If you have little ones in your life, you know the holidays = toys! And while we all love gifts from Santa Claus, each year Americans purchase millions of low-quality plastic toys – in fact, 90% of the toy market is made up out of inexpensive, brightly colored plastic toys. And most of these toys aren’t designed to be recycled or reused, but instead last one season and end up in a landfill! The toy industry was valued at $22 billion in 2018… can you imagine if we supported ethical toy companies with those dollars instead? Read on below as we dive into some of our favorite eco-friendly toys!
What you’ll learn:
- What eco-friendly toys and gifts are perfect for every age of child, from newborn to teens
- About some of our favorite toy brands and how they’re changing the toy industry
- Why ethical gifting matters!
Newborns & Infants (0 – 1 year)
Pacifiers + Pacifier Accessories
Not all pacifiers are made equally. Traditional pacifiers are often made of synthetic plastics that can contain toxins like BPA, PVC, parabens, and phthalates – many of which are beginning to be linked to long-term health impacts. We love giving pacifiers as a gift for newborns and their parents, but make sure you look for ones made from natural rubber, not plastic! Natural rubber is harvested sustainably from rubber trees, and is technically also a renewable resource, unlike petroleum that creates plastic.
Now that you’ve got the pacifier, get accessories! From non-toxic silicone pacifier clips, to soft and cozy stuffed animals that hold pacifiers in place, there are tons of ways to accessorize that natural rubber pacifier. It makes it less likely to be dropped by baby, looks adorable, and makes life easier for new parents. Explore pacifiers and pacifier accessories here!
Babies put nearly everything in their mouths, and taking on teething can be a huge challenge. Many conventional teething toys are made from plastic, which again, can contain nasty chemicals that might have a bigger impact on baby than you think! Give the gift of peace of mind with teething toys and rings made from either natural rubber or silicone; they’re BPA-free, made from renewable resources, and contain no potentially harmful chemicals. Explore all of our teething toys here.
Sensory Blocks + Activity Centers
The best toys for little ones this age are also tools that help them with coordination, auditory, and sensory learning. Sensory blocks are great because they stimulated touch, sound, and sight – and can be used to increase motor skills when stacked and sorted. Instead of opting for plastic alternatives, these sensory blocks are made from sustainably harvested wood, and contain no harsh glues or adhesives. Plus, they’re colored with organic pigments! Want to take it up a notch? Opt for an activity center like these!
Toddlers (12 – 24 months)
As your baby becomes more mobile, it may be time to start thinking about getting them a baby walker! And, you guessed it, always look for sustainable materials when picking one out. Our go-to is sustainably harvested wood – it’s durable, easy to wipe-down and clean, and is heavy enough to not tumble over easy, but not so heavy it could hurt your kiddo. Get them movin’ with any of our baby walkers here!
Once your toddler is over 1 year old, they will be able to grasp objects and will love to experience sound (especially of their own making!) Giving a musical instrument is a great way to encourage creativity, improve hand-eye coordination, and develop fine motor skills. In fact, the processing of musical sounds requires activation of special parts of the brain, making music important for development overall. Whether you’re looking for shaker instruments, or a xylophone, you can explore all of our musical instruments for little ones here! Plus, they’re all made from high-quality, ethical materials like wood and natural rubber – not plastic.
Trucks, Cars, and Airplanes
We love classic toys like race cars, airplanes, construction trucks – you name it. But most are made from virgin plastic, which comes from petroleum – a non-renewable resource that is pretty harsh on our planet. But there is a better way! Green Toys is making all of the classic toys we know and love, but out of BPA-free plastic from recycled milk jugs which keeps waste out of our landfills. Their eco-friendly toys contain no PVC, phthalates, or toxins, and don’t come with a million tiny pieces that can become hazardous and messy. Our favorite take on a classic? This recycling truck!
Pre-Schoolers (2 – 5 years)
Everyone, yes, everyone, loves play dough. It’s just a fact of life. It allows for open-ended play, which means hours and hours of creativity and fun! But have you looked at the ingredients in Play-Doh brand dough? It includes a retrogradation inhibitor (whatever that is), lubricant, surfactant, preservatives, hardeners, humectant, fragrance, and synthetic coloring. Yuck! Eco-friendly play dough is a healthy and safe alternative, made with natural ingredients like flour, Vitamin E, cream of tartar, and organic essential oils for a pleasant scent. Pair it with a play dough tool kit, and they’re ready to create!
