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Ethical Christmas Toys for Children

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If they are not ridiculously gender specific (pink toy laptop with half the functions of the boys one, anyone?) then they are dictating how to play with their flashing lights and music, created using a scarce resource that sends a world to war, or made by blistered hands just a little bigger than our own children’s.

I am a massive advocate of non-toys, finding that often jars of things, or baskets of odds, can stir a child’s imagination so much more than dictator toys. The toys we do have have been ferreted out from car boot sales and charity shops, we aim for things that are simple and aesthetically pleasing. Yeah, yeah, that just means vintage in my mind! (A few of our favourites, and my second hand shopping strategy can be seen right here.)

We are not massively legalistic though, in fact right now Ramona is utterly obsessed with Ginger the Talking Cat app on our smartphones. I’d go so far as to say they have a kind of friendship. She tickles him, cleans his teeth, he repeats everything she says. This means they argue quite alot. Tim overheard one argument the other day that went:

Ramona: “My daddy”

Ginger: “My daddy”

Ramona: “No, MY daddy”

Ginger: “No, MY daddy”

Ramona: “NO, my daddy!”

Ginger: “NO, my daddy!”

Ramona: “NO!! MY DADDY!!!”

Ginger…. You can probably guess what Ginger retorted, and just how long this argument lasted for. Neither were prepared to concede.

For the most part, when it comes to toys I request secondhand (both sets of Ramona’s grandparents are awesome at this) and I tend to craft things up to give. However, sometimes family members want to know what they can give your children for Christmas, and while you could say “Just write them a poem”  with a virtuous lilt, it can be nice to suggest some stuff they might feel more comfortable with.

For the last 5 years I have run an ethical Christmas Fayre. It began when we were living up in Oxford Circus and  were exasperated at the lack of Fairtrade gifts available, and it is growing each year. This year we have two venues, woot! We had our first one for 2012 this Saturday just gone. It was exhausting but not stressful – in fact the most stressful part was when I turned around to find Ramona had stripped off and was cavorting amongst the stalls almost in the nude. EEEEP.

Anyway, one awesome benefit of running the Fayres is that I get to keep up with the world of fairtrade and handmade, and see how stylish and gorgeous the products are becoming. I wandered around the Fayre on Saturday completely confident that 90% of the stuff blew stereotypes of “ethical consumerism” out of the water.

Bearing in mind all my own criteria for toys – imagination stirring, ethically made, not draining on the world’s resources, gender-neutral – I picked out my top 4 ethical gifts for kids:

Baby – a hand knitted bunny

Kinderkraft are a mother and daughter business based just down the road from me. They have the most gorgeous selection of hand cotton-knitted dolls, with a real modern feel, that are perfectly soft to the touch. They also create bespoke stuffed letter bunting so you can spell out a child’s name and can chose fabric – avoiding any nasty pink/ blue limitations.  Their Etsy shop showcases a lot of their stuff. 

hand knitted bunny


 Toddler – a fairtrade bus

We couldn’t resist buying this beautiful Fairtrade bus for Ramona, a cool momento of our time in London, and sure to fire her imagination. It is sold by the AMAZING Fair Share, who are based in Soho and have an incredible range of Fairtrade kids toys that you can also buy online.

fairtrade bus


Any age – eco wooden vehicles

These hand crafted wooden toys from Top Wooden Toys are so classic in their design I think they would suit any age, and even parents would get a lot of pleasure from them. Ramona LOVED their stall on Saturday, they had a whole load of stuff not even for sale on their website that she just kept returning to. You can also buy their products on Tinternet.Handmade Wooden Digger

Older kids – Pucket

If you haven’t played Pucket yet, you really haven’t lived. It is the most basic game  involving flinging wooden disks around a board, yet provides HOURS of fun for really anyone who has a little hand-eye coordination. Kids from 6 would love this, and Tim takes it to his Youth Club for teenagers, and they love it too, AND we get it out at Christmas for all us older ones.  A total classic. Find out more, and buy, here. 



All of these, and many more toys and gifts for the WHOLE family, will be available to buy at the Horniman Museum ethical Christmas Market this Saturday and Sunday 8th and 9th December. But if you can’t get there, help your family to avoid the tax evaders and plastic creators by giving them a list from the above traders!

Sometimes buying ethically does cost a bit more, but so often it is because you are paying for something that will last a lifetime, and you are paying the TRUE cost of an item. I really believe we can change the world by making good shopping choices, and our children and their generation will thank us!

11 responses »

  1. I have wanted to get that bus for the boys ever since Ethan was born its gorgeous!I bought my mum pucket a few years back&its definately one for the family!well done on the fayre.sorry we couldnt make it.Xx

    • Thanks Raych! We bought the bus last year but saved it in the attic till she could really appreciate it, which will be this year I think. A bit luxury for a 2 year old, but maybe we won’t give her much next year to make up for it!!! And I suspect it will be a classic that she gives to her kids maybe…

  2. Gonna go look at Pucket now. My son is 6 very soon and I’m sure would appreciate it.

  3. I’ll certainly be checking my local charity shops when I have a moment, as you can often find wonderful old toys that are not on the market anymore, and other unusual bits and pieces.

  4. I have been looking at buses for a birthday gift post Christmas, will follow up on your recommendation.

  5. We went to a craft fare at durham on sunday, just me and my hubby and it was magical. But what annoyed me was the price of some of the fairtrade products, was way to high and a lot of people commented on that. But saying that I did manage to buy a fairtrade blanket.
    The only thing that puts me off is how ungreen these products can be. For instance that blanket came from a coop in India, so count in the air miles and the travel it takes to there, its not such a green product after all.
    we prefer to buy from local industrialists/crafters/producers as it is helping the local economy in the long run. As you are supporting British crafts. Sorry but I do get a bit like that. And I do reccomend Triadcraft, their stuff is lovely and the have a website to.

    • Hello and don’t be sorry! I love a bit of honesty!

      I think the prices can SEEM high because they are more than what we are used to. But that is because we currently rely heavily on an industry that frequently uses working conditions that resemble slavery, and products that are totally unsustainable.
      With the extra ££ you pay for Fairtrade you are paying for the peace of mind, that children haven’t been used in the making of it, that precious forests haven’t been chopped.
      You point about flying over – if people were choosing local gifts than that is one thing, but often people are going for non-fair items that have still been flown, so it is incomparable, really, do you think?
      I am glad you found a lovely blanket!


  6. Pingback: Favourite posts this week - Bake 'n' Shake

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