Cutting Down on Plastic Toys, Gizmos, and Doodads

I have to admit that my first concern with plastic is not toxins and off-gassing and all the possible health risks I mentioned here.  Of course I’m not happy that some plastics are bad for us, but I’d been avoiding them long before I ever heard the terms “phthalate” or “BPA.”  Plastic takes hundreds and hundreds of years to break down in a landfill.  Why buy a child a toy he’ll enjoy for three months, only to have it last for all eternity?  Sure, we can pass the toys on to other children, but after a while, plastic tends to look grubby.  Because it’s cheap, it’s often uncared for.

Heirloom wooden kitchen

A wooden kitchen from Heirloom Wooden Toys

Hand-crafted, heirloom toys made out of sustainable woods, on the other hand, are beautiful.  These are the toys parents keep in a box to pass on to the grandchildren one day.  They can also serve as nursery decorations, which is more than we can say about a blinking plastic gizmo that sings the Alphabet song.  All of Audrey’s toys are hand-crafted heirlooms–I wouldn’t let her play with anything else.

Ha!  All right, so Audrey doesn’t have any hand-crafted heirloom toys.  She even has some plastic doodads, including ones that light up and make obnoxious sounds.  What can you do when so many friends and relatives give her these things as gifts?  Unfortunately, Audrey does not share her mother’s disdain for plastic–she loves her plastic toys.  Even so, I’ve devised a few ways to cut down on PVC playthings:

  1. Give specific gift requests.  Friends and relatives are always asking what Audrey wants.  I ask for books, clothes, or specific toys such as wooden puzzles.
  2. Keep plastic toys in rotation.  I can handle only so many blinking “learning tools” at a time.  I keep one or two out and store the others in my basement.
  3. Donate toys to charity.  I have to admit that I have donated a few things before letting my daughter play with them.  At this age, she doesn’t know the difference.  I am not sure what I’ll do when she gets older.
  4. Threaten family members.  We haven’t had to go this far–yet.  One relative, who shall remain anonymous, knows very well that we try to limit plastic toys for Audrey.  However, she persists in buying villages of plastic houses, barns, animals, and dolls.  She even made us promise not to give any of it away.  This is a devious plan, designed to lure Audrey away from her mean parents and into Fun Lady’s plastic-toy-filled house.  On the bright side, she has given us our word that from now on, she’ll stick with biodegradable presents such as books and clothing.heirloom wooden dollhouseheirloom wooden dollhouseheirloom wooden dollhouseheirloom wooden dollhouse

heirloom wooden dollhouse

A wooden dollhouse from Little Wonderland

Recent concerns over toxins have some parents ditching every piece of plastic baby gear in the house.  This presents further problems.  If you give it away, you’re exposing other children to possible health risks.  If you throw it away, you’re piling more trash into a landfill.  My plan is to avoid accumulating more plastic and to pass it on when I’m through with it.  Older plastic does not off-gas as much as aged plastic, so I feel better about donating it than I do tossing it in the trash.  Now I’ve got to work on finding some of those heirloom toys. . . .


  1. Thanks for the fantastic tips and the humor! I thought our readers might really enjoy your advice, especially since we also try to encourage the idea of sustainable toys, so I posted a link to your site and encouraged them to check it out!

    Keep up the great work, your blog is fabulous!

  2. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  3. I have had the same problem with plastic toys accumulating. For my daughter’s birthday and other holidays I have found one big ticket item and asked grandparents to go in together to purchase it. Then I ask other family members to get savings bonds for my daughter’s college fund. For friends who come over for the party and don’t like to arrive empty-handed I request a gently used toy or canned good (in lieu of gifts) to be donated to a local homeless shelter. That usually takes care of it.

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