Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.
“A present? For me?”
These are some of my daughter’s favorite words, and I would imagine that’s true for the children in your life, too.
As I consider what presents I’d like to give my children for birthdays or holidays, and what gifts I’d like to purchase with them for our other friends and family, I’d love to try to give fair trade gifts as much as possible.
While I’m not sure that buying fair trade qualifies as actual “global mission work,” as I envision children participating in loving God’s whole world, buying and receiving fair trade gifts seems to fit in hand-in-hand. It’s hard to love His world when our purchases our causing people to work in terrible conditions.
Why Fair Trade?
My heart breaks when I realize that the cheap toy or inexpensive t-shirt I buy for my daughters might have a dark past.
Unfortunately, the reality is that many of the products we purchase, particularly those sold at a low price (my favorite!), are produced in horrible working conditions where workers, sometimes children, are treated poorly and paid extremely low wages for very long hours.
So while the product may have a low financial cost for me as the consumer, the workers who produced the item paid a high cost by suffering through its production.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of fair trade, you can visit some of these helpful posts to learn more:
- How to Shop Ethically from The Art of Simple
- I’ve Figured Out a Way to Get Coffee for 70% Less Money! and Here, Let Me Ruin Halloween For You from Rage Against the Minivan
- The Better World Shopper
Companies that produce fair-trade products have committed to avoiding these horrible working conditions by providing fair wages, offering an acceptable working environment, and caring for their employees.
Many of the companies I’ll share today have gone a step further to provide not just acceptable but wonderful working environments, intentionally partnering with their workers.
A Caution: How to Avoid Burnout
I’m excited to share some fair trade gift ideas with you, along with some ways to talk about fair-trade with your children. But, here’s my caution: don’t go crazy trying to buy fair-trade everything all at once… especially if you are new to “fair-trade.”
A few years ago, I heard about fair-trade products for the first time. I learned the reasons why they’re necessary, and I was crushed to realize the horrible working conditions some people experience.
I went ALL out. I started buying only fair-trade clothing. I took my copy of The Better World Shopping Guide with us on vacation, and my husband and I tried to only do fair-trade sanctioned things… like eating copious amounts of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. (But only if the carton was labeled fair-trade, of course!) We bought all our Christmas gifts that year from Ten Thousand Villages.
Then I got burnt out. After our daughter was born, I quit working outside the home, so our budget decreased. It was trickier to spend money on slightly more expensive fair trade items.
But even more than that, I just got tired of it. I like going to Target and picking up random items off the shelf without worrying about whether it’s fair trade or not. I like the taste of the non-fair-trade coffee available at the coffee shop around the corner.
So I quit hunting for fair-trade items, and returned to my old spending habits.
Rather than going “all out” with passion for shopping fair trade, I encourage you to find a middle ground and gradually ease your way into fair trade shopping.
Eventually, I began shopping fair trade again, this time, a little bit at a time. We have some local coffee shops we like to frequent that support fair trade coffee. This year, our Christmas gifts will be about half fair-trade items. I’ve found some favorite beauty products that are fair-trade, and try to select these ones when I need to make a new purchase.
Plus, I’ve also tried to incorporate some other ideas for avoiding “sweatshop” items, but without having to shop for truly fair-trade stuff… you can see these ideas below. This has made it easier to shop ethically and in a way that supports a love for all nations… without burning out.
Fair Trade Christmas Gift Ideas
Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase after clicking one of the links, I may receive a small commission to help support this site, at no additional cost to you.
As Christmas approaches, I wanted to provide a resource for some fair-trade gift ideas.
Some of these are gifts to give to your children, and some are gifts you and your children could select for your loved ones (like grandparents or other adults).
The Mercy House Shop offers lovely jewelry and household items that support women’s maternity homes in Kenya. They also have a program called Fair Trade Friday which is “a monthly membership club that delivers high quality fair traded items to your door. The items in the box are fairly traded and provide employment to women all over the world. Plus, they are really cute! … “100% of the proceeds from each product go toward the empowerment of impoverished women as an avenue to introduce them to the Gospel.” (from Fair Trade Friday web site). They have a new box for kids, and young women might especially enjoy the earring of the month club.
Krochet Kids offers stylish, trendy hats, bags, and other accessories made in Uganda and Peru. I love these animal hats for kids. I’ve long followed the story of a family who served with Krochet Kids in Peru, and I love their business model and how they’re partnering with women there to create cute hats and provide jobs, education, and community for their workers.
lots of delicious edible treats from Trade As One. If you are looking for a healthy, clutter-free gift, these are pricey but practical, as everything would be consumed. Every time I look at the Trade as One site, I get hungry 🙂
Comfy pants and cute tee shirts for kids and adults from Punjammies.
