Ethical Shopping

Elf Yourself! Toys that Give Back All Year Long!

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With 27 million men, women, and children living in slavery, many making the toys we give our kids for Christmas, what do we do?  Many of our kids are hoping for new toys on Christmas morning, and I don’t want to be the Grinch.  I don’t think there’s one answer for everyone on the issue of toys and how we can celebrate a Slave-Free Christmas, but in an effort to be helpful and un-Grinch-like, I’ll share some of the ways we have attempted to navigate this time of the year.  Here are toys that give back all year long.

Forever We

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My friends Chantel Adams and Ginny Starr have created a doll company to encourage compassionate play.  Their dolls and books represent the real issues kids are experiencing in the world today.  At Forever We, they believe kids are naturally compassionate and want to help.  

Their first “Doll for a Cause,” Jewel, represents the experience of children undergoing treatment for pediatric cancer.  They donate a portion of our proceeds to childhood cancer research.  And for every doll sold, they gift one to a child in need.

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Each Forever We doll comes with a gown, port in its chest, removable wig, special storybook that includes a parent discussion guide, pediatric cancer awareness ribbon, and courage bead.  Every doll is stitched together with love in the USA, and it’s been neat to watch Chantel and Ginny as they’ve created the model and researched and partnered with the people here in Georgia to manufacture the dolls. 

(Also, the creative genius Chantel came up with the title for this post, and “go elf yourself” is going to be my new favorite holiday greeting.)

(Annnd also, now they have SuperWe dolls, too, which come with capes and masks to protect their superhero identities from the unknowing public.)

Eternal Threads

Eternal Threads offers adorable knitted purses, puppets, and toys.  They also have birthday party packages, bright raffia animal garlands, and accessories.  You can purchase small business training, literacy classes, and sewing machines for women in Afghanistan and Nepal.  Eternal Threads creates income generating programs that train and provide sustainable livelihoods to improve the lives of women and children who have been exploited and trafficked.

Bella Luna Toys

Bella Luna Toys offers organic, handmade, “green” toys.  They sell imaginative toys for dress-up, ride-on toys, arts and crafts, and toys encouraging play skills and sensory exploration.  These toys are beautiful and unique, and pouring through the website, I feel my own imagination come to life as I flip through pages of parachutes and castles, silken streamers and dollhouses.

Mission Minded Cuties

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I met Katie Seevers back in 2011 when we both brought home our Ethiopian kiddos around the same time.  She has a daughter named Claire.  To raise money for a mission trip to Ethiopia, Claire makes these really fantastic stuffed animals.  My daughter, Evie, sleeps with her owl every night, and it is soft and cuddly and the fabric is so pretty and it’s held up under a LOT of intense squeezing.

Handcrafting Justice

Handcrafting Justice has a large selection of handmade toys that are adorable.  If you’re looking for one-of-a-kind toys for the babies and small children in your life, these guys have some adorable options, including reversible fairy tale character dolls and backpacks.  Handcrafting Justice empowers women to overcome social and economic injustice by providing fair wages and a support network.  The artisans set the prices for their goods themselves, and they work in safe, clean worksites in twenty countries around the world.

Under the Nile

Under the Nile is committed to improving the lives of families, from the ones who plant and pick their organic Egyptian cotton to the ones who buy their toys and clothing.  They sell adorable soft toys, as well as cloth diapers, baby, and toddler clothing.  Through health and micro-loan projects with their parter SEKEM, they have empowered people in thirteen poverty-stricken villages in Egypt to create 540 new enterprises, and many of the toys sold through their website are made by people once living in poverty and now receiving fair wages for their work.

Senda Athletics

Senda soccer balls are ethically made in Pakistan and are Fair Trade certified. Senda provides fair wages and safe working conditions to the people making the products, and they work to increase access to sports around the world and use soccer as a means for social development.  They partner with nonprofits and provide fair trade sports equipment to youth and adults, from the homeless to people with physical disabilities.

North Star Toys

North Star is dedicated to environmental sustainability.  They use recycled wood whenever possible to create whimsical, handmade toys.  They offer a wide selection of wooden toys.

Other Ideas

Try pre-owned merchandise.

A few years ago, our son wanted a Wii, and we bought a pre-owned system from Game Stop.  By choosing pre-owned, whether it’s a sweater from consignment or a video game, we’re cutting down on the consumption and getting more wear, more hours of play, out of one item, rather than our cycle of use-discard-use-discard.  One of our friends was looking for Duplos for her two-year-old, and we were done with ours, so we passed them on to her.  No two-year-old cares about whether or not someone has already played with her new toys.  And those Duplos were originally passed to us by someone else who had outgrown them.  The gift that keeps on giving.

Give experiences.

The zoo, tickets to The Nutcracker, a favorite concert, a basketball game, a trip to a fun park or the beach.  Wrap up a paper chain for them to open on Christmas morning, hang it up, and count down each day by ripping off one of the links until the big day.  One year, we gave season passes to the science museum to our little scientist.

Use your Pure Charity account.

When you earn money through Pure Charity, you can choose where you donate the money you accrue.  You can tell if the store participates in the program by the Pure Charity box that will appear in the upper left corner of your browser after you’ve downloaded the plug-in.  Toys ‘r’ Us, Target, Walmart, Apple, and Best Buy are a few of the many companies working with Pure Charity.

Slave-Free Christmas Challenge

This Christmas, I’ve challenged myself to shop my entire Christmas list from organizations that are helping people, not hurting people.  Today, 27 million men, women, and children live as someone else’s property.  Slaves are making the items that I’m buying to celebrate the birth of my Lord and Savior.  Somehow I don’t think He’s blessed by the blood on His birthday presents.  For more information on my Slave-Free Christmas project, click here.

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