Battling the Toy Catalogues by Strocel

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Blog to Inspire finalist Strocel is Amber, an all around crunchy granola mom to 4-year-old Hannah and 1-year-old Jacob. She is an engineer-turned-at home mom and an aspiring freelance writer.

The holiday season is approaching fast. Much faster than I like or would care to admit, frankly. You would think that one of these years I would be prepared for it, since it’s not exactly unpredictable. Christmas comes at the same time every year, with its glitter and glamour and toy catalogues in the mail.

My 4-year-old, Hannah, loves the toy catalogues. Sometimes I try to recycle them before she can see them, but she has this sixth sense that foils my efforts every time. If a major toy company or toy store has distributed promotional materials to our area, she can sniff them out. And as soon as she does, the asking starts. “Mama! Mama! Mama! I want this one, and this one! And, of course, this one! Mama! Did you hear me? I have to tell you something! I want this one!”

I am not a fan of the toy catalogues, not one bit. And why not?

  • The toys are almost all plastic, and I am trying to reduce our consumption of plastic. Plastics persist in our environment and contain potentially harmful chemicals. I want to avoid bringing that into my home.
  • Most of the toys come packed in huge boxes with hundreds of twist ties. And it all just ends up in the garbage or recycling bin. It’s pretty wasteful when a doll comes with twice its weight and 10 times its volume in packaging.
  • Many of the toys are noisy. I’m sure that the noise isn’t harmful, but it is definitely annoying for me.
  • The catalogues are teaching my child to be a consumer, a lesson I don’t think she needs to learn at 4 years old. They are trying to sell things to my kid, who will then whine to me, making me buy more. This sort of consumerism isn’t good for us or the planet.
  • Most mass-produced toys are not built to last. They are inexpensive, to be sure, but the inexpensiveness comes with its own price. They’re often broken or worn out before the Christmas tree even comes down.
Toddler on swing

I’m sure I sound like a total grinch. But I’m really not. I enjoy finding toys for my kids to play with, and I buy a lot of them. I just prefer to stick to more basic toys made with natural materials as much as I can. I choose handmade items, created with love and attention by committed craftspeople. Toys that can be used in many ways, by many age groups, and that stand the test of time. When I buy toys like that, I know where they’ve come from and what they contain. I know what it is that my kids are putting in their mouths and cuddling up to at night.

I’m sure that sometimes I come across as the mean mom, or the overboard control freak. My kid wants a special doll, so why not let her have a special doll? How bad is one doll?

When the doll arrives in my home, I don’t throw it out. But I also have the choice to not be the one who buys the doll in the first place, and I exercise that option. I believe that in doing so, I am making a difference. I am supporting an ethic that I care about, I am working to protect the planet, and I am communicating a message to my children about consumerism. Because one doll might not be all that bad, but millions of dolls purchased by millions of people because ‘just one can’t hurt’ add up really fast.

Cheap plastic toys are easy to find, and they are marketed aggressively to both us and our children. But we don’t have to buy into that message. And we aren’t ruining our children if we don’t. We are protecting their childhoods, and teaching them what really matters.

What about you? Is there a toy that your kid is in love with that drives you up the wall? Please share!

Read about the Blog to Inspire contest and read posts by the rest of the finalists.

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