The Best Eco Friendly Toys for Children
It is never too early to teach our children about our responsibility to treat our planet gently and with honor. Our children should grow up with a sense of wonder at the Earth’s splendor, a sense of compassion for all living beings that inhabit our planet, and an understanding of our personal duty to preserve these magnificent treasures. Natural parenting advocates have long insisted that toys made of natural materials are best for our children’s development, as they create a reverence for nature and a sense of unity with our environment. Additionally, there have been numerous studies recently, including one by Greenpeace, that have shown that many mass-produced plastic toys contain PVC, which may contain latent lead, or toxic chemicals called phthalates, both of which can cause substantial damage to vital organs. The manufacturing of plastic toys also can release dioxin, one of the most toxic substances known.
Although toymakers are beginning to phase out the use of such plastics in their toys, the safest toys are still those made from wood, phthalate-free recycled plastics, or other natural materials. We owe it to our children to keep them safe from harmful chemicals, and to help them develop an awareness of the importance of minimizing our environmental impact. Here are some of the best ‘green’ toys which can help us to achieve these goals.
The focus of the uproar surrounding phthalates in plastic toys has centered on soft, flexible plastic toys, such as teething toys for babies. Finding safe, well-made teething toys can still be a challenge, but there are a few excellent eco friendly baby toys, mostly imported from Europe, where most countries have banned PVC plastics and phthalates in children’s toys. Vulli’s Sophie the Giraffe teether has become a new classic, made entirely of natural rubber and food safe paint. It is easy for babies to hold, and squeaks gently when squeezed. Vulli has recently added other teething toys to its product line available in the United States, including the ‘Chan Pie’ models and one with a water-filled ring designed to be refrigerated to provide cooling relief to sore gums.
Children’s Learning Toys
Wonderworld’s award-winning Eco-Friendly Rainbow Sound Blocks are ideal for a young child, providing a multi-sensory experience. The colorful rubber-wood rattles each produce a slightly different pitch, the transparent windows introduce concepts of color, and the blocks can be stacked or fitted into the larger wooden frame to teach skills of spatial relations.
Learning about sound and music is an important part of your child's development. Sevi makes a high-quality eight piece set of percussion instruments, which includes a tambourine, maracas, castanets, a triangle, and bells. All of the instruments except the triangle (which is made of metal) are made out of vegetable-dyed hard woods, and are sized well for small hands.
Buy American and introduce your child to the alphabet with basswood blocks made by Uncle Goose. Uncle Goose manufactures these classic blocks, which will likely remind you of your own childhood, using gentle, non-toxic inks. Each durable block has letters, numbers, animal pictures and words, offering innumerable possibilities for creative and educational play. The company also makes blocks with lower case letters, Braille, and in many international alphabets, including (but certainly not limited to) Greek, Spanish, Hebrew, Russian, and Chinese.
Trucks 'n’ Tools
Perhaps the cleverest toy in this genre is Green Toys’ recycled Recycling Truck. Completely made from recycled plastic milk cartons, with no metal axles to rust, this toy will convince your youngster of the value of tossing those milk jugs into the recycling bin rather than the trash, if only so that they can make more toys just like this one. The truck has a movable bed and a door at the rear that opens and closes. It is quite simple, lightweight but durable, and an overall great selection for a young child.
Every child needs a dump truck, for indoor or sandbox play, and this European-made model is ideal. It is made of a composite of child-safe reclaimed plastic and recycled wood , which smells pleasantly like real wood, has a cab that opens and an easy-to-use handle for the younger child to manipulate. Sprig makes not only this Eco-Truck Dump Truck, but also a rather complete line of other vehicles, including an excavator and something that resembles an all-terrain vehicle.
More recycled milk cartons are reused to make Green Toys’ classic Tool Set. This kit has 15 pieces, including six tools, a tool box, and miscellaneous smaller accessories. The tools are safe, bright, and virtually indestructible, although the screws and nails that come with the set may not represent enough of a challenge to keep an older child busy for long. This is still a very good choice for equipping the tool bench for your toddler or preschooler.
Equipping the Playroom Kitchen
Promoting good health for your child and his environment, the Wonderworld Eco-Friendly Cooking Center is a wonderful centerpiece for your child’s culinary creativity. Compact enough to possibly fit in your own kitchen, the fully equipped kitchen features wooden construction and non-toxic natural paints. Children will spend happy hours learning about nutrition and healthy eating, using the oven, sink, and refrigerator in this unit. This center assembles fairly easily, using only a Phillips head screwdriver, and shouldn’t take more than about a half hour to construct, despite the picture-only instructions.
To equip your budding chef’s kitchen, Green Toys’ Cookware and Dining Set is a solid, complete choice. The set includes a stock pot with lid, skillet, and place settings and silverware to serve four. These dishes also are made from recycled milk cartons, and are child-safe and phthalate-free. The sturdy pieces can even be washed in the real-life dishwasher, which can be handy if your child’s culinary ambitions include making mud pies or helping you whip real egg whites.
When we provide our children with quality materials to fuel their imaginative play and make a conscious effort to make choices that reflect sensitivity to our environment, we give our children the gift of the future twofold: we ensure the promise of a healthier planet, and we teach our children about their own role in protecting the Earth for subsequent generations.