As much as I hate to admit it, I parent my 1-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter differently. Not because of their gender but because I am a different person myself now than I was five years ago which makes me a different mother. Specifically, I am more aware of our health so I am more aware of the choices I make for myself and them. For example, 5-6 years ago, drinking organic milk wasn’t a priority to me. Not because I didn’t believe in it, but because I simply wasn’t aware of the impact that synthetic hormones and antibiotics (among other things) make on health.
This awareness is apparent in other choices I make for us. I read labels on the skin care products I use for us. For example, my son’s baby shampoo is a 0 on Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database meaning it scores low for health hazards. When we painted our kids’ rooms, we made sure we used low/no VOC paint. My daughter’s mattress is made of natural materials like cotton, wool and coconut fibers. My son has a fluffy butt thanks to cloth diapers and unbleached Seventh Generation diapers. And five years ago, we replaced our conventional (read: toxic) cleaning products with safer ones and are even phasing those out and replacing them with baking soda, vinegar, etc. I even stopped burning the (synthetic) scented Yankee Candlzes that I used to be obsessed with.
But the area that I continue to struggle with is with toys. As much as I would love to surround my children with nothing but organic cotton, wool and unpainted wood toys, it’s not always practical. For better or worse, my son has inherited his sister’s old toys, most of which are of the shiny plastic made in China variety. The practical, thrifty side of me enjoys being able to reuse them, and the nostalgic side of me relishes seeing my son play with the same toys his sister loved. But, over time as my son gnaws on a plastic Little People figure, I cringe. We DO have toys made of natural materials like HABA’s wonderful Discovery Blocks or IKEA’s cloth barn and animals or Little Alouette’s sweet wooden teethers, but the plastic far outweighs the natural in the toy bin.
I KNOW what’s better for them, but toys made of natural materials cost more, are harder to find and not easy to identify. For us, it’s a priority – so when we buy new toys, we buy safer ones, but when my kids receive gifts from others, they tend to be the shiny plastic kind. For example, even though we had a suggested wish list on Amazon for my son’s first birthday, of the gifts he received, guess how many were plastic? Even my mother who knew that we had this list gave him plastic toys.
Another challenge is with my daughter’s preferences. Though she no longer gives every toy the “taste test,” but she does bite her nails so any harmful chemicals on her hands can still end up in her mouth. While she enjoys crafts, coloring and dolls, her 5-year-old preferences tend towards the flashy side. We try to steer her towards books and safer crafts, but she covets the junk she sees advertised between episodes of Max & Ruby, Dora and the abominable Fresh Beat Band. And I have yet to see licensed toys made with natural materials. I suppose as long as make sure the products that definitely end up in her mouth (like lip balm and nail polish) are truly non-toxic and avoid junky jewelry, I’m doing as best as I realistically can.
In a perfect world, I would replace everything, but the best I can do is to make safer choices going forward.
What is your healthy toy buying philosophy?