First, I have to say we honestly don’t have that many toys! Outdoor time and books are very important in our house, and most of our ‘toys’ are actually books, puzzles, or arts and crafts! We prefer having the kinds of toys that help our kids work on their problem-solving skills and fine motor skills and promote creative play. But toy safety is still one of the most important things we pay extra attention to.
But navigating the toy world, especially if you want to choose more natural and non-toxic toys, can be overwhelming. Motherhood is overwhelming enough, and I don’t want to add to the noise! Know that your toys and playroom decor do not have to be all made of natural materials to make you a good parent—just start small and be intentional with your purchases. Above all, do the best YOU can, given your circumstances!
Here’s the low down on what materials to look for and what to avoid in toys and our favorite high quality children’s toys essentials!
For more inspo…
Best Materials to Look for in Toys
The great thing about the latest trends in the last years is that safer toys, sustainable materials, and organic toys are becoming more and more common. Not only are they after, but they often are also the best toys and last for a long time.
- Natural Wood // There are so many wonderful wooden toys! Look for wooden blocks and toys made from natural wood and either un-dyed or painted with water-based paints.
- Soft Cloth or Cotton // Soft cotton or plush toys are usually a great option, especially if they are made from organic cotton or natural fibers like linen, bamboo, etc. Double-check the dyes used in fabrics!
- Water-Based Dyes or Non-toxic Paints // Often, you will see these labeled as water-based paint/dyes, vegetable dyes, or non-toxic paint. Most brands that disclose this information will tell you what the paint or dye ingredients are made from.
- Silicone // A soft, more natural plastic alternative, silicone is popping up more and more now. Keep in mind some cheaply-made silicone toys or feeding utensils can contain fillers like plastic and lead, turning them into less safe toys, so make sure to double-check the toy manufacturers’ integrity and transparency.
- Natural Rubber // Made from the Hevea tree, toys made with this material are good choices and very sustainable too.
Materials + Chemicals to Avoid in Toys
These are some of the most common harmful chemicals that are found in many mainstream toys. Although it’s not an exhaustive list, it covers most of the dangerous chemicals that should be avoided when possible. Try choosing non-toxic materials, especially for young baby and toddler toys.
- Bisphenols BPA + BPS // found in most plastic toys, aka everything kid related! BPA is a known endocrine disruptor and can cause reproductive harm, cancer, and obesity.
- Formaldehyde // found in many toys, bedding, and furniture. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and can cause asthma and skin issues.
- PVC // found in most plastics, food packaging, toys, strollers and more, and a known human carcinogen! PVC often contains additives like phthalates and lead and is extremely toxic even after disposal.
- Lead & other heavy metals // often found in paint, clothing, toys, and furniture. Heavy metal toxicity (even exposure in very small amounts like in lead paint) can lead to developmental and behavioral issues and brain damage.
- VOCs (volatile organic compounds) // found in paints, furniture, rugs, and cleaning products can continue to “off-gas” into the air in your home for years. VOCs can create skin irritation and damage the liver and central nervous system.
- Pesticides // found in clothing, bedding, food, and known endocrine disruptors. Studies also show exposure can be linked to developmental issues, depression, autism, and nerve-cell communication.
*Flame retardants are another big one to avoid, but that is more so found in sleepwear, mattresses and car seats not toys!
What do the terms mean?
It’s important to know what the terms seen in labels mean. Your natural toys might not be as safe as they are being promoted!
BPA free // Sadly, this doesn’t always mean as much as you think. BPA is often replaced with alternatives that are just as bad—BPS (bisphenol S) is just one example. The bottom line, ‘BPA-free’ does not mean safe or free from toxic chemicals.
Greengaurd Gold Certified // This is the gold standard safety certification for furniture. This standard includes health-based criteria and tests for additional chemicals. It requires lower total VOC (volatile organic compounds) and emissions levels and is often used as a standard for environments like schools and healthcare facilities. I’ve honestly found that, typically, it’s not that much more expensive!
Non Toxic Toys + Playroom Decor
Organization Shelves + Baskets
I’m a big believer that everything should have a place! Clutter makes me very overwhelmed and can easily make children overwhelmed too. Less is more, especially for these developing little brains!
Shelves // We have this natural wood shelf from Sprout and totally love it! It stores quite a bit and is very simple and minimal in design. The construction is solid, too so I don’t ever worry about little ones knocking it over.
Baskets // I am big on baskets and everything should have a place. It’s also way less stimulating for children (and adults) for them to know where their items belong.
Favorite Baskets: Ollie & Ella Strolley, Seagrass Basket, Wicker Picnic Basket, Cardenas & Kinn (LOVE all her baskets), Pehr Storage Bins
All my favorite natural fiber baskets HERE >
Decor // We have this wildflower map of the United States and just adore it. It’s for sure an investment but one I knew I wouldn’t grow tired of after years, and Remington has already learned so much! I also love this Rifle Paper United States Map.
I love these hanging alphabet, number, and map tapestries from Gather too!
Non Toxic Toys
Here are some of my favorite brands + shops!
- The Tot
- Murry and Finn
- Odin Parker
- Hazel Village
- Plan Toys
- Raduga Grez
- Bannor Toys
Wooden Toys // Rainbow Arch Stacker (Remington adores this), Wooden Stacking Tower, Cube Block Set, Shape + Sort Blocks, Little Barn Set, Natural Wooden Block Set, Counting Math Board, Village Building Blocks Big Set, Bamboo Building “Legos”, Wooden Fishing Poll Set, Wooden Veggies Play Set
Trucks + Trains // Wooden Train, Wooden Pull Bus, Mini Wooden Trucks, Wooden Dump Truck, Green Toys Fire Truck (BPA + phthalate free), Green Toys Tug Boat + Submarine (love this in the bath!), Wooden Toy Airplane
Alphabet + Learning Toys // Chalkfull of Design tracing chalkboards (LOVE these!), Nature Learning Toys, Natural Counting Board, Writing + Counting Trays, American Sign Language Alphabet Blocks, Preschool Printables, Wooden Math Board
Puzzles // Magnetic Dress Up (we need a second it’s so loved), Mermaid Magnetic Game, Safari Wooden Animal Puzzle, Melissa and Doug Ocean Floor Puzzle (huge and entertains Remington forever), USA Puzzle, Magnetic Refrigerator Puzzles (how I make dinner at night!), Floss and Rock (these are unusual shapes and a mental challenge, SO good)
Dolls + Accessories // Hazel Village Dolls (organic cotton), Rattan Doll Bed, Cuddle + Kind (dolls that give back), Community Helpers Wooden Dolls, Multicultural Peg Dolls (so sweet), Gingham Doll Pajamas, Knitted Finger Puppet Jungle Animals
Babies // Classic Wooden Rattle, Lovevery Play Gym (worth every penny, my husband even agreed), Knit Animal Rattles (ethical company with a purpose too, and Remington loved them), Wooden + Silicone Teether, Mushie Stacking Cups, Push Wagon with Blocks,
Arts + Crafts // Crayon Rocks (the best because they don’t break!), Washable Non Toxic Paint, Dough Parlour Play Dough, Eco Dough, Water Art Coloring Book (a must-have mess free item), Non Toxic Sidewalk Chalk, Wooden 3-in-1 Art Easel
Do your littles have a favorite toy? I’d love to hear! Share in the comments below >