All I want for Christmas is...safe toys.
If you're a parent, you most likely know about the crazy-making number of children's product recalls that have happened in the last couple of months. Seems like every time you turn around, there's another toy being pulled from the market because it has dangerous lead levels or even date-rape drugs in it. There's also bisphenol-A and phthalates to worry about. It's enough to make a parent want to swear off toys completely.
The reality is, even if we were to stop buying things for our children, they would still get plenty of scary chemicals in the air they breathe, food they eat, and the water they drink, so I think the first step is to take action to stop or reduce harmful pollution. (Check out Sandra Steingraber's great list of resources here.)
Barring that ENORMOUS first step...what are we supposed to do in the meantime? Specifically, as Christmas gets closer, how are we supposed to balance our need to protect our child with our wish to entertain him, to make him happy, to help him grow, and to let other people give him gifts?
Good question. The best answer I can come up with is to ask you not to buy a bunch of plastic-y commercial goodies this year. Books are always appreciated, and among the least toxic. CDs are great too. Or musical instruments.
The League of Maternal Justice has helpful hints, including looking for products with some of these distinctions: nontoxic, fair trade, sustainable material, vegetable-based, natural, organic, water-soluble dyes and paints. From my own reading, it seems that European-made products are pretty highly regulated and likely to have safer paints and dyes.
But maybe we should simply remember that the best toys are rarely the ones that need AAA batteries, and simply not worry so much about providing kids with so many toys.
I think, somehow, that they'll make do.
(P.S. I got the idea from this post from the League of Maternal Justice mentioned above, which also said I should link to The Parent Bloggers Network and the Consumers Union. That might be a good place to start your search for safe toys. You can go check out what other people think of this topic there also, if you so choose.)
(N.B. And if you are still worried about what Santa should bring James this year...have no fear. Tomorrow I will post our Christmas 2007 list of goodies that I think are awesome and might even be safe! Just in case. But feel free just to send more boxes. Or come visit!)