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Why are so many toys made in China?

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An illustration of some toys with the title "Why are so many toys made in China?

Arnel Alinea

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It’s a rainy day, the perfect time to answer a question from one listener who started looking at the bottom of his toys. A lot of them say “Made in China,” but why? Ryan and Bridget get some help from some familiar (but legally distinct!) toy friends to find the answer. Turns out there are some pretty interesting reasons why the stuff we buy — not just toys, but clothes and food too — sometimes come from far away places.

And now … tips for grown-ups listening to “Million Bazillion” with kids

Money Talks

Here are some questions you can ask to figure out how well your child understood the episode:

  1. Where are most toys made today?
  2. Why would toy companies want to make toys for as little money as possible?
  3. What are “industrial clusters”? 
  4. How many people live in China? Why would that mean making toys is cheaper there?
Arnel Alinea

Tip Jar

There’s lots of information packed into this episode! If it all felt a little hard to grasp, see if you can apply it to your kid’s toy collection.

Challenge them to find the “made by” label on a few toys, then try to unpack some of what we learned in the episode with some guiding questions. What company made this toy? Was it designed in China too? How much did it cost us to buy? What goes into that cost? If your kid is having trouble looking at their toys in that way, consider revisiting our episode on the price of pizza.

For more about Chinese factories, check out this article from the real-life Jennifer Pak and Sabri Ben-Achour, and this Wall Street Journal video that goes inside a factory making “Frozen” and “Peppa Pig” toys. You could also try to apply the lessons from this episode to other items, like clothing or holiday decorations.

If you find household items made in other countries, and your kid is up for it, you could explore a bit more about globalization. We thought this National Geographic lesson for grades five through eight was a great starting point. And just for fun, Nat Geo has a great, long article about the history of toys. If it inspires more questions from your kid, send it to us!

Gimme Five

We’d love to hear your kids’ money jokes, money poems and best money tips so we can feature them on the podcast! Send them to us using this online form.

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