Toy Mountain

Well another Christmas has passed, with the merry moments and warm wishes that go along with it. I have always loved the Christmas season, the sparkly lights, the pretty packages and the good spirits. I remember feeling sad as a child, when it was all over at the end of Christmas day.

My children are just getting old enough now (at ages 2 and 5) to get really excited about Christmas. They were so excited yesterday morning, when they realized that Santa really did come, and he really did eat the cookies and drink the milk. They were doubly excited when they saw that Santa really did bring the toys they had asked for. It was magical for them and for me too.

This year, I was committed to not use a scrap of wrap in the giving of our gifts. All my gifts were given in a homemade bag, a tote bag or a reusable gift bag. As a result we generated less Christmas garbage than in other years. Way less! Some family and friends also used homemade gift bags as well. We had cute fabric bags a plenty this year! One sister went as far as to make all her Christmas gifts, and a friend of mine gave Kiva loans to entrepreneurs in the developing world! I was so inspired by these gifts.

Despite this, we still managed to generate a lot of garbage associated with the toy packaging. It is obscene really. The most annoying thing is how all the toys are pinned in with multiple ties and screws and elastics and tape. Why? With some, you have to be careful not to break the toy when prying it free from its plastic cage.

How can I reduce that next year? Well one idea is to purchase used toys instead of new toys for my kids. I actually did some of that this year – they got some used story books, and some used toys from Santa in their stocking. However, I could have gone further if I planned better, and looked for stuff earlier on, such as at summer garage sales.

The second idea is to drastically reduce the amount of toys that we get the kids. Right now they each get three toys from us and one toy from Santa, along with a stocking full of toys from Santa. This is clearly too much, since they also get toys from Grandmas and Grandpas and Aunties and Uncles and cousins.

The worst part is that they are starting to get greedy for toys, especially my oldest. This must be in part, due to the amount of toys they have and get. What am I promoting here? That toys are what we value? When they grown up, what will they value? Adult toys? More stuff? This rampant consumerism is exactly the opposite of what I want to be promoting.

It is so hard though, since their little faces light up when they see the toys, and then they spend hours and hours playing with them. They do love the toys, and use them. It is hard to take that away, and they will probably not understand. However, it is in their long-term best interest. That is what parenting is about – thinking long-term, and educating for the long-term. That is why we don’t let them eat cookies and cake all day long.

So enjoy today kids, playing with your new mountain of toys. Next boxing day might be different.  Perhaps we will go sledding! 🙂

Toy Packaging

Garbage is especially appalling after a kid’s birthday party. Why do toys have to come with so much darn packaging? They all have an oversized cardboard box, and then clear plastic innards that hold the toy in the best display position so that it can be seen through the clear plastic window. If that was not enough, they then have about 10 twist ties holding the whole thing together from the inside. To top it all off, sometimes toys are even screwed in to the packaging, meaning you have to get out your screwdriver. It can take up to 10 minutes to unleash the thing from its unwieldy cage. Why do we need all that?

Well I suppose people like to see what they are buying. Apparently a picture on the box doesn’t suffice; we want to see the toy in the clear plastic window. In addition, a larger box lets you see all the cool things you can do with the toy, and sometimes gives you pictures of other toys you could also purchase that would make playing with this toy more fun. My 5-year old son always wants to save the box, he loves looking at them. But what if we got it in a reusable mesh bag, and then looked on the Internet together to see all the cool things the toy could do?

Do you know what kind of toys come with no packaging? – The ones from a garage sale or from goodwill. You just pick it up off the table, dust it off, pay a fraction of the price for it, and then toss it in your tote bag. How great is that? No packaging, ultra cheap, and to top it all off – you are reusing it. It is about as green as you can get.

At night after the kids go to bed, I try to go around the house and pick up and put away toys. Sometimes I just look at it all and think – where did this all come from? There are so many toys, and 90% of them are plastic. Probably 80% of them were purchased new. They are not in the landfill yet, but one day they probably will be. How many pounds of plastic will our toys take up in the landfill one day? It is something I have never even thought about until today. Not to mention those toys with the “don’t throw out” symbol on them, because they might contain heavy metals or something. I don’t know. What happens to these toys? I donate them to goodwill and then the next user just tosses them with abandon? What is the impact?

Today is one month until Christmas. More toys will come into our house; as will more packaging.

So today’s resolution is to scour 2nd hand stores for Christmas toys and stocking stuffers and toys this year. Santa doesn’t want his Arctic Ice meltin’!