There are millions and millions of children’s toys out there. It’s a rather interesting industry because there are just so many ways to entertain a child’s mind, so it’s always amazing to see what producers have thought about to make our children’s development more easygoing and faster.
Toys are not just a way to entertain our children and put their imaginations to work, it is also a way for them to learn about the world and everything in it. Toys also help our children make sense of new knowledge such as numbers, colors, letters, shapes and textures. They’re a very safe way to expose our children to the world from a very early age. There are also modern toys and even toys that use interactive digital entertainment.
As you can imagine, there are different materials used to make children’s toys. The popularity of these materials has changed through time and we are left with the two most common materials to make children’s toys, which are: wood and plastic.
Today we’re going to discuss in-depth the two main materials used to produce children’s toys and we’re hoping to understand what the benefits of these materials are. Surely there’s a reason almost all of the toys your children use are either made of plastic or wood. Of course there are other materials like fabric and rubber, but wood and plastic have always stayed on top of the list. Let’s get started!
What Kind of Plastic is used to Make Children’s Toys?
Given that not all toys are made the same, they don’t use the same kind of plastic either. I know it all kind of looks the same, but there are different types of plastic used in the mass production of children’s toys, here are the most common ones so you can get acquainted:
Polyethylene (PE): This is a very strong plastic, so it’s no wonder it’s used to make some long-lasting toys. Polyethylene can be found in two forms, low-density and high-density PE. Every time you buy your child a toy made out of PE, you’re getting the sturdy high-density form of the plastic. Low-density PE is used to make trash bags and such.
Polyvinyl chloride: This type of plastic is also known as PVC or simply vinyl. Vinyl’s main characteristic is that it’s more rubbery than solid, so you’ll find it in the tires of toy cars and other rubber figures and toys. It makes for bendy toys and accessories, so you’ll find it more often than not.
Polypropylene (PP): If “polypropylene” and “polyethylene” sound similar to you, is because they belong to the same family of polymers. They share a lot of similar properties, it’s just that polyethylene is derived from propylene and polypropylene is derived from ethylene. It’s also one of the cheapest plastics so you’ll find it more often in the market. They only downside to PP is that it’s not very durable!
Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene: Also known as ABS, it’s one of the toughest plastics out there. This is what LEGOs are made of! So you know it makes for great, durable, sturdy toys.
Are There Any Toxic Elements Present in the Plastic Used for Children’s Toys?
It’s true that none of us can scape plastic, and that includes our children. The good thing is there’s not much to worry about. The majority of plastics that are present in everyday life are perfectly safe. Actually, plastics in their true and pure form are not soluble in water and they represent an overall low level of toxicity.
However, it is also true that there are some elements and additives found in plastic children’s toys that can be toxic. Being very realistic about this, it’s not likely to get injuries or health scares from plastic-based toxins. Nonetheless, the best is to choose our children’s toys very carefully. I’ll show you some tips later on, but right now I want to talk to you about some toxic chemicals for you to keep an eye on.
Bisphenol-A: Also known as BPA, Bisphenol-A is a very common element that can be found in toys, plastic baby bottles, and other children’s items and even common items such as plastic dishware, tooth fillings, and water bottles. BPA is known to be an endocrine disruptor which links it directly to conditions such as obesity, breast cancer, and even depression.
Polyvinyl chloride: PVC plastics contain certain additives that can be harmful to children. What’s more, the manufacture of this type of plastic creates dioxin which is proven to be a carcinogen. This, of course, it’s not found in the plastic of your children’s toys, but buying less PVC is a small step towards taking care of the environment.
Plasticizers: There are common plasticizers such as adipates and phthalates that are used to make brittle plastics a lot more manageable for the production of toys. This poses a toxicity risk because these plasticizers can leak out of the product.
Fire retardants: Fire retardants are found in most plastic toys. They are very dangerous for your children because they are known to disrupt hormone systems and they even have an effect on brain and behavior. That’s a huge red flag! We don’t want anything messing with our children’s brain. Some of the most common fire retardants are Polybrominated diethyl ethers (PBDEs), polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and brominated-ethanes (DBDPE & BTBPE). All of these are fire retardant chemicals that can be found in hard plastic toys, rubber toys, and even stuffed toys.
