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Baby First and a Very Brief History of Plastic Toys

Baby First is a family owned wholesale business spanning three generations. For over 40 years they have specialized in importing, manufacturing and distributing hundreds of top quality baby products to major and independent baby stores throughout New Zealand.

Baby First’s philosophy is to provide products that allow mothers to put the health, safety and happiness of their babies first. Baby First have 15 staff members, most of which have been part of the business for more than 10 years, and some more than 20 years. With all this experience on board, it’s easy to see how they’ve become so successful. Since then, they’ve grown their business, manufacture their own products, and now import around 20 quality international brands such as Baby Jogger, Lamaze, Love to Dream, Boon, Classic World, and JJ Cole.

Bruce Nuttall, Baby First’s Managing Director, is constantly inspired to be environmentally conscious through his love of the outdoors, saying,

“I want to protect our beautiful natural environment for the next generation to enjoy as much as I do.”

This same philosophy is mirrored through his business with many of their stocked products being made from sustainable materials such as wood and natural rubber. Currently, plastic toys account for about 90 percent of the market, according to Plastics The Mag. They pose all of the same risks as other plastic products, including being pretty much impossible to recycle, taking hundreds to millions of years to degrade, and ending up polluting the oceans. On top of that, the health risks for factory workers producing plastic products is not even fully realised yet, but the commonly used chemicals such as phthalates have been linked to birth defects, cancer, and diabetes according to The Endocrine Society.

Some washed up plastic toys collected by Ocean Defender Hawaii.

Toys are single purpose products, but that doesn’t mean they have to be single use products – or used by a single person, I mean. Toys made from durable, high quality materials such as wood, natural rubber, felt, and other soft fabrics can last for generations! Sure, there’s nothing quite like seeing a kids face light up as they unwrap a shiny new toy, but that toy brings with it more than a few years of fun – it represents the world we are creating for future generations who are going to be left to clean up our mess of mass produced, cheap, or single-use products made from non-renewable and non-sustainable materials. The problem here is not necessarily with plastic toys themselves, but with poor quality plastic toys that break a couple of hours after they’re unwrapped and are chucked in the bin.

Prior to World War II, most toys were made out of wood, metal, or other materials – think the original wooden Buzzy Bee, little tin cars, and rubber dolls. However, after the war, resource restrictions were lifted on oil-based plastics before metal or wood, meaning factories producing toys needed to use plastic if they wanted to start making good money again. It was also a lot cheaper for them to produce, making it cheaper for parents to buy. And so, the plastic industry boomed.

Wooden dolls from 1930 on display in a MoMA 100 Years of Children’s Art and Toy Design.

A plastic ‘Space Helmet’ toy from 1953 at the same MoMA exhibit.

It seems that with the current zero waste movement, we’re going back to how our grandparents did things – in some cases, it’s how things always should have been done. However, eco-friendly toys have definitely advanced in terms of design. Baby First stock some great brands such as Green Rubber, who produce toys made from sustainably collected latex from Sri Lankan rubber trees and hand painted using non-toxic paint. They also stock wooden toys from Classic Wood and andZee – who both have made a commitment to only use wood sourced from sustainable forests. In a world full of poor quality, throw-away plastic toys, it’s great that there is support out there for these small businesses that are committed to caring for our environment.

Some of the awesome Green Rubber toys Baby First stock.

A Classic World wooden rocket set.

There are exciting things on the horizon for Baby First who are looking to build on the wooden and natural rubber toy ranges they sell

“We love selling environmentally friendly products, because we believe they are better for our world.”

Baby First are a manufacturing, importing and wholesale business, meaning you can’t buy can’t buy products directly from them. They distribute their products to stores such as Baby Factory, Baby City and many independent baby stores. You can go to their website for a full list of retailers and a look at all of the products they manufacture and import.

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