PVC & Christmas Toys

Sometimes I struggle remembering the old days of running through Toys R Us blindly picking out all of the plastic toys that my kids would love (if only for 2 minutes before they broke) that light up, shoot things, and were made with cheap plastic. I remember the kind of ignorance I once had and it was a very peaceful ignorance.  I had no idea what PVC plastic, phthalates, plasticizers were and I wasn’t haunted while shopping for my kids. I used to have the bulk of my Christmas shopping finished in August every year, getting great deals because my shopping list was dictated by sales, rather than any sort of eco conscience.

Well, two years later, things have really changed around here with shopping, planning, and budgeting for Christmas. Rather than rushing out to buy toys when they go on sale, I Google toys first to find out where they are manufactured and what materials they are made from. It actually makes impulse buying impossible. I was very excited to start shopping for my girls this year since they are so creative and imaginative at 3 years old. They also have a deep love for Ariel the mermaid, a Disney character, so having an Ariel doll, Prince Eric doll, and the rest of the characters under the tree for my girls was pretty high on their list. Only deep down I know that all of the ‘Disney Princess’ and ‘ Barbie’ type dolls and their accessories are plastic and made with PVC.  I could totally make an exception if they were just made from plastic and not PVC, but I truly don’t believe Mattel or Disney statements about what they use to make their plastic dolls. I also put this question out to The Safe Mama and The Safe Landing and they confirmed my fears.  So for weeks now I’ve been trying to rationalize my fear of having my daughters cuddle brand new PVC dolls and thinking that Santa is the best thing ever or trying to find a Waldorf type looking doll that is made from cloth and filled with safe stuffing and removing the commercialism from Christmas. It may sound silly, but these types of decisions haunt me. I think all parents just love finding that perfect toy that their children will shriek with pure joy when they unwrap Christmas morning.

I am trying to stick to a big goal this Christmas with plastic toys ~ unless it’s been purchased 2nd hand or from a thrift store, it will not be going under the tree. Wish me luck.  Right now, my frustration with the Barbie/Disney type dolls is not their body shape being distorted, but the material in which the doll is made from is toxic. Frustrating still that the only mermaid toys I could find for tubby time for my girls were Barbie mermaids.  And please know, as I do now, that the bendy tail on her mermaid body is filled with phthalates to get it bendy, and the rest of her is created with PVC plastic – the most inexpensive and toxic plastic that exists. And the fact this toy is meant to go into water (a bathtub) with children and the plastic it’s made from has been called a carcinogen. So why am I struggling with this if I know purchasing these toys might lead to cancer causing materials to surround my children? I wish I could answer that.

Forget the fact that Barbie or the Disney dolls cannot be recycled or ever by properly disposed of.  I wait for the day a huge manufacturer of kids toys (like Mattel) to decide to use their billions of dollars and produce ‘plastic’ toys from the natural rubber tree like Plan Toys or the manufactures of Sophie ~ why can the smaller companies do it and the large ones can’t?  I’m really not big on the idea of boycotts or slamming a company via a blog, but all toy companies need to be held accountable for damage caused to human health and environmental health. Starting my mental check-list of Christmas shopping for my kids should not be this hard or require this much research, but in fact, toy companies cannot be trusted with my children’s health. They have proved one too many times that they don’t care enough.  And apparently with the billions of dollars they make, there are not enough parents asking them to change. I hope they experience huge losses in profit this Christmas and that the greener toys manufacturers and small shops that produce toys by hand are the people that truly profit this year. They are the people that are protecting my children with sourcing different ways to produce toys that don’t adversely affect a child’s health. Blech -shopping used to be so much easier and enjoyable.


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6 Responses to PVC & Christmas Toys

  1. Kara October 13, 2009 at 6:54 am #

    I am having the same problem at the moment. Currently, my son has a plethora of toys bought for him by family and friends that he loves (and they love to see him play with) that, without even researching each one, I am sure are made of PVC and pthalates. I excitedly talk about each safe toy that I buy, hoping others will get the message. I don’t want to be rude, but how do I ask family and friends not to buy popular toys (including learning based ones) politely?

