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  • Naomi Stephens

Play with Purpose: Sustainable and Ethical Toys for Happy and Healthy Babies and Toddlers

Updated: Mar 4

As parents, we care about our children's health and happiness—which means providing them with toys that are delightful to play with and safe for their bodies and minds.

Thankfully, there is an array of fair trade toys and ethical options out there designed to last longer than a single season, minimize waste production, nurture natural curiosity, and foster cooperative play experiences over competitive ones - all while nourishing the environment by lessening our overall ecological footprint.

As permaculture-minded people, let's make playtime more conscious, exploring where some of these fantastic products come from and what sets some of these unique items made by dedicated artisans apart when it comes to creating wholesome, fun spaces!

Why Buying Sustainable and Ethical Toys is Important

As we strive for a more sustainable and ethical existence, we must also pay attention to our choices regarding the toys we buy.

Sustainable and ethical toys not only have a positive impact on the environment, but they also have a positive impact on the communities that produce them.

By choosing toys made from renewable and biodegradable materials, we reduce our carbon footprint and contribute to a healthier planet.

Additionally, with fair trade toys, we support businesses prioritizing ethical treatment of workers and fair wages. It's time to make conscious choices when it comes to the toys we bring into our homes and make a positive impact on the world around us.

What Makes a Toy Sustainable and Ethical

A sustainable and ethical toy has been made with an awareness of its impact on the environment and the people involved in its production.

These toys are manufactured with biodegradable, recycled, or renewable materials while avoiding toxic chemicals and pesticides. But it's not just about materials; ethical production methods must also be considered.

When considering purchasing a toy, research and look for certifications that ensure the toy is sustainable and ethically produced.

Regarding the safety standards of children's toys, it is essential to be aware of the materials used and look for certifications that independent organizations have issued.

Generally, the most sustainable and safe toys have been certified lead-free, phthalates-free, BPA-free, PVC-free, and formaldehyde-free.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the environment and preserving natural resources for future generations. They advocate for ethical practices in all areas of environmental protection, including toy manufacturing and production.

The NRDC ensures that consumers know the potential health hazards many familiar toys pose. Look for certifications from organizations like the NRDC; you can rest assured that your child’s toys are safe and sustainable.

Notable toy manufacturers and companies making eco-friendly children's products are Lego, Hape Toys, Natural Pod, Plan Toys, and Green Toys.

  • Lego produces environmentally friendly blocks made from sugarcane plastic, a renewable material that can be converted into fuel.

  • Hape Toys makes natural wooden and bamboo toys free of toxic chemicals.

  • Natural Pod products are made from natural materials like wool, cotton, and wood.

  • Plan Toys produces a variety of sustainable wooden toys, while Green Toys makes plastic and rubber toys out of recycled milk jugs and other materials.

The Benefits of Playing with Purpose

As we step into an era of conscious living, we realize that every aspect of our lives needs to be aligned with our values and principles. The same goes for playtime, which is equally essential for adults and children.

  • The great thing about sustainable and ethical toys is that they tend to be non-toxic, so you can relax knowing you've created a safe environment for your child.

  • Playing with a purpose means using sustainable toys that are good for the environment.

  • Engaging in activities that fulfill us and bring purpose can do wonders for our overall well-being.

  • Playing with purpose means being mindful of the impact we create, and permaculture is an excellent example of this philosophy.

  • By redefining playtime as a form of mindful fulfillment, we can experience more joy, satisfaction, and a sense of purpose in our daily lives.

Identifying Sustainable and Ethical Toys

In a world where our environmental impact is at the forefront of our minds, it's essential to consider the sustainability of our products, including the toys we give our children. By identifying sustainable and ethical toys, we can contribute to a healthier planet and set an example for future generations.

From wooden toys made from responsibly sourced materials to plush toys made from recycled plastic bottles, there are plenty of options to choose from that prioritize both the well-being of our planet and the well-being of the workers who make them.

So next time you're shopping for toys, consider the impact your choices can make and opt for toys that reflect your values.

Creating a Sustainable Toy Box

In the world of permaculture, sustainability is critical. And this extends to every aspect of our lives, including the toys we bring into our homes.

Creating a sustainable toy box is not just about being environmentally friendly; it's about setting a foundation for a future generation that values the preservation of our planet.

