Safe and Sound Toys.

TobyJoe and I are shopping around for new baby toys. That sounds pretty easy, right? Well, we’re trying to avoid toys made in China, not because we’re afraid of lead paint, but because we’re trying to support industries we know are ethically sound. (That’s a loaded sentence, I realize. I will go into it if asked in the comments section.) I was hoping that the seasoned parents out there might be able to help some of us rookies.

What toys does your little one like? Have you tried Haba? Emory really likes the triangular Haba toy (shown below) that my sister-in-law sent us. He likes to chew on a wooden rattle Nico gave us. And he digs the Vilac cat below as well.

But soon we’re going to need snuggly stuff as well as educational games and books and I am having trouble finding stuff that isn’t mass produced in China. We’d really like to try and avoid toys made “For Babies By Babies”.

Also, Michelle mentioned in the comments section of the previous post that her 23 pound girl outgrew the Bjorn. Emory is quickly approaching that day. Are there other options out there?

P.S. I’m working on Tuesdays With Murray. If the baby cooperates, I will have it today.

56 Comments

  1. I’m kind of hoping to find some American company to support that makes awesome organic toys. Is that a dream come true or what?

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  2. I don’t know if you guys have mennonites anywhere near you but in Ontario we have a mennonite community who make all sorts of toys out of wood,and fabric, and so on ..I dunno if thats what your looking for? The best and funkiest option for carrying babies over the Bjorn weight are slings. There is an really cool lady where I live who makes them and ships them all over. The website is http://www.sewfunky.ca.

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  3. Have you looked on etsy.com under toys? I like supporting artists, and it’s nice knowing you are buying handcrafted items. I think there are some really cute stuffed toys on there!

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  4. We dig the wood. I said to TJ that I tend to be drawn to toys that look they were made in Santa’s workshop. heh

    Not sure if Mennonites are here, but they are most definitely in State College and surrounding towns. Maybe we’ll make a field trip. Come to think of it, I wonder if the Amish are good toy makers. They make some mean ass shoes.

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  5. kathryn: No! What a great idea. I like the idea of supporting artists as well. Thanks for the tip! I’ll look around there today.

    Reply

  6. Okay, just had to post this link for some fabric blocks on etsy (no, I’m not the seller!). I would have loved these when my boys were younger!
    http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=9077144

    Reply

  7. I used the Ergo Baby Carrier, it can be used Bjorn style and as a backpack. My daughter loved it and we barely used our stroller while we were visiting SF for a week.

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  8. I don’t care if you are a seller!! Really! we just want cool, environmentally friendly, nicely made stuff.

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  9. We have the Ergo. I have to figure it out/learn how. I can wear it front forward and carry him forward as well? I will watch the video that came with it, I suppose.

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  10. it’s not local, but under the nile makes some organic cotton stuffed toys. we have a stuffed carrot that our 9-month old loves, i know they make other vegetables and possibly other shapes as well. my favorite part about them is that they’re entirely organic and machine washable!

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  11. Under the Nile sells organic toys and clothing, I don’t think they’re made in the US though. Melissa and Doug carries lots of creative play and educational toys that are non-toxic. It can be really difficult to find things you feel good about buying and letting your kids salivate all over without having to freak out if they lose it because it cost almost as much as a small used car!
    I have a sling as well, but my favorite is my Ergo. You can use it on your front, back or hip and it comes with an instructional DVD. Downfall here for Emory is that they have to face inward. They are super easy to put on and my five month old has more of a range of motion in the Ergo than the Bjorn. It holds them up higher so they can see more and their weight is supported with your hips instead of your shoulders. Plus, you can use it ‘til they’re two or three. Not that you necessarily want to be lugging them around that long.

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  12. It doesn’t have to be local. I will check that out! Under the Nile, you say? We really need some stuffed toys that aren’t drenched in chemicals. thank you, Greta!

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  13. Oh, yeah, see, Emory will not face forward without a whole lot of fussing and screaming. Ugh, so the Ergo might not work for us after all. Bummer.

    Never heard of Melissa and Doug! Wow! You guys are awesome. Thank you so much for all the great pointers!

    My aunt gave us some Jack and Lilly shoes. (Made in Canada.) Anyone seen these? They are pretty cute. Check it out. I haven’t read up on their practices, yet. I should do that.

    Reply

  14. My son is now two. You must check out
    http://www.moolka.com
    That is where we get most of our toys. We love Haba too. And you can not go wrong with Plan Toys.

