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10 ThingsEthical Shopping

10 Toy Ideas that Make the Planet Happy

With 27 million men, women, and children living in slavery, many making the toys we give our kids for Christmas, what’s an abolitionmama to do?  Many of our kids are hoping for new toys on Christmas morning, and I don’t want to be the Grinch.  I don’t think there’s one answer for everyone on the issue of toys and how we can celebrate a Slave-Free Christmas, but in an effort to be helpful and un-Grinch-like, I’ll share some of the ways we attempt to navigate this time of the year.  Here are 10 toy ideas that make the planet happy.

1. Try pre-owned merchandise.

Last year, our son wanted a Wii, and we bought a pre-owned system from Game Stop.  By choosing pre-owned, whether it’s a sweater from consignment or a video game, we’re cutting down on the consumption and getting more wear, more hours of play, out of one item, rather than our cycle of use-discard-use-discard.  One of our friends was looking for Duplos for her two-year-old, and we were done with ours, so we passed them on to her.  No two-year-old cares about whether or not someone has already played with her new toys.  And those Duplos were originally passed to us by someone else who had outgrown them.  The gift that keeps on giving.

2. Bella Luna Toys offers organic, handmade, “green” toys.

They sell imaginative toys for dress-up, ride-on toys, arts and crafts, and toys encouraging play skills and sensory exploration.  These toys are beautiful and unique, and pouring through the website, I feel my own imagination come to life as I flip through pages of parachutes and castles, silken streamers and dollhouses.

3. If you’re buying a toy from a big company, use your Pure Charity account.

You can tell if the store participates in the program by the Pure Charity box that will appear in the upper left corner of your browser after you’ve downloaded the plug-in.  Toys ‘r’ Us, Target, Walmart, Apple, and Best Buy are a few of the many companies working with Pure Charity.

4. Peapods allows you to actually shop based on region of the world,

from toys made locally, to toys made in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, or Asia.  They offer handmade toys, toys made from recycled materials, and really fun and unusual items.  I bought my six-year-old builder a construction set that will help him utilize old cereal boxes and toilet paper tubes and turn them into robots.  Peapods has a large selection of toys, including musical instruments, building sets, and arts and crafts.

5. Come on, ride the train.

My brother and I grew up playing with Brio train sets, and these toys are still made today with the same excellence.  According to the information on their website, the workers in their Chinese factories operate under the same fair conditions as those working in their Swedish locations.  Read here about Brio’s commitment to fairness and integrity in the workplace. 

6. Under the Nile is committed to improving the lives of families,

from the ones who plant and pick their organic Egyptian cotton to the ones who buy their toys and clothing.  They sell adorable soft toys, as well as cloth diapers, baby, and toddler clothing.  Through health and micro-loan projects with their parter SEKEM, they have empowered people in thirteen poverty-stricken villages in Egypt to create 540 new enterprises, and many of the toys sold through their website are made by people once living in poverty, and now receiving fair wages for their work.

7. Give experiences.

The zoo, tickets to The Nutcracker, a favorite concert, a basketball game, a trip to a fun park or the beach.  Wrap up a paper chain for them to open on Christmas morning, hang it up, and count down each day by ripping off one of the links until the big day.  This year, we’re giving season passes to the science museum to our little scientist.

8. Senda soccer balls are ethically made in Pakistan and are Fair Trade certified.

Senda provides fair wages and safe working conditions to the people making the products, and they work to increase access to sports around the world and use soccer as a means for social development.  They partner with nonprofits and provide fair trade sports equipment to youth and adults, from the homeless to people with physical disabilities.

9. North Star Toys is dedicated to environmental sustainability.

They use recycled wood whenever possible to create whimsical, handmade toys.  They offer a wide selection of wooden toys, and the toy camera with shutter button and focus is my favorite.

10. Eternal Threads offers adorable knitted purses, puppets, and toys.

This awesome organization also offers birthday party packages, bright raffia animal garlands, and accessories.  You can purchase small business training, literacy classes, and sewing machines for women in Afghanistan and Nepal.  Eternal Threads creates income generating programs that train and provide sustainable livelihoods to improve the lives of women and children who have been exploited and trafficked.



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