Safe and Eco-Friendly Toys

Children’s toy hazards are all over the news. It seems that there’s a new danger every time we turn around. One way to avoid some of these problems (BPA, mercury, melamine, etc.) is to buy toys from companies committed to greener (and safer) practices. The Washington Post recently ran an article in their Kid’s Post section about some green toy options. I’d like to highlight the information the Post covered, and add a few green toy picks of my own.

The Washington Post article, by Margaret Webb Pressler, mentioned several areas to focus on when choosing toys for kids:

— Look at the box the toy is in. Is it made of recycled or recyclable material? Is it bigger than it needs to be? “There was a time when the big box meant value, and now the big box means waste,” said toy expert Chris Byrne.

— Look at where the toy was made. A lot of energy is used to get a toy all the way from China. When possible, look for toys made in this country.

— When a toy gets broken and needs to be thrown away, see whether all or part of it can go in the recycling bin instead of the trash can. Green Pieces puzzles by TDC Games have wildflower seeds pressed into them, so when you’re done with the puzzle, you can just plant the pieces!

— Instead of using all those AA and AAA batteries to power your remote control cars and then throwing them in the trash when they are used up, consider using rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable batteries are widely available and can be recycled rather than pile up in a landfill.

— If you outgrow a toy and find that you’re not playing with it much anymore, give it to another child who will enjoy it. That’s the best recycling of all.

One brand discussed in this article is Green Toys. Their products are made in the United States from recycled milk jugs. They are BPA, phthalate, and lead free and meet all the toy safety standards. Below are a few of their offerings:
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EcoSaucer Flying Disc: The EcoSaucer is a green spin on the classic Frisbee. Like all Green Toys products, it’s made from 100% recycled milk cartons and contains no phthalates or BPA. Even better, the packaging is completely recyclable.

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Sand Play Set: This set is recommended for ages 3 and above. It includes a bucket, sand mold, shovel and rake.

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Indoor Gardening Kit: This is a great little set. My girls have it and really like it. It comes with dirt discs that expand to fill up the pots. It also includes 3 different varieties of organic seeds. My kids had a great time watching their “garden” grow.

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Recycle Truck and Dump Truck: Trucks, only greener. I’m sure if these trucks actually ran, they’d have really low emissions.

I’m glad to see toys that are not only safe for our children, but made of recycled materials, too. I can’t see any downside to toys like this.inthecountry3
One other toy not referred to in the Washington Post article, but one I think deserves some attention is In the Country Learning Game. I first learned about this game from Jeremiah at ZRecommends. They tried it out with their 4 year old daughter with great results. Follow this ZRecs link to read their review.

I’d love to know if any of you have favorite green toys. If so, please let us know about them in the comments.

Featured Do-Gooder: Healthy Child, Healthy World

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From time to time Smart Green Tips will feature an organization that is a “Do-Gooder”: a group that works to help both people and the environment. The Do-Gooders may be companies, nonprofits, or any organized group that focuses its efforts on making the world a better place.

Healthy Child, Healthy World is a nonprofit devoted to helping protect children from chemical exposure.

Our Mission: We are igniting a movement that inspires parents to protect young children from harmful chemicals.

Not to be missed is their informative and moving video, A Wake-Up Story. It’s only 3 1/2 minutes long and well worth your time.

Their book, Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home was released in paperback; it’s only $10.88 on Amazon. The book covers nearly every aspect of how to make your home and immediate environment safe for your children. The product description from amazon.com provides a good overview:

Inside, you’ll find practical, inexpensive, and easy lifestyle advice for every stage of parenting including:

* Advice on preparing a nontoxic nursery for a new baby
* What every expectant mom needs to do to have a safer pregnancy
* Clarifying which plastics and baby products to avoid and the healthier solutions
* Tips to take to the grocery store, including the most and least pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables and the best healthy kid-approved snacks
* Which beauty care / cosmetic products pose the biggest risk to health
* The best recipes for healthy snacks, low-cost and safe homemade cleaners, and non-toxic art supplies
* How to easily minimize allergens, dust, and lead
* A greener garden, yard, and outdoor spaces
* Tips to keep your pets healthy, and the unwanted pests out naturally
* Renovation ideas, naturally fresher indoor air, and safer sleeping options,
* An 27 page extensive shopper’s guide to most trusted and best products every home needs

Inside is also packed with over 40 featured contributions from renowned doctors, environmental scientists, and public-health experts like Dr. Harvey Karp, Dr Philip Landrigan, and William McDonough, as well as many celebrity parents like Gwyneth Paltrow, Tobey Maguire, Sheryl Crow, Erin Brockovich and Tom Hanks. A special featured contribution from First Lady Michelle Obama on her best ways of coping with her daughter’s asthma.

The Healthy Child, Healthy World website includes loads of information on chemical exposure and what HCHW is doing to help. There is an informative blog with regular updates on topics related to children’s health and environmental toxins. Also on the site, you can download printable pocket guides on topics including baby care; personal care products; sustainability & lifestyle; home, school & office; household & cleaning products; and food & nutrition.

In addition, Healthy Child, Healthy World has partnered with WebMD to create Health eHome, an interactive site that allows you to identify possible health hazards in your home. There is additional information on how to make your home safer and healthier for you and your family.

