|Dr. Pragya Khanna|
“When I bring you colored toys, my child, I understand why there is such a play of colors on clouds, on water, and why flowers are painted in tints”
In this age of many amazing industrial developments, perhaps no industry has under gone such rapid growth and development as the toy manufacturing industry. Most children have a lot more toys nowadays than the children of yester years. The toys are generally considered very good source for stimulation, motivation and overall development of a child when it comes to growing up and learning about the world around us. The toys help their bodies to grow strong, to learn cause and effect, explore relationships, practice skills they will need as adults thereby help them discover their individuality, uniqueness of their personality, temperament and character.
In the earlier times, the toys were made from materials found in nature, such as rocks, sticks, and clay. It is known from the historic records that toys were popular even thousands of years ago, the Egyptian children played with dolls that were made from stone, pottery, and wood. In Ancient Greece and in Ancient Rome, children played with dolls made of wax or terra cotta, sticks, bows and arrows, and yo-yos. As technology changed and civilization progressed, toys also changed. Whereas ancient toys were made from materials found in nature like stone, wood, and grass modern toys are often made from plastic, cloth, and synthetic materials. Ancient toys were often made by the parents and family of the children who used them, or by the children themselves. Modern toys, in contrast, are often mass-produced and sold in stores.
The toy makers modify and adapt their toys to meet the changing demands of children thereby gaining a better share of the extensive market. In recent years a lot of toys have become more complex and elaborate with flashing lights and sounds in an attempt to appeal to children. According to Neil Friedman, President of the Mattel Inc., USA, the world’s largest toy manufacturing company that makes Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels and other toys, “Innovation is key in the toy industry and to succeed one must create a ‘WOW’ moment for kids by designing toys that have fun, innovative features and include new technologies and engaging content”.
However, it is unfortunate that in an effort to gain more and more profit through this industry the manufacturers are neglecting the safety standards and as a result one in three toys on an average available in the market contains ‘medium’ to ‘high’ levels of harmful chemicals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). The exposure to lead can inhibit brain development, which could result in lower IQs, shorter attention spans and learning difficulties. Excessive amount of lead exposure can also cause muscle weakness, anemia and kidney damage. Cadmium on the other hand can have harmful effects on kidneys and lungs. It can also negatively affect motor skills and behavior. Though organic arsenic is less toxic, but animal testing has suggested that acute ingestion can lead to diarrhea and chronic exposure may result in kidney damage. Depending on exposure, inorganic arsenic can cause skin irritation, skin color changes, blood disorders, cardiovascular diseases and hormone disruption. Moreover, it may affect fetal brain development and lower the intelligence level. Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC is a challenging plastic from an environmental health point of view because it creates chief hazards throughout its life cycle and contains additives that can be dangerous to human health. Phthalates are chemicals that are very commonly added to PVC to make it soft and flexible, however, they can leach out of the plastic. Exposure to phthalates is linked to birth defects of the genitals and distorted level of reproductive hormones in baby boys. Also, there is at present no national policy limiting phthalates in children’s goods.
It is very well known that the small kids have a tendency to pick up almost any object in their general vicinity and put them in their mouths eventually. It is up to the adults in their world to make sure that the toys they play with are safe and made of quality materials. If you are giving plastic toys or tethers to your child then ensure that the same does not contain any unsafe or toxic material or else their lungs, kidneys or intestines might be infected for life. The pediatricians all over the world feel concerned on the regular use of these chemicals, colors, poisonous substances and adhesives in toys as they pose a serious threat to the health of small kids. It is regrettable that the parents often do not mind giving broken toys to kids and unknowingly and accidentally expose their beloved children to life threatening chemicals.
Although, in this age and time it would be difficult to remove plastics completely from our lives but we can make small deliberate steps intentionally for the benefit of the small angels in our lives. We can begin to think more naturally when we shop and search for toys and other articles to be used by them. We can look for real products made of cotton, linen, silk, wood, bamboo, woven grasses and glass and help our children enjoy a prettier, healthier, and careful life by switching to all things natural.
It is really heartening to note that the Govt. of India has envisaged the idea of Toycathon-2021 to challenge India’s innovative minds to intellectualise innovative Toy and Games based on Indian civilization, history, culture, mythology and ethos. The project initiated by our Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri. Narendra Modi comes under the aegis of the ‘AatmaNirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’.
The Toycathon based on nine themes, viz., Indian culture, history, knowledge of India and ethos; learning, education, and schooling; social and human values; occupations and specific fields; environment; divyang ; fitness and sport; out of the box, creative and logical thinking and rediscovering/redesigning traditional Indian toys, would provide an opportunity to our students to design toys and games that will greatly help India develop into a global hub for toys and games and assist our children to understand the ethos and values of Indian culture as envisaged in the National Education Policy 2020 as rightly pointed out by an official of UGC, India.
With India moving ahead in every field, a vital step such as this shall take us further by strengthening and safeguarding our future generations.
It is rightly said that if we don’t stand up for children, then we don’t stand for much.