6 Alternatives to Plastic Toys

When parents take a look around their children’s rooms, they’re in for a sobering sight.

How many plastic toys are on the shelves, in the toy chest, and littered around the rest of the house? Too many.

The majority of toys these days are plastic. Look in the aisles of any toy shop, and it’s obvious to see how few toys aren’t made from plastic. Plastic toys are cheaper and easier to produce.

Plastic molding machines can churn out thousands of dolls a day. Making dolls using other resources takes time and craftsmanship.

There isn’t time or money for such things for companies that focus on mass-production. In a world where profit is everything, plastic is king.

When plastic first made its way into people’s homes, it was marketed as, ‘plastic is fantastic’. As it turns out, plastic isn’t quite all we thought it would be. As convenient as it is, plastic is dangerous.

There is a laundry list of harmful chemicals and ingredients in many of the plastic objects around the house, including toys.

And here’s another secret about plastic few people know: it releases these hazardous substances every time it’s handled.

They seep out of the plastic and into whatever they touch. That’s enough to give a parent pause for thought the next time they want to hand a teething baby a plastic teether.

Plastic products contain BPA, phthalates, and PVC. These chemicals have a direct link with rising incidences of asthma, allergies, and cancer.

Delayed achievement of developmental milestones including language acquisition and other learning and behavioral challenges, has become more common.

There is evidence to suggest that the chemicals in plastic are the culprits. Overexposure to plastic from an early age can also result in reproductive issues later in life.

These include congenital disabilities and fertility problems. The fact remains that children need to play. Play is an integral part of a young child’s development.

It’s vital for gross and fine motor skills, challenging a child’s intellect, and socialization.

Toys are an essential part of play activities. However, too many toys can hamper a child’s ability to learn decision-making skills.

Experts argue that when it comes to toys, quality should come before quantity. Before buying a toy, two questions need to be answered:

  • Will the toy play a significant role in some aspect of the child’s development?
  • Does the toy pose a potential health hazard to the child?

Looking at the ingredients in the plastic toys that children are surrounded by, the answer to the second question is yes. Plastic toys aren’t suitable for children.

But, given that the stores seem to stock more plastic toys than any other, what are the non-plastic alternatives?

1. Wooden toys

When people think of wooden toys, they tend to stop at blocks. While wooden blocks are a timeless favorite, wood is far more versatile than that.

The texture of the wood is also advantageous for little hands that are exploring the world around them.

A lot of toys that one would assume could only be made from plastic can also be made from wood. Dollhouses and cribs would be an excellent place to start.

Toy cars and train sets have been making a comeback. Many toys for simulation games like shopping can be manufactured from wood.

Wooden toys are resilient and do not break easily. However, it is a good idea to check them regularly so that they do not give off splinters. With a little sanding, chipped toys are rendered safe again.

Always check that the paint on wooden toys is non-toxic. Older wooden toys might be coated with paint that contains harmful chemicals as they were made before the implementation of current safety regulations.

2. Metal toys

Children are exposed to plastic on outdoor play equipment. While a lot of it is manufactured from wood, plastic is also frequently used.

Plastic slides were regarded as being safer than metal ones. Given the harmful toxins in plastic, people are rethinking that idea.

Metal needs to be cared for well, especially when it is being exposed to the elements. It should be painted with rust-resistant, non-toxic paint.

However, frequent checking is necessary to make sure the metal is not damaged and poses no risk of injury.

As indoor toys, stainless steel play shopping carts are healthier than plastic ones. Metal tea sets, bake sets, and cars are also favorite toys. Many model building kits like Meccano are made of metal components.

Metal makes eco-friendly toys because it is easily repurposed. It has an additional developmental advantage for children. The difference in weight between metal and other substances teaches children to distinguish between a variety of materials cognitively.

Exposure to different materials from an early age gives a child a jumpstart as different tactile experiences help with brain development.

3. Fabric toys

Stuffed animals are a firm favorite among children. They are a great source of comfort and perfect for imaginative play. So are puppets and dolls.

These toys are generally made from fabric. But parents shouldn’t rest on their laurels and assume these toys are safe.

Many fabrics and stuffing contain microplastics. Man-made materials like nylon and polar fleece are full of microscopic plastic particles.

Microplastics come off the fabric every time it is handled, posing a health hazard for children. Lots of little ones can’t fall asleep without their favorite teddy bear.

However, there’s every chance it’s shedding microplastics that the child is inhaling.

Some companies make fabric toys from 100% organic cotton and wool. These toys are safe as they don’t contain any plastic.

Fabric toys like these are ideal for little hands that are exploring the world around them.

A lot of sustainable fabric toys are handmade and provide employment opportunities for needy people.

In San Jose, California, Under the Nile sells fabric toys made from organic Egyptian cotton. Products are manufactured in Egypt with an emphasis on sustainable farming, economic growth, and social upliftment.

4. Recycled plastics

There’s a whole new industry that is making a difference to the environment by manufacturing toys from recycled plastic. Conventional recycled plastic contains the same harmful toxins as virgin plastic.

The exception is milk jugs as they do not contain BPA, phthalates, or PVC. Companies like Green Toys are pioneers in the market. The company has recycled nearly 75-million milk jugs since it began operations in 2007.

They make toy cooking and gardening accessories. The range includes many vehicles including dump trucks, cars, emergency vehicles, aircraft, boats, and even a submarine.

Green Toys sells playsets that include a fire station, farm, and house. The best part about recycled plastic toys is that they can reenter a recycling program when they are no longer needed.

Repurposing these plastics keeps them out of the garbage cycle where they are harmful to the environment because they aren’t biodegradable.

It also seems that there are no limits on what toys can be made from recycled plastic. The colors used for the toys are non-toxic and completely safe for children to use at play.

5. Rubber toys

A lot of parents don’t realize that a rubber ducky isn’t made from rubber anymore. Most bath toys are plastic. They seep toxins into a child’s bathwater.

These harmful substances enter the child’s body through the body’s biggest organ: the skin. There is a high demand in the toy industry for substances that are soft and flexible.

Plastic has dominated the supply until now. Recently, there’s been a resurgence of interest in the use of natural rubber to make toys.

Parents are specifically interested in rubber baby toys. They don’t want to give their children plastic toys as babies and toddlers are inclined to put them in their mouths.

This practice allows for harmful chemicals to enter their bodies. Several companies have started producing rubber teethers and bath toys. Their rubber is 100% organic and chemical-free.

These organizations focus on ensuring that the rubber they use is sustainably grown and harvested which makes it eco-friendly.

One reason that parents favor rubber toys is that they have different textures. Rubber toys can achieve the same effect.

6. Cardboard and paper toys

An essential aspect of play activity is stimulating a child’s imagination. When children have everything presented to them, there is no need for them to put their imaginations to work.

This is where play with improvised cardboard toys comes into the equation. The notion of toddlers being more enamored of the box a toy came in than the toy itself is accurate. It’s their way of showing that they want to engage in imaginative play.

A large cardboard box can become anything from a car to a spaceship with a little creativity. When it’s no longer in use, it’s easy to recycle.

Instead of a plastic shape sorter, parents can make one from cardboard. Paint the shapes of different colors so that the child is learning shapes and colors at the same time.

Paper dress-up dolls make for great gifts and give children hours of fun. Parents can also look out for cardboard press-out toys that create playsets like a fire station.

They take a while to construct but are healthier than their plastic counterparts.

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