Is it me or do kids seem to outgrow their toys faster than they do their diapers? There’s always some new “must-have” that outdates last month’s “must-have” and it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the latest trends. But we do need to pay attention to what we’re bringing into their lives.
Beyond the crazy cost of this fast-accumulation of clutter, many popular and well-marketed toys actually contain low levels of industrial chemicals. Some of these chemicals have been linked to cancer and a range of developmental, reproductive or neurological issues in both animals and people. Yikes.
Other chemicals used in the manufacture of toys have not yet been tested, so we don’t yet know how safe or unsafe they are. Instead of banning these chemicals and considering them “potentially unsafe”, they are considered “not proven to be unsafe”. The problem is that “not proven to be unsafe” is not the same thing as “proven to be safe”.
And so, here we are writing — and here you are reading — an article about ways to find toys for your kids that aren’t toxic.
In this article
Is there cause for concern?
Some toy manufacturers and experts insist the presence of these chemicals does not mean that children are actually exposed to the toxins, or that there is any cause for concern – and they may be right.
Or they may be wrong. It’s hard to tell, particularly when we’re talking about the chemicals that have not yet been tested.
And while low-level exposure to an individual chemical may not be cause for concern, there is little way to test how the interaction with — and accumulation of — various chemicals may affect a child over time.
This is important, as children tend to play with different toys throughout the day — each with a different mix of chemicals. And they snuggle with other toys while they sleep.
Faced with unknown risks, it’s a smart idea to avoid potential harm whenever possible, especially when it comes to children. The best way parents can ensure a safer playtime is to simply choose toys that do not contain chemicals.
Here are a few easy tips on what to avoid and how to find healthier, non-toxic toys for your kids.
Toys to avoid
- Avoid plastic toys, especially those made from vinyl. Also known as PVC, vinyl leaches phthalates (a toxic plasticizer) onto the skin and into the air we breathe.
- Avoid cheap metal jewelry and trinkets, which may contain lead, cadmium or other heavy metals.
- Avoid cheap play makeup, which is often contaminated with harmful ingredients such as lead and chromium. (Read this article on safer face paints, if your kids love to dress up.)
- Avoid toys, playmats, or children’s products that contain chemical flame-retardants, which are known to contain chemicals of concern.
- Avoid toys made in China and other countries with loose manufacturing regulations.
Choose these safe, non-toxic toys
- Opt for toys made from unfinished wood, natural latex rubber (not synthetic latex), organic cotton, organic wool, or silicone.
- If you do choose plastic toys, check the bottom of the toy for the recycling symbol. Choose plastic toys with a recycling code #1, #2, #4 or #5. These recycling codes indicate a safer type of plastic that leaches fewer chemicals. (Avoid plastic recycling codes #3 and #6.)
- Ensure the paint or dye used on toys is labeled as non-toxic or uses only plant-based colorants.
- Instead of buying tons of lower quality toys, opt for fewer toys of higher quality. To avoid boredom, host toy swapping parties with other concerned parents or make use of your local toy lending library.
- Choose toys made in the US, Canada, UK, Europe, Japan, Australia, or other countries with strict toy regulations.
Go outside and have fun
Of course, play doesn’t have to be all about toys. Sure, it can take some effort to get kids to put down their toys and electronic devices, but it’s worth the effort! Climbing trees, playing tag, and running around is a great way to support a growing body and a healthy imagination.
And even when it comes to indoor playtime, there are plenty of creative activities to consider — especially as kids grow and learn. Try things like coloring, painting, crafting, or even small projects like decorating sock puppets. You’ll have more control over the safety of the materials they use… and they’ll get to create something unique they can feel proud of.