In a world full of plastic battery operated toys, finding eco-friendly, safe gifts for children can often be a daunting task. Fortunately, the Birmingham area offers several options to help friends and families find toys and other gifts to help keep special occasions as green and healthy as possible.
Shop Local Specialty Stores
Homewood Toy and Hobby, located on 18th Street South, is Birmingham’s oldest toy store. With a focus on providing classic toys designed to foster creative play and imagination, the store features a great selection of wooden toys like kitchens and musical instruments from award-winning toy makers.
Homewood Toy and Hobby also carries a line of wooden doll houses, fire stations, accessories and more from the German toy maker Hape, another award-winning company fully committed to keeping toys as safe and toxic free as possible. By choosing wooden toy brands like these, you can avoid exposing children to dangerous chemicals such as phthalates or dioxin, which are often found in a great deal of plastic toys.
Shop Online for Locally Made Gifts
Another great option is to look online for local Etsy stores that sell eco-friendly children’s toys and other products. To shop “locally” on Etsy.com, simply type in “Alabama” or “Birmingham” in the website’s “shop local” tab which is located on the left hand side of the homepage.
Many local Alabama Etsy shops offer a great selection of handmade toys and other gifts. The Birmingham based Etsy shop Doodasanddesigns, sells an assortment of handmade children’s clothing and gifts like his or her felt birthday crowns that come with Velcro numbers 1-6. What child wouldn’t love a birthday crown to help make their day even more special?!
Skip the “Material” Gift & Give the Gift of Experiences Instead
As a complete alternative, consider avoiding an overload of material toys and gifts in general and offer children fun personal experiences. This can also be a great solution for birthday party gift giving. Simply create a gift certificate for the birthday boy or girl for an adventure somewhere special in town, or for a yummy treat at a local sweet shop. For an extra special touch, encourage the child to wear their favorite dress-up clothes.
Another fun idea is to give a child the opportunity to come up with his or her own idea for a fun-filled afternoon or day out. Even a day spent flying kites, drawing with sidewalk chalk, and blowing bubbles at the park will be well cherished and creates a whole lot less waste.
The McWane Center is a terrific place for children to play and learn all day long and to build fun memories. Other local ideas include ice skating at the Pelham Civic Center, Pump it Up for some jump time fun, or the BMX track at Oak Mountain State Park, which on non-race days, is free to use with park admission.
Choosing to give fewer toys not only reduces the overall amount of waste created, but it also helps to foster creativity in a child helping them learn that not all fun comes from the aid of man-made materials.
Erin Mills contributed to this article