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Playing Responsibly and Sustainably

This was supposed to be just a post on Facebook, but it got so lengthy I decided to do a blog post about it..

There are countless of ways you can do to save the earth as a parent; from using cloth diapers to buying organic products.

Here, I will share what we can do to be more mindful in how we provide play experience for our children:

1) Buy second-hand toys / borrow or exchange

I always shop at Carousell first. There are a lot of people letting go of their good condition or even new sets of Duplo that their kids already outgrow, so there are always good second-hand toys around.

We bought this box of random magnets from a garage sale for $2 and is now his current favourite travelling toy

I also do my best to keep our toys in good condition so we can pass on for other children to play with.

I used to rent toys when M was a baby, but it is putting a great hole in our wallets. Exchanging toys with relatives and friends can be an option to reduce purchasing new toys again and again.

2) Buy sustainable toys

Buy sustainable materials – Wood and cotton are great natural choices. Plus point if you can avoid those with artificial chemical dyes.

Buy sustainable-sourced toys – Wooden toys that are responsibly-sourced from managed forests are certified the Forest Stewardship certification (FSC).

Plan Toys is another famous brand that uses reclaimed rubber woods to make quality toys. The company is committed to promote sustainable play.

Another brand that came to my attention is Petit Collage, whereby their products are adhere to strict sustainability criteria.

There are also companies that make toys from sustainable plastics. It will be great if we can support such brands that put in effort to save the environment in ways they can.

We have local toy shops in SG that ship in sustainable toy brands, and they do away with plastic bags or use used shopping bags to deliver those toys 👏.

3) Repurpose everyday items and old toys

Repurpose materials and items – Do you have property agents pasting calendar magnets on your gate? We collect them to make our own learning aids. I cut slits on the cover of milk powder tins for my kids to slot things in, or use them as drums, or as big construction blocks.

I’m pretty weak in this area of making toys. I only do super-easy toys.

If you can spare a bit of time, you make your own toys and learning materials out of cardboards, containers and scrap materials! Take inspirations from Sophia Huang, who turns everyday items to really cool toys. You will see STEM learning taking place when you involve your child in the process.

I follow Instagram mamas, like Jun from Playmax and Larissa, to get really great ideas on how to make fun toys out of everyday items that promote learning too.

Repurpose old toys – Old toys and loose pieces can be repurposed, you can play with them in creative new ways, or use them as teaching aids (check out what this ex-teacher did). They make great additions to small world play! I saw someone using loose transportation puzzle pieces in their block play area. More reasons not to throw away puzzles that are incomplete 🙂

We bought over these letter puzzles from a friend. M has no interest in playing them as puzzles so we used them for phonics games and crafts,

4) Less is more; invest in good quality toys / open-ended toys

Living in a small HDB flat, it is important to live by this rule – less is more. I think twice about buying anything due to space constraints.

“Investing in good quality toys” is going to raise a lot of eyebrows for some parents. It took me some time to reason out if I want to even mention this. Well, maybe is optional but if you are going to buy toys, might as well invest one that can last a long time. I used to think it is useless to spend a lot of money on good quality toys. Turned out, I was spending way more because I had to keep throwing and replacing the toys. My son had mostly second-hand electronic toys then, which broke really fast and contribute little to his learning development.

Learning from my past mistake, I decide to include toys that can last longer and are as close to nature as possible. These toys are aesthetically pleasing and my kids are naturally drawn to them. I hope the sets are still complete down the years because I intend to pass them down to my grandkids and great grandkids!

A kitchen play set-up with blocks and food pouch caps as food

But remember, just select some good ones. Be careful of being sucked into the endless catalogue of beautiful toys in social media *cough, like I do, cough*. You can bring your kids to shops to sample the products first (or try out during play dates at friends’ homes). Open-ended toys, that are of your kid’s age appropriateness, promote creativity and lots of other benefits to their hoslistic development.

6) Start saving and collecting loose parts!

Linking to the previous point on open-ended toys, you will also find treasures in everyday items, scrape materials and basically things most people perceived as junks.

M comparing the heights of the cardboard tubes

The discovery of loose parts play led me to collect craft items that people do not need anymore, fabrics, buttons, pegs etc. They are inexpensive and wonderful materials to add to the children’s play and learning.

Organise them in boxes and containers and your home will not be in a mess. In fact, they can be quite inviting to use and play with.

7) Spend more on bonding time, not the physical items

If you are into RIE parenting, it focused a lot of building relationships and RIE parents believe in not using toys as a distraction. I added this point because of what my friend said:

“Focus on the experience, not on the material stuff…” – Jamie Jhang

Spend some time with your child doing science experiments together, painting and drawing (bonus eco-points: make your own paint and dough, source for eco-friendly art materials!), Even simple water play can have many learning opportunities .

Bring the kids out, to indoor playgrounds, visit museums, have nature play in parks and beaches.

Nature provides the best toys in the world, and those dirt are just going to build their immunity system 💪.

So let’s play the sustainable way, leaving a better world for the next generation

I learned a lot about zero-wastage through a Facebook group call “Zero-waste Parenting Singapore”. I admit it is still a super long way for me to get to zero-wastage, but I am taking baby steps, following examples from what parents share in that page.

I hope besides the usual saving-the-Earth 4Rs habits in our daily lives, we can pay attention to what we purchased and used for our kids’ toys and learning materials. Sometimes, we get too carried away with providing the best for our children’s cognitive development by buying lots of toys, and generating (and laminating) a lot of worksheets for them to work on (#guilty).

Maybe it is time for us parents to rethink our priorities; cultivating empathy in our children and leaving a healthy world behind for them are probably the most important tasks on our hands right now.

ball shaped blur close up focus
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on

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