Saturday, August 18, 2007

Toys and Safety

Kat asked in a recent comment how I feel about toy safety now that there have been recent recalls. Since my kids are all past the age of putting toys in their mouths, I don't worry about it. But I will tell you about my favorite toys even from when they were small.

Wooden toys.

You can get some absolutely beautiful wooden toys that are made in the USA and are created with safe, natural, non-toxic materials! The longer I have been a mom, the more I have realized how few toys children need or enjoy. More is not better when it comes to toys. Less is more!

When I was a first-time mom we got a lot of hand-me-downs, and I kept just about everything because I didn't really know how many things to have, etc. Eventually we had loads and loads of odds and ends toys and books, and most of it got dumped out and strewn around the house daily. The little joke my husband and I had was that our kids were destined to be extremely agile, because of the messy array of toy items that covered our floors.

Eventually I figured out what we did and didn't like as far as toys go. I realized that although people may be tempted to buy 4 or 5 cheap plastic toys from Walmart for $25 to give a child for Christmas or a birthday, we much preferred to get one beautiful and well-made wooden toy for the same price. Eventually I reduced our toy collection way, way down, and had mostly toys that the kids really liked, and that we felt were really worth playing with.

It takes some time to figure out what you want. And with fifty bazillion toy options available, and your tiny tot being so new, you have no idea what she's going to like. I think it's very normal to have to take some time to find your groove with toys.

I highly recommend Melissa and Doug brand toys. I hope to have many of their items available for sale in time for Christmas. We love every Melissa and Doug item we've ever bought, and that's been the case for over 12 years.

Long ago I used to get the Natural Baby Catalog. It's since been sold to a bigger corporation (it had started out as a small, family-run business, which I liked) and so a lot of the genuine enthusiasm for the products has been lost. Still,you can see some natural toys from them here.

I remember once going to a La Leche League play group at a member's home. She had a one year old, and they had this long, low shelf of beautiful wooden toys, arranged in a way that would make it very easy for a young child to see what was available and choose something. The contrast between that beautiful display, and my many, many baskets of cluttery toys, was quite inspirational to me. While I never did have anything quite so perfect as that gal did, by the time I had my 4th-6th babies, I was really happy with what we had. Several of the items are so lovely still that I use them for Christmas ornaments, or save them for someday when I have little visitors in the house, or eventually grandchildren (!!). :)

Here's a funny story about natural toys, though. When my first child was about 3 or 4 I started reading books like Rahima Baldwin's "You Are Your Child's First Teacher" and from there read other books about Waldorf educational philosophy. From there I got a bunch of catalogs (because way back then the internet was so new that most people didn't have it, so there were only catalogs in the mail to show off wares) and fell in love with Brio wooden trains, Stockmar wax block crayons (We actually still have some of those floating around the house!), and Waldorf dolls.

I got this brilliant idea that I wanted my little girl to have one of these Waldorf dolls for her second Christmas. I was all enraptured with the idea of these simple, classic dolls and their organic cotton insides and outsides. I choose a doll that you could have custom made with the hair color and style and eye color of your choice. Of course, I got one that looked (as much as a Waldorf doll can) like my daughter. The thing was something like a hefty $80, and I ordered it in early December from a small, family-run business.

Well, I guess that family got really, really overwhelmed with orders for Christmas, because we not only didn't get the doll in time for Christmas, but I think it came around the third or fourth week of January.

So the doll arrives, I open up the box and show my little 21 month old daughter her new toy. She takes a look at the doll, holds it for a minute. And then she notices something.

Not only was the dolly all natural, but she had this "natural" kind of yucky smell.

And that's when the doll got her nickname.

Stinky Dolly.

She dropped that doll and went on with her life. I kept that stinky dolly for quite a few years, thinking that the weird smell might wear off, or that my daughter my gradually appreciate it in all of it's Waldorfian all-natural splendor. But she never did. (too bad there was no ebay in those days!)

Eventually I gave it to a friend that was newly enraptured with Waldorf dolls. I don't know if they ended up liking it or not.

What doll did my daughter like best? The one my mom gave her, that had a plastic head, hands, and feet, and a cloth body. My daughter tattooed the doll on the face, hands, head, and feet with her first initial. In pen. I guess just to make sure everybody knew whose doll that was.

And she carried that doll around for years, named her Kindia (very exotic, no?), and loved her well.

So, sometimes the all natural toys don't work out quite as well as you think they will. :)

(but do you know what I'm getting for my baby great-niece for her first Christmas? A rather Waldorfian-looking dolly from my friend Alana..... I still love those dolls!!)


Kat said...

lol...i love that your daughter drew on her doll...I did the exact same thing with my favorite doll. All of them had names like Clara, Emily, Felicity...who knows where I came up with those? Must be my old soul!

Dollymama said...

Yeah...what's up with kids marking their toys? Like dogs and peeing in other people's yards.....

When she got her American girl doll she gave her a hair cut too. It's so funny how many things are true from one generation to the next.

Andrea said...

What a great post. I'm constantly trying to refine my children's toys. Especially in the light of this recall debacle. :)

Alana said...

Thanks for reminding me about the doll! Please e-mail me and let me know what details you want.

Also: to get pen marks off a plastic doll, try using benzoyl peroxide pimple cream. Slather it on and let it sit for a few days.

Also, scrubbing it with hair spray will get pen out of cloth and dissolve some on the plastic as well. Usually I go for the hair spray first and then the zit cream. It doesn't work on all marks, but sure does help.