The truth is that there are some toxic elements present in our children’s toys, but the greater majority of the toys out there are perfectly safe. You just have to avoid the manufacturers that use these toxic chemicals in their toys. Look for toys made out of polybutylene terephthalate plastic, which is the plastic used to make most of the toys nowadays. You can recognize it because it gives the toys a bright, shiny and impact-resistant look. Also be sure to avoid inexpensive mass-produced children’s toys and be extra vigilant of antique toys and the like.
Advantages of Plastic Toys
Yes, plastics can be toxic. But given that awareness has continued to rise on the subject, there are strict safety regulations in place to protect the consumers. Every single children’s toy that you pick out is tested and approved as safe and reliable. Now let’s talk about the advantages of plastic toys and why they continue to be the most popular kinds of toys out there.
As opposed to other kinds of toys, plastic children’s toys are more durable than others. Plastic is also a very versatile product, which means it can be used in a million different ways to create a million different toys and play figures. Plastic twists and it bends and it can take the rough treatment that children are known to give to their toys no matter how much they respect their own property.
To add to these advantages, I can say that plastic toys are washable. This is an incredibly important feature when it comes to our children’s toys. They spend so much time in contact with them and you know they take their toys to their mouths, so it’s essential to be able to keep the toys clean. Plastic makes this task very easy! You only have to wipe them clean with a damp cloth and soap or even baby wipes, or even wash them in the bathtub or the dishwasher.
The fact that you can keep them clean and that they can take rough use makes plastic toys more lasting than others. That way, you don’t have to buy new toys that often, the toys can be passed down to other generations or they can even be kept as mementos of a wonderful time in their lives. Either way, plastic is always a good choice for children’s toys.
A Parental Guide for Choosing Safe Plastic Toys for Kids
Buying toys is not only about how pretty they are, how much fun your kids can have with them or how much can they learn because of them. That’s important, but not as important as safety. So here I bring you some tips to keep in mind when you’re out buying s few new toys for the little ones. This little guide applies to any kind of toy, not just plastic ones.
Read labels: This is very important. Labels are there for a reason and they provide important details such as how to use the toy or the age group it’s meant for. Make sure the toys you choose are safe and appropriate for your child’s stage of development.
Avoid choking hazards: If you are shopping for your toddlers, don’t even think about toys that come with small pieces. The bigger the pieces, the better; you don’t want to worry about them attempting to eat a piece of plastic.
Avoid loud toys: They can seriously damage your children’s hearing. Especially if they’re little.
Choose sturdy toys: Go for the toys that are truly well made! Make sure that everything’s put together nicely and tightly; you don’t want parts coming off when you’re not around because your children can either attempt to swallow them or they can hurt themselves.
Avoid toxic materials: Make sure the labels say “non-toxic”. Remember that most plastic children’s toys, and toys in general, are tested and approved; that means they have something to show for it on the label to make sure that you know you’re buying a safe product. Look for those signs and don’t be fooled by cheap toys.
As a general rule, make sure to avoid strings or ribbons because accidents can happen. Also, avoid stuffing that’s made out of pebbles or small things that can be a choking hazard. When you’re buying your children’s toys, make sure you choose the right ones for their age. That way you’ll be guaranteed safety; and it will be easy for your child to understand the toy, play with it, develop abilities that they’re already working on, and even feed their interests at each particular age.
Now I’m going to move on to another popular material to produce children’s toys: wood! Wooden toys are actually gorgeous and there’s something very unique about them. They definitely stand out!
They’ve also been around since the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, so wooden toys have been present throughout history and even today they continue to be produced. Plastic and technology haven’t been able to kick wood to the side. That may be because there’s something very traditional about wooden toys that is worth keeping alive.
What Kind of Wood is used to Make Children’s Toys?
There’s a variety of woods used to make children’s toys and they’re classified as hardwood or softwood. The varieties of each classification are used to make wooden toys, but there are three types of wood that are the most common:
Hickory: According to wood experts, hickory is a type of slow-growing wood. The characteristic that makes it stand out the most is its strength and ability to take heavy blows. It’s usually used to make axe handles and other sturdy products, including children’s toys.
