August 14, 2007

He'll Be The Kid With The Home-Made Gift

The Chicago Tribune called the other day to ask my opinion about the lead paint findings in some of our most trusted toys. I am a mom of three boys, hello! I live in Thomas-land... how could you do this to me you cheeky engine?!

Although I wasn't quoted in the article, parts of what I said are mentioned. I was asked what I'd buy for a child's gift if we were going to a birthday party and the first thought I had was maybe something by Melissa & Doug- you know, good, trustworthy, wooden toys and then as I was talking to the reporter on the phone I looked and saw that they are made in Taiwan. Hmmm. Right now books sound safe or maybe a gift card so that the parents can decide what the child gets?

Just as we read the labels on our food and our sunscreen, we have to be reading the labels on our kids' toys. Really, anything that has a label needs to be read. Of course, the toys that have been recalled were not labeled as "covered in lead!" but I am going to be extra careful about which toys I'll allow into our home from now on.

So just what exactly is safe to buy? I personally think home-made gifts are the most thoughtful sometimes, and I love to receive them, but not everyone feels that way. I can hear the whispers now- that weird kid whose family makes all their gifts.

Marcie, who blogs at My Two Boys and also the Chicago Moms Blog, has listed some safe lead-free toy options here. I am still tempted to try an all homemade-gift Christmas this year. It's sounding better by the minute.

Cross-posted at the Chicago Moms Blog.

I've also just learned of a new blog at NotChinaMade.net that is exploring the dangers of trading with China. Stop on by and see how you can win a $50 gift certificate to American Apparel and gain some awareness of just what manufacturing in China means.

23 comments:

  1. The whole toy fiasco scares me too. I don't have children of my own, but wonder what I'll be getting for the little ones in our lives this year. As for homemade gifts, I love them. If you ask me the particulars of earrings or other trinkets I own, I couldn't tell you. But if you ask me about my homemade plant press, my shawl, or many of the framed pictures on my walls, I can tell you who made them and when they were given. Growing up, we always made gifts for our teachers and family. When I became a teacher, I thought I'd delight in store-bought things. But I didn't. Who needs more coffee cups? But give me homemade fudge and I'm yours for life.

    Last year, my husband and I were in our first year of marriage and, to put it bluntly, poor. We put the available money for Christmas together and ended up sponsoring some amazing charities in honor of our family members. Then I gave each family member a card telling them about it, along with a jar or two of jam I had made that fall. I was worried a bit about what our families would think, but they all thought it was a brilliant idea. And most of them are asking when they get more jam.

    I've had fun reading your blog since discovering it about a month ago. And thankfully, sharing the bits of information I've read on your blog about babywearing, I've actually convinced my husband to adopt that philosophy once we have little ones. And he was one of those crazy Ezzo/Babywise fanatics before (thanks to some friends of ours), so you know that philosophy change is huge!

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  2. We've been doing home-made gifts at Christmas in our family for a couple years. It's totally unrelated to toxicity and more relted to finances and personal touch. We find it so rewarding to share time and creativity with our family and to see what they have thought of for everyone. Good luck and let me know if you need some crafty ideas!
    devriesthree.blogspot.com

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  3. Oh I know. Steve and I were just talking about all the recalls in the past few months -- CRAZY!!!

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  4. I was thinking about notchinamade.net the whole time I was reading your post, and was going to write a comment telling you to go there, when I saw you mentioned it! It really does open your eyes to what that country is doing to cut costs - at our expense. Scary!

    Jane, P&B Girls

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  5. Thank you so much for spreading the word!!! I have a post coming tonight on "my approach" to the challenge we are facing with China! I'm loving meeting like minded people like you and The P&B girls through this. You are so right that we need to be reading labels on everything. And for the record, many melissa and doug toys are made in china as well! My friend Amy wrote me this morning and told me that she wrote them to ask. On top of that they told her they monitor the factory closely. Someone please tell me how you can monitor a company closely that is 1/2 a world away? If you even find USA made toy links please send them my way.

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  6. You really have to watch what you let into your house!! Great post!

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  7. We are out of the toy phase here at our house. But when I heard about this toxic -- lead painted toys. My thoughts went to when our home with littered with all latest and greatest toy to hit the market. I wonder how long this has been going on!!

    Homemade is the safest way!! Hey that sounds like a jingle. hint..hint..

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  8. Yeah I don't know when we'll catch on that we need to stop focusing on cheap and focus on health and safety - how many times does this have to happen before we realize that maybe China isn't the best place to be having our toys (and many, many other things) made!

