Play Better #3: Going Green – Why Environmentally Friendly Toys Are Better

You’re probably careful about avoiding choking hazards and other common safety issues with toys, but did you know there is still a wide variety of synthetic chemicals and other heavy metals that could be embedded in them without your knowing? From lead and cadmium in paint, plastics, and jewelry to xylene, toluene, and phthalates in play cosmetics – you’d be surprised at how much of a toxic minefield toys can be if you don’t choose and research carefully beforehand.

When it comes to toys, most of us are aware of how important it is to select age-appropriate products for our little ones, but we may not necessarily choose with the environment in mind – which then jeopardizes our child’s safety all the same.

Eco-friendly toys provide the same fun and play as other toys, but they may be made in a way that is gentler to the environment or come from a manufacturer committed to helping the Earth. The next time you go toy shopping with the little ones in tow, be sure to keep in mind the following 8 tips before settling on a toy. Make your toy cupboard healthier both for your child and the planet – but more importantly, reclaim your fun as a parent by reducing quality and safety worries when it comes to playtime.


 photo 550Untitled_zpsttmdqwvo.jpg 1. Non-Toxicity
Scientists have already confirmed that ingesting lead paint poses a serious health risk to children’s health. Although more studies are needed, early findings have also suggested that certain chemical compounds, like BPA or phathalates, may be linked to cancer and hormone disruption. When buying plastic or painted toys, look for “lead-free” and “phthalate-free” on the label. Better yet, avoid plastics altogether.

2. Safety and Age Appropriateness
Make sure you select toys that are appropriate in age and skill level for the child they are intended for. Check them regularly for loose or damaged parts that could lead to choking hazards or other accidental injuries.

3. Reduced Environmental Impact
To be considered truly eco-friendly, the entire life-cycle of a toy (from ‘cradle to the grave’) should be looked at from the standpoint of its total impact on the environment. This includes where it was manufactured, how it was manufactured, its longevity and durability, and its ability to be reused and recycled.
 photo 550Steiff-239663-Traeum-suess-Lamm-Mega-Schaf-48-cm-Neu-Baby-Taufe-_zpsrkgzoiw9.jpg 4. Renewable Resources
Wooden toys (especially when sustainable-certified) and toys made from organic fibers are a good alternative to toys made from petroleum-based plastics. Not only do they reduce the risk of exposure to potential toxins, but they are made from renewable resources. Wood toys that are FSC-certified, means the wood you’re buying was grown and harvested responsibly. Toys made from organic fibers (cotton, bamboo, wool) means that no herbicides or pesticides were used in growing the plants or dying the fibers.

 photo rabbitdutchs_girl 1_zps9ytuqoyt.jpg 5. Low or No Energy Use
Eco-friendly toys are usually designed to stimulate a child’s imagination, not over-stimulate their senses with noisy bells and whistles. To recap a point we made in our previous Play Better article, a lot of the time, we assume that good toys are toys that come brightly colored with sounds and lights and a whole myriad of textures and smells. These ‘fun’ and ‘appropriate’ play objects, however, can be a sensory nightmare – especially if they have frighteningly unpredictable cause-and-effect motions (such as sudden pop-ups or loud noises).

For both your child’s and the environment’s sake, look for simple, quiet toys that use little or no energy, or at least come with rechargeable batteries to help eliminate waste.
 photo Screenshot 2015-02-25 01.16.57_zpsa6qbeasb.jpg 6. Minimal Packaging
Sometimes the packaging for a single item can be more than twice the size of the item itself. Less packaging equals less waste, which is why we love Plan Toys so much here at The Better Toy Store.  Plan Toys uses recycled and recyclable materials to minimize our impact on the environment, such as recyclable packaging and recycled paper for all printing in the company. Not only that, all packaging in the company are also professionally designed to optimize storage, improve shipping efficiency, and reduce waste and air, land, and water pollution.

7. Durability of Construction
When purchasing new toys, keep the toy’s potential longevity on your mind. Will you have to replace it in a matter of months, or will you be able to hand it down or pass it along to another lucky child? Toys of questionable quality may be cheap, but chances are they won’t last; and in the long run, whatever you save in money, the Earth ends up having to pay with its lifespan.

 photo 550haba-mixed-set_zpshspoyag8.jpg 8. Opt for open-ended toys.
Last but not least, look for items that encourage creativity and are capable of being used for many different types of play. Wooden blocks, puppets, paints, and even cardboard boxes are fun, safe toys that can be the foundation for innumerable creative adventures. Our particular favourite, of course, is the HABA’s Building Blocks set. Made from sustainable German beech wood and colored with non-toxic dyes, building blocks give endless freedom to little builders and help develop coordination and motor skills. Better yet, as your child gets older, these blocks can be later combined with other more complex building blocks, or even HABA’s Marble Run system, for a larger and more fulfilling playscape! What a perfect way to check off both Points 7 & 8 both at once!


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