The toy industry is much better known for its cheap plastics and toxic chemicals only for transparency and high environmental standards.
The green toy market offers a myriad FSC certified wooden blocks (a must for every toy box, of course), but finding other eco-friendly play options can be a challenge at the best of times. During the holiday season, it’s even harder than usual for parents to resist the siren call to buy this year’s hottest toy. Kids don’t always understand why you even want to try. We’ve rounded up a few companies making toys that kids will love and parents can feel good about.
If you’re wondering why this list omits the Green Toys and Plan Toys mainstays, it’s because we already covered them in last year’s Green Toy Guide.
On 90 percent of all the toys on the market are plastic, the least preferred material for environmentalists. You wouldn’t expect a toy company whose main product is a plastic brick to make an eco-toy list, but more than any other big toy company, a Danish company Lego take milestones towards sustainability. Or Green toys uses recycled plastic, LEGO is developing new petroleum-free plastics made from plants.
So far only one LEGO product uses bioplastics, but if they develop a suitable substitute for their bricks, it could revolutionize the entire industry. Meanwhile, the LEGO manufacturing plant runs entirely on renewable wind power and more than half of its packaging is recyclable and FSC certified.
Featured toy: Vesta wind turbine
This detailed, motorized LEGO model of a traditional wind turbine features a tree, new for January 2019, made from sustainably sourced plant-derived plastic. It’s an expensive and challenging kit with over 800 pieces the whole family could work on together.
Cost: $ 200
Children deserve toys that do not degrade the environment they will live in as adults, but for babies, the need is more immediate. It’s an infuriating irony for new parents that humans most vulnerable to chemical exposures are offered phthalate-laden plastics to play with and chew on. Enter Caaocho, a Vancouver, Canada-based line of 100 percent pure natural rubber toys and teething rings that are safe and non-toxic. All Caaocho toys are certified PBA, phthalate and PVC free; bath toys are hermetically sealed to prevent mold growth; and their natural, biodegradable rubber comes from farms in Malaysia.
Featured toy: Sola the goat
The super cute all-natural rubber goat Sola was a 2016 NCW Eco Excellence award winner. It’s the perfect size for baby’s hands and has just the right hardness and texture for good teething chews. It even squeaks when in a hurry.
Ages: All ages
Cost: $ 19 on Amazon
This crowd-funded Ukrainian start-up creates unique 3D puzzles and self-propelled mechanical models with moving components like gears and pendulums that contribute to a steampunk aesthetic. Ranging from mundane tractor to dramatic theater and with a few more whimsical offerings, the only materials used in UGears Functional model kits are plywood and rubber bands. There are no additional glues or fixings involved. The kits are made in Europe from plywood from FSC certified sources.
Featured toy: V-Express steam train with annex
This replica of a steam train is an almost exact model – in wood – of a real locomotive. Due to its complexity, this STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) toy should take 10 hours or more to assemble. When complete, the train can travel up to 13 feet on a single coil.
Cost: $ 77
There do not appear to be any notable sustainability efforts in the production of Thames and Cosmos‘, but their educational toys are a must have for parents trying to raise environmentally conscious children. They make over 140 STEM kits, including several that examine sustainable energy and a host of old-school chemistry, biology, and physics experiments.
Thames and Kosmos is the go-to provider for hands-on and experiential learning of the laws of science. If your kids think science memorizes boring facts, these kits are the tools to rekindle the spark of curiosity about the natural world that is at the heart of environmentalism.
Featured toy: Solar mechanics experimentation kit
This kit includes a unique monobloc solar motor consisting of a photovoltaic cell and an electric motor combined in a compact unit. Your budding environmentalist can build over 20 solar models to find out how solar cells convert the energy from sunlight into mechanical energy.
Cost: $ 36
Wild thing toys is a UK supplier of Fair trade plush toys – rag dolls, crochet stuffed animals, paper dolls and sewing kits. Certified by the World Fair Trade Organization, Wild Thing plush and dolls use hand-woven cotton and dyes that are environmentally friendly and child-safe, with hypoallergenic polyester filling and no plastic parts. The dolls represent several ethnicities and come with traditional and Western clothing.
Featured toy: Hajj play set
This playset includes everything kids need for their own imaginative trip to Mecca to celebrate other cultures or explore their own; includes two dolls, two mountains, a camel, a Kaaba and a palm tree.
Ages: All ages
Cost: $ 32 + international shipping
Lehman’s is not a toy store or a toy manufacturer. But this old hardware store in the Amish country of Ohio is a trusted source for handmade, non-electric toys and lifestyle products. Almost everything they sell is made within 45 miles of their brick and mortar store. Eli and Mattie is a collection of locally made Amish toys by Lehman, consisting of stuffed animals and wooden doll furniture, vehicles and ride-on toys.
Besides Eli and Mattie, Lehman also offers a variety of old school puzzles and games. If you’re looking for something you don’t think they’re making anymore, chances are Lehman’s has it.
Featured toy: Single wheel roller
This handcrafted marble roller is made from unfinished oak and comes with wooden wheels that are designed to slowly roll over the connecting ramps. But kids will likely experiment by dropping their own marbles and other small items onto the ramp.
Cost: $ 50 (currently on sale at $ 35)
Do you have a favorite eco-toy maker that we missed?
The selected image: Mechanical model of UGears tram line