Q: These days, the buzzword on the playground is BPA-free — bottles, sippy cups, bowls, you name it. They all have to NOT have this one element to pass most of my mom friends’ seal of approval. But what about toys? Is there such a thing as eco-friendly toys? Certainly not all the noisy, battery-operated ones cramming the shelves of my local toy store, right? Those are ALL plastic, but are they BPA-free, too? My baby seems to put his toys in his mouth almost as much as he does his bottle. Which toys are the best for him?
A: That is an excellent question. Gone are the days of sturdy toys from your grandma that she used to play with when she was your age. Nowadays, most toys on the shelves of retail stores are plastic, and I would challenge you to find more than a handful that are actually good quality plastic at that. It seems my son’s toys are breaking left and right. It could be all that banging he does, or it could be they’re just crappy toys (then again, now that I think about it … it could be the milk he poured in his red race car’s engine … ).
That being said, the first thing you need to do before buying new toys for your child is to make sure that the toy you’re buying hasn’t been recalled by the Consumer Products Safety Commission for any safety or health hazard. You’d be surprised at how many toys are still manufactured with lead-based paint, which was banned back in 1978. Not only that, but there are many toys that can create potential choking or falling hazards, so it’s a good idea to check here first.
So what about BPA in toys? Though major retailers started phasing out BPA-containing bottles and other baby products from their shelves in 2008, many toys still do contain BPA. Another chemical that could be potentially harmful is PVC, which is often used in bath toys to give them their flexibility. You can find a list of some safe bath toys here.
A good alternative is to buy toys made out of wood instead of plastic. Not only are these toys better for your kids, they’ll last decades longer than their plastic counterparts. Toys made by Melissa and Doug, for example, are built to last and have already been enjoyed by six kids in my family so far (cousins, people, not my own). I’m happy to say that the wood block set my son inherited still looks brand-new, and I can rest easy knowing that the paint used on each block is nontoxic. Of course, you can always go with totally natural wooden toys, at sites like ChildTrek and Planet Happy Kids. Here you can also find toys that are organic, natural and often made from recycled products.
Though there are definitely things to take note of and be concerned about when it comes to your child’s toys, it’s important not to make yourself crazy or break the bank with all the natural options out there. After all, there are likely many eco-friendly options right in your own home. How about giving Jr. a few pots, a wooden spoon and letting him go crazy with ‘em? Though it may make just as much noise as those battery-operated toys, it costs a lot less and fosters a whole lot more creativity.
Photo: ChildTrek; MNN homepage photo: mammamaart/iStockphoto