I have written about buying non-toxic rugs for the playroom.
I have shared with you about the play tents that aren’t sprayed with fire retardants
I have opted for solid wood storage furniture from IKEA, rather than their better looking MDF counterpart.
But the hardest part about creating a relatively non-toxic playroom was bookshelves.
And surprisingly so. You would think that the number one item in a child’s play area should be books. That could be my bias talking, of course. Or more precisely, Lexi’s bias. She is a book worm. Beyond anything I have seen in a toddler. She LOVES books. She inhales books. On daily basis, all you could hear from her is “READ READ! MAMA READ! PLEASE READ!”
She could read (by read, I mean have me read) 5-6 books meant for 4-7 age range in one sitting and then come back for more in an hour. That is a wonderful thing and is something we certainly encourage. I have spent the last year photographing her favorite books of every age in hopes that I could share these finds with you. And I will. Eventually.
So needless to say, bookshelves was the first thing I started looking for but strangely the last thing I found. Yes, certainly, there were plenty of bookshelves everywhere, but all made of MDF or particle board which is well known to emit all kinds of “wonderful” gases, along with formaldehyde glue. Yum! Yes, pretty much all the popular kids brands are that way, as can be evidenced by its pungent smell when taken out of the box.
I felt I came too far in attempting to create a playroom that is as non-toxic as it could be and made too many concessions to make that happen, that the thought of giving in here just did’t make sense.
It didn’t help that my hope was to get front facing bookshelves, which made my search virtually impossible. I had considered accepting bookshelves that weren’t front facing for a short minute, but after an experiment I quickly discarded it. I feel it’s pretty relevant to this post so I will elaborate later.
So then I found it! YAY! A company that makes SOLID WOOD bookshelves and slightly cheaper laminate veneer that are Green Guard Certified ( low or no emission). ECR4KIDS!
I was even more excited when I discovered that almost their whole line of bookshelves is front facing. A company that gets it.
Front facing bookshelves is something I discussed in previous posts when I was designing Lexi’s nursery. It’s very important, because it encourages children to read by drawing their attention to books. If they are stacked side by side, the books don’t have the same appeal to children, who are very visual at that age. So using front facing bookshelves is an easy way to promote reading and hence literacy, as well as love for books.
At some point we had books sitting in a front facing manner in bins. That was my interim solution while I was looking for a different option. One day I said to myself:” I bet Lexi loves books so much that it doesn’t matter if I put them front facing or with their sides facing out”. I was running out of space in the bins, so that was a good move to make at the time. I expected nothing to change.
To my surprise, it did change. Yes, Lexi still read a lot for a two year old, but I would say her interest in reading diminished by at least 40%. However, it’s not something I noticed immediately. It wasn’t till I moved them back into a front facing position that I was blown away by the change. She went from reading 3-4 long storybooks a day (the 40% decrease from before) to upwards of 10-15. I am seriously not joking here. It was all we could hear: read read read read read read read…
She kept running up to the bookshelf, grabbing a book and after book, whatever caught her eye, and bringing to us. Whoa!
This was amazing, the bookshelf was amazing, the fact that it was solid wood was amazing, the result was amazing.
So just a bit about the company and the bookshelves.
ECR4Kids mainly sells to daycare and schools. Solid wood is important there because of the wear and tear on toys and furniture. However the kinds of products that they manufacture can find a perfect home in any family that is looking for a less toxic alternative that can house many more books than the mainstream bookcases.
Two styles of bookcases that appealed to me and I thought were worth writing about are
Mobile Book Cart (solid wood, Greenguard certified)
Storage Book Display (laminate veneer, Greenguard certified)
Both have their own place, but still serve a similar purpose.
is a more expensive version since it’s made of solid wood. That not only ensures that it doesn’t emit any toxic gases for 20 years, but also helps with the life of the product for families with more than one kid. It is slightly smaller and fits fewer books in the front facing position, however it has deep top pockets for book storage and a whole back that doubles as storage as well.
The back storage can be used for toys or out of season books. That’s where we store our holiday books: Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and pull them out when needed. The top section is used for books out of rotation and then regularly I switch some of the books out. You can see the size of the bookshelf is pretty impressive, considering Lexi’s height in the photos is 38″, however despite the heavy solid wood, it is completely portable. It sits on wheels and can be pushed around if needed, which can be a very useful feature.
retails for $100 less due to the fact that it is laminate veneer, but it is Greenguard Certified, so technically it is still an awesome option if you’re creating a non-toxic space for yourself or your children. It is not portable and it’s pretty heavy so moving it around is usually not an option, especially once you have put books in it ( I tried it, it will only slide slightly on tile). But it’s a perfect design for a playroom. I am actually in love with it.
It fits a large assortment of books with a perfect space up top for those oversized books you can never find a place for. The bottom has storage, which you can buy bins for and keep all the small toys in, or put boxes of table games like we have since that is what we play with most.
So I have to say, we have had these bookshelves for 2-3 months now and I am just tickled pink about them. Whenever I review items that were sent to me by brands (which these bookshelves were), there is always a thought in the back of my mind on whether I would buy the item myself for the price they are advertised for. I always try to relay that in my post, if not in those particular words, but I think most of the time you can tell from the writing.
I never review products that I have a suspicion I might not like or those that didn’t work out for us and they are some products that I love but know wouldn’t be in my budget otherwise (and that is personal because everyone’s budget is different). However here I can equivocally state that if knowing what I know now, I had to get a bookshelf again, I would absolutely without hesitation buy one of these by ECR4KIDS. (If you ask me which one, I would have trouble answering since I do love them both and we use them both regularly)
ECR4KIDS also makes a ton of play furniture and toys, a lot of it in solid wood, so if you’re looking for something specific and would like anon-toxic option, check ECR4Kids products on Amazon or on their website.