Often times being environmentally friendly is also the most cost effective option. Reuse is the ultimate in environmental stewardship. Take advantage of websites such as Freecycle, Craigslist and eBay to trade or purchase gently used items. Visit local resale shops and make friends of the sales people, ask them to call you when that needed item comes in. Frequent neighborhood garage and rummage sales. Get on an email list for local Moms Clubs and watch for their annual sales.
We found my son a loft bed for $30 this way. Then we spent another $10 on new bolts and a piece of engineered wood fiberboard for the desk. It didn’t need painted, but even that would have been inexpensive and relatively easy. This bed would have cost $400 new. In addition to saving a ton of money, we also kept a product from being manufactured, using up valuable resources. Reuse also keeps the existing item out of our landfills.
With infant furniture, we need to pay attention to some safety points when obtaining used furniture for our child. When you are out and about carry a measuring tape, dimensions for the area you wish to place the furniture in and a list of recalled items.
Crib slates should have no more than 2 3/8 inches between them (you can use a soda can for this, it should not fit through slats without force). All slates should be present, sturdy and non-splintered. Check the release on the side and the mattress platform. Put weight on each side to ensure crib strength. There should be no corner posts which can catch infants clothes (my youngest daughter was the queen of climbing out of the crib), this can pose a strangulation hazard. Also, avoid furniture with cutouts in the headboard, footboard or sides, these can pose an entrapment risk for the child’s head. Purchasing an antique crib is probably not a good idea, as those are likely to have wider slates and lead paint.
If you are looking for a portable play crib, ensure that the mesh has tiny openings (very fine mesh, no holes over 1/4 inch in size), that the crib is sturdy when weight is applied, that there are no holes and that the crib doesn’t collapse without first removing the mattress pad and pulling up the center support underneath. Infants have died in faulty portable cribs, so be sure to check recalls closely and to NEVER leave your child unsupervised while in a portable crib.
When looking at highchairs check that it is sturdy, has all parts/bolts/pins and has a safety latch to prevent accidental folding. Also, check the straps for tears and only purchase a high chair with a five point style harness buckle versus a waist buckle. Children learn to climb early and a topple from a high chair can be dangerous. Attempt to put the tray on and off using only one hand as this will be the reality after baby arrives. Make sure that fingers cannot be pinched by the tray latch.
Never purchase a used infant safety seat. Infant seats are designed to protect your baby in an automobile accident. Car seats can have damage that is not visible. You don’t know the history, you don’t know if the current owner is being completely honest. A 10 mph fender bender can cause damage to an infant seat. Visit your local fire station. Ask them what they see at crash sites. Car seats can fail, usually because there is previous damage or they are used incorrectly. Always have your infants seat properly installed by the fire department or car seat clinic. Always read and follow all manufacturers instructions. Car seat expire in five years. Check expiration dates and replace. Car seats are made of plastic which breaks down over time and becomes brittle. This damage may not be visible. Some states such as Colorado have car seat recycling available.
When purchasing, begging or borrowing other furnishings, use your good judgment. Ask yourself, can my child smash his fingers/hands in this? Can he pull it over on top of himself? Is there peeling paint? Does this item fold or collapse, if it does is there an adequate and functioning safety latch?
Many concerns are addressed in the manner you retrofit the furniture. Drawer stoppers can be added to prevent smashed fingers. Dressers and shelves should be wall anchored so that a climbing youngster doesn’t pull it over. Resolve any questionable paint issues by sanding the item and repainting using a VOC free paint or stain. Wood can be beautified by rubbing with oil (such as linseed, lemon or orange) or wax (bees or caranuba). This gives you a natural wood finish which is beautiful, protected and easy to touch up as needed.
On a side note, be sure to paint that room with VOC free paints. If you are a wallpaper fan, look for non-PVC varieties (such as ModGreenPod) or use an alternative such as eco friendly gift wrap or organic fabric to decoupage the walls.
Photo from Dreamstime.
Related Posts on Children’s Furniture & Safety
- Kalon Studios: Sustainably Produced and Designed Children’s Furniture
- Happy Green Baby: Going Green with Baby Steps
- Get Free Paint at a Drop and Swap Center Near You