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kids and family

Going Natural

Where to Find Lead-Free Toys

by Monica Z. Utsey


oliday shopping can be stressful, but the fear of making a child sick should not be one of your worries. This holiday season the threat of lead poisoning is no doubt on the mind of every shopper, especially parents. Since September, more than 21 million toys have been recalled, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. There doesn’t seem to be a way around it with a whopping 80 percent of all toys being made in China. However, with a little ingenuity and, of course, use of the internet, you can find quality toys that are made in the USA or other European countries known for making quality toys for hundreds of years. Expect to pay more because the cost of making high quality toys is much more expensive. But you’ll have these toys for years, and in some cases you will be supporting family-owned businesses dedicated to outstanding customer service.

Arlington TOP TO BOTTOM: Hand-crafted and hand-painted Holztiger Animals made in Germany on display at Why Not Toy Store. Haba pull-toys made in Germany on display at Why Not Toy Store.

Just across the bridge in Arlington, Va., is a toy store called Kinderhaus. Its owner, Sue Spyatt, knows just the kinds of unique toys, game and clothes that parents are looking for. “We are a children’s specialty store,” said Spyatt. “In our store we put a strong emphasis on wooden toys that are made in places other than China.” To make it easy on shoppers, small signs have been placed throughout the store saying where toys are made. “This year we have more than we’ve ever had before as options for buying toys that are not made in China,” said Spyatt. In an effort to carry the safest toys possible, when purchasing from China, Spyatt orders from smaller companies whose safety standards are high and whom they consider reliable.

Alexandria Toy shopping doesn’t have to be fear and drudgery this season. It can be a historical experience. Just across the bridge in historic Old Town Alexandria, Va., is Why Not, a toy store that has been serving the local area for more than 40 years. Sarah Rolph, the store’s toy buyer, says that people come from “miles around” and that more than three generations of families have been shopping at the store. “We’ve always tried to carry more of the wooden and traditional toys. We don’t have as many plastics,” said Rolph. Why Not toy store also supports smaller toy making companies and has carried independent artists as well. In addition to an array of toys made in the US, expect to find toys from well-known European toy makers such as Selecta, Voila and Haba. The Selecta toy website says that most of their toys are made in their factories and are monitored from start to finish so that they can “proudly bear the Made in Germany mark.” The company also uses environmentally-friendly paints and lacquers.

Washington, DC Teresa Price, an assistant teacher for the Acorn Hill Waldorf Nursery School, supports local, independent toy stores because she believes they really look out for the interest of parents and children. Price says she prefers small stores like Tree Top Kids because large chain toy stores overwhelm her. “It is too much stuff and it’s harder to weed through the stuff that is not necessary, and it is harder to find age appropriate toys in large stores,” said Price. “Smaller toy stores are more selective and offer wholesome toys. I think they are more in tune with what children need, and they talk to parents more.” Tree Top Kids specializes in educational toys and toys that promote physical development. Monica Z. Utsey is a wife, freelance writer, homeschooling mom, and President of the Southern DC Chapter of Mocha Moms Inc. ■ 42 ★ East of the River | December 2007

Tips from the Daily Green on finding American-made or European-made toys this year: 1. Because so many parents (more than 45 percent according to an MSNBC poll) have the same fears this year about lead contaminated toys, it’s best to shop early. Last minute shopping means less selection to choose from. 2. Shop small, independent toy stores. They will stock unique toys and will have a larger selection of toys made in the US and those made from European companies who have been making toys for decades. 3. Let your fingers do the shopping. If seeing the toy before you purchase it is unnecessary and you like the convenience of shopping online, then your choices will be endless. 4. The downside of all of this is that you can expect to pay more. Toys made by Americans command higher prices because fair wages are paid in the production. You can use this as an opportunity to educate your children about fair trade practices and safe toy production. ~www. More information: Kinderhaus. 1220 N. Fillmore, Arlington, VA, 703-527-5929, Mon.-Sat., 10-8 p.m., Sun., 10-6 p.m. Why Not. 200 King St., Alexandria, VA, 703-548-2080, Mon.-Thurs., 10-5:30 p.m., Fri., 10-6 p.m., Sat., 10-8 p.m., Sun., noon-5 p.m. Tree Top Kids. 3301 New Mexico Ave. NW, Washington, DC , 202-244-3500, Mon.Sat., 9:30-5:30 p.m. Online Shopping Resources: Recalled Toys:

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