I mentioned Little C's kitchen in my last post, and thought I'd share these pictures. Our kitchen is from Elves and Angels, a small, family-owned company in Maine who sells through Nova Natural Toys and Crafts, a Vermont-based company. Having a beautiful, handmade piece of furniture in our kitchen is a delight. Warm wood and careful attention to detail says quality, which I like. Little C LOVES it, and not a day goes by without her cooking up some treat in it. A favorite right now is "broccoli soup"-- ironic, since she's no fan of real broccoli!
While simple, natural toys (wood, clay, wool, cotton, etc.) are usually more expensive to buy, they are also usually more versatile and open-ended, letting Little C's imagination do the work. We have found that that we need only a few toys, because Little C enjoys them in different ways and will continue to do so as she gets older. This allows us to invest in a few things of high quality that will last.
For Papa D and I, one of the most compelling reasons for investing in quality natural toys is aesthetic. We try to expose Little C to that which is "good, beautiful and true" (as Rudolf Steiner would say). Beauty nourishes our soul and feeds our sense of creativity. Furthermore, keeping our living space simple and free of clutter is essential for our sanity. I can't live in a space with tons of blinking, "music"-making plastic toys. Some people can... I can't. I love the warmth and liveliness of toys made from natural materials--it's as though they still have that spark of life in them.
As I touched on in my last post, the materialism and consumerism of our culture is not something that I have much tolerance for. I refuse to raise a child who thinks she "needs" the latest this or that. She is quite happy with a few simple things. The basket of pine cones collected from the front yard in the fall has provided an abundance of inspiration! So much of what is thrust at families as "necessary" is unhealthy for the environment and for the values that we try to live by. As Christians, Papa D and I try to practice simplicity and stewardship that informs (and hopefully transforms) the way we spend our money. Though we're not always mindful of it, we try not to spend money on things that are dangerous to the creation and to Little C's health, and provide no spiritual or emotional nourishment. Plastics are made from petroleum, and most plastic toys sold in America are made in China. It was a big news story in the fall that many items made in China are contaminated with lead, but the larger story is that most plastics leech harmful chemicals into the air, the water, our children's saliva (when they suck on them) and their skin.
Here are some websites that have information on protecting your child from the toxins that are found in many toys, and an article about keeping things simple at gift-giving times. I will be posting some of my favorite sources for natural toys in the sidebar soon, so keep an eye out for that! And again, happy playing!
HealthyToys.org This website specifically covers toxins in toys.
Non-Toxic Kids This is a blog by a mom who was concerned about the high levels of toxins her kids were being exposed to from many sources: toys, sippy-cups, body care products, diapers, clothing, beds and bedding, etc. There is an index on the right side if you scroll down a bit that serves as a useful guide to the vast array of info on her site.
Toxic Toy Story, an article from Mothering.com. It's old, but still sadly pertinent. Much of the health issues discussed here are still relevant.
Junk Toys, an article from Mothering.com about giving toys that nurture creativity and imagination, and how to sensitively deal with family members and friends who may not sure your gift-giving values.