By choosing toys made from natural, renewable materials and avoiding those made from harmful plastics or toxins, we can ensure that our children's playtime not only sparks creativity and joy but also contributes to the health and well-being of the world. So, let's look at toys that can fill your sustainable toy box.

1. Building with Cardboard boxes

Have you ever wished you could do something like this when you were younger? I recently discovered an incredible toy that's a safe tool for kids to build anything out of cardboard.

Imagine forts, costumes, cars, robots, and almost anything your kids can imagine! It has a saw, a hole puncher, and screws for building with cardboard.

If you ask nicely, you can usually get large boxes from shops or grocery stores, and those instantly become a valuable resource for your cardboard creations.

Check out Makedo's construction upcycled toolkit to see what I mean! It's super fun and engaging. Please give it a go!

2. Wooden toys and blocks

Wooden blocks are a classic and timeless toy that can be used creatively. Not only do wooden blocks provide hours of entertainment, but they’re also made from renewable materials, making them a sustainable option.

Wooden blocks are a timeless and sustainable option for playtime, and those certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) are particularly noteworthy. FSC-certified wood is harvested from sustainably managed forests that meet stringent environmental and social standards. This ensures that the wood used to make these toys isn't harming ecosystems or contributing.

3. Eco-Friendly Art Supplies

Art supplies don’t have to be made from harmful or toxic materials. By opting for eco-friendly art supplies, you can set an example for your children and contribute to a healthier planet. From non-toxic paint to natural clays, eco-friendly art supplies are perfect for indoor and outdoor play.

4. Plush Toys

Plush toys are cuddly companions that have existed since the dawn of time. But now, plush toys can be made from recycled materials, like plastic bottles and fabrics. By choosing plush toys made with eco-friendly materials, you can help reduce waste while creating a fun and comforting companion for your child.

5. Natural Dolls and Animals

Natural dolls and animals are a great way to introduce your children to permaculture. You can show your child that even playtime can be sustainable by choosing natural toys made with renewable materials. From handmade wooden dolls to felt animals, plenty of eco-friendly options are available.

6. Organic Cotton Toys and Stuffed Animals

Organic cotton stuffed animals are a great way to teach your children about sustainability while still providing them with something they’ll love.

Organic cotton is made without pesticides or chemicals, ensuring your child’s toys are healthy and safe.

7. Eco-Friendly Craft Kits

Eco-friendly craft kits are an excellent way to teach children about sustainability and resource conservation. There's something for everyone, from seed-bombing kits made with all-natural materials to weaving looms crafted out of recycled plastic. Craft kits can be a great way to get creative while teaching your child the importance of living sustainably.

8. Non-toxic playdough and Clay

Playdough and clay are classic forms of playtime fun that can be made from renewable resources. Non-toxic playdough is a great way to encourage creativity while teaching your children about sustainable practices without chemical exposure. And natural clay is perfect for creating all kinds of art—from figurines to jewelry!

9. Solar Powered Toys

Solar-powered toys are a great way to introduce your children to the power of renewable energy. Steer clear of battery-operated toys that require frequent replacement batteries. Instead, opt for solar-powered gadgets to ensure your children are playing in an eco-friendly way.

You can show your kids that even toys can be eco-friendly by opting for solar-powered cars and robots! And with all kinds of solar-powered gadgets available on the market, you will find something your child will love.

10. Rubber duckies

Rubber duckies may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of sustainable toys, but depending on the materials used, they can be a fantastic, eco-friendly option for playtime. Rubber duckies made with natural rubber are safe for young children and won't release harmful toxins or volatile organic compounds into the air.

11. Sippy cups

Sippy cups may not be a traditional toy, but they are necessary to help your child transition from bottle to breastfeeding.

By choosing sippy cups made with renewable materials, like bamboo instead of plastic, you can ensure that your child's sippy cup is also an eco-friendly option.

Bamboo is a sustainable material that requires minimal maintenance and is naturally resistant to pests and diseases.

12. Handmade toys

Wholesome and sustainable playtime doesn’t have to break the bank. Handmade toys are a great way to add a special touch to your child’s toy collection.

Handmade toys can be a unique addition to your sustainable toy box, from hand-carved wooden characters to homemade stuffed animals crafted with secondhand fabrics.


Do plastic toys release toxins?

Yes, plastic toys can release toxins into the air. Plastic is often made from petroleum-based chemicals, which can contain hazardous elements, such as the other dangers associated with lead paint. Lead paint is dangerous for children, as it can damage their brains, kidneys, and nervous systems, leading to serious health consequences.

