The minute you have a baby, or even considerably beforehand in some cases (NCT “newsletter”, I’m looking at YOU), people start trying to sell you stuff. Bounty reps come into your room when you’ve barely finished giving birth to pressure you into buying their newborn photo bundle, meanwhile harvesting your contact information to begin an email campaign convincing you of all the essential stuff you have to buy to keep your child alive. They are subcontracted by HMRC to distribute the Child Benefit form, so you end up giving them your details without really realising what’s going on (it’s possible to manage this differently, apparently, but honestly, when you’ve just given birth, are you going to argue?)
I could write a LOT about motherhood and guilt, and the way societal pressures and judgments push us into polarising mothers by their parenting choices (breast/bottle, puree/baby-led weaning, go back to work or stay at home etc. etc. etc.) You’re a bad mother if you don’t have the right pushchair and snazzy changing bag, you absolutely NEED all this stuff to give your child the best start in life. But you’re also now a bad mother if you buy too much stuff – in fact, it’s probably ALL your fault, especially if the stuff is plastic. Because plastic is in fact evil. As are most mothers.
So I wanted to talk about plastic toys. Here’s an actual plastic bandwagon.
It’s noisy and annoying and my son loves it. Fortunately, it lives at Grandma and Grandad’s house. And it also came from a car boot sale and cost 50p (thanks Grandad for “sourcing”).
There’s a fair amount of snobbery about children’s toys – articles like this would make most ordinary parents feel pretty guilty, judged and lazy, to be honest. Or just confused. (“Why buy plastic tea sets when they can play with real freebies?” Uh, because they will break them and the bits will be sharp and I won’t have a mug to drink my coffee out of and then I will die?) I asked for advice about toys for my son on Facebook once, and received the helpful comment – “whatever you do, don’t fill your house with plastic”.
Personally, I don’t believe there’s anything intrinsically wrong with plastic toys – I don’t think they’re actually toxic if made in the EU (shock, horror), and I don’t think they create gormless kids with no imagination. I do think too many toys causes overwhelm and lack of focus, but that could be toys of any material.
I read something on Twitter a few days ago which struck gold :
Plastic is, admittedly, a perfect material for sturdy, easily cleaned toys. I think the key thing with toys is to buy good quality ones, pass them around your friends and/or use charities. Are toy libraries still a thing?Tweeted by @curlyheather28 on 24th June, retweeted by my new blogger pal @happy_tortoise
Beautiful sanded-down Scandi wooden toys are of course lovely, but they’re pretty expensive and also made of trees. Surely the best toy out there in terms of the environment is one that already exists.
So I did a quick toy audit at home – not including random household items which have become toys – a milk pan, an old remote control, a tea strainer and some old bangles of mine, among other things – because my son has an imagination all of his own, thanks, the breakdown goes like this:
21% wooden toys, bought new. 8% wooden toys, given as gifts. 8% wooden toys, second hand.
21% plastic toys, bought new. 13 % plastic toys, given as gifts. 29% plastic toys, second hand.
So 37% second hand – car boot sales, hand-me-downs and Facebook marketplace mainly. I would be aiming to increase that ratio as time goes on and reduce what we’re buying new, but I’m not going to lose any more sleep about plastic.
So enough on the guilt about plastic toys, folks. Obviously crap disposable Happy Meal toys that end up discarded very quickly are bad news (petition made famous by the War on Plastic TV programme is here). But durable toys passed on between families or shared within a brilliant community resource like the Charlton Toy Library should be celebrated as pre-loved, not demonised as bad parenting.
Here endeth the rant.
(Just wait until I post about the singing plastic dumper truck. Really)