by Madeleine Somerville

First of All, Why Avoid Plastic?

This may seem obvious, but plastic is one of the most commonly-used polluting substances human beings have ever made. It is typically created from petroleum, which has its own issues, but the biggest problem with plastic is that unlike wood, metal, or natural fabrics, plastic doesn’t react chemically with most other substances and so it does not biodegrade.

This means that every single pen cap, dental floss container — and yes, baby toy — you have ever used, probably still exists. Most likely, these items are sitting in a landfill somewhere, but it’s also possible that they have made their way into the belly of an unfortunate bird or are swirling alongside billions of other plastics in the many garbage patches in our oceans. Maybe they’ve broken down into microplastics and are in that bottled water you’re drinking right now. Clearly, the more we can reduce the amount of plastic we use in our day-to-day lives, the better.

Now, the how. This is the tricky part, right?

There are typically three main stumbling blocks to taking this idea from lofty ideal to real-life reality. Let’s tackle them one by one.

How Do I Avoid Plastic?

Plastic is cheap, easily manufactured, and endlessly adaptable. Furthermore, its bright colors and resistance to breakage makes it a popular choice in the world of children’s toys, dishes, and care items. At first glance, it can seem absolutely impossible to avoid, but it is possible.

It sounds simplistic, but first decide that, wherever possible, you will just not buy things made of plastic. Just don’t. You can find toys made with eco-friendlier materials like wood and cloth, find safer pacifiers made of natural rubber, and simply do without other things like baby baths. Or you can buy them secondhand if absolutely necessary.

How Does Plastic-Free With Kids Really Work?

It will be a little different for everyone, but in our home, it looks like this:

Dishes are real dishes. This makes many parents nervous because they’re breakable. To date, my 2 1/2-year-old daughter hasn’t broken a single one. I, on the other hand, broke two glasses in one dishwashing session the other day. If you really love your dishes and can’t bear the possibility of losing one, consider getting a few inexpensive plates, bowls, and cups from a secondhand store for your child to use.

What About the One-Offs?

No one is perfect. Don’t expect this of others, or yourself. “Plastic-free” is an ongoing goal. It doesn’t mean living a draconian existence where toys are rooted out and destroyed, or gifts rudely refused. You will inevitably accumulate some plastic toys over the course of your child’s life, whether as gifts or giveaways or as part of party favor bags.

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