  2. Jacquelyn October 13, 2009 at 7:27 am #

    Thanks for this post. It is not only helpful for me when I think about what toys NOT to buy, but also reassuring to know that I’m not the only one haunted by these decisions.

    And to Kara:
    Nobody was getting my hints, either. No matter how many times I told them “Oh don’t let him put that in his mouth, here let him put his ORGANIC COTTON toy in his mouth”, they just never got it. So, Hubby and I went all out and we sent an email to everyone- grandparents, aunts, uncles- letting them know that first of all, we wanted a limited amount of gifts for our 9 month old son (they tend to go WAY overboard and half the stuff is junk that was found in the dollar spot at Target. We don’t care about gifts and “stuff” enough to want a bunch of little trinkets cluttering the house.) And secondly- most importantly- we asked that all gifts be eco-friendly. No Pvc’s, no harsh finishes on wooden toys, etc. I gave a list of websites that sell eco-friendly toys/clothes/arts and crafts so they could peruse and shop, or just get ideas of what to look for. It went over quite well actually, for two reasons:

    #1, Recession! people don’t have a lot of extra money, so asking for limited gifts goes over quite well.
    #2, My in-laws, specifically, want to buy things we need or will like. So by setting up guidelines/directing them in a certain way, they know they are on the right path.

    Now the real test is to see if they can follow directions.

    I’ll keep you posted.

    Blogging at Thebueschs.blogspot.com


  3. Suzanne October 14, 2009 at 10:21 pm #

    Great advice from Jacquelyn – thank you! I personally think it’s too much for relatives to try and remember if you request itmes without ‘PVC’ or ‘Phthalates’ or ‘BPA’, etc. The most simply way is to explain you’d like to eliminate plastic toys or items given to your child this year. Then offer them direct links to some examples via online stores…even big box stores have websites for everyone. I love the idea of memberships to local zoos, aquariums, farms for a present or even adopting a family that is needing help this year and letting your child become involved in selecting gifts for those children. These gifts would be in leiu of their own, but for kids from very large familes, this would be a great idea! Hmmm too many great ideas on this…will have to write another article. Thanks ladies for your comments!

  4. Fabiola November 28, 2009 at 2:43 am #

    I know it can sound rough or rude to ask not to buy them…but I don’t feel any regret when as soon as possible I take them to the thriftstore…brand new….before my girls get too attached to them.
    I know it’s healthier for them not only to play with something that is not made from plastic…but that it is made of natural materials (bamboo fabric has been banned in Canada from being called organic because the process to extract the fiber is so harsh and chemical it is the same process as rayon…).
    After requesting natural toys and getting unhealthy junk…and then taking it to the thriftstore…everybody got the message. Now is the same with clothes…unless they are made of cotton, hemp,linen or wool out they go…we buy a lot of it from second hand stores…but it has to be natural. If you buy small quantities of quality made toys and clothes made from natural materials that go back to the earth…you don’t end up spending more money, you don’t have too much stuff, you live better…and you are healthier mentally, spiritually and phisically. I make a lot of my children’s playthings…but I also buy handmade…when I can. and my kids don’t have a lot of toys…but what they have they treasure and I love having around 😉

  5. Tasha December 12, 2009 at 7:19 am #

    Thank you for your thoughts here. I can totally identify. My sons really have a blast making up scenarios with action figures. But I’m having a terrible time trying to find replacements to the PVC-type Power Ranger figures. I’m at my wit’s end. I have checked out the Waldorf-type dolls but they don’t seem to suit my sons. If anyone has any leads to offer, I would be most grateful. I’ve checked a plethora of websites already. All have beautiful doll and figure offerings for girls or younger boys. But what figures are available for school-age boys who want to have fun making up all kinds of scenarios for the good guys and bad guys. (I don’t believe in the cowboys vs Indians scenario and don’t think our boys would like the woodsman figures, which I’ve seen plenty of on on otherwise great toy sites.) I need some action figures they’ll enjoy playing with together and with their friends.

    Any leads are much, much appreciated!

  6. Kimberly December 25, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

    Thanks for your courage to write about these issues that we are all waking up to.A couple of years ago, I had some very disappointed grandparents who remembered to buy batteries for Christmas to find we did not need any:)

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