There’s no bigger eye opener to the excessive use of plastic than visiting a children’s toy shop in search of presents for birthdays and reward chart bribery.
Most of the toys are plastic and are wrapped to oblivion in the stuff. But the irony is that it’s our children’s generation, and children’s children, that will suffer the inevitable consequences of devestating beach and land pollution, obliteration of marine life and toxic water supplies. And we’re the ones buying all the plastic tat for them.
This year, I’m making it my mission to attempt to only buy gifts that are not engulfed in plastic – IT’S TRICKY – but here are the best options I have found so far. Number eight, is my own creation, and pleased to say it was a total hit!
Ok, books are generally associated with a BORING present to even my book loving little ones, unless they are ones they particularly enjoy already. The one good thing about the highly commercialised Rainbow Magic Fairies collection is that although they generally lack a decent plot, I’ve yet to meet a five, six or seven year old girl who doesn’t love them. Even better is that there’s a book for almost every popular name out there, so they can have a book with their name on.
Other exciting book options are recognition or non-fiction ones for spotting trees, birds, bugs paving the way to an outdoor adventure. Or I remember absolutely doting on a giant world atlas as a child, making imaginary aeroplanes and jetting off to far off lands to find treasure and jewels.
2. A Musical Instrument
A Ukelele, a wooden drum, a tambourine, a dinosaur-shaped scraper… Online deliveries unfortunately often come wrapped in plastic but some retailers will take on board specific requests to package with plastic. Worth phoning or emailing to find out, particularly with smaller independent retailers.
3. A Grow-Your-Own Kit
The supermarkets usually have some kind of grow-your-own kits – this one to grow your own mini strawberries is sold in Waitrose for a fiver. There are also grow your own sunflowers, tomatoes and cress gardens out there.
You could accompany the kit with…
4. Kids gardening stuff
Metal watering cans, wooden handled garden tools, seeds in paper packets, ceramic pots, bug hotels, bird houses, mini gardening gloves… all encourage the connection with the outdoors which is where they’ll learn to appreciate nature and what it provides for us. Even if you don’t have a garden to dig up, take the spades and things to the woods or the park and dig for worms and bugs somewhere else instead. Marvellous. Garden centres, DIY shops and some supermarkets stock this kind of stuff.
5. Retro wooden toys
This is a bit about being eco-friendly and a bit about nostalgia! National Trust sites tend to stock this kind of stuff in their shops, perfect after a day out with the family. Also the RHS gardens like Kew or Wisley or any other the other many lovely places to visit have these kind of toys in their souvenir shops. The down side is that they are often quite pricey for what you get, but they do look aesthetically good so won’t let you down on style.
Funky notebooks (steering clear of the plastic covered ones), wooden pencils sets, card and crafty supplies are usually a hit. However, I find our house is quickly saturated with notebooks and craft supplies so there’s definitely a limit with this one! Easily accessible though, and usually cheap. Found these novelty twig pencils online which look pretty cool!
7. Colouring / craft / activity books
Paper (not plastic) activity books are an easy win in this house. Probably not up to scratch for a birthday present but certainly enough for a reward, and keeps them entertained a while too. Win.
8. A Make-Your-Own kit
I actually hijacked this one from an awesome site I found filled with good ideas for 60 kids gifts that are not toys.
This is something I have made this weekend, to road test on my six-year-old daughter and two-year-old son for whether or not it would make an acceptable birthday gift for friends. My reasoning being that kids just love receiving presents, no matter what they are, and so long as the packaging looks the part, they are happy.
My daughter was absolutely thrilled with this Magic Potion Mixing Kit… I put it together with jars that would have otherwise gone in the recycling bin, a dash of biodegradable glitter from eco-festival supplies company Pic ‘n’ Mix Festival Kits put into a little cork top bottle from eBay. A set of instructions, a wooden lolly stick for mixing, a little cotton pouch for collecting petals etc (I have since learnt the impact of cotton though and next time I’d use jute), and wrapped in coloured paper (salvaged from gifts, flowers etc) and wrapped with bits of wool and twine. I did have to order boxes to look like the real deal!
I plan to put together some more kits – adventure kits, bug hunting kits, perfume making kits… it’s great up-cycling of glass instead of recycling, which uses water and energy.
Seeing how genuinely pleased they were, and in my daughter’s words “the best present ever”, it reminded me of how much misplaced value we grown-ups put on material things, and how children really are happy with simplicity and imagination.
Lets teach our kids about the world and hope they look after it better than us.
“So many aspects of life depend on fossil fuels, except for music and love and education and happiness.” – Mayer Hillman
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