Burgermeister Meisterburger may have gotten it right. Well, not really, but I can't help myself from chanting "Burgermeister Meisterburger" with a German accent.
What's the point of this post? Well, a reader wrote in asking me to tackle the problem of plastic toys. Her children received some PVC-laden toys for Christmas from some well-meaning relatives. The reader tries to stick to eco-friendly and non-toxic toys and doesn't know what to do with them. With all the problems we've been hearing lately about lead-filled toys, it's a little scary.
So, what does one do with these toys received as gifts? Well, it depends on how old your child is and how aware of the toys they are. If they are young enough and wouldn't know the difference I would suggest trying to return them.
Most likely you won't have a receipt for the gift and you surely wouldn't want to let your friends and relatives know that you are displeased with their gift choices to ask for one. Many stores will allow you to return a product even without a receipt. Just call around and see who carries the item and whether or not they'll accept it without a receipt. Of course, this means that the toy must be in its original packaging and hasn't already been field tested. Usually a store will give you the lowest price on that product (for, say, in the last six months), but in my mind that's okay.
What to do with the money you received for the return? Well, if the child is older and knows you are returning the toy you can allow them to purchase an eco-friendly toy in exchange. This should keep everyone happy and it teaches them the value of money, too.
Okay, so let's say that the toy has either been already opened (you didn't know there was a seething pile of cancer-causing plastic inside) or you can't find a store that carries the item to return it. My suggestion is to donate it. I know this more or less pushes the toxins off on someone else. But I don't believe that throwing the item out serves much of a purpose particularly when there are thousands of families who aren't as concerned about having eco-friendly toys one way or another. So, it might seem like you are doing someone else a disservice, but until everyone is educated and is onboard with choosing non-toxic items, I think it's an acceptable solution.
If the child is older, donating toys may pose a problem as they'll probably not want to give up something they received. Instead of giving them the option of getting something else in exchange (and costing you money) I recommend letting them choose between several activities that they like doing. For example, going to the library once a week for a month, visiting their favorite park or beach more often (season permitting), going camping, etc. It depends on their interests. I guarantee they'll enjoy the experience more than what they are giving up.
Now, what if the item is for an older child and it's a highly coveted toy? Well, that's when your negotiation skills come into play. I'm sure by now if you stick to eco-safe toys you've already had discussions with them about the reasons why you choose them over more commercial toys. Remind them of why you'd like to return or donate the item and give them options for replacement (experiences or using exchange money) that will be satisfactory to both parties.
Ultimately, you are the parent, so you need to decide when it's important enough to, essentially, take away something from them for their safety or whatever your beliefs are. Although this is not quite the same but it's a useful example: no one would argue with you if you refused to let your child play with a bag of broken glass, nails and razor blades, even if the gift giver was well-meaning. If you feel that plastic toys are dangerous to your child, then you have the right to protect them.
What do you do with toys your children receive for gifts that you do not approve of, for whatever reason (too violent, made by unfair labor, questionable materials, too skanky, etc.)?