Plastic Toys for children. Is it safe?
Imagine a situation when you go to a shop to get that favorite toy for your child and realize it's made of plastic. Suddenly, you start wondering if this is poisonous for your child or what happens if they put it in their mouth.
Aren't these some of the conventional concerns of a parent who is researching the market for the best and safest toys for their child?
Plastic toys are something that is readily available in the market, and another reason for their popularity is because of their affordability and easy manufacturing. It isn't unusual that there is always a question in the mind of a parent about the safety and actual harm that these toys can cause.
It's very common for children to put things in their mouths, especially when they are teething, exploring, and developing their sensory skills. However, parents may question if plastic is a good material for their kids to bite on or even play with. Let's go through the reasons why it can't be a good choice for your child.
Nurturing Child Development Without Plastic
Creating a Montessori environment for your child involves exploring and learning through play. This process for child development is majorly dependent on non-toxic toys.
For new parents and concerned ones, it should be a conscious choice to avoid plastic toys. It is not just a preference but should be because of the commitment to your child's health and the environment.
Even though you may see that they are labeled as "BPA-free" or "made from safe plastics," the essential nature of plastic carries potential risks that we, as cautious and informed parents, should not choose to sidestep.
The Hidden Concerns of Plastics
- Chemical Exposure: Chemicals are a part of plastics, and it is pretty evident that plastic toys contain them too. Even though these toys are labeled as safe, the chemicals in them can have long-term effects on children. When absorbed, they can disrupt hormonal balance in your kids and cause late child development.
- Environmental Impact: It is a known fact that plastic waste is one of the biggest challenges that we are facing today as a civilization, and it contributes to environmental pollution. Opting for wooden toys is a better choice for your child. Materials that are biodegradable and sustainably sourced instill in our children a sense of responsibility for the environment. Due to their low recycling rate and increased likelihood of ending up in landfills or oceans, plastic toys contribute to the growing waste management problem.
- Dependency on Non-Renewable Resources: Most plastics are derived from non-renewable petroleum, contributing to our reliance on fossil fuels. As plastic breaks down into microplastics and releases toxins into water and food, it contributes to a cycle of pollution that affects everyone.
- Sensory Experience: One of the vital drawbacks of plastic toys is that they lack building sensory experience for babies. Eco-friendly wooden toys can provide various sensory experiences like the feel of texture, the coolness of metal, or the softness of cotton, which are subtle yet vital experiences for their sensory development.
Giving plastic toys to your child is risky. How?
Plastic toys pose a large number of long-term health risks to your child, and one such is hormonal disbalance. This mainly refers to a class of compounds known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs).
The most well-known of these is Bisphenol A (BPA), although even "BPA-free" plastics may contain additional EDCs such as Bisphenol S (BPS) and phthalates. These compounds have the ability to imitate, obstruct, or interfere with the body's hormones, especially those involved in growth, development, and reproductive health.
- Reproductive Health: EDCs can cause reduced fertility, early puberty, hormonal cancers, and developmental disorders in the reproductive system.
- Neurological Development: Exposure to extensive EDCs during crucial child development periods can lead to neurodevelopmental issues, including learning disabilities, attention deficits, and cognitive impairments.
- Metabolic Effects: Some EDCs are linked to obesity and metabolic disorders, including diabetes, due to their ability to interfere with the body's fat storage and glucose metabolism.
- Immune System Impact: It can also affect the immune system, increasing the risk of infections, immune-related diseases, and altered vaccine responses.
Why is "Safe Plastic" a Big No?
The word "safe plastic" itself is a very controversial subject; it is also known as bamboo plastic. Bamboo, which is an eco-friendly material, can be quite deceiving when it is termed as Bamboo Plastic.
Made of bamboo fibers and resins containing BPA, phthalates, or other harmful binders, despite being eco-friendly, bamboo mixed with these can hurt health benefits, as these chemicals negate them. Also, these added resins prevent this "safe plastic" from breaking, contributing to the same environmental concerns.
Introducing Plastic Toys: A Matter of Timing
In today's time, avoiding plastic is a challenge we are aware of. So, choosing wooden toys can be a good alternative in the early child development stages.
However, if you do decide to introduce plastic toys, we recommend waiting until after the child has passed the mouthing phase, which typically is around 2- 3 years of age. At this stage:
- The Child's Developmental Stage: Wait for the child to have crossed the mouthing phase when they stop putting toys in their mouth. Older children are less likely to chew on toys, reducing the risk of chemical leaching.
- Educational Value: If you have to go for plastic toys, it is better to select toys that have educational value, such as puzzles or construction sets, which also encourage active engagement and learning.
- Environmental Awareness: As children grow, they can learn about the importance of recycling and the impact of materials on the environment, turning the presence of plastic into a teaching moment about sustainability and creating a more environment-friendly play time for them.
In Montessori practice, every detail of the environment is chosen with care and intention. By opting for materials that are safe, sustainable, and enriching, we give our children the purest and most nurturing start in life.
By avoiding plastic toys, we're not just avoiding potential harm; we're also actively choosing a path that respects our children's development and our planet's future. Let us be the first role models for our children in making conscious and thoughtful choices that have a lasting positive impact.