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March Action of the Month: Play the Eco-Friendly Way

Actu - Jouer eco

The school break is coming up and many kids will be spending a lot of time playing.
So we’d like to tell you about a few environmental and health issues linked to all those playthings our little—and big—ones love so much. Équiterre also wants to give you some great inexpensive and eco-friendly ideas for having fun.

 

SOME TOYS ARE MORE HARMFUL THAN THEY LOOK

First, a huge amount of petrochemical-based materials, such as plastics and chemical additives, are used to manufacture kid’s toys and games. And they’re often over packaged to make them stand out on store shelves. Not to mention all the materials required to make electronic toys!

Toys also have a lifetime that is way too short. Being flimsy, they soon wind up in the trash. And when they’re not cool anymore, they’re often left to gather dust. Manufacturers focus on trends, such as film and television characters to increase their appeal. Plus, children’s interests change as they grow up!

Some toys are potentially dangerous to children’s health. In 2009, the magazine 60 million consommateurs in Europe revealed that toxic and carcinogenic substances were found in 30 out of 66 toys tested. To raise awareness among parents about the dangers, Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) created a list of the principal hazardous chemicals found in toys and their possible health effects on children.

Think we’re killjoys? Don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to have fun that are healthful and eco-friendly!

1. Make your own toys and games

What about DIY board games? It’s easy to make cards and counters with your children. It’ll stimulate their creativity, too. You can also reinvent the classics, like Snakes and Ladders or the indispensable Monopoly.

Many games in stores can be played with very few—or no—materials: Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow, for instance, or the guessing game, La boulette [A variant of Times Up]. The possibilities are endless. Check out Wisebread's 8 amazing board games, 10 more ideas from Marie Claire (in French with some links to websites in English) and Pomme D’Api’s list of 15 original activities your kids can do at home

Other ideas: 

  • Make a Mancala with egg cartons and marbles
  • Make salt dough
  • Organize organic cooking sessions

2. Borrow games

You can borrow a wide variety of board games and video games from most municipal libraries. And it’s free! They also host related activities. Some libraries offer an interlibrary loan service, so you can order a game if your local library doesn’t have it.

Did you know that toy libraries in Quebec lend toys and games? Yearly memberships range from $5 to $30. It’s a good way to teach children to look after things and how to buy less. The best thing is they can play a wide variety of games for even more fun!

Some stores, like Randolph and Ludold in Anjou, rent out games. You can try one out for a weekend ($5 or more) or a whole week ($10 or more). Why not rent a game for you and your friends, as well as for the kids? A simple Google search and you’re all set. Another option is board game cafés. Here are some you’ll find throughout Quebec.

3. Buy used games

Thrift stores are full of used toys in good condition at very low prices. When you drop in and buy something, you can give away the toys and games your children no longer play with. Or give them to a charity that will pass them on to children in need, like Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation. Some toy libraries also organize flea markets.

If your toys are not in mint condition, Réno-Jouets in Quebec City repairs, cleans and resells toys at low prices.

4. Opt for eco-friendly or locally made toys

It’s impossible to buy a 100% green toy. Just making them requires a significant amount of energy and, most of the time, non-renewable materials. A toy is considered green when its energy use is below the average. So before you buy, be sure to think about a toy’s lifetime and how much use it’s going to get. Do you really need it? Is it strong or will it reach its end of life soon? Is it part of the latest fad? Is it recyclable or biodegradable?

More tips to help guide your buying decisions:

  • Ask the manufacturer about all stages of the toy’s life cycle, from design to end of life.
  • Opt for toys made from renewable materials, such as:

         - Raw untreated and unfinished wood from renewable forests;
         - Natural, organic fabrics and fibres (cotton, hemp, linen);
         - Natural rubber;
         - Natural dyes and paints.

  • Choose materials recovered from recycling
  • Look for independent, eco-friendly brands
  • To go a step further, browse buyers’ guides such as Consoglobe, WECF and Ecoconso

Local toy manufacturers

There are many toy manufacturers in Quebec and Canada, and some support eco-friendly practices. We recommend the Signélocal.com online directory to quickly find what you’re looking for.

7 gorgeous cuddly toys for babies made in Quebec
Des enfantillages - Handmade toys and workshops for kids
Zenit Longboards
Ouistitine – Handmade toys
Jules mon poisson bulle – Educational and Sustainable Artifacts
Cowboy Sam – Green toys for babies and children

5. Play outside!

Nothing beats playing outside with your kids to relax and have fun. It’s a great way to burn off energy and teach your kids to lead a healthy lifestyle. According to a study by Kino-Québec, physical activity has a significant impact on youth mental health, in particular on self-esteem, stress and anxiety. In Quebec, 15% of preschool children suffer from anxiety or depression.

EXTRA INFO: It’s summer camp registration time. How about a camp with a focus on the environment?

In March, you have to start thinking about registering for summer camps. Why not treat your kids to some time on a farm or in the woods? They’ll get to connect with nature and learn about farming and the environment.

Have you heard about Farm to School Quebec? It’s a non-profit organization set up by a former Laure Waridel bursary winner. Watch the video and have a look at the photos to see what it’s all about. Children discover the wonders of the natural world and how food makes it way to our plates. Fous de nature [Nature fans] also offers various kids day camps across Quebec.