    But I'm finding as a rule of thumb, character toys seem to be the worst which is good we avoid characters. Although we do have a lot of Melissa and Doug, which is what happens when you're a retailer for them! I'm hoping this keeps coming up recently b/c they are taking a good hard look at imports.

    Thanks for the link to Not Made in China, great site! Although I'm drowing in American Apparel over here, not sure what I'd do with the $50 :) But hey, you gotta love free! Even if it is from a company that practically has soft-porn in their ads and their owner, shall we say, skeeves me out! But go USA made baby!

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  9. Oh, forgot to say I love getting handmade presents, a great idea! My family is very, uh, different from me. I made all our Christmas gifts one year and they all looked at them like "what the heck am I supposed to do with this" and they were basically tossed aside. My nephew just turned 3 and we showed up with a wooden, non-character toy and every single other gift he got was Power Ranger and Spider Man. Needless to say our gift was the only one still unopened the next day. It's probably sitting with the other gifts I've made him in the past :( I felt bad giving him something I know he wouldn't like but at the same time I want to expose him to another way of life. Even if it does go ignored, he may understand some day!

    I can't wait to see what you whip up for gifts. I have a feeling yours will actually look good and everyone will love them!

    Sorry for not 1 but 2 long and annoying comments.

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  10. I've decided not to buy toys with batteries, because I find the cost of batteries sometimes more expensive than the toy it self. Not to mention, if it needs batteries, it probably makes a most annoying sound. But now, not being able to buy things because of the lead?! It's crazy! I guess we will be the family that gives socks for gifts. They can't put lead in socks can they?

    By the way, listened to your podcast yesterday....very good. Congrats!

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  11. These toy recalls are beginning to be unsettling. Thankfully, we have not had any toys listed on the lists.

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  12. There are some European-made toys but you may as well mortgage your house if you decide to go that route. Good thing I know how to make playdough....

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  13. This is a great blog you have here. So informative! I have not heard about this article but my kids love Thomas and Melissa & Doug. I gotta check out the article. Thanks!!

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  14. OMG~~~I was thinking about Melissa & Doug toys just today. I thought that they would be a safe toy too. What kind of world is our kids going to have in the future? Scary stuff!!!

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  15. Great post again Steph!
    I think part of this toy conversation is how many toys children really need, and what kind of toys are good for them (and not just by being non-toxic, for the educational level too).

    The toy companies just want us parents to but the upgraded version of every new toy every year, and the advertising is geared towards children (and children make us feel bad parents, if we don't buy the greatest and the latest). The greed in this highly competive market has made too many companies to make dangerous mistakes.

    Children do not need the amount of toys an average American child has. When you look at children from other countries, they develop and grow happy without the latest upgrade of talking Elmo. I've never seen any European child, regardless of the parents income level, to have as many toys as any average American child has.

    We, as parents, can make a difference. By not buying toys that are made with cheap labor (sometimes child labor or illegal labor), with poor components and with flashy TV commercials.

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  16. i'm just thankful we never buy our kids any toys. ;) LOL
    seriously though, these incidents are very scary. great post. thanks for bringing this to the forefront. :)

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  17. We're already planning on making our Christmas gifts this year, too. All the ladies in my & my husband's family are getting aprons! Hmm... Wonder if the guys would wear tool aprons? : )

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  18. It's hard to find anything not made in China. Even many books are printed there.

    I like the idea of homemade gifts, but I have the impression many of the people on my gift list would feel I was being too cheap to buy them a "real gift."

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  19. I'm pretty stunned with all the recalls lately! There is NO reason for this...ugh!

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  20. AMEN! Thanks for that link too!

    I'm really ready to pile up all the plastic, painted toys in our house and chuck them. I too always thought that M&D was US made- but Taiwan eh?I guess that explains why they're affordable!

    I LOVE homemade gifts. I am so much more likely to cherish something someone has made even if it's not "me". For kids it's always harder, especially when they're friends. I do think books are an awesome alternative.

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  21. we like to make homemade gifts too -- last year, I made smore's in a jar for the moms in my mom's group, we've made those 'cookie in a jar' mixes, the traditional digital photobook, plaster hand print, a child's framed painting, hand painted flower pots, etc....I love to make unique, personal gifts!

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  22. Awesome, I am so happy to see there is a site out there doing this!

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  23. Hey, just found your blog on a list of stay-at-home bloggers. I just bought four matching Melissa and Doug items four my children and niece last week. After I brought them home and was telling my mil how wonderful their products were, I decided to look at where they were made. Boy did I look stupid when I (the one part of that family that tries to be green), realized that they weren't made here. I had no idea that they were made somewhere else. I'm very disappointed. Just comes to show that you have to pay close attention to everything you purchase and never assume something just because of a name brand.

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