Annual toy drives will soon be in full swing in cities across America. The purpose, of course, is to show our compassion to those children in our local communities who are less fortunate. What better way is there to make Christmas even more special than by putting smiles on the faces of children who might otherwise receive no gifts from Santa? But as it is with any act of good intentions, we need to be careful about our activities to ensure the process is just as honorable as what we set out to accomplish.
Well over 90% of all toys sold in America today are made in China, where violations of child labor and human rights laws run rampant and children under what we would consider a legal working age are routinely forced to work 12 hours a day or more. Wages are often less than a dollar an hour. Since there few if any safety, pollution or environmental controls in China, these children work in much less than what we Americans would consider a healthy atmosphere. Children should be attending school - not working in sweatshop factories.
So how can we avoid the trap of buying toys made by underprivileged kids in China to give to underprivileged kids in America? By buying American-made toys, games and sports-equipment that are made under acceptable and humane conditions right here in the USA.
But what, if any, toys and games are made in America? The answer might surprise you. Below is a list of toys, games and sports-equipment that any child in America would love to have this Christmas, and most of them can be found at any toy store. I found these made-in-USA products on a recent trip to Toys-R-Us.
- Crayola Crayons
- Louisville Slugger Baseball Bat
- Radio Flyer Discovery Wagon
- Chutes and Ladders
- Connect Four
- Boggle Jr.
- Mouse Trap
- Pop-O-Matic Trouble
- Trvial Pursuit
- The Wiggles Lil' Big Red Car
- Step 2 Tag-Along Trailer Plus
- Step 2 Push Around Buggy
- Step 2 Lifestyle Dream Kitchen
- Little Tikes Explorer Wagon
- Little Tikes Cook 'n Clean Kitchen
- Little Tikes Shopping Cart Caddy
- Scholastic Fruity Gummy Activity
- Scholastic Rock Tumbler
- Bicycle Playing Cards
- Rallye Rescue Rider
- Rallye Little Ms. Rider
- Runabout Wagon
- Melissa and Doug U.S.A. Floor Puzzle
This is not a complete list of American-made items, but there is certainly a diverse variety of choices to make just about any child in America happy that might otherwise go without this Christmas. By buying American-made toys, games and sports-equipment this year, you'll be supporting American workers by ensuring they get pay checks instead of pink slips, which will enable them to be able to afford Christmas gifts for their own children. There is no better way to break the cycle of using one underprivileged child to provide for another underprivileged child.
Many items in the list are made by familiar companies like Mattel and Parker Bros. But it is important to note that some are also made by a company called American Plastic Toys, Inc., which makes 100% of their toys in the USA. To see which items this company offers before you run off to Toys-R-Us, visit www.americanplastictoys.com.
There are also other toy-makers that offer most of their toys online since they are small companies and therefore haven't been able to break into the big-box retailers. Uncle Goose Toys (www.unclegoose.com) began in 1983 after the owner realized that the classic, larger, high-quality blocks he played with as a kid were no longer made in America. Uncle Goose offers alphabet blocks in many styles (including classic embossed, braille and math blocks), and face puzzles as well as legendary Froebel gifts, which are intricate toys made to aid in child development. Their alphabet blocks are available in 17 different languages and are exported to several countries.
USMadeToys.com can save you from having to spend time and gas money visiting your local toy store by offering a large selection of toys and games you might find there on their website at www.usmadetoys.com. Their assortment includes genuine Wiffle balls and bats, the Big Wheel, gumball banks, flying toys and discs, the classic Slinky, travel games and yo-yos.
The Cubbyhole (www.cubbyholetoys.com) specializes in puzzle and children stools, which is ideal for kids with names that vary from traditional spelling. They also manufacture personalized coat racks and name puzzles as well as wooden toy chests, furniture and trains. You can even take a tour of their factory online.
Montgomery Schoolhouse (www.montgomeryschoolhouse.com) was founded in 1971 and continues to offer Vermont-made, craft-quality wooden toys today. The original site burnt to the ground in 1973, but there was never any question as to whether the new facility would be built in Vermont or overseas since Montgomery Schoolhouse strongly believes in the importance of preserving American jobs. I have some samples of their products and the quality is uncompromising.
The roots of Holgate Toy Company (www.holgatetoy.com) trace back to 1789, the year the U.S. Constitution was signed and George Washington became President. If you happen to be in or around the Kane, PA area, you can stop in and visit their factory store and museum. From wooden stools and chairs to a classic wooden checkers set and beautiful toy chests, it's clear that Holgate has some of the world's finest-designed toys. After all, many of their original designs were made by famous illustrator Norman Rockwell's Brother Jarvis Rockwell.
You may not be able to buy a computer game system made in America today, but if your kids are going to be on the floor playing with one, it makes sense to give them something structurally useful to lie on. Stryder Pillows (www.stryder-store.com) sells 100% American-designed and made pillows for your comfort whether you are playing video games or just lounging around the house.
If you have more Christmas money to spare than most and like the idea of getting kids outside to play, there are more-expensive American-made choices for older kids who may desire something more competitive. The Iron Wood Bat Company makes a variety of maple baseball bats for youths and adults. You can even have them engraved for that personal touch for the special someone on your list. All Iron Wood Bats (www.ironwoodbats.com) are made in Minnesota.
When the St. Louis factory that made Rawlings baseball gloves closed, Glovesmith was ready to hire the American workers who were facing layoffs, and these American-made Glovesmith gloves can be found at www.customglove.com. The website also offers the Elite Series and Select Series, which are made in USA, along with the imported Mizuno brand and the Strategem and Field Commander Series. Being true to its name, Custom Glove's website can walk you through the process of having your personal glove handcrafted to your specifications. And your customized glove will be customized right here in America.
One of the fastest growing competitive sports today is paintball. Even family-owned Tippmann wondered at one time if the sport was a fad that would go the way of the hula hoop, but the company has since become a leader in the industry growing from eight employees in 1986 to 120 employees today. Tippmann operates in the heart of the Midwest with plants in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Buffalo Grove, Illinois. To find out more, visit www.tippmann.com.
Even with a flood of imports taking up most of the shelf space in the big-name retail stores, it is definitely possible to buy American from simple toys, games and puzzles to competitive outdoor sports-equipment. By purchasing the right Christmas gifts this year, we can put American-made Christmas gifts under the tree, money in the bank accounts of working Americans, and smiles on the faces of children all across the country.