Center for Environmental Health found that many of these products still on shelves are also tainted with lead. Even if lead is not an issue, there are still other toxic metals, such as cadmium, antimony and barium, being used to make imported kids' jewelry.

Toys made of wood, on the other hand, are a great idea. Wood toys last much longer than plastic ones and, so long as they are not treated or painted, are safer for young children to chew on. Toys made of bamboo are a particularly good option because bamboo is a fast-growing renewable resource that requires no pesticides and little water.

Thanks to its excessive use of pesticides, cotton is considered the world's dirtiest crop. Not exactly the what you want your little ones snuggling up with. When selecting fabric toys, like stuffed animals, opt for ones made from organic and naturally-dyed cotton, bamboo, or wool.

It's one thing to say avoid toys made with PVC or painted with lead paint and another to actually try and figure out how those toys on the shelves are made. Toys today do not include an ingredient list on their labels, which can make the shopping process difficult, and worrisome when you consider that about one third of the 1,500 toys tested by the Ecology Center contained medium to high levels of toxic chemicals. Fortunately, the site HealthyStuff.org provides a tremendous resource for conscientious toy shoppers.

HealthyStuff.org is an online database created by the nonprofit The Ecology Center. The site provides consumers toxic chemical information on over 8,300 products, including toys and other children's products. Each product tested is given an overall rating, as well as an individual chemical rating for cadmium, chlorine, lead, arsenic, bromine, mercury and, for some product categories, tin. 

Today even companies like Amazon and Toys R Us have an Eco-Friendly or Green Toy category. By supporting these toy makers we can help increase the demand for safer, greener toys until the day when all toys are green toys.

Happy Holiday Shopping!


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