Category Archives: Manufacturing

Made in the Good Old USA

The Fourth of July got us looking around the store to see what’s Made in the USA. There’s a lot!

Lauri crepe puzzles, Tall-Stackers and Lacing Shapes. These are classic toddler toys.

Constructive Eating utensils and plates in construction or garden fairy themes that make eating fun! Made in Michigan.

Doodletown wooden vehicles made in Minnesota are the perfect first car for age 1+.

Do-a-Dots are a great way to start kids in art. They work like bingo daubers, keeping the paint confined in a tube. Made in California.

DoaDot

Wikki Stix are another creative gem. These wax-coated strands of yarn can be used to make 2-D or 3-D art. Made in Arizona.

Brick Stix enhance Lego play with stickers you can add to your bricks to create furniture, buildings, and more. Made in Wisconsin.

Marble Racers are cars that light up with an LED light as you play with them. Glow-in-the-dark tracks add to the fun. Made in California.

marbleracers_HP_2011_1205

• What does an electrician do with all the little colored plastic snips that come off the wires? Invent the Find It game! You can search for a whole list of things hidden in each Find It. Made in Washington.

Pajaggle is made in Corvallis, Oregon. This game challenges your brain as you fit different shapes into their holes. It’s harder than it looks!

Uncle Goose makes traditional embossed baby blocks in a lot of different languages. They’re in Michigan.

Beka Blocks are the best unit blocks on the market. And blocks, of course, are the most basic toy and the basis for learning math. We’ve visited their woodshop in Minnesota and can attest that they’re made with love.

Beka blocks

• We’ve also visited Maple Landmark in Vermont, makers of the Name Trains. This company is super eco-friendly.

• Speaking of eco-friendly, what could be more eco-friendly than making toys out of recycled milk jugs? Green Toys does this in California.

3-D Shrinky Dinks are made in Florida. Who remembers coloring on plastic, then shrinking it in the oven? Fun!

• Back in this corner of the country, WoolPets come from Suquamish, Washington. These felting kits let kids (or grownups) make little animals out of wool.

WoolPetsGP

• Another Washington company is Eye Can Art. Seattle art teachers put together everything you need to make amazing art projects, and the kits span ages from 4 to adult.

• When you need to think, Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty will help. Get your hands working the putty, which comes in a range of metallic colors, color-changing hues or glow-in-the-darks, and free your mind to think. Made in Pennsylvania by individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities, working as a team to develop vocational skills and economic self-sufficiency.

Piggy Paint, a natural nail polish that’s safe for kids, is made in Arkansas.

Flarbles are made in Arkansas, too. Put one between your fingers, snap your fingers, and watch it fly!

Tot Talk placemats come from California. Front and back, they’ll teach your kids while they eat.

Tot Talk

Harrisville potholder looms are not only fun, they make a high quality potholder that’s perfect for gift-giving. We just got in a new larger size loom. Made in Harrisville, New Hampshire.

Rain Baby Gear is handmade right across the river in Portland, Oregon. The water-repellant stroller blankets are perfect for our climate, and the aprons will keep your kids clean.

Tweet Toys in Portland makes handcrafted wooden sailboats and rowboats for fun in the tub, pool or lake.

• Even closer to home are Taylor & Chloe hair clips, made in Camas.

• And just in, handmade right here in Vancouver, are Sleep Shepherd baby dolls, weighted dolls filled with millet and calming herbs.

Sleep Shepherd

Puddle Jumpin’ Cards are blank on the inside for your own greeting, but the fronts are stamped with a hand-carved linocut by our own daughter in Hood River, Oregon.

We are most likely missing some things, but this is what comes to mind right now. We are constantly looking for more Made in the USA items. It’s the ultimate way to shop local.

 

 

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Do You Know Where Your Toys Are Made?

Workers craft garments in a massive factory in Bangladesh. In light of the recent tragedy in a different factory, it’s important to know where your products come from.

Crews are still digging through the remains of a Bangladesh garment factory that collapsed last week, in a horrific reminder of the cost we pay for inexpensive, foreign-made goods.

The incident claimed the lives of nearly 400 Bangladesh workers, who earned an average of $38 a month to churn out clothing for consumers in America, Canada, Britain and Italy. A fire at another Bangladesh factory last year killed more than 100 workers. In light of the tragedies, a simple question has echoed through the minds of many American consumers: why?

The issue isn’t complicated for Ben Richardson, co-founder of Vancouver-based baby products company Puj. While cost is certainly an issue for his company, which manufactures products in Taiwan, it never outweighs the ethics.

“Of course, there is always a cheaper place to get something made,” Richardson wrote in an email. “But we have chosen to work with very reliable, high quality suppliers that care about the products they produce and care about the workers that work for them.”

He said he personally visits the factories several times a year to inspect product quality and conditions. Puj pays a little more, he said, to ensure a safe work environment and fair pay.

The same can’t be said for many bigger corporations. Several big-name American brands, including Walmart and Walt Disney, manufacture goods in questionable factories like the ones in Bangladesh. Since last week’s tragedy, both companies, along with many others, have decided to keep a closer eye on working conditions or else pull manufacturing from the country all together.

However, pulling out of Bangladesh doesn’t necessarily guarantee the safety of workers in other developing countries, which could see an influx of business from first-world corporations looking for a change of location.

This isn’t to say that all American companies practice unethical manufacturing. In recent years, the trend toward overseas manufacturing has slowed, largely thanks to smaller business that go out of their way to produce quality, socially-conscious products.

MapleLandmarkgranny

A woman builds a toy for Maple Landmark in their Vermont facility.

Take Maple Landmark, for example, which crafts wooden toys out of their Vermont facilities. The family-run company manufactures only in America, with strict labor and environmental guidelines, based on the belief that keeping workers safe is more important than keeping prices low.

“It is ironic that our society, which works to outlaw exploitative activity within, is perfectly fine purchasing products made in conditions that were deemed improper here generations ago,” the company writes on their website.

Maple Landmark isn’t alone in their thinking. In Pennsylvania, Crazy Aaron Enterprises, maker of Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty, went a step further. Company founder Aaron Muderick decided to hire local workers with disabilities to can his patented putty. The result is rewarding for both Muderick and the workers who, with active hands, stay out of trouble and find meaningful work.

The very idea that employees can actually benefit from their work environment is shocking when set against the backdrop of dangerous overseas factories. But in the American marketplace, where low prices drive sales, it can be difficult to be socially responsible and remain competitive.

“It is not just about the factory and the workers. You have to look at the whole endeavor holistically,” Richardson wrote. “The old saying is as true here in the U.S. as it is in Asia: You usually get what you pay for.”

Unfortunately, the companies that pay less provide harbor for unsafe working conditions that, occasionally, tragically, take hundreds of lives. It can be easy to forget about the factory half a world away, but after each new tragedy we find ourselves again asking why.

But the problem is bigger than any one factory or tragedy. The problem lies in our thinking, in the information we choose to acknowledge and, more importantly, the information we choose not to acknowledge.

After all, this isn’t about Bangladesh manufacturers or even overseas manufacturers, it’s about unsafe and unethical manufacturers.

“The biggest problem for global manufacturing is painting manufacturing, or an entire country, or an entire group of people with the same brush. You have to view and assess each operation individually,” Richardson said. “Not everybody does this.”

Unfortunately, some people do. And when our oversight ends in tragedy, it’s important to look up and take note. It’s important to ask why.