Children are mass consumers – they have so much ‘stuff’. Over a childhood full of play, they are likely to receive so many presents, go through crazes and just enjoy owning things.
So, can toys be green? How do we ensure that we look after the environment whilst at the same time allowing children to enjoy their play and have fun?
This blog is all about making the difference – thinking about how they can be involved as well.
At Whirligig Toys, we’ve done all the basics. We reuse our suppliers packaging, recycle where we can and really try to avoid toys that children are going to take out of the box and then throw away shortly after.
So what next – how do we ensure that what we buy for children is not a waste of the world’s resources?
When we are selecting the products to go into our range, here is what we are thinking about…
A key question we like to ask is how many times a child is going to play with a toy that they receive.
If it is a game, can you work through different levels and change the rules as they get more difficult? Can you make up your own versions? Can you play in lots of different ways? It is easy to grow tired of a game and look for a new one, but it they are great fun and everyone enjoys them, they are likely to be kept and passed on to new players.
An experience to build on…
Many of our toys are focused on ‘things to make and do’ – getting children to learn a new skill, try something out and make something that they can be proud of and hopefully display proudly at home.
If they have received a kit that has really fired their imagination and they want to then go on and try more challenging processes, they can then seek out the materials build a new hobby. It is lovely when they are successful and want to try to progress a new passion.
Introducing different materials
Many people work on the principle that with toys, wood is good, and plastic is bad – not always the case in our experience (see the Play Value section above!) However, toys do not need to be made of plastic!
Constructing projects made from wood, paper, fabric and other materials brings a whole different dimension to the process – it can splinter, rip or pucker – all things that your normal plastic brick will never do. Children have to learn to handle these materials in a different way – and of course, they are much easier to recycle when the children have finished with them.
Introducing new technologies
The world may seem to exist on a screen, but it doesn’t have to!
Solar power, wind power, hydraulic power and many more – there are children’s building kits that involve all these technologies. Let them experience them first hand rather than learning that they can be used. These kits will give them an insight into the alternative ways we can choose and get them thinking about what else they can be used for.
Focus on nature and the environment
Whirligig is proud to feature many products that are focused on the animals who live with us on the planet – such a wonderful diversity of creatures with wild and wonderful beasts right on our doorstep and further afield.
We love products that gives children an insight into the animal kingdom and hope that this will give them more information about the world around them, using play to introduce concepts of providing a sustainable environment for everything to live in. The good news is that children still seem to love animals – we are pleased to agree with them!
Avoid the empty box syndrome
There are many toys out there that come in big flashy boxes and when you open them, there is little inside. We’ve all seen them. The science kits seem to the be the world culprets – no longer can you buy science kits that make small explosions like we had when we were young! Now many of them include a few work cards, a pair of cheap plastic goggles and a few ideas to do in the kitchen.
An empty box is a way of transporting air around the world on container ships, with outer packaging used to contain it. The end product is children who are underwhelmed and slightly disappointed. What a waste!
Children are not stupid – they know when they have been given a product that is poorly made and will fall apart quickly and are usually disappointed by this. The direct approach is important, as long as we don’t forget that play needs to sit alongside. They need to be concerned, not feel guilty.
This is one of the books that recently came out on this subject and we think the balance is just right.
So, we hope you can see, it is not quite as simple as just recycling.
The easiest ways for toys to be green is to stop buying children presents – which we are unlikely to recommended – we do sell toys afterall! However, we can be clever when we buy, think about the toys that we and our children are selecting and see what we can do to make a difference.
Here are our top tips:
- Look out for FSC stamps on toys – this means the wood has come from sustainably managed forests and have good credentials
- Involve children in the selection of their toys – get them to think of the toys they love to play with time and again and see if they can more like them
- Bend and break the rules – just because you have mastered a game, doesn’t mean it is finished with – you can reinvent it
- Look beyond the obvious – there are wonderful toys and games being made that are not advertised on TV and don’t have the latest film franchise associated with them – they will last much longer than the characters do
- Only buy toys that you love yourselves – if you love them, the children are far more likely to enjoy playing with you
We’d love to hear your thoughts as well – let us know if you feel that we should be stocking a toy that you love and we will have a look…