I like to read Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder every Fall to give myself a good dose of meaningful minimalistic Christmas. I like to do this before I start getting too crazy about "getting" things for the holidays. Its not that I don't like a decorated home, Ma (in the story) decorates her home for the holidays. Its not that I don't want to give my kids gifts, Laura and her sisters get a few little things each year from Santa Claus and each other. I use these books to give me some sort of base to start from.
In the past few years we are usually in Atlanta seeing family around the Christmas time, and there is something about that city that makes me just want to go shop and buy things... mainly because they have stores we don't have here. Also because everything is so sparkly and shiny and pretty there, and everyone seems to already have "one" (whatever that "one" thing is they already have it in Atlanta).
On top of our desire to make Christmas meaningful but also fun and have some sense of tradition we also try to deal with the issue of where "things" are made and the ethical practices that place might use. Many of you may have seen the Yahoo article, Why I Don't Allow Plastic Toys into Our Home. Its good, extreme but good. And the important thing to take away from the article is knowing where your stuff comes from and if you are okay with the way it was made, the chemical standards of where it came from and the working conditions for the people creating that item. Many people read article like this and get overwhelmed and think, "How can choosing a toy be so complicated?" But I'm here to tell you if you know where to go its not difficult. Here we go, I'm going to make ethical, natural toy shopping very easy for you.
1. Shop used. You can never go wrong with making the rounds to your local thrift shops. I have found, new in the box toys. Last year I found a whole new in box Calico Critters set. I have gotten great wooden play kitchen toys, Polly Pockets, Melissa Doug puzzles, Plan Toys instruments, all sorts of things are out there. Most all thrift stores support a non-profit, Haven Hospice, Jr. League, Salvation Army, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, Children's Home Society.
2. There are wonderful online toy shops that support ethically made toys. Most of the toys are made in Europe where the standards for toy making are very strict. Most of these shops are also family owned and they strive to provide toys that grow the imagination (vs. just pure entertainment).
Nova Natural Toys -Love their art supplies
Oompa Toys -Wonderful doll selection, games and play kitchen toys.
I'm so in love with this little tea set from Plan Toys. Its on my list for Marin this year. The nice thing about this set is that Owen can be part of the tea party with her.
KangarooBoo-Great games and lots of vehicles.
Maple Landmark- 100 Percent American Made
Vermont Teddy Bear Company -If you are looking for the most perfect teddy bear for someone. Marin got one from her grandpa and its just about the most beautiful bear you have every seen.
Today Parenting from NBC.com has a wonderful article on The 10 Best American-made Toys. I love using this article because it also serves older kids. Many times the natural toy companies seem to have very little for big kids.
Finally, do some searching around your area. Many shops now carry American made toys or European toys. Its always nice to support local shops. We have a wonderful little place here that offers brands from Haba to Melissa Doug and Tom's shoes for kids.