When my son was born, 6 years ago, our consumer culture was in the early stages of the move back to organic, natural products for baby. This included natural crib mattresses without fire retardant in them, homemade baby purees, organic natural fibre clothing and the rising popularity of cloth diapering. Similarly, I started seeing natural toys and wooden toys everywhere. Some expensive baby boutiques that catered to this mindset sprang up around Vancouver and Natural Pod was a new venture that I started seeing at baby themed trade shows like Birth Fest in East Van. I fell in love with the beauty and simplicity of many of the wooden toys and handmade dolls and soft furnishings. Furthermore, in the 3 years between the births of my first two children Canada declared BPA a toxin and banned it from infant feeding products. Our lifestyle began to shift away from plastic and I began to make efforts not to bring more plastic into our home. I envisioned our future playspaces to look like this, and this, and this, and this.
Flikr photo credit: Christaface
A couple of things got in the way of this plan:
- Money – these natural toys are NOT cheap. Especially some of the bigger items like the wooden kitchen and play arches. I would be willing to save up cash birthday gifts from relatives until we could afford a fancy kitchen like this but Aaron finds them unreasonably expensive toys for kids (despite in my opinion, the obvious care, quality materials and craftsmanship that goes into some of them).
- Hand-Me-Downs – my sister with older kids gave me a lot of the things they had outgrown and my mom passed down a lot of my old toys from when I was young. My toys had sentimental value plus, being made in the 70’s, they were durable despite being plastic (particularly my old Duplo and Fisher Price sink, stove and dishes). Also, who was I to say no to free toys?
- Gifts – personally, I think it’s just a bit pretentious to tell people that I only want a certain type of toy for my kids, especially when these toys are also expensive and hard to find. If someone loves my kid enough to buy them a gift, I’m going to smile and say “thank you very much.” When people ask me what my child might like for Christmas or a birthday, I’ve found that the safest answer is “We always love books at our house!” About the only thing I will actually come right out and say is that we prefer not to have clothes or toys with licensed characters on them.
- Super Cool Non-Natural Toys – over the years, we were occasionally swayed by really cool gifts, or marketing, or our kids’ likes and dislikes, towards things like Lego, Schleich animals and so on.
- Mindset – to be honest, I think Aaron and I are both unwilling to be so rigidly crunchy as to make this kind of playroom a priority. We probably always will have a few plastic toys and Toy Story puzzles around. Afterall, I don’t think that the majority of non-natural toys are inherently evil (battery operated ones being the exception) so I’m not opposed to having them in the house. Frankly, I’m not wealthy or snobby enough to go all out on creating a natural playroom from scratch overnight. I assume that to be true for most people who admire these types of play spaces.
That said, a mostly natural playroom is still something we’re working towards. We’ve had both challenges and successes with this and my intention was to discuss what seems to work in making the slow transition to natural toys…but alas, I blathered on too long again so I will offer that up in my next post.