Black Cherry: Black cherry has a lovely scent and it’s very easy to work with; this makes it ideal to make children’s toys. This type of wood has a light red color when it’s young, but as time passes and the wood ages, it darkens. Another characteristic that makes it ideal for toy production is its smoothness!
White Pine: This is a type of softwood that it’s also very popular in the production of children’s toys. One of the main characteristics is that it’s a very durable wood, so toys made out of it can be passed down from generation to generation.
The Benefits of Playing with Wooden Toys
They encourage creativity: Wooden toys can come in the shape of vehicles, food, and other common items, but they also come in basic shapes like blocks, sticks, geometrical shapes, etc. This is how children are encouraged to find out what can be made out of them and how they can use these basic shapes to create something entirely new like different structures and patterns. By not having a pre-conceived purpose, wooden toys encourage more creativity and imagination than other kinds of toys.
They are less distracting: Wooden toys allow the children to be more in control of the experience. They don’t only get to build their own shapes; they also have to make the sounds instead of just listening to the toy. That way, they’re encouraged to focus a lot more on the activity at hand because they have to think of many different things at once.
They encourage interaction: When children are so fascinated by the process of their own play, they’re more likely to invite others to not just admire their creations, but also to create something themselves. This, in turn, leads to cooperative play, where children can get together and explore ideas together.
They develop reasoning skills: Wooden toys encourage reasoning because children basically have to use what they have. If they get interesting ideas, they have to work their minds to figure out how they can make it happen with what wooden toys they have available. They can also learn to categorize by having different wooden toys; they could organize them by size, shape, color, and even texture.
Wooden toys can also encourage problem-solving and they help develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, which are very important for growing children.
Advantages of Wooden Toys
The main advantage of wooden toys is that they’re environmentally friendly. This can seem surprising at first because you can think that making toys out of woods is wasteful. The truth is that toys are usually made from renewable sources and forestry methods are employed to make sure that reforestation is possible. What’s more, wooden toys don’t involve any chemicals in their creation process so there are no harmful leaks to the environment.
Wooden toys are also safe for kids. They’re natural toys after all and they don’t pose any of the threats that synthetic products do; such as they may be. The only real danger is that wood is harder than plastic and it can scratch and splinter; this can pose a few dangers, but children are not likely to be THAT rough on their toys. Just take a look at their wooden toys from time to time and make sure they’re doing okay.
This type of toy is also very easy to maintain and they’re easy to clean. You shouldn’t soak them in water though! Wiping them with a damp cloth and soap or maybe even using baby wipes will do. What’s best is that they’re very cheap! The fact that they’re cheap won’t affect quality and lifetime. Not many other cheap toys can say the same thing.
Plastic Toys and Wooden Toys Compared
Both types of toys have some disadvantages to take into account, but the truth is that they’re both great choices for your children. They’re both very durable, but wooden toys definitely have the upper hand when it comes to durability. They can last for a very long time and they can be passed down from generation to generation provided that you take proper care of them.
Another advantage that wooden toys can hold over plastic toys is that they’re more eco-friendly. The process of making anything plastic releases toxins into the environment that are very harmful for all of us. This doesn’t happen in the production of wooden toys. In fact, if you have gifted hands, you can learn how to make your own wooden toys. The same can’t be said of plastic toys!
Wooden toys are cheaper than plastic toys, but plastic toys feature a lot more details than wooden toys. Plastic toys even come with sound effects, visual effects, detailed designs, images, lots of colors, and many other features. Wooden toys are a lot more basic in comparison, but that just means your children will have to use their minds even more.
You can find cheap plastic toys as well, so as far as price goes there’s not that much of a difference if you know where to look. The major difference is about features and about how each of these toys engages your children’s brains.
Plastic toys are sturdy, but they’re not as sturdy as wooden toys. They are more likely to break and even malfunction, but they can also be repaired in most cases. The thing is that, in general, they’re not as durable as wooden toys.
At the end of the day, the best choice for your child is the safest and the most beneficial one. It doesn’t matter if you decide to go for wood or plastic, as long as you make sure that no harm will come to your kids as a result, every toy out there has its own useful features. You just have to try them out!
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