Navigating through our standard list of no-no’s this time of year seems to all go out the window when we are trying to find that perfect gift at Christmas. As green minded parents we know that plastic is always a bad option for toys. But when I found myself in Toys R Us after not being there for probably a year, I was completely overwhelmed and fascinated with the obvious love the big box stores have for plastic. And why not? The perfect details on the faces of toys, the cheap prices, and the packaging that will make a child scream with excitement! However, there is a big downside to these plastic options and it’s simply ‘health’. Now I’ve got you thinking the health of who? The planet or our children?
There are many toys that even very environmentally minded parents will make exceptions; especially those that include building, constructing, and creating. Lego and Playmobil have long been favorites for one of my sons and I don’t mind when he asks for a special set at Christmas. The imagination and hours of play are a great pay off and these products are hardly cheap. They are also not made from vinyl. Now here is where vinyl gets interesting – all plastic dolls are. And these dolls will be the focus of this article. They are probably one of the hottest toys at Christmas because when you don’t know what else to buy a little girl – you can always guess ‘doll’ because you know the shrieks of delight will be heard when a doll is opened. It’s immediate gratification, where they grab the doll, release their mothering instincts, and pour their love into this little being. It’s a tough thing to not buy into. I was even curiously drawn to the new Disney Brave dolls that lined the shelves at Toys R Us – the plastic replicas look so much like the fiery tempered character that is a different role model from the usual princess role (shooting arrows, being physically and mentally strong, and brave) which we all love. But my long standing struggle with how all the huge toy makers like Mattel, Disney, etc. produce dolls is always disappointing and I believe, a health issue.
I started really thinking about dolls a month ago when I watched two girls during my son’s hockey game looking with pure love at their American Girls dolls. I had never seen these dolls up close before but heard lots from my nieces when they went through the phase a couple of years ago. They seem to be the perfect solution to keep older girls (Grade 2 and up) playing in the wonderful world of imagination and dolls. Apparently visiting an American Girl store in the US is quite the experience – you can even get the doll and your daughter’s ears pierced at the same time! I asked the group of girls playing with these dolls to tell me about the dolls and they were so excited – the popularity for American Girls hasn’t gone away and I live in Canada! I like to prepare myself for when my own daughters see a toy like this – so I started researching immediately. I know the dolls are over $100 so I assumed the materials used to make the dolls are something other than vinyl. I was wrong – the plastic arms, legs and face of these dolls are vinyl plastic. Plus, do you want to guess where the American Girls are made? China. Why the hell are they made in China – they are American Girls! And the Canadian version of these dolls Maplelea Dolls are also vinyl made in China and the ethnic option Karito Girls are also vinyl and made in China – which for Karito Girls might make sense since they represent the world collection. So I immediately asked my friends if anyone had an American Girl doll that I could see. I was trying to find out if the vinyl that they are made from is actually PVC. I checked the doll to see if there was a material listed on the plastic and no luck. I also took a deep smell of the plastic and it didn’t smell like 100% PVC normally does but since the company states they are made from vinyl – I would guess a mixed variety of plastics have been used. After all we are taught that vinyl almost always means PVC. I asked my friend Alicia from The Soft Landing for some input on this subject – it’s something she’s written about and her article ‘When Is Vinyl Not PVC‘ is awesome! She also let me use this quote regarding vinyl and dolls:
“Vinyl is PVC 99% of the time, and so far we haven’t found a single plastic baby doll made from PVC-free materials.”
After I read this quote from Alicia I found it so much easier to wrap my head around the fact that all, yes all dolls until proven otherwise, made from plastic are PVC. When we are buying to hear the shriek it’s selfish. I know if I picked up that Brave plastic doll for my daughters it would be played with and happily received but I’d rather give them one of the older doll designs from my friend Kellie at The Rice Babies. She’s combined a funky design with high fashion boots, funky hair accessories, and I even saw tattoos when I visited her beautiful display at a craft fair a few weeks ago. There are options out there. I would have to say Christina from Bamboletta is my doll hero and after seeing Bamboletta dolls for so many years you simply can’t compare the quality and care that go into her creations. Read the story of Bamboletta here. Of course the fact that she hasn’t strayed from her first mission of keeping these dolls made with the safest of materials, by a group of sewing mamas, local to her community keeps her totally unique. And her magical dolls are truly unique in the world of Waldorf doll making. You might initially scream they are expensive but I say they are the safest toy on earth. No worries of off gassing, no worries that it will fall apart, no worries of asking questions to the manufacturer that can’t be answered. I say don’t buy the 10 plastic dolls you probably will before your daughter turns 2 years old and invest in a doll that’s been handmade with cloth, wool, and cotton. Don’t give them all the plastic, commercialized options – only 1 or 2 dolls to love and appreciate with a story that is unique.
The first dolls my girls received were from me. I was so excited to purchase Corelle dolls but with my current awareness of plastic, I would lump these high-end dolls into the same vinyl category as the rest. Made from vinyl and what makes Corelle dolls even worse in my opinion is the fact they release scent when squeezed. Yes, we probably even pay extra for it. But will the company respond to questions asked about if the perfume being released is synthetic or not? Of course not. And to me – unless you prove and market to me that your doll is something other than made from the cheapest form of plastic that starts polluting with carcinogenic dioxin from the moment it’s first made – then I won’t even entertain the thought that you’re different.
But do you want to see something different? Check out Bamboletta’s magic. And just in case you think Christina forgot to add the hair to the dollies in the front – this upload of dolls was on it’s way to Ronald MacDonald House in Vancouver – the dolls in the front have lost their hair after going through chemo so you can guess who the recipients are for these bald dolls. All of the dolls in the photo below have been donated from this generous company that just keeps on giving back to the community. All the time. When you follow their updates on Facebook you feel like the world truly contains people with good hearts, doing good things with their talent. The team at Bamboletta is special and there is a good reason why it takes so long to actually purchase these dolls. If you are wanting to purchase a Bamboletta doll just remember that all magical things in life are worth waiting for but might take a little hard work – these are no exception.
And here is a photo I snapped from a recent table from The Rice Babies doll selections; hip, handmade, and perfect for the older crowd. Way to go Kellie – I’ll be proud to say “I knew her when..”