If you have children, or are concerned about the environmental hazards we’re all exposed to, please visit their siteTheir book has proven to be an invaluable resource to me and would likely be of help to you as well.

 

Healthy Child, Healthy World Book Now in Paperback

healthy-child-bookHealthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home is now available in paperback! Healthy Child, Healthy World is a great organization that fights to make the world a safer place for our children. This terrific guide helps parents make their homes and surroundings as safe as possible for their children. I can’t recommend this book enough. Even better, it’s only $10.88 on Amazon.

Featured Do-Gooder: The Soft Landing

From time to time Smart Family Tips will feature an organization that is a “Do-Gooder”: a group that works to help both people and the environment. The Do-Gooders may be companies, nonprofits, or any organized group that focuses its efforts on making the world a better place.

tslfeedingfamiliessafely125x125The Soft Landing was created by Alicia Voorhies, a “recently retired” RN who began by looking for non-toxic feeding items for her own three children and her nephews. What started as research turned into a great business that provides an array of 100% BPA, PVC and Phthalate-free products from over 45 manufacturers. As the company has grown, the product line and the website have expanded. In addition to the comprehensive line of products for babies and kids, The Soft Landing now carries non-toxic lunch products and water bottles for grown-ups as well as safe gear for pets.

Alicia runs an informative blog that highlights the ongoing research she’s conducting. The blog also provides updates on issues related to chemicals and product safety. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook as well.

I’ve bought several products from The Soft Landing over the years and have been extremely pleased with all of them. We bought The Safe Sippy last year and my girls really like them.

I’d like to point out that I’m not receiving any compensation from The Soft Landing for this post. I genuinely like their products and the effort Alicia puts forth to ensure that each item they sell is truly safe for kids (and grown-ups and pets).

Good, Green, Cheap Fun

I’ve mentioned this here before: often that which is cheaper is also greener. The same principle applies to fun. Spring is on its way and whether the day is sunny or dreary, there’s something fun for you and your family to do that’s both easy on the wallet and easy on the planet.

Movie Night (Recession Style):

Start with a $1 movie rental. Many grocery stores now have kiosks where you can rent newly released dvds for $1/night. If this is not an option where you live, check out the local library for an even better price — free.

Make your own (much healthier) popcorn. If you’ve read about the dangers of microwave popcorn, you know those are chemicals you don’t want to ingest. All you need is a brown paper lunch sack, 1 cup of organic popcorn kernels, and a little olive oil. Combine the popcorn and olive oil in the bag (yes, the bag will get a little greasy), fold the bag over and clamp shut with one or two staples (the metal will NOT cause a crisis in your microwave) and microwave for approximately 2-3 minutes or until there are 3-5 seconds between pops. Be sure to listen for the popping to slow down. You can play around with flavorings by adding salt, Parmesan, or anything else to the bag you like.

Make fruit flavored water to go with the popcorn. Get creative. Add lemons, limes, oranges, or anything that strikes your fancy.

Load the floor with blankets and pillows and pile on for a fun (and cheap) family movie night.

Have a Field Day in Your Very Own Yard

Set up an obstacle course where you (and the kids) have to dodge trees (or sticks, or rocks, or cones — whatever you have). Jump from one spot to another or in and out of rings, if you have them.

Egg run. Make two lines at opposite ends of the yard and try to run from one to the other while balancing an egg on a spoon.

Set up a 3-legged race.

Have a water balloon toss.

See who can jump rope the longest without tripping.

Get creative — make prizes if you like, or reward everyone with popsicles or ice cream when you’re finished.

Family Art Day

Start with paints and paper. Make it a game by having each family member paint (or draw) something that starts with the letter “b.” Keep going with different letters of the alphabet.

Have each family member draw their version of a broad category. For example, draw a dog, or a tree, or a flower.

Ask little kids to paint or draw something and then describe to you what it is. Write their description, along with the date, on their artwork.

Choose one sample of each person’s work to hang in a place of prominence for the next week.

Create a Book.

Cut an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper in half, horizonally. Stack as many sheets together as you want and fold in half vertically. Either staple in the center, or punch two holes along the center line and run string or yarn through the holes to hold the pages together.

Have each person write and illustrate their stories on the pages. Younger children can draw pictures and dictate their stories for you to write in the books.

Create a Gratitude Journal.

Make a book as above, but have each family member write things they are thankful for on the pages. Each person can keep their books and continue to add to them.

Have an Indoor Picnic & Camp-out.

Turn your living room floor into a campground.

Begin by spreading out a tablecloth on the floor and eating dinner picnic-style. Focus on sandwiches and foods that can easily be eaten without utensils.

After dinner, clear away the picnic and set up a tent in the middle of the floor. Load it with sleeping bags and flashlights. Tell camp stories until it’s time to go to sleep.

Start an Indoor Garden.

Paint terracotta pots in various sizes with low-VOC paint in pretty colors, or consider using chalkboard paint so kids can update their designs.

Once the pots are dry, fill with organic potting soil and seeds you’ve pre-selected.

Water and put them in a sunny spot to watch them grow over the coming weeks.

Having fun doesn’t have to require a lot of money or a lot of wasted resources. What does your family do for green, cheap fun? I’d love to read about your ideas in the comments.