One of the things you may remember in your childhood was the Big Toy Book from Toys R Us that came in the mail a few months before Christmas. Or if you’re a little older, like me, you’ll probably remember the Sears Wish Book (if you’re feeling nostalgic, check out this site that has scans of all the catalogs from your childhood.
These were the things dreams were made of. Literally. Nights were spent with that book under my pillow, where I sneak a peek and have a warm feeling inside. There was something magical about it, whether the product copy that told little stories or the full color photos of toys that showed them in action. I wish I could talk with someone who worked on these and thank them.
Funny thing is, I don’t remember a lot of the toys I got when I was a kid, much less think fondly back to them. But the memory of that catalog still lingers.
Then, along came Walmart, Target, and Amazon, and that spelled doom for these companies.
Sadly, people would drive to a Sears or a Toys R Us to try out a toy, but then they’d go to Amazon where they’d buy it cheaper. It wasn’t long before these store couldn’t afford being showrooms for their cheap counterparts, and they folded.
Sadly, Amazon, Target, and Walmart only cared about one thing. How do we increase profits? And so manufacturers were incentivized to source their toys to the cheapest subcontractors so they could sell more, more, more. Of course, China stepped up to the plate. Because China has no regard for human rights or environmental protect, its manufacturers could underbid any other manufacturer in the world, helped along by government subsidies if necessary. In 2007 when they shipped 19 million toys that were laced with poisonous lead, companies like Mattel pretended to care, but ultimately decided to wait out the clock counting on American consumers’ short attention spans. And consumers didn’t disappoint them. We just continued to buy the cheapest plastic junk that companies shoveled our way, 40-50% of our money going to perpetuate the murderous Chinese Communist Party.
Adding Insult to Injury – The Amazon and Target Toy Catalogs
Recently I received in the mail Amazon’s “Holiday Kid’s Gift Book” and Target’s Toy Catalog, both for Christmas. When I opened them up, they were devoid of any of the warm feelings that Sears or Toys R Us catalogs had.
Amazon tried, rather pathetically, to put stickers and kid’s activities in the book, but whoever did the visual design catalog clearly has no idea how to design stuff for kids. And worse, the catalog is obviously printed in China. How do I know? Because the stickers DO NOT STICK, which is kind of the point of stickers.
But worst of all, the pages are just paper versions of their Web site. Stock photos of toys provided by manufacturers and equally drab stock copy. It’s as if Amazon and Target took the concept of the old toy catalog, ripped out all of the heart and souls, and was left with an empty shell of products to hock. Maybe some executives felt this was a good idea, but kids can see right through it. My daughter thumbed through a few pages and got bored quickly
Where I’m doing my Christmas Shopping This Year
Fat Brain may not be a household name, but it should be. It’s where I will be doing all of my Christmas shopping this year. And it’s where you should too.
As I flip through the Amazon and Target catalogs, all I see is plastic junk, mostly from a handful of big name toy makers and licensed characters. Most of them are opened on Christmas Day and forgotten by Valentine’s Day, destined for the landfill.
Fat Brain Toys, as its name implies, sells toys that are high-quality, educational toys. While the big toy makers WANT your child to roll their eyes at the word “educational toy”, what they never tell you is that your child will play over and over again with craft kits like this mosaic unicorn, nature kits like this terrarium of carnivorous plants (including Venus Fly Traps), practical toys like this kit on dog training, or these woodworking tools that really work.
And do you want to know something amazing? All of the toys I just listed, plus over 250 more, are not made in China. Now to clear, Fat Brain Toys does carry toys made in China–they wouldn’t be able to survive as a business if they didn’t. But one thing I love, love, love about this company is that they clearly mark the country of origin of every product they sell, and don’t hide it like Amazon, Walmart, Target, or just about any other retailer out there. Unlike those retailers, they trust you to have this information, and they allow you to make decisions for yourself.
Tricks for Finding Products Not Made in China on Fat Brain Toys
I wrote a separate article on top retailers that show country of retailer information. Only 7 out of the top 50 did. And no site that sells toys does, for obvious reasons. They hope you won’t question them, and that you’ll just shovel them your money. And even out of those 7, many of them don’t do very good quality control over the accuracy of their information
Fat Brain Toys has, bar none, the best Web site for shopping by Country of Origin. They have a great browse interface, they have search filters, and they seem to be very good at making sure their country of origin information is accurate. If I just had one gripe, it’d be that it’s almost impossible to know this by looking at their home page design. You need to go to this “hidden” page.
But from there, you can filter their entire catalog based on where a product was made. For example:
Toys made in the USA (support a local community): https://www.fatbraintoys.com/specials/made_in.cfm?cnty=US
Toys made in Germany (indestructible): https://www.fatbraintoys.com/specials/made_in.cfm?cnty=DE
Toys made in Taiwan (really stick it to the CCP): https://www.fatbraintoys.com/specials/made_in.cfm?cnty=TW
Their interface allows you to browse toys made in any of 30 countries. Even better, if you want to see a list of products that’s made anywhere EXCEPT for a certain country, just add a “!” in front of the two-letter country code in the URL. For example:
Will show you all toys NOT made in China.
Let’s be honest. It’s practically impossible to completely avoid stuff made in China. But what I like is that Fat Brain respects you as a parent enough to give you the information to make an informed decision.
Don’t make the same mistake that our previous generation did of looking up the country of origin of a product on Fat Brain and then going to Amazon to buy it. We need to rewards companies like this by sending them our business and send a clear message to other retailers that the more generous they are with their information, the more generous we will be with our money.
Anyone who says “you can’t find anything good that’s not made in China” isn’t looking hard enough. Not only can you find something good, you can find some of the best.