Child’s Play the Sustainable Way

Today I went to our Toy Library’s sixth birthday party.  They optimistically chose an outdoor venue with a  Hawaiian theme for the day.  Predictably we were not merely ‘given rain’, but rudely had buckets of the stuff chucked at us.  Anyway, two small people kindly donned their wellies and agreed to accompany me to the party so that I could play with glue and blunt scissors, get messy in the sand and belt out, at the top of my voice, ’The Wheels on the Bus’ and other modern hymns in praise of public transport.  We then did some serious puddle stomping.

During the pregnant pause between being childless and becoming a parent for the first time, dewy-eyed we imagine ourselves buying aesthetically pleasing, FSC sourced, hand-painted, non-toxic wooden toys that we can pass on to our grandchildren. We want to buy toys that will give our homes the pleasant randomness of a scene from an Ikea catalogue.   

Ha!  The real mess made by children never has the pleasant randomness of an Ikea catalogue, that is wholly contrived and designed, children just make messy mess.   Even more disappointingly, at some point, what every two year old really wants to do is to squeeze their tiny frame into one of those hideously moulded plastic ‘Little Tikes’ bubble cars and animatedly zoom off like they’re in the wacky races.

It is likely to be one of the sticking points in the upcoming Copenhagen Summit later this year that China will argue (reasonably) that it’s all very well the West telling them to cut CO2 emissions when we outsource all of our production (and therefore our emissions) to China.  We import tonnes of plastic toys every year from China, and it’s a fair bet that once our fickle toddlers have had their ‘wacky races’ moment the hideous plastic will find its useless way into our landfill.   

Far better then to buy only one bubble car and share it with hundreds of other toddlers over a period of years.  Toy Libraries are fantastic, you can borrow toys for a fraction of the sum you would have to pay for a new one, you don’t have to worry about storage, (these bubble cars need garages built for them!) and when the toy’s novelty has worn off you give it back.  The staff will clean it and check it over for faults before passing it on to the next happy recipient.  Toy Libraries often have access to educational toys, or those designed with special needs in mind, that most parents simply couldn’t afford or access elsewhere.  Toy Libraries are a levelling presence in the unequal lives of small people.

To find out more about toy libraries either make enquiries with your local authority or visit The National Association of Toy and Leisure Libraries website.  If you don’t already have a toy library near you they will give you help and support in getting one started. 

You might also be interested in cardboard house: sustainably sourced and compostable play houses for children and childrens wooden toys made from sustainable rubber wood. 

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3 comments to Child’s Play the Sustainable Way

  • I love the idea of a toy library – as you say the amount of plastic that goes into kids toys is horrific, but who wants their kid to miss out on the fun? This looks like win win all the way to me :)

  • Hi Goo
    Excellent post. Toy libraries are very cool. UK emits <2% of global CO2 directly, China claims around 25% of it’s emissions are to produce goods for the West. With this, our fudging over the aviation industry and the US domsetic politics affecting what they can agree to, I am very cynical about anything concrete coming out of Copenhagen, Our governments are too concerned with “the national interest” rather than the bigger picture.
    Sorry for the rant, but it really bites.

  • goo

    Rants perfectly ok with me!

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