At my home, bath time is party time. My two daughters bathe together, and the whoops, gut laughter and shrieks of delight make it clear that a good time is going on.
In the past, toys that were part of our bath time routine included a variety of rubber critters and bath crayons. One day as I cleaned the toys, I was mortified to see a blackish goop squirt out of the bottom of a rubber duck. I did my best to get it all out, but every now and then, another helping of goop came out with subsequent squeezes. Other toys still had water in them despite endless squeezing and shaking. I knew this could not be a good thing. My simple solution: The toys disappeared and my girls discovered the joys of wringing their washcloths and pouring water in and out of tin cups.
While I’m grateful for my kids’ imagination and ability to create fun out of nothing, I’d like to add some safe and fun items to their bath experience. Here’s what I’ve discovered:
Many bath toys are made with phthalates, a class of chemicals that are used to plasticize toys. Though there is apparently no acute threat by phthalates, they have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, kidney and liver damage and asthma. Bisphenol-A, another hormone-disrupting chemical, is also found in plastic toys. Because they remain freely mobile in plastic, phthalates are ingestible and leachable when children squeeze and gnaw on them, the latter of which happens regularly with my kids. This has led some experts to recommend using no vinyl at all in the bath.
If you’re not ready to say good-bye to traditional bath toys, there are eco-friendly companies that make bath creatures from phthalate- and lead-free plastic. Additionally, there are fun toys made from soft cloth. Check out Perennial Toys and Progressive Kid for these options.
Back to the black goop: Bath toys must be cleaned. Many moms recommend vinegar to effectively get rid of grime. Since it hasn’t been registered as a pesticide with the Environmental Protection Agency, vinegar cannot be called a disinfectant. However it is recognized by many to be powerfully anti-bacterial, killing bacteria, mold and germs. Try washing bath toys in a 5 percent vinegar solution and allow them to dry thoroughly. You should be able to throw natural cloth bath toys in the laundry; check the labels to be sure.
Terri Hall-Jackson lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband and two young children. In addition to writing, Terri works with public television and radio stations/networks in the area of new media, and leads workshops on authentic and empowered living.