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  15. Just putting my word in for etsy. I LOVE etsy – for grown up toys for me! I bought sock zombies on it for each of my closest girlfriends for CHristmas – “like a sock monkey, only undeader.” Never had a problem and you can find all kinds of neat and homemade stuff on it.

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  16. check out Giggle – they have a store on the Upper East Side. I’ve bought a few Under the Nile shirts there. They have some great organic clothes and terrific wood toys. http://www.egiggle.com if too cold to go outside.

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  17. For the money, the toys in our house that have gotten the most play have been wooden blocks, plastic stacking cups, and simple music toys (drum, clackers, etc). They seem boring or repetitive to us, but not only are they fun on their own, they are also versatile once baby gets to be a toddler and starts with pretend play, learning colors and shapes, sounds, etc.

    Some of our favorite sites:

    http://www.oompa.com/ (they have a “made in the usa” tag, or you can search by age)
    http://www.mahardrygoods.com/
    http://www.ebeanstalk.com/ageSelection.php (a good site for finding out what is appropriate and fun for what ages)
    http://www.kangarooboo.com/ (search by ‘made in’ or by age, also gives part of profits to charity)

    Reply

  18. Ladies, you all rule.

    I just opened a new bookmark folder. It’s filled with great stuff now! Thank you. I owe you all.

    Reply

  19. Just perusing a few of the sites – this happened last night as well. It’s funny, you know you’re on a more independently run/less mass produced toy Web site when they have listed “Temporarily out of stock”. My first reaction is to get mad and then I think, “Oh, that’s a good thing!”

    Kind of like when you’re at a grocery store or a restaurant and they run out of the daily special or the daily catch… that’s a good thing, too.

    It used to happen at the McCarren park Farmer’s market all the time. The meat guy would always run out of the chicken breasts we wanted. I’d always feel let down and then feel immediately pleased knowing that they aren’t slaughtering unnecessary quantities of animals.

    Wow, tangent! Sorry.

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  20. My kids are grown, but I carried them both in slings until they were about 2. My older daughter loved to sit facing forward in it – I found them very versatile – especially when they were old enough to just tie on my hip.

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  21. Haba toys make me actually want to have kids. I am going to buy Emory this tin of wooden hot dogs the very day he turns three:

    http://www.oompa.com/baby-toys/item/HA1405/Haba-Hot-Dogs.html?oompaItem=Haba_Hot%20Dogs

    and maybe some wooden parsnips. and wooden tea bags.

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  22. OMG. A parsnip? That is awesome.

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  23. Have you heard about Mei Tai for baby carrying?
    http://www.meitaibaby.com/index.html

    You could carry MURRAY in one.

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  24. Hi. I’m the commenter with the 23 lb. 7-month old girl. I have the Ergo carrier, which she’ll tolerate in the hip carry position, but not for too long. She wants to face out, and won’t face in without some major crying (not pleasant for either of us). This goes the same for the Ergo on the back. Basically, she wants to see the world and not be too restrained (which is why I have shied away from most slings). I realize we may not find a workable solution, it would just be nice to not have to either carry her around everywhere or always bring the stroller along. Carrying around a big baby does have its advantages…I am getting pretty impressive biceps. ;-)

    Reply

  25. my daughters loved anything from Discovery toys. They are 8 now though

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  26. My parents bought my daughter a gorgeous clown puppet made in France. The toy company is Doudou & Compagnie and I found more of their plush toys online:

    http://www.moolka.com/jzv/search?c1=406

    Reply

  27. Oh, holy crap, I never even thought of putting Murray in one of these carriers. What a brilliant idea. Of all three cats, he’s the only one who might be OK with it.

    Nico, those wieners are awesome. i am holding you to it.

    Reply

  28. Shelby: Can she sleep with these? Or are they still to SIDs scary? I am unsure of their size and I was told that there are some flat beanie type things that are safe for babies to snuggle with.

    Reply

  29. Our daughter is only 3 months old and just started sleeping in her own room so right now the crib is kept free of anything except her and a pacifier. The puppet we have is about 11 inches long if that is any help.

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  30. when i read about the mennonites I thought about hasidic jews, googled it, and found that The Jewish Museum had all wooden toys on its front page and some stuff that maybe didnt look super religious among the stuffed stuff and i doubt it was all made in china. Though i guess perhaps they might be made in Israel not USA. But sounds like a nice outing to me either way….

