Looking for more sustainable and better quality alternatives to plastic? Here are some of the most eco-friendly materials for children’s toys.
Sustainably sourced wood is a popular choice among eco-friendly toy manufacturers. It’s a safer natural alternative to commercially produced plastic, which can contain harmful chemicals like PVC (phthalates). Further wooden toys are recyclable and biodegradable, which is better for the environment.
Toymakers recommend high quality hardwoods from broad-leafed trees like maple and birch. Though more expensive, hardwoods are highly durable and less likely to splinter, making them safer for children to play with. Because of their dense composition, they hold up better to wear and tear.
- Maple is hypoallergenic, unlikely to produce splinters, and holds up to exposure to saliva and water
- Birch is a popular choice for toy instruments like drums and guitars
Softwoods like fir and pine are less expensive but are more likely to splinter when dropped or banged against a hard surface.
For sustainability, choose toys made from easily replaceable and fast-growing species like pine trees. Slow-growing trees like oak are harder to replace, even though oak is more dense and durable than softwoods like pine.
Luckily, most wooden toys in the market are made from a combination of several woods depending on the toys’ concept, design and manufacturer.
You can also look for official certification of sustainability, such as an independent certification system like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Bamboo is a fast-growing and easily replaceable grass species that reaches maturity in just three to four years compared to the majority of softwoods (i.e. cedar, pine), which mature in 10 to 20 years, and hardwoods (i.e. oak), which take the longest at 40 to 80 years.
Further its root system is constantly sprouting new shoots and growth so that replanting is often unnecessary compared to hardwoods and softwoods, which must be replanted after harvesting. Bamboo does so naturally without the need for fertilisers or pesticides.
Because bamboo is considered a grass species, and not a tree species, you’re unlikely to find FSC-certified bamboo. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be sustainable, because it certainly is.
When used to make toys, bamboo is light, strong and sturdy, making it an excellent choice for wind instruments and more.
Sourced from the bark of cork oaks, this eco-friendly material is fully recyclable, renewable and biodegradable. Because of its unique composition, cork is naturally buoyant, elastic and impermeable, making it suitable for a wide range of toy designs.
The cork industry is lauded for its sustainable and environmentally friendly production because cork trees don’t need to be cut down for harvesting. The bark only needs to be removed. The tree continues to live and grow.
Compared to regular cotton, organic cotton is better for the environment because it grows from non-genetically modified (GMO) plants without any agricultural chemicals like pesticides or fertilisers. Further cotton plants are abundant and easily replaceable.
Sourced from the fibres of the flax plant, linen is highly absorbent, breathable and lightweight, making this natural textile an excellent choice for children’s toys. Flax plants are typically resilient and consume far less water than cotton.
Linen sourced from organically grown flax plants, and which have been enzyme-treated or dew-retted, as opposed to chemically treated, is best.
Linen is also biodegradable, making it one of the most environmentally friendly textiles in the market.
Natural rubber is an elastic material harvested from the latex sap of trees. After harvesting, it is vulcanised and used in a wide variety of products. The material is soft, flexible and breathable, making it ideal for use in children’s toys and accessories.
Further natural rubber is renewable, biodegradable, and can be sustainably harvested. Compared with regular plastic, it is non-toxic and phthalate-free, which is safer for children.
Teachers Choice offers a wide selection of educational wooden toys for children of different ages. Browse our collection today for wooden building blocks, colourful puzzles and more.