Eco-friendly toys and games are the new buzz words in schools. Better known as 'green toys', these products have been conceptualised to save the environment. They are made from natural and safe materials that are bio-degradable. Aditi Paul, a seven-year-old from Kolhapur Public School sets the tone for the discussion by asking a very relevant question, "How are these games different from the ones available in the market?"
Mahima Mehra of Hathi Chap, a company that deals with eco-friendly toys and games says, "The materials used to design and create the game boards and toys are completely different. Where normal toys could be created from plastic that may have harmful chemicals that affect children's growth, green toys and games are made from elements like wood, mud and natural raw materials that are safe to use. These games are often created by rural artisans and also come in bright colours. Thus, they also offer sustained income to the craftsmen."
Nine-year-old Aman Singh talks about a personal experience. Says he, "I recently picked up a decent-looking board game. I have a similar game board at home but this one attracted my attention because it was eco-friendly. It was made from elephant dung!"
Mahima says, "Hathi Chap mainly focuses on eco-friendly paper made out of elephant dung. We have a huge range of indoor and outdoor games namely snakes and ladders, ludo ludo, gulel gulel, paschichi and so on. We have also recently released a book on eco-friendly indoor and outdoor games." It's interesting to note that the book has been created out of eco-friendly raw materials. Mahima continues, "The book has information on different games and states their importance during the growing up years."
So, what is the main focus of these products? For some creators it's all about fun and games and for the others it's about creating a link between traditional games and new-age kids. A spokesperson from Kids Edutainment Centre (KEC) says says, "We have a variety of eco-friendly toys and games which have a traditional bent. With the increased usage of computer games and plastic toys and games, children are losing out on playing old traditional Indian games. We want to revive that trend and promote recycled natural goods. These toys connect to family values and facilitate bonding. Our products are made up of wood, glass, jute rope and lac."
A parent, Sumana Ray, who was part of this discussion asks, "The concept is really interesting but how will it benefit children?" The spokesperson from KEC explains, "Eco-friendly toys offer the opportunity to enjoy value-driven imaginative play.They allow children to develop cognitive and problem-solving skills that will help them through the rest of their lives. Wooden toys also stimulate a child's mind and nontoxic colours promote a healthy atmosphere during play."
So what attracts children to buy such products? We found that it's the packaging that plays an important role. Most of these products are packaged in recycled boxes. The packs also come with notes on culture, history and a few interesting anecdotes related to the game, making the product informative. Some of the games offered by KEC are Morabaraba - an African strategy game, Quirkat - ancient Egyptian checkers, Bagh Chal - a Nepali hunting game and Lagori - an Indian street game with blocks.
On the other hand, Hathi Chap offers games that are designed based on the convenience factor like snakes and ladders in the form of a scroll which makes it easy for children to carry it around. With so many colourful, environment-friendly options, isn't it time you set your virtual world aside and experience the real fun of playing such games?