Most parents focus on healthy diets and good hygiene practices. They also spend resources on a sound education and pay attention to the content their children tune into. What about a plastic-free nursery though? Would that be beneficial?
This summer, several news agencies covered the story of a determined mother. She set out to create the first nursery free of plastics in Britain. The materials she chose for toys included wood and glass. It may seem like a strange choice to some people. Yet, experts claim it helps to foster greater imagination in children. Is it safer, though? And are there plastic-free environments for children in the US?
Plastic-Free in Pennsylvania
Google searches for US-based, plastic-free nurseries and daycare facilities yielded no promising results. Fortunately, a call for interviews connected Parentology with Rory Mannion, the director of admissions at a private, eco-friendly school in Philadelphia that boasts a wooded campus.
“The School in Rose Valley’s preschool through sixth-grade program is very environmentally focused,” Mannion tells us. “Our classrooms and campus contain minimal plastic and our Farm-to-Fork Food and Education program helps children understand their impact on their environment. Our kitchen is a 3-star green-certified kitchen.”
Why a Plastic-Free Nursery Matters at School
Plastics are a common feature in most American homes. So, it may come as some surprise that educational institutions like The School in Rose Valley are trying to get rid of plastic. Why does it matter?
Mannion explains, “Not only can plastic leach harmful chemicals, [its] production is extremely harmful to the environment.”
He adds, “Once plastic is produced, it’s not biodegradable — broken and unwanted toys end up taking up space in our already [overcrowded] landfills. Young children often put toys in their mouths, which is a developmentally appropriate form of exploration. [However] … plastic toys can have paint and finishes that contain lead or other harmful chemicals.”
Confirmation From the Experts
Dr. Anila Jacob concurs with Mannion. A senior scientist who works with the Environmental Working Group, Jacob wrote an article for WebMD in 2008 revealing the discovery by scientists that BPA in plastics poses health concerns. Bisphenol A, also known as BPA, has an impact on the body akin to hormones. Jacob findings revealed BPA plastics leach from the containers and packaging they comprise and into our food. This leaching worsens when plastics come into contact with acidic, fatty or salty foods.
In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration stated concern over BPA’s potential effects on the “brain, behavior and prostate glands in fetuses, infants, and young children.” When presenting The Facts About Bisphenol A, WebMD writes, “Some studies suggest that possible effects from BPA could be most pronounced in infants and young children. Their bodies are still developing and they are less efficient at eliminating substances from their systems.”
The Bottom Line
Studies continue on BPA’s impact, yet there are few restrictions on products in the market. Myriad products, though, are labeled BPA-free, giving consumers options when shopping for their families. Among these offerings — BPA-free toys.
So what about plastic-free toys? Do they truly increase creativity? A 2016 study confirms electronic toys don’t promote development and literacy in children the way wooden toys, books, and puzzles do. The benefits of these more traditional toys are even greater when parents join in.
Plastic-Free Nursery — Sources
WebMD: Pots, Pans, and Plastics: A Shopper’s Guide to Food Safety
The Telegraph: Britain’s First Plastic-free Nursery Swaps Artificial Toys With Wooden Ones and Bans Food in Plastic Wrapping
JAMA Pediatrics: Association of the Type of Toy Used During Play With the Quantity and Quality of Parent-Infant Communication
Rory Mannion, The School in Rose Valley