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Plastic Dolls For Christmas

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..”


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The Bamboletta Story



The Bamboletta Story

If business owners or consumers doubt that today’s economy cannot support the local handmade movement – they haven’t heard of Bamboletta. Made with love, proud founder Christina began hand-crafting Waldorf dolls in 2002 and 8 years later, there aren’t words to explain the growth and popularity of her magical little ‘Bambos’. Because of Christina and husband’s John desire to keep these dolls made locally by her team of mama doll makers, there isn’t a way to meet the growing demand for these dolls, but the intimate working environment of supporting many moms and paying them well is worth the growing pains to Christina and John. The 15 hours of dedicated work that goes into each Bamboletta doll – hand stuffed, sewed, knitted by 8 Bambo team members is what parents around the world are opening their arms to embrace. Christina is very modest, but her hand-made movement has inspired and enlightened thousands of people and it’s the dedication to her business model of supporting a local, handmade dedication that just might be the Bamboletta legacy.

The beauty of a Bamboletta doll is instant – the moment you see one you will fall in love. Not only is the quality of a Bamboletta doll difficult to find, but the special details of a Bambo’s face and hair is almost impossible to match. Bamboletta doll faces have the detail of a plastic doll – but they are handstitched and made with natural cotton. The finest materials have been sourced and it’s why Bambos stand out so easily compared to mainstream dolls. Bamboletta dolls are filled with top quality wool that naturally repels water or mold, a mixture of hand dyed wool and yarns that are mixed for incredible hair results, and the sweet little faces embroidered by Christina are my favorite part of Bambos – especially when those faces have a smattering of little freckles. I’ve included some pictures of my favorite Bambolettas – here is a taste of Christina’s magic.

Yes – there will be lots of doll pictures in this post – honestly it’s hard to stop once you start looking through the wonderful galleries of photos. The infectious beauty of the dolls is already prevalent – my desire to cover the Bamboletta Story is my awe of the mama power that has changed the way tens of thousands of parents have decided to support and stalk (for lack of a better word) the phenom known as Bamboletta. Does it make sense that in today’s shaky economy that a doll selling for $140 would be something that thousands of moms are trying to purchase every week? In financially challenging times – why is this business experiencing high waves of consumers that would do practically anything to have the opportunity to purchase a Bambo?  If you follow The Bamboletta fan page on Facebook – you will find your answer. It is understanding the love that is put into the creation of each one-of-a-kind dolls that passes through this network of special people. It becomes immediately apparent that each Bambo is loved before it’s shipped out for orders, complete with an individual hair style, outfit, and name that somehow completely suits each doll. It is also the story behind the business. It is this doll maker sharing her experience of personal angst and turmoil with the fact she is not able to meet the demand of producing enough dolls to satisfy the thousands of people trying to purchase one. Then it is the quiet confidence you also feel from Christina and John knowing that if the option is to mass produce these special dolls, some of the Bambo magic would be lost. It is actually a wonderful thing to realize that so many parents are supportive of this business concept and you can feel the deep satisfaction and joy from Christina and John knowing the commitment to quality is more important.  There are so many examples to list of this business model but my favorite is that so many of the new dolls still come with little sweaters that are made by Christina’s Nonna who has supported her from the beginning.

When you are new to the process of trying to purchase a Bamboletta doll – frustration can become a familiar emotion. We as consumers are not used to waiting months for something we REALLY want to purchase.  Usually we go on-line or to the store, pay our money and have instant gratification. Well acquiring a Bambo takes a bit more patience.  I personally spent 7 months trying to purchase a Bambo for my girls. I started in the Fall thinking I could purchase 2 ( I have twin girls) in time for Christmas, but it was just not to be. I would read Christina’s words to other mamas on her Facebook wall explaining that Bambolettas just seem to go to those when the time is right. At the time, this explanation didn’t sooth my feelings of frustration. Then a month ago I was successful and have two very special Bambolettas hidden away to give my daughters.  Of course I will not be waiting until Christmas to give them these dolls – that would take away too many months of special play time. I’ve been planning to give them to my girls after the Mother’s Day tea at the preschool where I’ve been able to celebrate with my children for the past 4 years. This year, I will have my twins both sitting with me during this special time and I’ve been searching for a way to explain to them how much I adore them. This Friday I hope my girls know that I cannot think of a more magical, special, unique, quality friend for them than a Bamboletta. The idea of sitting in the preschool forest and giving my girls their Bambo boxes puts a smile on my face every night before I fall asleep. There aren’t many presents since becoming a parent I’ve been this excited to give.

I’ve been writing this article in my head for almost a year and I hope it doesn’t just bring more excited parents to the Bamboletta site, but encourages business owners to wake up and realize that success is measured in many different ways. Supporting handmade, supporting local craftsman, supporting a local economy is key to North America’s financial success and if you need any proof – take a peek over to a magical little house on Vancouver Island where the measure of success shines brightly from a craftswoman sewing dolls and fulfilling best friend wishes for children all over the world. How wonderful for Christina to know that her sons will always remember their mom carrying around a purse filled with a doll partially embroidered – what an incredible role model of following your heart and sticking to a clear vision filled with integrity and determination.



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