Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Don't Be a Plastic Bashing Luddite!

Last night I spent a half hour cleaning 15 pumpkin stickers off of Sam's wood table that I purchased for her Montessori work four months ago.  The finish of the table is ruined, and I have something to say:

Wood is not better than plastic.

If you're a new parent, you hear it everywhere: how horrible it is that all children's toys are plastic, and how we should get them things made of natural materials.  Why?  Well, I've seen some good arguments about how important it is to expose babies to a lot of different textures and materials.  And of course, children need to learn what wood is and what it feels like and how it can be used.

So go ahead a get a set of wooden alphabet blocks.  But bemoaning the fact that so many children's toys and products are made of plastic smacks of anti-technology primitivism.  Compared to wood, plastic is cheaper, more durable, more versatile, more colorful, more lightweight, and does less damage when bashed into a wall (or a face).  Plastic is an amazing material in many ways, but it is especially great for children's products.

If I want to show Samantha something natural, I'll take her outside to look at the trees.  Next time, I'm buying the plastic table.


  1. I completely agree with you. The only really compelling argument I've heard for using wooden toys is precisely for this type of situation; if the child throws the toy or damages it in some way, they learn the consequence of that action because wood damages so much easier than plastic. So on the positive side, you can use this as a learning experience for Sam because that table is now irrevocably changed.
    On the flip side, wood is so porous that most wooden toys are germ buckets. With plastic, you can spray them down with some Lysol once a week and feel confident that they will be clean.

  2. As a polymer scientist earlier in my career, I say good for you. And if there's a better children's toy than LEGOs, I don't know what it is. Go plastic!