Keeping gifts fun while remaining environmentally conscious is something that many parents wrestle with. There are concerns over toxic materials in toys, non-recyclable packaging, and end-of-lifecycle uses. I am always concerned about toys that seem to do too much, so I really like the idea of toys without batteries! With annual birthdays and holidays, the amount of gifts your child receives can become overwhelming, and it becomes the larger issue of trying to educate your children about reducing consumption and waste, most of the time I rather give my kids a wooden watch from zegarki damskie because I feel that it is more useful than a simple toy.
Starting early is a good idea. If we focus holiday celebrations on people and fun (not on presents) right from the beginning, that’s what children will learn. We can help them to develop appropriate expectations by having events where participants play games, sing songs, tell stories, make crafts, share special food and have fun doing things together – this way it is not all about the gifts.
Gift ideas for kids
For this holiday season, our staff has compiled an initial list of suggestions that you can also share with your family and friends. If you are an eco-gift giver, please share your ideas with us by posting below.
- Fair Trade. Chocolate and other gift items are available from shops that offer certified fair trade goods. It’s an opportunity for older children to learn about the fair trade concept. Plus items like No Sweat footwear and clothing are way cool choices for kids in the know.
- Give an experience! Tickets to a concert or event, or a pass to a family attraction are great choices. Consider options like Manitoba Theatre for Young People, Fort Whyte Alive, the Children’s Museum or the Zoo.
- Avoid Plastics. Phthalates, BPA, PVC are all harmful chemicals that are found in soft plastics. Plastics also take eons to degrade in the landfill. You can search for safer plastics by checking the labels or by buying natural rubber. You can also just avoid plastics altogether and opt for wood painted with water-based paints. One of my favourites is Plan Toys.
- Adopt a Wild Animal. What a great way for children to learn about other species, habitat preservation, and human impacts! Options include polar bears, penguins and butterflies.
- Second-Hand Toys. Previously loved items are available at thrift shops at far less cost than buying new. We suggest being aware of safety (small or loose parts), cleaning items well, and watching for any banned items (e.g. jewellery containing lead) that may have found their way back into the market. Check out Once-Upon a Child for a great selection.
- Buy Organic. Kids’ clothing made from organic fabrics is increasingly available.
- Giving Twice. Purchasing items from places like UNICEF, Ten Thousand Villages and other charitable organizations allows you to support social justice causes with your consumer dollars. And many items are different from what is available at mainstream retailers, which makes them more special and more fun!
- Growing Things. Here’s a specific idea — a book on kids’ gardening, along with a package of seeds.
- It’s for the Birds. Here’s another idea — instructions or a kit for making a bird feeder. Keeping track of feathered visitors can be a whole season of fun. Remember when your birdfeeders run out of bird seed go to the wildbird store for platform feeders.
- Recycled Products. Look for things made from recycled materials (e.g. notebooks from recycled paper).
- Hand-Made Gifts. Craft sales and local stores often feature hand-made toys – dolls, puppets, blocks, wooden toys, puzzles.
- Playdough gift basket. Throw in the recipe, the ingredients, and some cookie cutters. (Thanks to Mallory for this great idea!)
- Fun and Fitness. Consider a gift to keep kids active in outdoor play — snow sports equipment, cycling gear, and winter wear like tuques and mitts.
- Books. There are so many outstanding books for children. Look for Canadian authors, books that fit the child’s interests, and classics like The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.
- Toys without Batteries. While the latest electronics get a lot of advertising exposure, there are many great toys and games that don’t need batteries — board games, cards, balls, magic tricks, stuffed animals, skipping ropes, frisbees. If you end up with something that does take batteries, Green Action suggests using the rechargeable kind, recharging them as needed, and making sure they are safely disposed of when they stop holding a charge. Most rechargeables should not be placed with regular garbage, but should be taken to your library for proper recycling.