Ethical Baby Toys: it's not all or nothing

When it comes to toys, we are big consumers. The United Kingdom as a whole makes up one of the "big five" in terms of children's toy consumption - the USA, Japan, China and France being the other four - together making up over 50% of global toy sales.

But where do all of our toys come from? As Dr Broum writes in "Parenting Under Stress," by far the largest toy supplier into the EU is China, accounting for 86% of toy imports into the European Union. 

This statistic will be unsurprising to most, as it is a similar story across a number of other industries. The Chinese dominance of the children's toy market is not problematic per se, but has meant an unquestioning acceptance and further promotion of the rather profitable status quo, and therefore probably contributed to and almost caricatured the Western obsession with gendered toys to almost farcical levels.

Whilst not short of their own gender stereotyping problems (a full discussion of which would surely make at least two PhD theses), it must have been with some bemusement that Chinese manufacturers adopted the Western pink/blue theme, given that colour coding one's child isn't deemed necessary in China. Newborns are dressed in red, the colour of celebration, and from then onward, popular colours are white and grey, regardless of gender.

But the Chinese have done it - for us! They've packaged up our own gender stereotypes and sold them back to us for a profit, and on an unparalleled scale.

Can we stem the tide?

Within the European Union itself, the largest toy producers are France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Spain, the UK, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Malta and Poland (Broum, 2012). Peaches&Eaches stock handmade baby toys from five of these countries (and our range is growing all the time), but it's down to all of us - wherever we shop - to vote with our wallets this Christmas. Even if handmade toys are outside of your budget, even if you're bad a boycotting (which most of us are - read "Why We Don't Vote With Our Wallets"), there are choices. We can't keep out the Chinese sellers - and national or European pride aside, why should we so long as we know that their products are made safely and ethically? - but we can send a message about what we want.

Looking for Christmas ideas? 

If you do want to shop Fair Trade and support the message of gender neutral baby toys, check out the Peaches&Eaches wooden and felt toys for infants here, starting at £3.50.

November 07, 2017 by Catherine Stowell

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