Finger Paint and Crayons
We love coloring, creating, and crafting of all kinds. But many of the art materials we rely on contain synthetic chemicals that aren’t great for our bodies, or the planet. Instead, shop for plant-based craft supplies like these from eco-kids! They’re made with natural ingredients like fruit and veggie extracts, rice flour, and clay. From face paint to finger paint and beyond, the only thing you’ll have to worry about with these craft supplies is them using the walls as a canvas!
Pretend Play Sets
Pretend play is an amazing way to encourage imagination, creativity, and let your little one create worlds of their own. Whether they are dreaming of being a doctor or vet, playing house, or ‘helping’ the family with cleaning or home improvement, these pretend play sets are sure to provide hours of entertainment. The possibilities are endless! Explore all of our pretend play eco-friendly toys here!
Children (6 – 12 years)
Board Games + Jenga
Board games and multi-player games are an amazing way to connect with friends and family, learn strategy, and encourage healthy competition. When many classic games like Monopoly were invented, all of the pieces were wooden and metal. Flash forward to today, and most games are made entirely out of virgin plastic. Lucky for you we’ve rounded up some eco-friendly alternatives! From classics like pinball, to new versions of puzzles, eco-friendly toys and games are a no-brainer gift for most ages of little ones (and adults, too!) Our Jenga game is perfect for the whole family, and is made from recycled fishing nets with blocks that include pictures of at-risk marine life to increase awareness and start new conversations while you play.
You might have heard ‘adult’ coloring books popping up recently. Why, you ask? Because studies have shown that coloring can induce positive feelings, aid in concentration, and help relax the body – and that’s something we can all get behind! Perfect for little ones of any age (and adults!), coloring books help increase patience, precision, and creativity as well. We give this classic gift a eco-friendly spin with coloring books made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper, printed using solar power. Pair it with some natural crayons and they’re ready to color!
Ahi Cruiser Skateboard
It’s time to get active! Skateboarding, biking, and roller skating are all awesome ways to get your kids moving. Make it a learning experience as well with a skateboard made from recycled fishing nets (plus wheels made from vegetable oil and recycled materials!) Ethically manufactured by Bureo in California, this fun gift was made out of 30 square feet of recycled fishing net recovered in Chile from fishing boats. Plus, at the end of its life, you can send it back to Buero and they will recycle it into a new product. And don’t forget a helmet and pads!
Teens love to go out for food and coffee, but this can lead to a lot of wasted straws, as many to-go places give plastic straws out with every single order! Set them up to be more sustainable with reusable straws like the FinalStraw they can keep in their car or bag. It folds up easily and comes with a recycled plastic carrying case to clip to a keychain or reusable water bottle, and comes in a variety of funky colors for every personality. Plus, they’ll feel great about doing their part to ‘save the turtles’ and keep our oceans clean!
We live in an age where it seems almost every young person has a phone – and with that comes accessories like phone cases, chargers, organizers, and other essentials. Instead of opting for plastic phone cases, get them a compostable phone case from Pela Case made from flax straw and biodegradable materials! Say see ya to breakable phone chargers, and get chargers made from recycled material like this one, or even sustainably harvested wood like our Oakywood wireless chargers! Many of us use our phones every single day – and the teen in your life will love new accessories for their go-to device.
Ethically Made Tech
Phones aren’t the only thing we’re reliant on these days! From headphones to speakers and of course our computers, many teens would love to get the newest tech products for the holidays. Give it a sustainable twist with tech made from recycled and upcycled materials! House of Marley makes eco-friendly speakers, headphones, wireless ear buds, and turntables – while we love Oakywood for AirPods and Apple Watch chargers and accessories. They get the tech they want – but made with the planet in mind!
Holiday shopping can be a pain – especially when you’re trying to keep with your sustainability values. At EarthHero, we hope to make it a little easier, with curated gift categories for everyone on your list. Explore all of our gifts here, and browse custom categories like Gifts for Toddlers, Gifts for Kids, and Baby’s First Holiday!