From design to quality, there are many reasons to switch to eco-friendly toys for your child. But if you’re new to the market, it can be hard to tell what exactly makes a toy eco-friendly. Here’s what to look out for when shopping for new toys.
What makes a toy eco-friendly?
Materials. What is the toy made from? Would you consider the material eco-friendly and was it ethically sourced? Common eco-friendly toy materials include:
- Wood – Most eco-friendly toys are made with sustainably sourced wood. Toys made from hardwoods that grow relatively faster than other tree species, like birch and maple, are durable and more sustainable. Avoid toys made from trees like oak, which often take a longer time to grow and replace.
- Natural rubber – This eco-friendly material is soft, biodegradable, breathable and non-toxic. But more importantly, natural rubber can be sustainably sourced. Toys made from natural rubber are a much safer alternative to commercial plastic toys.
- Organic cotton and wool – There’s something undeniably luxurioys about toys made from organic cotton and wool. These two materials haven’t been treated with as many chemicals or pesticides during harvesting and production. They also offer a lot of variety. From rattles and tug boats to dolls and stuffed animals, you’ll find many different kinds of organic cotton and wool toys in today’s market.
Packaging. What type of packaging does the toy come in? Most mass manufactured toys come with excessive and wasteful plastic packaging that crowd our landfills. When shopping for eco-friendly toys, always look for minimal, biodegradable or fully recyclable packaging.
Origin. Where was the toy made? As a general rule, the closer to home, the better. An item’s carbon footprint isn’t just measured in carbon dioxide emissions during manufacturing, it’s also calculated in terms of greenhouse gas emissions like vapour trails from planes and vehicles, for instance. Toys transported over a long distance tend to have a larger carbon footprint. That doesn’t mean that all your child’s toys have to be made in Australia. Buying from local sellers also helps.
Recyclability. It can be difficult to recycle commercial plastic toys for a number of reasons. For instance, recycling centers typically can’t recycle different grades of plastic together, and many commercial toys come with other components like metal. An eco-friendly toy, on the other hand, is much easier to recycle, reuse or repurpose, helping reduce waste overall.
The benefits of eco-friendly toys
Longevity. Eco-friendly toys generally last longer because the superior material, design, quality and craftsmanship. This is especially true for toys made from hardwoods and metal. Not only are these pieces highly durable, they are also easy to restore and repaint, making them look good as new no matter how many times your child plays with them.
Cost. The quality and durability of eco-friendly toys are often reflected in the higher price tag. However the higher initial cost of buying eco-friendly toys is offset by the longevity of the toy. Because they last longer, you’ll be buying less – and therefore spending less – on children’s toys in the long run. The best quality wooden toys are so durable that they can be passed down from one sibling to another.
Safety. Cheaply made plastic toys break easily and can potentially harm children with damaged sharp edges and dislodged parts and accessories – particularly small children who like to smash, bite and chew their toys. Toys made from sturdy hardwoods like maple and birch, by comparison, are less likely to break or splinter, and therefore less likely to hurt your child during rough play.
Eco-friendly toys, in general, are less likely to contain harmful chemicals often found in certain kinds of paint and plastic that mass manufactured toys are made of.
Tips for making the transition to sustainable, eco-friendly toys
If you’re starting to realise the environmental harms of excess plastic waste, you’re going to want fewer to no plastic toys in your child’s room. Just know that you don’t have to toss your child’s existing plastic toys all at once – especially if your child is still attached to them – and buy a completely new set of eco-friendly replacements.
When making the transition to eco-friendly toys, you can do so gradually and over a long period of time. Some tips include:
- When planning future toy purchases, always think in terms of quality over quantity and choose eco-friendly toys made of natural, ethically sourced wood, rubber, hemp or cotton.
- Get friends and family members on board. They might want to give your child plastic toys as gifts for birthdays and Christmas. Tell them that you’re reducing plastic use so you can avoid unwanted gifts for your child.
- Talk to your child. If your child is accustomed to plastic toys and begs you to buy the trendier, mass manufactured ones in the market, tell them why it’s important to choose eco-friendly toys.
Teachers Choice offers a wide range of wooden educational toys for children of various ages. If you’d like to move away from mass-manufactured plastic toys, browse our shop for safer and more sustainable alternatives.