Ten Thousand Villages has a wide assortment of fair trade items from all over the world. I’ve purchased Christmas gifts from them in the past and have been pleased by their unique, well-priced items. They also have some physical storefronts.
If you’ve found some of the other Fair Trade companies listed here to be too expensive, Ten Thousand Villages is a good option, as some of their products are just a few dollars each, like Christmas ornaments, small toys.
I also like that Ten Thousand Villages carries a large variety of different items… so if you’re trying to do all your Christmas shopping in one place, this is your best bet to find something for everyone on your list.
Jewelry from Noonday Collection. They have stylish, beautiful necklaces, bracelets, and other accessories.
Toys and Clothes from Fair Indigo. I purchased clothes from them a few years ago, and they were very good quality and reasonably priced. I don’t recommend drying in the dryer – my clothes did shrink.
Cute handbags, doll clothes, girls’ aprons, home decor, and apparel from Timbali crafts
I was impressed by the good prices and unique items available from Timbali!
handmade journals from Gadanke. I love the Christmas card holder journal! Gadanke’s journals are all customizable, as you can see in the photo above, so you can add or remove pages as desired.
She has such creative ideas, like a mother-daughter journal, lots of baby book ideas, and guides for recording family recipes. (These aren’t specifically “fair trade,” but are handmade in Montana by a lovely lady.)
Wild Dill offers a variety of fair trade children’s products, especially cute dolls. I just stumbled upon their site this week, and they seem like cute options for kids! The little donuts pictured above are baby rattles! So cute.
Still looking for more? Here are a few compilations of other fair-trade companies:
- Re-Imagining Christmas from Marla Taviano
- Fair Trade USA Holiday Gift Guide
- The Art of Simple’s excellent Ethical Shopping Guide
Fair Trade Alternatives
Want to avoid supporting harmful working conditions, but can’t find a reasonable fair trade option? Here are some other Ideas:
- Shop second-hand. When you purchase items at a thrift store, garage sale, or on Craigslist, you are not perpetuation any poor labor conditions – this item was created long ago and your purchase isn’t stimulating any new production of items. You can even buy online through a second-hand shop like ThredUp or through ebay or Etsy.
- Make something. Consider creating a craft or baking a food item as a gift. (Though, of course, you’ll still want to consider your materials. You could use repurposed goods, or purchase organic/fair trade ingredients, as possible.)
- Buy organic. If you can’t find a food item with a fair-trade label, try to buy organic, if possible. Fair trade and organic certification are two different things, but they are usually mutually beneficial – fair trade practices help the environment, and organic conditions usually help the workers (since they’re not breathing in pesticides and work conditions are more strictly regulated).
- Give an experience. Tickets to a baseball game, a theater production, or a children’s museum would be fun, clutter-free, and “fair trade.”
- Shop locally. Often, independent/local shops will have first-hand control of their own products. For example, we frequent several coffee shops where they know the growers of their coffee beans and roast their own beans. Generally speaking, working conditions in the U.S. are better than overseas (though of course, there are exceptions, and sometimes materials are coming from overseas.)
- Give an intangible gift by donating in honor of the recipient. Organizations like Compassion and Samaritan’s Purse offer the chance to select an item to donate to someone in need, on behalf of your loved one. They will usually provide a decorative card to wrap up explaining the impact of the donations. In the past we’ve given pigs, malaria nets, and beekeeping kits as a gift. Ann Voskamp has a lovely post here with links to non-profit organizations that offer Christmas gift catalogs.
How to Talk about Fair-Trade with Your Children
- Show photos of people who produce fair trade items. You can check out @Fair_Trade_Friday on instagram or visit the “Meet the Ladies” page on the Krochet Kids web site. Talk about these people: what is her name? where does she live? what does she do? what is her life like?
- Get two examples of the same product – one that is fair trade, and one that isn’t. A chocolate bar is a pretty inexpensive (and fun!) example. Show them to your kids, and talk about how they may taste the same (go ahead, offer a sample of each!), but they were produced very differently.
- Personally, I don’t recommend showing photos or videos of sweatshops and poor working conditions until your children are 10 or older. Instead, I would focus on talking about good practices from companies that are doing the right thing, like some of the ones listed above.
- I enjoyed this post about 4 Ways to Teach Kids about Fair Trade from Under God’s Mighty Hand… especially two picture book recommendations.
- Also, here is a classroom curriculum about fair trade chocolate from the Global Exchange.