Nurseries taking action to phase out plastic toys

By Alison Kershaw, PA Education Correspondent

A third of nursery workers would like to ban plastic toys, according to a poll.

Some are opting for alternatives such as wooden toys, while others are attempting to make use of items found in nature like shells, leaves and sticks.

The survey – which questioned more than 1,000 nursery managers, owners and staff – indicates many are making moves to become more environmentally friendly, with increasing numbers saying they would ban glitter.

In total, 34% of those surveyed by daynurseries.co.uk said they would like their nursery to ban plastic toys.

Sarah Woolley, owner of Brook Cottage childcare in Stoke-on-Trent, said her nursery has been trying to buy more wooden toys but has encountered issues in doing so.

She told the PA news agency: “There’s a lot of beautiful stuff available but the thing we’ve found is not only is it a lot more expensive, but it breaks so easily, whether it be splitting along the grain of the wood or whether it be the joints of the toy coming apart.

“There’s not a week goes by that we haven’t got something for the caretaker to repair, to try and fix it back together, and quite often they end up getting thrown away.”

She added that some of these toys can also look dirty quickly, even though they are cleaned.

Ms Woolley said she has been making toys herself and upcycling items instead, for example using natural items such as pine cones and materials that would otherwise be thrown away, like packaging.

She said all her staff now look out for items that can be used in the nursery, and the process helps educate children and families on reducing waste and reusing items instead.

Louise Lloyd-Evans, owner of Young Friends Nature Nursery in Hove, is running an initiative called Sustainable Nurseries Against Plastic, which aims to get people talking about how they can make their setting more environmentally-friendly and taking action to do so.

She said her nursery has gradually got rid of its plastic toys.

She added: “We didn’t really have that many plastic toys anyway because we don’t really like them, but what we say is don’t get rid of everything straight away because it will all go to landfill.”

Ms Lloyd-Evans said nurseries should not immediately throw away plastic toys but use them “for the duration of its life” and not buy any more.

“Plastic toys can’t be recycled. They can be passed on to other people and live out their lives, but they can’t really be recycled,” she said.

An increasing proportion of nursery workers would like a ban on glitter, the survey also found (PA)

Ms Lloyd-Evans’s nursery uses natural toys and items such as shells and wood, which she argues encourages open-ended play and helps youngsters use their imaginations.

The survey also asked nursery workers for the second year running about their feelings towards glitter – loved by children particularly during the festive period to make cards and baubles.

This year, more than a third (38%) said they would like to ban the substance, compared to 22% last year.

Sue Learner, editor of daynurseries.co.uk, said: “It is very encouraging to see more and more nursery staff taking this environmental stance. After all they are crucial role models and play a vital role in educating children at a time when they are very impressionable.

“It is the children who will inherit this planet, so it is good these messages are being passed on at an early age. Of course glitter is fun, but children are not missing out if they don’t have glitter.

“Banning plastic toys is more complex as some nurseries say they can’t afford to replace them with wooden toys, which are more expensive and are not so durable.”

– The daynurseries.co.uk survey was conducted in April and May.