Even the most eco conscious among us would admit that living sustainably is hard. Convenience is everywhere, wrapped in plastic, tempting us in.
But having children can spell an even bigger disaster for our environmental footprint.
As I’ve discovered as a mum, plastic seems to be in almost anything that is child related. From cots and highchairs to clothes. But especially: toys.
Although it can be hard at times, there are ways parents can have less plastic in the home. Moving towards eco friendly toys is a great start.
Here’s how to avoid the plastic (ball)pitfalls. Even when it comes to well meaning, generous, gift buying family members.
What Are Eco Friendly Toys?
Eco friendly toys are better for the environment in some way.
They might be recyclable or made with materials that break down over time. Or they might be made from natural or sustainably sourced materials.
Some environmentally friendly toys may also be made using non toxic paints and materials. A double bonus of being safer for our little ones and kinder to the environment!
Can I Buy Environmentally Friendly Toys?
There are many reasons why we should reduce the use of plastic. It’s damaging to the environment, doesn’t break down and impacts wildlife and ecosystems.
Now, we have a plethora of plastic free items available to us. From bamboo coffee cups and straws to cotton bags. We can live a life relatively free from so many plastics.
And the good news is, having kids doesn’t have to mean being swamped by plastic. There are many options when it comes to kinder, more sustainable toys. Here’s some of my favourites.
Wooden Eco Friendly Toys
Eco friendly, sustainable toys are most often made with wood. But always look for wood that’s been sustainably sourced.
Wooden toys made from trees that grow relatively fast, such as types of birch or maple are best. Also look for toys that aren’t made from cheap wood or trees that can take a long time to replace such as oak.
Look out for FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified toys too. The FSC is a not for profit organisation. Having the FSC stamp means that a business has responsibly managed forests in their supply chain.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says that the FSC has the most credible forest certification scheme.
A popular toy brand that carries FSC certification is Grimm’s Spiel & Holz Design. Grimm’s environmentally friendly toys are wonderful quality and will last for generations.
Their toys are also developed with the principles of Waldorf and Montessori educational practices in mind.
Natural Rubber, Plastic Free Toys
Natural rubber is non-toxic, biodegradable, breathable and can be sustainably harvested. So there’s a lot to love!
What’s more, it’s a great choice for plastic free toys that will go into little ones’ mouths.
One of the most popular 100% natural rubber toys on the market is Sophie la Girafe.
Sophie has been going strong for over 50 years and each giraffe toy is hand painted. With first hand experience, I can confirm it’s a great teething toy!
Organic Wool and Cotton Sustainable Toys
Sustainable toys made from organic wool or cotton are beautiful. They’re made from materials that haven’t been subjected to as many pesticides or chemicals during their creation. Which is a bonus when you think how often toys go into babies’ mouths.
They make wonderful gifts if you’re buying for a new baby too.
There are lots of organic cotton and woollen toys on the market, from dolls and rattles to stuffed animals.
Etsy is also a great place to look for handmade, unique items.
Do I Need to Go out and Buy a Whole New Set of Plastic Free Toys?
It’s great to have less plastic around the home. But don’t throw everything away and rush out to buy a new set of plastic free toys.
If you have plastic toys that your child is playing with, then, by all means, keep them. After all, it’s wasteful to throw away a working toy for another one. Plus your little one might have something to say if their favourite toy goes missing!
But when it comes to future purchases, try to adopt the mindset of quality over quantity. And look for more eco friendly toys made of wood, rubber or cotton.
Part of the reason you might want to narrow down your collection of plastic free toys is cost. Often, eco friendly toys have a much higher price tag than their plastic counterparts.
This is because the craftsmanship, time and quality of the materials used in the toy are far superior. And this is reflected in the price.
Cost is often a concern when buying environmentally friendly toys. But there are some cost cutting measures. For example, look for environmentally friendly toys in toy swaps or buy eco friendly toys second hand.
Or you could even try making your own toys to entertain your child.
Avoiding Plastic Presents From Family and Friends
Another common obstacle when reducing plastic is getting family members and friends on board. Your plastic minimising approach may not suit someone else who wants to spend money on gifts.
Birthday parties or Christmas. There’s no shortage of opportunities for your child to be given cheap plastic toys. Often, they’re played with for five minutes and then thrown in a corner.
There are a few tactics you can use when telling your nearest and dearest that you’re moving away from plastic toys:
Speak openly to relatives
If you’re able to, have a frank discussion with your family members. This can be a simple way to ask them to avoid buying plastic toys in the future.
It can also be one of the most difficult, when some people feel like they’re being told off or judged. Keep it simple and gentle.
Use wish lists
If your child’s birthday is coming up, or Christmas is on the horizon, send around a wish list. Include a choice of eco friendly toys that range in price.
Some may not appreciate the assumption that a present is coming your child’s way, so use your discretion.
Ask for one large present
Environmentally friendly toys tend to be more expensive. So one way to ask for eco friendly toys is to ask the family to chip in and buy one big present.
Wooden rocking horses or doll’s houses are classics that will be well loved for years.
Avoiding Plastic Toys When Out and About
Cheap, plastic toys are plentiful in food aimed at kids. Think Kinder Surprise chocolates and Happy Meals.
But it’s (fairly) easy to say no to these products. Ask for no toy to be included in the Happy Meal when you find yourself at McDonald’s.
Or try to steer your child away from any sweets or magazines that have little toys included.
Doing What You Can Gets the Best Results
There are some benefits of plastic. But when it comes to toys it’s often best to opt for more natural alternatives.
It can be hard to remove plastic from your life when you’re trying your best to live sustainably. Especially if you have a baby, toddler or older child as plastic toys are everywhere.
But make a few quality purchases and try second hand shopping or toy swaps. You’ll be able to curate a wonderful set of plastic free toys for your little one.
You can only try your best – you may not be able to stem the flow of plastic at all times. Whether that’s because your family won’t stop buying plastic toys or because a few plastic toys sneak into the shopping basket now and then.
If you’re given plastic toys you don’t want, consider donating them to charity if they’re in good condition. Doing anything is better than nothing.