More than anyone else, parents have to juggle a world of different worries, even when it comes to selecting toys. Will my child like this? Is it age appropriate? Is it safe if they put it in their mouth?
It’s not just about personal safety either – it’s of huge value to both nature and the child to nurture an understanding of conservation and environmental protection. Eco-friendly toys are a great way to start your child’s ‘green’ education: explain the materials and reasons for choosing them (made to be safe for them, and helping to save trees etc), then let them go ahead and have fun while being assured that these much-loved toys are also caring for the environment and your child’s health.
Whether biodegradable, recyclable or made from ethically and sustainably sourced materials, eco-friendly toys are the way forward for your child’s and the planet’s future – but where do you start?
Sustainable forestry habits and new import regulations have made wood a very ethical product no matter where in the world it came from. Natural wood can actually be very hygienic, too – perfect for babies and toddlers at that stage where everything within reach goes in their mouth!
Organic farming methods have taken the ethical concern out of cloth products too, and again, natural cotton, bamboo, felt, wool, silk or hemp can be much safer in your child’s mouth than artificial fibers – not to mention being more durable in many cases too.
It’s also worth bearing in mind the things to avoid, as well as to look for – lead and formaldehyde based toys should be avoided at all costs, as they’re toxic and therefore unsuitable for kids (or anyone for that matter!).
Good Clean Fun
Eco-friendly toys are great, but almost anything you find around the house can be used in play too (within the reasonable limits of safety and common sense, of course).
Reusing empty containers, for instance, is much better for the environment than throwing them away. Cut a slot in the lid of an old plastic tub for a simple sorting game – perhaps with different sizes of recycled card pieces to see which will fit and which will not. Or if you’re feeling brave, try a kitchen pot drum-kit!
You can also have easy fun with bedding, by building a pillow fort or a den underneath a blanket thrown across a few chairs. Think back to your own childhood, and use your imagination!
Good Messy Fun
Whatever arts and crafts your kids are into, there are ways to make them more eco-friendly: try following a recipe for cook or no-cook play dough – it’s really simple, just requiring the basic store-cupboard ingredients of flour, water, oil, salt and perhaps some other extras depending on the recipe you choose.
General Tips For Sourcing Eco-friendly Toys
Here are a few rules you can apply across the board to get the most out of your child’s eco-friendly toys.
Balancing Price and Quality
Quality lasts, and while you shouldn’t shop based on price tag alone, there is a lot of very durable eco-friendly toys out there if you look around which will remain firm favorites with your child for many years.
While there are some great value eco-friendly toys out there, don’t overlook higher priced products – there are plenty of benefits to investing in them, such as:
- Longevity – better production quality will mean a longer-life, so you can pass it on to their siblings, children, grandchildren and maybe even further generations.
- Stronger – a quality toy will generally be more robust, so broken parts won’t cause the potential problems of cuts, choking and other accidents.
- Safer – better quality products will have been put through lots more safety policies, and are much less likely to contain chemicals that could be harmful to your child.
- Re-sale – there’s a thriving market for secondhand toys, but nobody wants to buy something that looks bashed and broken. High quality toys that stand the test of time will have much better re-sale value, so you don’t have to clog up landfill sites with cheap, inferior quality toys that have had to be discarded.
Know The Difference
Wood glue can contain harmful chemicals – look for toys built using joinery methods where possible. Some plastics are more harmful than others too, so look to the recycling symbol for guidance on which plastic has been used in a particular toy.
Age Is Just A Number
Pay attention to safety precautions on your child’s toys, but don’t feel overly limited by the recommended age range – you’re ultimately the one responsible for your child.
A little bit of imagination can also see you finding ways to adapt toys as your children grow – if you can repurpose a toy so they can still have fun with it, you won’t need to throw it away, which is much better for the environment.
If one toy can do several jobs, then that’s several less toys you need to buy! Think about choosing toys that have lots of scope for creativity, and that will help your child to hone their cognitive skills.
‘Open-ended’ toys can give great mileage, so think about gathering together boxes of interesting items such as dressing up clothes, building blocks, marbles, art and craft products and letting your kids dive in and use their imaginations – or simply invest in a sandbox and let them play with toys, characters, diggers, tubs, spoons or anything you can think of!
Delete Any Danger
As well as checking any new purchases, also take a moment to sort through your children’s existing toys to ensure that nothing’s broken and posing a potential risk, and that they are chemically safe for them to use. Pay special attention to plastics and kids’ play make up and jewelry, as these are known to sometimes contain carcinogens.
To ensure that your child has a safe playing environment with non-toxic toys, parents should consider items that are Bisphenol A (BPA)-free, phthalate-free and pvc-free. Plastics stamped with 1,2, 4 or 5 are considered safe to use. Choose recycled, look for toys made with recycled plastics which help to keep useful materials from ending up as trash in the landfill, reduce toxicity and preserve natural resources.
Where possible, source your toys from local suppliers and manufacturers – handmade or locally crafted toys are perfect. By buying locally, you’re not adding to the huge use of fuel needed to transport products across the world, which is great news for carbon emissions.
Be smart with toys even after purchasing too by signing up to recall alerts – then if a problem comes to light later down the line, you and your child will be covered and kept safe.
Most Importantly, Have Fun!
There are no real rules when it comes to fun, so be open-minded and look for play opportunities around you – spending time with your kids in the park can be even more valuable than a nice, shop-bought toy, even if it is eco-friendly!
Let your children join in with games and activities with other age-groups (supervised if required), and let them share their toys too – you’ll soon see just how many ways different kids can come up with engaging with a toy and each other.
If you decide to buy new, look for BPA-free, phthalate-free and pvc-free toys, and products made from wood and other organic and sustainably sourced materials. Encourage your kids to be more eco-friendly while playing. Take a look at our great range of ethical wooden toys and fair-trade soft toys at Kiddit today!