7 Lessons Learned from Toy Story 3
4. Share Your ToysPhoto via CdePaz @ Flickr
It's a lesson learned in the sandbox -- but it's also a way to save money and resources: share. Join a toy-centered product service system and you'll pay a monthly fee for a rotating selection of toys that come right to your door. The toys are cleaned and sanitized before they're shipped, and some sites -- like Rent a Toy -- also offer toys made from eco-friendly materials. If you don't have a lot of space to store old toys, or if you just don't want to spend the money on games your kids will forget about after a week -- sign up or, even better, start your own toy-sharing system with parents in your neighborhood or play group.
5. Choose Eco-Friendly MaterialsPhoto via Inhabitots
Pay attention to what goes into the making of your kids' favorite toys and you'll save yourself a lot of worry: choose non-toxic paints (especially for kids at the chew-everything stage), sustainable wood, and soy-based inks to be kind to the Earth, and you're also less likely to end up with a toybox full of pieces recalled for safety issues. Artisans who make toys by hand and companies like Plan Toys and ImagiPlay offer a wide selection of fun pieces that don't rely on plastic (which breaks more easily and lives for generations in a landfill), batteries, and VOC-heavy paints.
6. Look for Toys that Multi-TaskPhoto via Nature's Crib
Toys that inspire your kids' imaginations -- like building blocks, art supplies, dress-up clothes, and dolls -- help develop young minds without sending you back to the store for every branded character that hits the shelf. And remember that things that may not seem like toys to you can give a kid hours of entertainment -- as anyone who has ever seen a toddler play with Tupperware can tell you. A box of old costume jewelry works for cops and robbers as well as princess dress up, and a box of old housewares you had slated for the yard sale could become the main event at a nightly restaurant the kids set up in your spare bedroom.
7. Recycle Worn-Out ToysPhoto via recycle.co.uk
Don't say this where your favorite toy cowboy can hear you, but sometimes a toy has been so loved that it's in no condition to go to someone else. These are the toys most likely to earn a spot in a storage box in the attic, but if you really can't keep them around then find a way to recycle them. It might mean separating out plastic parts from cloth or electronic bits from other pieces, but putting those materials back into the production stream means someday your grandchildren might end up with a toy made from their parents' old favorites.