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Week Three: Ethical gifts for kids

Plastic Fantastic?

My mini eco warrior was invited to 3 birthday parties this week. Yey to free children’s entertainment. Boo to hunting for appropriate gifts.

Be honest, it’s normally a bit of a pain in the proverbial to buy a gift for a kid you don’t know very well isn’t it? Firstly, you have to find something that doesn’t cost a fortune. {I usually aim for £5-10). Then you have to think about what they might be into, and what’s age/gender appropriate. Then you have to make sure your choice is popular enough that it’s a good bet the kid will like it, but not so popular that several other mum’s have also had the same idea – My brain hurts already.

So this week, I have been looking at alternatives to the norm. My main aim was to find three presents for a 5 year old boy, a 4 year old boy, and a 5 year old girl, following this brief:

  1. Must be no more than a tenner (preferably more like £5)
  2. Must be easy to choose, and convenient to purchase
  3. Must be ‘Ethical’

Most toys that we buy our kids have been made in a coal fueled factory in China. The toys are made from plastic that is likely to sit on a landfill for several hundred years with out biodegrading.

140,000 tonnes of plastic toys are then shipped to the UK on a 400 metre long ship, stacked as high as several houses before being delivered to the supermarket. They are packaged in non recyclable materials tied with dozens of those fiddly, time consuming, nervous breakdown inducing ties we all grumble at on Christmas morning. {Pass me the wire cutters darling-before I hurt someone. }

Most worryingly, they are made by workers who according to US workers rights group ‘China Labor Watch’ work in conditions where wages are low, benefits are non existent, work environments are dangerous and living conditions are humiliating.

– There is a good chance, that your Buzz lightyear could have been made by a child. How disturbingly ironic. And Buzz always looks so happy.

Given that the supermarkets failed miserably at producing anything remotely eco friendly in the way of toys, I turned to trusty google. And with a sigh of relief, I discovered a wealth of toys that met my ‘Ethical’ standards, so to speak.

Two key words kept popping up when searching online: Organic, & Fairtrade.

To summarise, when referring to toys, I can define these words as follows:

Organic: Made using materials that have not been treated with pesticides or other chemicals. This reduces the detrimental impact on the surrounding wildlife, water source and the people working with the materials

Fairtrade: This ensures that toys are made by adults, who are treated fairly & paid a descent wage for their work. They usually work with smaller scale producers in the developing world to help them out of poverty.

I found several great places to source toys that meet this criteria, and sell some super cute, original toys that I reckon, will make the  kids happy, but will raise parents eyebrows. In a good way. I hope.

www.tradecraftshop.co.uk – They have some great toys to suit most budgets. You can buy smaller things in packs (like glitzy heart notebooks) which you could get and keep aside to use for several different children’s gifts, or use for party bag fillers. hmm. note to self…

www.­ethicalsuperstor­e.­com – Another good selection of cool gifts, at reasonable prices. Here I found my three presents. For the boys I chose stacking monkeys, and the girlie I chose a matchbox friend. They arrived in recyclable packaging too. Two green thumbs up.


I learnt here that one has to be a bit creative in presenting these gifts. They don’t come in masses of packaging with heaps of  coloured photographs and descriptions and instructions. I printed my own label with description which although was another thing to do, looked really lovely and like I’d made the effort – well, I had! 😉

The next day, when browsing online again {shopping in the name of research 😀 } I came across a little goldmine.

Ethical Kidz had literally answered my prayers and sold everything a parent looks for in a toy, (before they give up and begrudgingly plod to the Disney store). But the difference here is that they have really tuned in to what a kid wants (and needs) out of a toy. This is their aim:


 Hurrah! I had already ordered my 3 gifts but decided to buy another for a 5 year old’s party next month -{ in the name of research. Honest.}

I was spoilt for choice with my £5-10 budget with jewellery kits, knitting sets and books but in the end I opted for a design your own apron. The apron was organic and fairtrade and came with a set of fabric crayons. for £5.75. It was lovingly  presented in a cute recyclable paper back with free gift tag too. I don’t event need to wrap. Awesome.


I did have to pay £3.99 for delivery but it arrived within 48 hours. Next time I will order a few presents at a time to reduce the cost of delivery, but I didn’t begrudge paying it because it was such a lovely gift.

The topic of children’s toys looked pretty depressing at the beginning of the week. But I have found there are plenty of options. That I would be more than happy to buy for my own kids. If the toys help to educate them about the beauty of world around them that’s even better. After all, its them that will be inheriting it isn’t it?


{Week three} Ethical gifts for kids summary:



green_leaf_44/5 (mostly online but saves you braving the high street)

Purse Friendliness:

green_leaf_55/5 (sites like Ethical Kids suit even my scrougey budget)

Earth friendliness:

green_leaf_55/5 (organic, fairtrade, home made, what could be better?)

And in conclusion, on Fridays ‘Snow day’, my kids were more excited about playing in the snow than they were about Christmas day. Maybe we should stop spending money on plastic and start enjoying natures playground.

Next week: Tackling the food shop – part one.

Category: Eco Blog
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