My Mission to Replace Cheap, Plastic and Battery-operated Gifts for Children

I belong to a few zero-waste lifestyle and eco-craft groups online and one of the topics that have been popping up a lot lately is ‘how to have a sustainable holiday period?’ There have been lots of really interesting suggestions, which I have collected and hope to run in a series of short articles leading up Christmas.

Firstly, I’d like to focus on something that should be a pleasurable activity but rather becomes pretty much a nightmare: gifts. I have a big extended family with lots of children and a family tradition, which practically goes along the lines of ‘buy as many gifts as possible to make the kids happy’. I am trying to find a way to compromise to make sure that kids appreciate the gifts while limiting the amount of cheap, plastic and battery-operated toys purchased. Kids’ toys, craft materials etc. are full of plastic, really full. They are so full of plastic that I’m sometimes unable to find something for everyone that ticks all the boxes in terms of sustainability: 1) minimum packaging 2) durable 3) plastic-free 4) as close to nature as possible 5) biodegradable or easily recyclable.

Today I will talk about the best gift you can ever give to a child (and a parent): a practical book to learn crafts! When you buy a craft book, you’re not just passing on an object that could be fun to use for a game; you’re gifting the potential of endless experiences as well as the opportunity to reinforce the bond that exists between parent and child.

Gifting a craft book:

Earthwise: Environmental Crafts and Activities with Young Children – This book includes simple craft ideas for all seasons, useful to encourage children to sift through and find inspiration for activities to do outdoors.

My Felt Doll: Easy sewing patterns for wonderfully whimsical dolls – This book will be definitely for older children, I’d guess young girls, but the dolls are lovely and so a great incentive to learn sewing by hand.

Toymaking with Children Rather than gifting a toy, why not gift a book to make toys? This book includes projects to make toys with your children, from the most simple to a little bit more complex.

Woodworking with Children – Woodworking with children: children love building things big and small, from simple toys and tools to more complicated ‘infrastructures’. This book might be what you need if you know a child (or a parent!) who is really keen on DIY activities.

First Steps in Natural Dyeing Teaching children how to dye fabrics naturally, perhaps is for the most adventurous, but the most beautiful thing about this book is that it will teach children not only a technique, but also the environmental principle of using nature to create colour, rather than relying solely on shop-bought dyes.

Feltcraft: Making Dolls, Gifts and Toys I would not leave without mentioning one of the crafts children love: felting. Felting ticks all the boxes, it is calming (almost therapeutic), gets children busy busy with their hands and it is quite messy (we know children love a little bit of mess) but not too messy!

My next article will talk about Craft Kits, Traditional Toys and Accessories and then I will dedicate an article about gifts for older children. I will conclude with a final article on sustainable party ideas and supplies.

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