With the toy recalls that seem to pop up every year, buying a gift for a little one can feel a bit overwhelming. To help simplify the process, I’ve spent some time digging up environmentally responsible toy brands, from the popular to the less well-known, that make products for children.
Below are nine toy brands you can confidently keep in your home and give as gifts this holiday season.
1. Green Toys
With a few of Green Toys’ creations bouncing around our home, they are a definite favorite. Green Toys makes all of its toys from recycled plastic, primarily recycled milk cartons. This post-consumer plastic is collected, cleaned, shredded, reprocessed, mixed with food-safe coloring, and then turned into fun toys kids are sure to love. Perhaps my favorite part is their ingenious packaging. Using no annoying twist ties or cellophane wrap, they manage to keep toys securely in their packaging with cardboard and the occasional plastic component. Some top picks include:
2. Begin Again
Not only does Begin Again place a heavy emphasis on using sustainable materials in all of their toys, but they also focus on understanding how children play. Begin Again believes in promoting well-balanced play, wherein children switch between various roles, including the artist, writer, inventor, sportster, and hero. Their focus is to enhance these types of play with sustainably made toys. Some top picks include:
While the other brands on this list make a variety of toys, Wishbone focuses on bicycles, tricycles, and flips. Wishbone designs are made from sustainably harvested wood and use nontoxic glues. Their company’s many sustainability initiatives range from a commitment to plastic-free packaging to an in-office teabag composting scheme. See their collection.
4. Pure Play Kids
After a number of their children’s toys were recalled due to chemical concerns, the Grant family decided it was time to search out safer, more natural toys for their children. This search ultimately led them to create their own company, Pure Play Kids. They make 90% of their toys here in the United States in their Tennessee Toyworks Facility. Some top picks include:
If you have little artists in your home, they are bound to love Eco-Kids products. Eco-Kids was launched in 2008 by husband-and-wife team Cammie and Kip, along with their three children. They work with various eco-friendly U.S. manufacturers to create art supplies that are safe for kids. Top picks include:
6. North Star Toys
Started by another husband-and-wife team, North Star Toys focuses on creating handcrafted wooden toys out of sustainable materials. These toys are made in their workshop in New Mexico and often use leftover wood from local cabinet shops. All the electricity needed to power their shop comes from renewable sources. Some top picks include:
Chris and Will Haughey set out to create a sustainable, for-profit business in Honduras that would have a positive social impact. The result? Tegu, which specializes in wooden blocks with a magnet hidden inside. Tegu pays their Honduran workers a living wage and focuses on long-term career growth. They work with Honduran cooperatives to select each of the trees they use and color their blocks using nontoxic water-based dyes. View their building sets.
HABA is a German company that’s more than 70 years old and employs 1,400-plus people. Like others on the list, HABA uses water-based stains, and their products are formaldehyde- and lead-free. All their wooden toys are made from certified, reforested timbers, and their fabric toys are made using organic materials. Some top picks include:
9. DIY Toys
Alright, so this last one isn’t a toy brand, but for the particularly crafty out there, it’s surprisingly easy to make your own sustainable toys. My daughter has spent hours upon hours in her playhouse made from a jumbo cardboard box. Spend a few minutes perusing Pinterest and I’m sure you’ll find a toy or two you could easily make at home that your child would love. If you’re a bit more crafty, there are many great websites that sell plans for making your own wooden toys. They even teach you how to paint them so they’re safe for your little ones.
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Originally published on December 5, 2017, this article was updated in December 2021.