What’s with all the plastic toys?

A Thinga-reader correctly observed today that there’s plenty of plastic in the Thingamababy toy gift guides (linked below). I thought I’d pull this out for separate discussion.

While I’d love to own only wood and fabric toys, the reality is they often cost a fortune to buy even if they don’t cost a fortune to manufacture. That’s why I say it’s not a “posh” guide like is found on most blogs.

As pundits debate whether America is headed for a recession or a depression, the cost of toys remains a big issue, whether we’re feeling it yet or not. That’s why I refer to my guides as a “reality” list because when I read posh gift suggestions, I wonder what planet of unlimited wealth the bloggers live upon.

My guides are also only filled with practical toys, categories of toys so plain that you probably already own something like each one and so ordinary I don’t normally bother reviewing them. If you already have a lot of these toys, you’re doing okay and I’d be tickled if you buy almost no toys for the holidays. Find a good cardboard box, and splurge on a posh toy or two.

Perhaps that’s why I often write about non-plastic toys… they’re not bread and butter basics, but things I’ll spend more cash on because I have an special attachment or interest in them, such as my ongoing conversion from plastic to wooden and fabric kitchen food.

Sometimes plastic is the only option. You couldn’t, for example, make a spin top, like the one in our guide, out of metal. Real metal ones spin the outside of the toy. This one spins the inside through a clear (not glass!) plastic viewing window, making it safer at a younger age when, frankly, it’s enjoyed more. An older kid isn’t entertained by a metal spinner for long.

Meanwhile, something like the Shape-O shape sorter doesn’t have BPA, but if it did, my personal concern would be lower because it’s not a pacifier, sippy or something else designed for mouth use. Also, falling hazards are a concern, and a wooden box is worse than a plastic ball.

And my concern for phthalates is focused on bendable plastics, like, say, a plastic shower curtain (that when it ages sends bad stuff into the air) or anything intended for the mouth. I’ve always been puzzled why parents focus on BPA-free and phthalate-free “good plastic” sippies and eating utensils when they could just buy glass and stainless steel that will last and be used for decades.

Heck, even when parents buy glass baby bottles, they flock to silicone wrappers that, in my second time around using glass bottles, I’ve come to believe are entirely unnecessary.

I tend to think, maybe incorrectly (?), that I’m a middle-of-the-roader when it comes to handling child safety. I haven’t entirely banished plastic, but I don’t particularly like it either.

I’m glad to have opened this gift guide to your suggestions. If you know of a comparable product that is as good, or better, than my suggestion that is in a similar or slightly higher price range (wood, plastic, glass, metal or whatever), post a comment and maybe it will be added to the gift guide. If not, it’ll still be a comment on the gift guide for parents to consider.

Here are the gift guides again:


7 Responses to “What’s with all the plastic toys?”

  1. Alicia says:

    I personally second your take on plastic! We actually have to live in the real world, so I’m also getting worn out with the hundreds of “posh” gift guides out there. I believe there it’s possible to have a good balance between going green, choosing safe toys and keeping the cost reasonable.

    As you pointed out, there are plenty of safer options in plastic toys, and many are made from recyclable plastic. I’ve learned the hard way that just because a toy is made from wood – doesn’t mean it’s non-toxic. The recent Melissa and Doug recalls took me and my kids by surprise.

    I enjoy your blog – keep up the great work!

    November 28th, 2008 at 11:34 am

  2. Jen says:

    My husband saw a wooden bike the other day being steered by a little girl of about 2. I did some searching and found the manufacturer – and the little wooden bikes retail for $300+. Not cool for something our son would grow out of in a mere few months. For me, its not necessarily about the material – its about the longevity. I’ll cave and buy plastic (as much as I hate the idea) if I know that its durable and well made, and ideally, made in Canada (since I am a Canuck). For example, Discovery Toys has a lifetime guarantee on all their toys. If I can find a comparable toy made from wood/metal/cloth, I’d rather buy it. But my beef is with cheaply made toys rather than toys made from the evil plastic. A crappy made wooden puzzle can be just as dangerous (think choking hazard or splinters or lead or whatever) than a cheaply made plastic toy. So as long as the toy is designed to have a long life, and even better -grow with our child, I’d rather go that route. Your take on plastic is well thought out. Kudos.

    November 28th, 2008 at 12:41 pm

  3. anjii says:

    My thoughts on the subject land right about where yours do… thanks for making a REALISTIC gift guide, rather than cowtowing to the extremists, and expecting us to spend impossible amounts of money.

    November 28th, 2008 at 3:00 pm

  4. amy says:

    I completely agree with Jen about the longevity of toys. Part of going green is reducing waste. It’s counterproductive to spending lots of money for wooden toys that quickly turn into trash.

    November 29th, 2008 at 5:53 am

  5. Tiffany says:

    I agree, and your list of toy suggestions is great. Not only do we have a bunch of them, but we’ve gotten some good ideas as well. Thanks for the “reality” as well as ideas for toys that really are better.

    November 29th, 2008 at 1:04 pm

  6. Lara says:

    I too agree with your approach to plastics. No one material is write for all sittuations and I think the problem is the over abundant use of plastic rather then its existance. For instance lego and duplo are stable well made toys which encorage immagination which will last for generations, the same with playmobil and ther reputable brands like littletikes. I don’t think if monney was no object I would allways buy wood and fabric and mettle etc as I think the life of a toy is determined a lot more by its design, does it allow immaginary play, is it fairly open ended, has attention to detail gone into its manufacture, rather then what material the toy is made of. For instance a lot of wooden farm animals seem to be flat carved animals whereas the plastic animals look more realistic.

    November 29th, 2008 at 7:51 pm

  7. Teacher Jen says:

    Great comments from everyone! Reducing waste, going green- YES!

    Here’s another thought to ponder…

    Remember that we, as parents and consumers, have a political responsibility when choosing toys and gifts.


    December 2nd, 2008 at 11:32 am