    Reply

  31. My two suggestions are:

    The adjustable pouches at Kangaroo Korner.
    We had the Bjorn with Isabel. She was big baby: 10lbs! It killed my back. For Aubrey who was (9lbs!) I got the Adjustable fleece pouch from Kangaroo Korner and it has worked wonders. I totally recommend it. I would get endless comments from people on the street asking about it. I should be a paid rep for their company with the amount of interest in had. Check them out:
    http://kangarookorner.com/

    The other site is:

    Magiccabin.com
    They have loads of cool toys not made in China. The tend to do a lot of stuff with the Waldorf education theory aside from that they have some neat things.

    Also you could check out:
    http://hearthsong.com/hearthsong/welcome.asp?sc=1005&body_sc=1005&occ=1005&firstEntry=Y

    They have some non-Chinese made things.

    There are my two cents in the matter.

    Reply

  32. Look for country of origin… stuff that is made in the US usually has way higher standards than what is imported, and you have a decent chance that its from unionized labor. Stuff made in France, Italy, the UK is often safer too.

    I try to stay away from as many imports as I can. I usually buy New Balance sneakers, because they have several all-synthetics and they’re the only US company that still does on-shore MFG ( not 100%, but you can check the boxes to see if yours are made in the US ).

    I try to avoid everything from China, and there are certain brands I will never touch because of constantly ignoring basic ethics ( Nike & Gap are always at the top of the list for repeated use of child labor by ‘subcontractors’ )

    Reply

  33. I’ve bought lots of gifts for kids from Branch (which also has awesome home stuff). Go to http://www.branchhome.com and click on the kids section for a ton of stuff.

    Reply

  34. Meshbetty, do you live in Minnesota? Just curious, since I live in Minneapolis and I know that kangarookorner is based in MN.

    Anyway, we use both the Bjorn and the peanut shell, which is similar to the kangaroo carrier. The difference is the peanut shell does not adjust to different sizes, but you only need to worry about size if someone else wants to use it to carry Emory. You buy the peanut shell based on what size shirt you wear. Adeline loves it, and you can use it until they’re about 2, depending on what position you carry them in.

    http://www.goo-ga.com/shop/baby_slings

    We have a few Haba toys that Adeline also loves. The flipkin is her favorite: http://www.oompa.com/baby-toys/item/HA0959/Haba-Flipkin.html

    It’s hard to explain, but the toy flips into itself to show the different sides. It is made in China, but “Designed in Germany and made under Haba’s direct supervision in China.”

    Reply

  35. Hi Pascha,
    No, I live in San Francisco. the Kangaroo Korner pouches were really popular with the moms at my oldest daughter’s preschool. I tried it and really loved it. My youngest daughter, Aubrey is in a really clingy stage right now and if she were still small enough would love it if she could still fit into the pouch. I am sure if I had the time or energy maybe I would carry her in it more often seeing as she has yet to learn how to walk. (she is 16 months…)

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  36. So, you’re telling me this Kangaroo Korner pouch will house my 20 pound (more now? we’ll know Friday) boy? He’s also roughly 18 inches long (that was over a month ago). He refuses to be in any other position than facing out and he doesn’t like his eyes covered.

    I will look into it. Forgive me for sounding discouraged, but we have purchased four carriers and only one has worked, that’s the Bjorn.

    Reply

  37. Hey there!
    Yup. Aubrey is 24lbs now and I just had her in it to test her out as it has been awhile and she fit in it just fine. In fact I had her in it and carried some laundry down to be washed, loaded the washer, emptied the dryer, brought up the laundry, all with her in the pouch.
    Check out the site. they tell you different ways to carry your child. It has been the best $70 I have spent in quite some time. Plus they have really neato colors and patterns you can buy. Ours is a really cool striped one.

    Reply

  38. I have one of those. Or had, rather. Someone gave it to me. I may have donated it. How does one face their baby forward in that?

    Reply

  39. This store:
    http://stores.bimbomstore.com/
    on Ave ‘U’ in Brooklyn sells European toys.

    Reply

  40. You might also like to check out the website http://www.chinafreechristmas.info/. I’ve gotten some good ideas for our 2-year old.

    Reply

  41. Baby carrier—get the Ergo. Please. I beg of you. You’ll realize how much time was wasted in the Bjorn! It’s truly the best one.

