Updated: Aug 17
Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle are often promoted as the 4 R's of sustainability, but there are many more R's we can undertake to lead a more sustainably focused family life:
Rethink, Repair, Regift, Repurpose and Rot (or in our case, choose natural toy materials!)
In Week 3 of Plastic Free July 2023, I focused on "Rethink" and how we can break up with plastic toys in our children's lives and ways we can choose conscientiously and consciously when we shop to reduce new virgin plastic being bought.
Every day, I see toy brands and products that are innovative and creative in their design and use of recycled and waste materials to address our plastic and waste problem. If you would still like to buy plastic and polyester toys and that be your only possible option, look for brands and products doing what they can to avoid using virgin plastic and are using Recycled or Repurposed materials. There are an ever increasingly number of toy brands available offering toys made from recycled plastic and polyester, just like Green Toys are all made from recycled milk bottles.
Choose colouring crayons and colouring pencils that are not made of petroleum. There are so many alternative choices out there now, like Kitpas rice crayons, and there are soya crayons on the market too. Otherwise, how about home Recycling any broken petroleum wax crayons if you already have some, using a silicone mould?
Making sustainable choices doesn't have to mean expensive, and cheap doesn't have to mean plastic. If you need a small party gift for under £5 or £10, there are lots of sustainable plastic-free options available. In store we stock Playpress, Cotton Twist, Button & Squirt, Zimpli Kids and Clockwork Soldier who all offer small affordable paper and card based gifts that are perfect as treats, pocket money spends and party gifts. There are so many companies offering plastic-free options or repurposing materials to create new make and play creative sets that are becoming more widely and easily available.
Most children seem to love stickers whether it's with tots practicing their fine motor skills or children decorating their latest craft project. But when buying stickers, do you take into consideration whether they are plastic vinyl or not? Choose to be conscientious and conscious when buying craft materials and treats. Could plastic-free options like the Poppik Sticker Sets we sell, be chosen instead - these are even designed for the finished masterpieces to be framed and hung on the wall, rather than just immediately thrown away. Avoid using plastic materials for art and crafts where there are no plans to keep the finished artwork.
Parents across the land will be undertaking craft activities with their children right now. How many will be using single use micro-plastics like glitter and gems to do so? All plastic, however big or small, ends up somewhere. Search out and choose plastic-free crafts for your little ones.
What should we do with the plastic tat we have been given or accumulated? I like to create 'tat bags' with ours, using all our leftover stickers, leftover colouring and puzzle book pages, and even unused magazine pages. We take our tat bags to restaurants and pubs, car and train journeys and anywhere where the kids need to be a bit quiet and stay seated! It's amazing how these abandoned and unused pages that are untouched at home, become the most exciting thing to be had in a different setting!
The idea of buying open-ended toys for your children can be a rather daunting one. Having the freedom to build, create or imagine what you want with open-ended toys is great, not only for developing problem solving skills, creativity and cognitive skills, but also it is cost effective long-term and great environmentally, because they can work with whatever your child is interested in at any given time, without having to continually buy those items.
We have a number of blog posts, here on our website blog, about open-ended toys and how we play with them at home to inspire and showcase their breadth of play.
I hope throughout Plastic Free July we have provided inspiration for how you can Reduce, Refuse and Rethink the plastic in your family life when it comes to toys and it gives confidence in taking small steps that lead to a big difference. I'd love to hear your suggestions.