Holiday Gift Guide
posted by: Guest Blogger
It’s time to get serious about toy shopping, not only because the holidays are just around the corner, but because lately we’ve had recall after recall and toy shopping has had to become serious business. Serious business because it’s proving to be more important than ever to do your homework and know that the toys you are purchasing for your children will be safe (i.e. free from lead paint or any other toxic substances). If we can’t count on the government and toy manufacturers to protect our children, then we must step up and be vigilant on their behalf.
Since we are trying to weed out most of our plastic toys in our home and replace them with quality wooden toys, that’s what I’ve been on the lookout for for the past few months. It’s not just because of the toy recalls (though that’s been a definite motivating factor), but also because wooden and organic toys feel so much better, promote imagination (a big part of the Waldorf school of thought), and are generally built to last.
This gift guide is a bit different from traditional gift guides in that it primarily contains information about the places where I’m doing my holiday shopping this year, but I hope you will find it to be helpful as well.
Where oh where can I find quality toys without breaking the bank?
- Freecycle – Freecycle can be a great resource for finding
usedpreviously loved toys. The good news is that everything listed on there is free and you are saving the items from otherwise ending up in the trash. The bad news is the fact that you may be “competing” against a lot of people for any one item so you have to pay attention to the listings and be quick to respond, and even then you aren’t guaranteed an item since it’s up to the person giving it away to decide who gets it. But if you have some patience and persevere, you could end up with some good finds. As they say, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” In addition to my recent Christmas tree score, I also got this cute little hobby horse from Freecycle last week. 🙂
- Craigslist – Another good resource for previously loved toys. Most of the items on Craigslist do cost money, but the nice thing is that you are recycling and giving the items (toys or anything else) a chance at being loved again (and again, keeping them out of the landfills).
- Consignment store, thrift stores and garage sales – You never know what will turn up in consignment and thrift stores so my advice is to visit them often since they are always putting new merchandise up for sale. I recently found a handful of wooden toys at a local children’s consignment shop. You can also score some real treasures from garage sales. Can ya tell I’m a big fan of second-hand toys?
Crunchy tip: One of the many wonderful things about buying quality wooden toys is that they can be passed on from child to child, family to family, even generation to generation and most are built to last for the long haul. 🙂 Plastic toys, on the other hand, tend to wear out or break, and end up in the landfills. 🙁
– When it’s getting to be crunch time –
When it’s getting down to the wire and you are still in need of quality toy gifts, there are still deals to be had if you know where to look.
- Closeout stores – Stop in closeout stores like Tuesday Morning and Ross, among others, and you may be pleasantly surprised by some of the quality toys they carry. At the suggestion of a friend, I recently went to Tuesday Morning and found a large selection of German wooden toys (brands like Spielmaus and HEROS) for 50% off the retail price. Germany’s safety standards for toys are among the strictest out there. They also had Melissa and Doug toys, as well as Ryan’s Room toys in stock. Although their inventory can vary greatly from week to week, it is possible to find great toys at closeout stores for a fraction of the retail price. I ended up walking out of there with a wooden ring stacker, a wooden doll house, HEROS wooden blocks, a Spielmaus wooden workbench (that I’m saving until Julian is older), a children’s garden tool set and gardening gloves, two Melissa & Doug wooden puzzles, and a HEROS train set, and then Jody went back later and bought a 131 piece train table – all for 50% off!
Hazelnut Kids – Selling only “Natural, earth-friendly, wooden and organic cotton toys for children and babies” including brands like HABA (made in Germany), Plan Toys (a huge variety of wooden toys made in Thailand), Under the Nile (dolls and more made in Egypt), Elves & Angels (wooden kitchens made in USA), and Kathe Kruse (Waldorf dolls made in Germany), Hazelnut Kids is a new favorite online toy store of mine. I recently had the chance to try out one of their MiYim organic cotton teether rattles, well, Julian tried it out, but mama was very impressed. It’s an adorable rattle and very well-made, and I love the fact that it’s organic cotton since it’s going in his mouth. I was so impressed with Hazelnut Kids and the variety of quality toys that they offer (Note: each toy has a yellow box next to it that tells you what country the toy was made in) that I purchased several toys from their online store for upcoming birthday and Christmas presents like a wooden tableware set and modeling beeswax for Ava and a car, xylophone, and a punch and drop for Julian. The toys shipped the SAME DAY that I ordered them and the prices seemed very reasonable to a penny-pincher like me. I also like that for each toy you buy, Hazelnut Kids gives you “Loyalty Reward Points” that allow you to take money off future purchases. Their flat-rate shipping charge is only $5.95 for delivery within the contiguous United States. And if you sign up for their newsletter, you will receive coupons and free entries into drawings. I seriously can’t say enough good things about this company.
More ideas – Go indie!
Rather than support the big name toy stores this season, why not shop the local and independent toy stores in your area? You might pay a little more money, but you are also likely to receive better customer service and better quality toys.
One great place to shop indie online is Etsy – the place to buy “all things homemade.” I like Etsy because you can find a wide range of unique toys and many other items (purses, jewelry, clothing, glass, soap, art, and much more) all in one place. Some of the cute things I’ve seen on Etsy include a Doorway Puppet Theater, OogaBooga plush dolls, sock monkeys, Vermont Fairies hand-felted fairy dolls, a felt vegetable pita set, custom
super hero capes, hardwood puzzles and toys, a Waldorf “Cheery” Rattle, and Au Natural Building Blocks. The list could go on and on because there is no shortage of cute, quality, original and otherwise great toys on Etsy.
Another cool feature about Etsy is that if you’d like to shop for items made by a seller in a particular city or state (like Colorado), you can use the Geolocator to enter in that location and it will show all sellers matching that description.
Let’s get creative!
Lastly, if you are feeling the creative juices flowing this holiday season, you can make some pretty awesome toys out of things like cardboard boxes and Fome Cor, including a kitchen in a box (made out of a carboard box!), a portable playhouse and a puppet playhouse. In addition to instructions on making cool toys for your kids, the Family Fun site has tons of craft ideas to do with your kids as well.
Some final thoughts on holiday shopping
Do your research. Buy brand names you know and can trust. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to contact the manufacturer if the store can’t answer your questions. The quality toys are out there. We just may need to look farther than the big box stores to find them. Cheers and happy shopping! 🙂
Amy (aka Crunchy Domestic Goddess) is a guest blogger, wife and mother of two who lives outside of Denver. Passionate about attachment parenting, informed birth choices, green living and photography, Amy is trying to change the world, one blog post at a time. Her blog is Crunchy Domestic Goddess.