What year did they stop using lead in toys?

In 2002, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission began regulating lead levels in toy paint. This ban was put in place to protect children from the potentially harmful effects of lead poisoning. Lead can cause severe developmental delays and learning disabilities when ingested or inhaled by young children.

Are teddy bears toxic?

Teddy bears are generally considered safe for children, but ensuring that any toy is made from non-toxic materials is essential. Teddy bears can be made with various materials, such as cotton, polyester, or wool. While these materials are generally considered safe, they can still contain elements that may pose a risk to children. It is essential to read labels and research the manufacturer before purchasing any toy for your child. If there are doubts about the safety of a toy, it is best to choose another option.

Are polyester stuffed animals toxic?

Polyester stuffed animals can be toxic for children due to hazardous materials such as lead, phthalates, and other synthetic chemicals. Lead is a neurotoxin that can damage the brain, kidneys, and nervous system in young children who may accidentally ingest it or inhale its fumes. Phthalates are found in plastics and are known endocrine disruptors, meaning they can interfere with hormone production and cause reproductive issues. Polyester stuffing is often treated with fire retardants, which contain toxic chemicals such as brominated dioxins that can be absorbed through inhalation or skin contact.

Why is Fair Trade not fair?

Fair Trade is not always fair because it does not guarantee a living wage or good working conditions. Many workers in Fair Trade-certified factories are still subject to exploitation, poor wages, and dangerous working environments. In some cases, Fair Trade-certified suppliers violate labor laws and exploit workers. Additionally, many of the benefits of Fair Trade certification go to the producers.

What is a fair trade for shoppers and consumers?

Fair Trade for shoppers and consumers is an ethical way to support small producers, farmers, and artisans from developing countries. When you choose Fair Trade products, you are paying a fair price for the product that ensures that farmers, producers, and artisans receive a living wage for their work. Additionally, purchasing Fair Trade items helps to promote sustainable practices such as using natural resources responsibly.

What plastic is toxic in toys?

PVC toys are often considered the least sustainable and most toxic, as they are made from plastic containing poisonous chemicals such as lead and phthalates. Additionally, some plastics are treated with fire retardants, which contain toxic chemicals such as brominated dioxins that can be absorbed through inhalation or skin contact. These toxins can leach into the environment.

Are plastic toys unsafe?

Plastic toys can be safe. However, it is essential to research the toy's materials and manufacturer before purchasing. Many plastic toys contain hazardous elements such as lead or phthalates, which can cause significant harm to both wildlife and humans. Additionally, some plastics are treated with fire retardants, which contain toxic chemicals such as brominated dioxins that can be absorbed through inhalation.

Are old plastic toys toxic?

Yes, old plastic toys can be toxic. Over time, plastic can degrade and release toxins such as lead or phthalates into the environment. Researching the toy’s materials and manufacturer before purchasing it is essential to ensure it is safe. Additionally, if you have an old plastic toy that is unsure of its safety, it is best to discard it properly in a recycling facility.

What toxins are often found in kids' toys?

Many toxins can be found in children's toys, including lead, phthalates, and other hazardous materials. Lead is a neurotoxin that can damage the brain, kidneys, and nervous system in young children who may accidentally ingest it or inhale its fumes. Phthalates are found in plastics and are known endocrine disruptors, meaning they can interfere with hormone production.

How do you know if toys are non-toxic?

Research the toy’s materials and manufacturer to determine if it is non-toxic. Look for labels such as “BPA-Free,” “PVC-Free,” or “No Phthalates,” which indicate that the toy is free from hazardous chemicals. Additionally, purchasing toys made from natural materials such as wood or

Are Fisher-Price Little People non-toxic?

Yes, Fisher-Price Little People toys are non-toxic. All Little People figures and vehicles are made with safe, durable plastics free from toxic chemicals such as lead or phthalates. Additionally, all the paint used on these figures is certified as non-toxic and environmentally friendly. Are wooden toys safer than plastic toys?

What are some sustainable toy options?

Some sustainable toy options are wooden toys, cloth dolls, and eco-friendly plastic toys. Wooden toys are generally made from sustainable wood sources and can last years. Cloth dolls are a great alternative to plastic dolls as they contain no hazardous materials. Eco-friendly plastic toys are made with safe, BPA-free plastics that do not contain any toxins or pollutants.