Your Guide to Nontoxic Toys
The best wooden, organic cotton, and all-around safe toys for babies and kids
Let’s face it: Some holiday toys are junk by January. And what’s not junk may still be unhealthy. Considering all toys “safe” just because they’re marketed for use by children can be a mistaken assumption. In July 2004, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled all metal toy jewelry sold in vending machines after some was found to contain lead. And then there’s polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, which is often labeled non-toxic, but which produces dioxins in the manufacturing process and can contain softening substances like phthalates, considered to be hormone disrupters.
It may be impossible to keep all junk masquerading as toys out of the home at holiday time, but every natural toy—one that’s healthy for the environment and for growing bodies—that replaces a “junk-food” version makes a difference. Healthy toys decrease a child’s overall exposure to pollutants, create more demand for sustainable products, and reduce the environmental damage caused by pesticides, plastics, and toxic chemicals. What’s more, when the natural alternatives happen to be both beautiful and fun, they’re less likely to be tossed aside. Here are toys that can endure in your family from one generation to the next—instead of winding up in the local landfill!
Wooden Toys to Treasure
Any solid wood is preferable to pressed woods, such as plywood and particleboard, which are formed with glues that give off toxins including formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. You can often see layers of pressed wood if you look at the edges of toys and puzzle pieces. Solid wood doesn’t require the use of toxic chemicals that pressed woods and PVC do. And solid wood doesn’t consume petroleum—a non-renewable resource—the way that plastics do. Wooden toys made with nontoxic paints and finishes also use and release fewer toxins. Beeswax and natural oil finishes, such as linseed and walnut oils, are safest. Since certified sustainable wood is rare right now, consider solid wood toys that are either unfinished or those that are finished with non-toxic substances. You can also look for toys made from recycled wood.
Certified Sustainable Choices:
Bingo Bed, the time-tested pounding board, is one of the most popular toys made by Holgate Toys®, known as one of the finest designers and manufacturers of wooden toys in the United States. The 11-inch version includes eight colorful pegs and a hammer, while the nine-inch model includes six pegs. Most of the wood used in the production of the Bingo Bed is sourced from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified vendors.
For children ages 18 months to 6 years
Another popular toy from Holgate is the Wagon of Blocks, featuring 48 smooth-sanded blocks in a durable pull wagon.
For children ages 18 months to 4 years
Tumbleweed Woodworks makes 24-piece, FSC-certified wood puzzles. Your children might like “Building Houses,” which highlights five different styles of architecture.
For children ages 3 to 8 years
Here are some other wonderful wood-toy options that are unfinished or are finished with non-toxic substances:
The Pedella is a wooden duck that waddles when you push it. This fun toy is finished with natural beeswax.
A beautiful alder wood cash register from The Playstore will have your youngster playing shopkeeper. The buttons push down and kids can turn the crank to see the number display change as the profits roll in!
For children ages 3 and up.
Rosie Hippo sells a handmade toy camera that has a viewfinder, shutter button, and dials that turn. It’s made of hardwood with a child-safe mineral oil finish.
For children ages 3 and up.
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