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  42. Aubrey used to sit sideways so she could see forwards as well as behind me. On the website they used to have a little tutorial about how to position your baby in different ways. There is one facing front:
    http://kangarookorner.com/wearing.aspx?t=wearingPouchKK

    or on your hip:
    http://kangarookorner.com/wearing.aspx?t=wearingPouchHip

    Reply

  43. Lori, I wrote above that I have that one but he doesn’t like to face forward. I’m not sure it will work for us. But thank you for suggesting it. Maybe we’ll try again.

    Thanks, Cathy. I will certainly check that one out. It makes me a bit nervous by the picture, is it really that sturdy? Must be if you can hold your big gal in it! I wish we lived closer, I’d try yours out. :} Get a person tutorial. heh

    Reply

  44. For hip carrying (like with the Kangaroo Corner one) you can also look into the HipHugger – we love ours. It is adjustable for multiple sizes, but isn’t as easy to readjust as the ring slings (which we found to be a good thing, since with the ring sling, you end up readjusting each time since when the fabric is lax, it shifts in the rings).
    A hip carry is great, because it mimics how you would be holding baby anyway (on your hip!) but gives you a free arm or two.

    http://thehiphuggeronline.stores.yahoo.net/shop.html

    Reply

  45. Just wanted to say I freaking love you people. We just spent nearly 300 dollars on toys for Emory. We bought them from many of the sites you guys gave me. I made my first Etsy purchase!

    I never thought I could feel more excitement than I do whenever a toy is coming to me/for me. But I actually am more excited to give Emory all of this stuff.

    Reply

  46. Your boy may be a litle young, but in the future:

    Nice wooden trains, made in Missouri, much like Thomas the Train: http://www.woodentrain.com/

    For cars/trucks, look for Bruder and Siku. Both are German made and well designed.

    Reply

  47. You might want to try a wrap instead of a sling as Emory gets older. If you aren’t a fan of the Ergo, a Didymos woven wrap (ones that stretch are not easy with a larger baby) will work well in a huge variety of ways to carry. As well, the cloth is organic, dyed in a safe way (because he might be sucking on it as he starts to teeth) and the company is socially responsible.

    As well, there is another blog I read that did some great research on alternative places to buy toys:
    http://angrychicken.typepad.com/angry_chicken/2007/08/not-made-in-chi.html

    Reply

  48. Thank you Kathryn for leading Mihow to my new ETSY store!! And Thank You MiHow for purchasing play blocks from me!! Hope your little one enjoys all the new toys!! Congrats on your first ETSY purchase!! Etsy is just…well….awesome, isn’t it?

    Heather :)
    http://thepolkadottotspot.etsy.com

    Reply

  49. The cool thing about the Kangaroo pouch is you can pop the baby in which ever way and because it is an actual pouch you can adjust him to what fits best. The snaps on the pouch help to make it tighter or looser but it never comes apart like some other carriers. Which I found to be very comforting. As for carrying Ms. Aubrey Pudge, as we call her (She can and will eat a whole regular size burrito if you let her!) , it was more dealing with the weight of her more than anything else. The pouch stretches around the baby so there is no worries about it coming apart.
    As for trying it out, yeah I wish we lived closer as I would totally let little Emory try it out. Maybe you can find a place where they are selling them in NYC to check them out. I got mine at a consignment shop, brand new. I had the option of returning it if it didn’t work out….Luckily for us it was a purchase well made.

    Reply

  50. I’m getting conflicting reports regarding this pouch and bigger babies facing out.

    This is on their Web site on the page that talks about babies facing out:

    “We recommend this position for babies under 22 lbs and/or 29-30”. Babies over these limits can cause you lower back pain as the pouch will not distribute their weight evenly.”

    I really, really like the Bjorn. I know it’s not for everyone, but I love it. I wish/hope there is something similar out there because Emory is nearing 22 pounds.

    Reply

  51. A reader, who will remain nameless for reasons I CANNOT SAY! ;] Sent me this.

    Baby Trekker

    Maybe? Yes? Could it work?

    Reply

  52. i love the picture for the above site – so darn cute!

    Reply

  53. for ‘ethical’ cuddly toys you could try etsy? sorry if that is too obvious to even suggest!

    Reply

  54. i’m kinda late to comment, but we have a great toy store here in denver called kazoo toys (www.kazootoys.com). they claim to be the #1 toy store in america…i’m not sure who voted in that contest, but it is a great store. you can search toys and shop online; they have a whole “made in the USA” section. i like this store because i am doing my damndest to ensure that my daughter never demands any toys covered with disney princesses.

    Reply

  55. Thanks, Liz!

    Reply

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