Eco-Toy Story

Safe, Fun Gifts for Kids


During the holiday gift buying season, it’s good to recall the days of old-fashioned toys. Simple, wooden toys made with non-toxic paints are far safer than those sprayed with varnishes and paints containing lead and volatile organic compounds.

Plastics can emit unhealthy chemicals used during manufacturing, which also produces environmental pollution. Pieces can break off, possibly injuring soft skin, or be consumed by toddlers with dangerous results. A recent report by Environment California, a research and policy center, found that products designed for babies and young children, such as soft plastic teethers, bath accessories and others, contain phthalates. Many toys require batteries containing heavy metals like mercury and cadmium. recommends eco-conscious makers of toys available at, including organic cotton stuffed animals;, featuring sustainably harvested cherry wood rattles and organic Egyptian cotton animals; and, with play meal cookware and serving pieces made from bioplastic, consisting of a corn and starch resin. Here are other factors to consider.

Educational toys can “enhance language, conceptual understanding and numerical and spatial cognition,” according to a study in the journal Mind, Brain and Education. Six-to-8-year-olds can gain an appreciation for archaeology playing with Smithsonian toys available at Barnes & Noble and sells wood puzzles, solar-powered robots and board games from the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy. The Discovery Channel Store has safe toys and books for kids.

Follow age guidelines in choosing gifts, advises Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of the Toy Industry Association. “Age-grading has nothing to do with how smart a child is—it’s based on the developmental skills and abilities at a given age and the specific features of a toy.”

Practice conservation while saving money by canvassing thrift and consignment shops for classic card and board games.

This article appears in the December 2016 issue of Natural Awakenings.

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