How to Green Your Kids Toys

What’s the Big Deal?

It’s a little cliche’ but true nonetheless, your children and your children’s children will inherit the world that we create today. So, the stuff we give them shouldn’t make life any harder on them in the future. If that alone isn’t enough, how about the fact that your child will, more likely than not, chew everything edible and non-edible in his/her sight. Now there’s motivation to make sure your child’s playthings are green and healthy! Here we’ll give you the scoop on how to find more sustainable and less toxic toys for your little Tree Hugger so you can do good for your child and the environment.

Top 10 Tips
Here are 10 highly effective ways to go greener.

1. Look for PVC-free PVC (aka polyvinyl chloride)
PVC seems to be everywhere we look. Some beach toys, teethers, dolls, and even (gasp!) rubber duckies are cheaply manufactured with the environmentally dubious material. A dioxin-producing powerhouse, PVC releases toxins into the environment all the way through its lifecycle from manufacturing to disposal. Many PVC toys also contain phthalates, chemical compounds that make the PVC plastic more flexible, which initial studies have linked to both cancer and hormonal disruption. Although the long-term effects of phthalates on youngsters is not fully known, we fully subscribe to the idea of an ounce of prevention now over a potential pound of cure later.

2. Wood is good

Look for FSC-certified wood to find sustainable toys that will last generations longer than the cheap plastic stuff. For the little ones, untreated, unpainted wood is safe to chew unlike plastics that contain PVC. When your child is done, wooden toys can be passed on to a relative, friend, or even sold on eBay or Craigslist to give it a second life. The FSC certification is important, it ensures that the wood you buy has been forested responsibly, allowing for sustainable growth.

3. Power down

Batteries have become second nature in most toys today. Not only is this a terrible problem when these toys get disposed of, who wants to give their child the opportunity to chew on a battery? For the young ones, decide if all the battery-powered noise is worth it. Could your child stay just as entertained with a simpler toy, one that might even let you keep your sanity. For the older ones that absolutely must have the newest electronics, look into rechargeable batteries to eliminate waste. For more, see How to Green Your Electronics.

4. The great outdoors

The most rewarding toy might not be a toy at all. It might be the act of planting a tree or a vegetable garden. Want a truly carbon neutral activity for your kids? Play tag or hide and seek. Getting your wee ones outside provides them with abundant opportunities to run around, have fun, get exercise, and learn about the urban and natural environments around them. You probably remember time spent outside with family and friends in your youth…your kids will too.

5. Second-hand magic

Just because a toy has been used once doesn’t mean that it can’t be just as much fun the second time around. Check out eBay, Craigslist, Freecycle, yard sales, or your local classifieds for perfectly good toys than have simply been outgrown. And, don’t forget that you can always give that same toy a third life (and recoup some of the cost) by putting it up for sale right where you found it.

6. Get organic

There are more pesticides and fertilizers sprayed onto conventional fibers than you might care to know about. Not only does the thought of chemically treated fabric probably raise a red flag when you think of your child, it raises a huge red flag for the environment as well. The chemicals we use to “improve” our crops often contaminate the soil they grow in and the air and water systems around it. Look for organic and naturally-dyed cotton, bamboo, tencel, and wool for toys such as stuffed animals. For more, see How to Green Your Baby.

7. Sometimes it’s not what’s in the box…

It is the box. Sometimes it is the stuff you already have that can prove the most fun to imaginative children. So, next time you think about throwing the box from that new toy away, think of it as a potential arts and crafts project instead.

8. Non-toxic paints

It’s not just the paint on your walls that you should think about. The paint on your child’s toys may also have VOCs (volatile organic compounds). There are a slew of new toys that use water-based and low-VOC or no-VOC paints (and nearly all of them will advertise this fact). This way a non-toxic toy gets the non-toxic paint job it deserves.

9. Lasting toys

When purchasing new toys, keep the toy’s potential longevity on your mind. A long-lasting toy not only means that you won’t have to buy another one in a matter of months, it also means that when the toy is no longer in use, you can always pass it along. More money for you + keeping materials out of the landfill = easy decision.

10. The color purple

Subtitled: Everything on this list can’t have a cheesy “green” pun. But seriously, what better way to go green than with the color itself. Craft projects give your kids an opportunity to use their imagination. Find non-toxic paints and crayons and let the kids loose on all sorts of recycled material from cardboard boxes to junk mail to items they find in the woods. Pet rock, here we come.

So you want to do more?

1. Eco-learning toys

Find toys that teach a lesson while also providing fun. You might be amazed how easily you can find DIY solar power kits and hydrogen model cars for your young eco-engineer-to-be. And, you might be surprised how much you would want one for yourself. See below for more toys that educate and inspire.

2. Fair-trade manufacturing

It’s simple: your kid’s toys shouldn’t be manufactured by someone else. Look for fair trade certification to protect against child labor and to make sure you help provide a living wage across the globe.

3. Locally made toys

Anyone in your town make toys? Cutting down the length a toy has traveled to your front door is a greener option. As a bonus, locally made toys are often hand-made and unique.


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