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Sustainable life: Eco toys

Mia Swainson

My children love toys.

When they were little, they crawled towards them and chewed them. Now they love to build and imagine they’re super heroes with the toys and their friends.

Do we have too many toys in our house? Definitely yes. There’s the toys from each family Christmas, a festival of brightly coloured plastic left after the frenzy of present opening. Then, there’s the pile of birthday gifts from big birthday parties. I feel like I’m constantly re-organising our family toys, just to make space in the living room.

I’m saddened by some of the cheap, plastic toys that break within a week and take the fast track to landfill. They’ve spent more time being made and transported than they have in play time!  Then, there’s the possible impacts of plastic toys on children. Many are made with BPA, Phlatates and PVC that have been linked to health problems, not to mention the environmental impact of their production.

I’m on a journey to choose toys that are good for my children and don’t cost the earth.

Step 1: Choose toys that are durable and multi-age

Good quality little figures, animals or dinosaurs work for our family. We also love Duplo and Lego. Yes, they’re plastic, but they last forever (who hasn’t seen the vintage sets?) and they promote imaginative play as well as fine motor skills in their construction.

Step 2: Choose toys that can be used a variety of ways

Blocks are brilliant – they’re inexpensive and non-branded. Some of the magnetic play sets are also pretty special. In general, the more your child needs to use their mind and body to make a toy work, the more they’re learning. So, those shiny toys in the shopping mall that light up when you press a button aren’t great from a learning point of view.

Step 3: Choose toys that don’t cost the earth

It is possible to buy toys that are certified organic, made from natural, recycled and sustainable materials. You’ll find some of these toys in special, local toy stores like Little Sprout. There’s also a handful of Australian online toy stores that specialise in environmental and ethical toys. Ecotoys is my favourite. There’s also Honey Bee toys and Itty Bitty Greenie.

Step 4: Join your local toy library or share toys with friends

There are two toy libraries in Canberra, there’s Meg’s Toy Box, in Hackett that’s run by volunteers and Noah’s Ark, in Rivett that’s part of a larger commercial operation. Both libraries have toys for ages 0 – 5years and support families to borrow toys for a small weekly or fortnightly hire fee. I also like swapping books and toys with friends. My children love knowing that their ‘new’ toy once belonged to their friend.

Toys are so much fun. I have always loved playing with and alongside my children. Now I’ve got a plan that’ll make sure our home has toys that are loved by the kids, me and our planet.

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Mia Swainson

Mia Swainson is passionate about creating a more sustainable world and believes that everyone can make a difference. Trained as an environmental engineer, Mia has worked in sustainable development with the Australian Government and community sector for more than 15 years. Mia’s work has taken her around the world to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and back to Canberra. She currently tends her kitchen garden, cares for three young boys and is growing her executive coaching consultancy (miaswainson.com.au/wp). More about the Author

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