Like all parents, I’ve been thinking about the safety of my children’s toys a lot lately. Is that tea set that they love to drink from made with lead? I have to say, I’ve been stealthily removing some of the toys that seem questionable. But who really knows? I considered buying a lead test kit, but the last time I used one it seemed difficult to read and a new report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission says that they are pretty useless. By the way, you can sign up for the safety recall list here. I have found it pretty alarming to see how many products are recalled on a daily basis, and what about those that fall through the cracks?
So, this brings me to my point. I hate to fault an entire country for use of lead when I know that not every factory uses it, but as a mother I want my children to be safe. So I am making an extra effort this year to buy products made outside of China, preferably crafted by hand. I thought I’d share the sites that I have found:
Oompa Toys has a lovely selection of European toys (like the Holztiger frog prince above), and you can sort by toys made in Europe. They carry lots of other great brands and have a rewards program that allows you to receive discounts (though minimal). And if you sign up for their e-mails, you’ll frequently receive information about sales.
Another site that I love is The Wooden Wagon. Their toys are beautifully handcrafted and made mostly in the U.S. and Germany. Like the Rooster Rider, Stacking Bowls, and Forget-Me-Not Doll (pictured above) they have a large selection of old-fashioned handcrafted toys. They also have a large selection of Ostheimer figures, which are just beautiful.
Another great site is Willow Tree Toys. They specialize in Waldorf toys and have a good selection of these colorful and fun birthday rings (pictured above), which I think would make a fabulous present for a newborn. This is a gift that could be passed along to the grandkids. This site is also searchable by location of manufacturer.
How cool are these Cella Blue blocks? Fat Brain Toys carries a great selection of stacking and building toys, including Dado squares and cubes (made of plastic), Haba, Kapla, Roy Toy, and others. The site tells you where each of their products is made.
And of course, there’s Etsy. Handmade items that you can actually say were made by Santa’s elves without your kids saying “Does Santa shop at Target?”. These personalized recycled crayons (pictured above) are available at Story Blox, where you can also find a nice selection of beautiful song blocks and story blocks.
You can find lots of amigurumi (small knitted or crocheted) toys and play food on Etsy for very reasonable prices — like this set of miniature cupcakes from Pukashell Creative Designs.
Some other sites:
Ten Thousand Villages: Not a wide selection on their site, but they have lovely stores around the country and practice fair trade on imported, handcrafted items.
Moolka: European toys. Lots of the same brands seen on Oompa.
Nova68: Beautiful (but expensive) modern toys and and home goods featuring some of the best European brands.
Hazelnut Kids: No plastic, no batteries! This is now a rule for toy selection in our house. The country of origin is listed for every product and there is a nice selection of toys made in the good ol’ US of A. Plus Stockmar art supplies.
Tree Hollow Toys: Wonderful selection of organic, fair trade and environmentally-friendly toys. Each product lists country of origin. Nice book selection as well.
Mahar Drygoods: Really, really cool vintage and handcrafted items. If you haven’t seen this site, you must check it out!
Quiet Hours Toys offers handcrafted toys from around the world and has a beautiful selection of plush and hand embroidered toys, like this adorable hedgehog:
Cool Mom Picks Safer Toy Guide 2007 also has a comprehensive list of safe toys and don’t miss the discounts at the bottom of the page! I’ll be adding to my list in the next few weeks and would love to hear about your finds for natural toys.