There are two young people in my life who, much as they appreciate the many books they receive as gifts every year, have their hearts set on certain other items appearing under the tree.
After reading Kelsey Timmerman's Where Am I Wearing?, my squirmy discomfort about products made in China has evolved into a full-fledged boycott: no gifts from Chinese-owned factories this year. The joy of giving loses its flavor when you realize that those gift-buying dollars are going to support companies which treat their workers as property; as an expendable part of their manufacturing "machine."
My kids are all for human rights, so when I told them my intentions they gave no argument. But the reality hit this afternoon when we browsed a small, locally-owned toy store, checking the bottoms of boxes. Watching an eight-year-old gradually sink from joyous ("Wow! Cool toy!") to crestfallen ("Made in China. Again.") is no fun. No fun at all. So I've been doing a little digging this afternoon and I thought I'd share the results.
We're already big fans of Playmobil and Lego, which are both manufactured in Europe. (One source reports that electronic components of some Lego sets are made in China, as is the packaging).
Bruder is a German company, who makes realistic-looking plastic vehicles that appealed to Evan. Their website says that 95% of their production is in their German factory. Free ground shipping right now, too. Siku, another German company, makes die cast metal vehicles, some of which are remote control, though we didn't see them at that toy store.
We found bamboo toys by HaPe, who also makes wooden toys and cloth puppets. These are made in a German-owned-and-operated factory in China using European materials. Buying these products supports an opportunity for Chinese workers to be treated humanely and paid a living wage. The company has also built two new schools in the most impoverished province of southern China.
Games are another good option, from companies such as Briarpatch, whose games are American-made, and Ravensburger (the games we checked were made in Europe, the Czech Republic I think?).
For younger kids, Viking Toys are manufactured in Thailand for a Swedish company, and the Little Tikes website has a feature where you can sort for toys made in the U.S.
For more information about purchasing non-Chinese-made products for both adults and children, check out Not Made in China, which is full of links to trust-worthy brands and includes gift lists by age.
The Daily Green lists over 250 lead-free, American-made toys, and tips for finding them.
And of course, that there will be books under the tree goes without saying.
Any other suggestions?