Becoming a parent is thrilling and exhausting – and it can be a huge hit to your wallet! It’s easy to wind up adding countless toys, clothes, and baby gear to your wish list. For the sustainability-conscious parent, it’s tough to balance getting the toys and gear your child needs without creating more waste. Buying brand new items sends packaging to the landfill and recycling centre. And what will you do with all this stuff when your child outgrows it?
Here’s how to make more sustainable choices while saving a little money:
- Use what you have. Babies don’t need much to keep them entertained. Bowls, measuring spoons, whisks, and other common household items make great toys (just make sure the item isn’t a choking hazard!). Make a shaker filled with dry beans, buttons, rice, or other items in a childproof container (and always supervise your child when they’re playing with it).Getting outside is another easy, free, and sustainable way to keep little ones entertained. Going for a walk with your baby in a carrier or stroller lets your baby explore their world. For older children, turn your walk into a scavenger hunt and search for animal tracks or count birds, dogs, mailboxes, or other things in your neighbourhood. By using things you already have, you produce no additional waste (and no extra clutter in your home!).
- Borrow or lend. Borrowing toys from friends and family is an easy way to keep playtime interesting while reducing costs, clutter, and waste. Swap toys with another family for a few weeks at a time. This is also handy for gear like strollers, playpens, kiddie pools, and baby carriers. The Lethbridge Public Library has a toy library and physical literacy kits which you can borrow with your library card.
- Find it secondhand. Ask friends and family for gear, clothes, and toys that their kids have outgrown or no longer use. Keep an eye out for community events like the Reuse Rendezvous where you can find items for free and give away items you no longer need. Check local swap and buy groups, secondhand stores, and Facebook Marketplace for previously-loved toys, clothes, and gear. You can find great deals and keep functional items out of the landfill.
- Pass it on. Maybe your kids have outgrown the stroller, grown too tall for last year’s bike, or just never play with that dollhouse they’ve had for years. It’s time to pass it on. See if any family members or friends would like a hand-me-down, sell it on a swap and buy group or through a consignment store, or give it away through Reuse Rendezvous or secondhand stores. Consider donating used items to local family and children’s charities (baby clothes in particular are often in high demand).
A note about safety: Make sure to inspect all new-to-you items to make sure they’re safe for your child. Be especially careful with car seats and read the Government of Canada’s guidelines on second-hand car seat safety.
Babies and young children quickly outgrow toys and clothes which means that you can find second-hand items in great condition for free or low cost. Gear like strollers and high chairs can often be used by several children before they wear out. Using what you already own or choosing used toys, clothes, and gear are easy steps toward sustainability for your family!