When I was young, toys like LEGO, crayons, dress up clothes, puzzles, and crafts were a favorite. Today's kids have far more sophisticated play things at their disposal, however. iPads, video game consoles, and cell phones have replaced the simple toys that used to bring us such joy.
Although these new technologies are very entertaining, they don't necessarily keep young minds learning and imagining. Worse yet, they encourage the sedentary lifestyle that has led to a spike in childhood obesity and diseases like diabetes and rickets.
Even non-electronic toys have become hazardous to the health of our children. A report released in late 2011 found that more than 650 brand name products contain at least two hormone-disrupting toxic chemicals. Plastic toys, such as PLAYMOBIL play figures and Chicco baby rattles, were found to contain BPA (or bisphenol A), the same toxic chemical already banned in plastic baby bottles and sippy cups.
The good news is that there are plenty of toy manufacturers who realize they don't need to depend on toxic materials or brain-melting video games to keep children entertained.
NON-TOXIC TOY OPTIONS
Here are three toy brands committed to safer play through the use of sustainable, non-toxic materials.
The name says it all right? Everything from this company is made in the USA from 100 percent recycled plastic derived from old milk jugs. All of their toys are free from BPA, phthalates, PVC or external coatings that could be toxic. Green Toys offers a large selection of imaginative playthings, from the Build a Bouquet kit to sandbox trucks, to an indoor gardening kit.
Based in Northern Colorado, BeginAgain Toys was founded on the principles, ideas, and inventions of Benjamin Barlowe, who worked to inspire children with stories of invention, adventure, and good old-fashioned fun. The fledgling company's first collection of toys has something special for kids who've already shown interest in art, writing, inventing, sports or adventure. All products feature plant-based materials like natural rubber, cotton, and bamboo.
Thames & Kosmos
Designed for the older child or family project, Thames & Kosmos specializes in hands-on science kits for fun and learning. The company currently offers more than 60 science kits in thirteen categories, including alternative energy and environmental science. Check out their Fuel Cell and Power House kits, along with the entirely new Hydropower and Global Warming kits. T & K's commitment to environmental issues extends beyond the kits themselves, as they donate one percent of sales of their Wind Power and Hydropower kits to environmentally focused non-profits.
Beth Buczynski is an environmental writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. Follow her on Twitter as @ecosphericblog
Photo credit: By DieselDemon