I'm thinking about my childhood tonight. I remember some of my toys very distinctly - I had My Little Pony horses that were scented. I had a Barbie that winked and brushed her hair back out of her eyes with her hands. Of course, I remember the Super Nintendo and Atari!
But the things I will always cherish are the heirloom toys given to me by my grandmothers, aunts and family friends. These are the toys, clothes, blankets, books that were made with love and great care. There were no natural toy stores or stores that specialized in European import toys when I was a kid. Etsy, which features handmade goods and loads of amazing handcrafted toys, certainly didn't exist. The heirloom toys that were given to me were made to last and were made with skilled hands of crafty women who had my health and safety in mind as much as my enjoyment when making these items. Some of these items had an incredible attention to detail. I had a soft book for quiet time that was appliqued and featured activities like a fabric clock, a snap on apple orchard (you would pick and count the apples, and sort by color), a little button vest and shoe tying. I remember playing with that quiet book more than any other toy we had. There were cat pillows with mother and baby cats that were patchworked and had embroidered whiskers. I believe my grandma purchased them from a local crafter in her town. I love those pillows and still have them. My mom hung onto to most of these items, if they weren't totally worn from use.
When I grew up and had kids, I looked around the room one day and realized that nearly every toy we owned was made of cheap plastic, and kept breaking. Since I didn't have anyone gift me any handmade toys (but we did receive some really lovely blankets!) I started looking online for heirloom quality toys that my kids could cherish. For Christmas one year I bought toys online from shops like A Toy Garden, which features high quality and mostly natural and handmade toys, hoping to find that while these toys were higher priced, they were made to last as well as please my children. I was completely blown away by the quality and craftsmanship of these toys. By the next year I had become mildly obsessed with handmade toys. The kids loved them. They were different from everything else and treated with extra care (well, most of the time.) Five years later my daughters still play with many of these toys and they haven't worn down or broken.
Now there is a great resource for all of us parents who do not want our children to play with toxic toys that break easily, but instead want to give our children quality toys produced by people with loving hands and sold by business owners with a conscience. The Handmade Toy Alliance has a wonderful list of members who manufacture children's items, handcraft toys, and make these toys available for sale to people like you and me!
But the Handmade Toy Alliance also exists for a bigger purpose. These toys are at risk of becoming unavailable to us for sale. Here is some info on the history and mission of the HTA from their Website:
In 2007, large toy manufacturers who outsource their production to China and other developing countries violated the public's trust. They were selling toys with dangerously high lead content, toys with unsafe small parts, toys with improperly secured and easily swallowed small magnets, and toys made from chemicals that made kids sick. Almost every problem toy in 2007 was made in China.
The United States Congress rightly recognized that the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) lacked the authority and staffing to prevent dangerous toys from being imported into the US. So, they passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August, 2008. Among other things, the CPSIA bans lead and phthalates in toys, mandates third-party testing and certification for all toys and requires toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number. All of these changes will be fairly easy for large, multinational toy manufacturers to comply with. Large manufacturers who make thousands of units of each toy have very little incremental cost to pay for testing and updating their molds to include batch labels.
For small American, Canadian, and European toy makers, however, the costs of mandatory testing, to the tune of up to $4,000 per toy, will likely drive them out of business. And the handful of larger toy makers who still employ workers in the United States face increased costs to comply with the CPSIA, even though American-made toys had nothing to do with the toy safety problems of 2007. Toy makers won't be the only ones impacted by the CPSIA, the thousands of US businesses who offer clothing, jewelry and other gifts for children --in essence-- the entire children's industry will be as well.
The authors of the CPSIA simply forgot to exclude the class of toys that have earned and kept the public's trust. The result, unless the law is modified, is that handmade and small batch children's products will no longer be legal in the US. The Handmade Toy Alliance represents these toy makers, manufacturers, importers and retailers. We actively lobby the House of Representatives and the Senate for CPSIA reform and also serve as a collective voice to the CPSC. Thriving small businesses are crucial to the financial health of our nation. Let's amend the CPSIA so that all businesses large and small are able to comply and survive!
Please support these businesses and visit the Handmade Toy Alliance's Website this week to learn more.