Being the principle merchandise buyer for My Little Green Shop and having raised a couple of toddlers (now aged 4.5 and 5.5), I know a thing or two about sustainable toys. When choosing gifts for our children I follow the same principles as I do when I am selecting new brands or products to carry. I look for toys that are going to get lots (hopefully years) of usage, toys that are made from sustainable materials, and toys that have a low environmental impact when it comes to their manufacturing practises.
Wooden toys top the sustainable list as they’re durable and can be passed on. As long as there are no small parts that can pose a choking hazard, why not gift a wooden toy that is a bit beyond a child's age? Toddlers grow pretty quickly. One of the best toys we’ve given our kids is the fabulous Hape Kitchen. Our daughter received it when she was 2 yrs old. Initially, it was just her little puttering around station but when she was 3 she used it for 'cooking and meal preparation'. Now she's 4.5 and she loves to play 'restaurant'. She explains menu items, takes our order and 'prepares' tasty and nutritious meals for us. Our 5.5 yr-old little guy plays with the Kitchen lots too. He likes to write down the menu du jour and our orders, thereby practicing his spelling. They've been playing with it for 2.5 years and I reckon there will be more yrs of play with it.
With regards to sustainability, conventionally grown cotton gets very low marks as it requires heavy pesticide usage. The extent of the detrimental affect of harmful chemicals like pesticides on children, is worrisome to say the least. That's why dolls that are made from natural (meaning untreated) cotton or certified organic cotton are highly preferable. Greenpoint Brands, maker of the Good Earth Fairy Dolls, is a brand we're proud to carry. The fabric they use is all natural and their stuffing is made from recycled polyester, which enhances their eco-friendliness. Another awesome maker of dolls is American company Olives and Pickles. Their products are GOTS certified. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain. Jacques the Bear may be the cutest Olives and Pickles item of all.
When it comes to manufacturing practises, we prefer wooden toys that are painted with non-toxic, lead-free, water based stains. Heavy metals in paints pose serious health threats and that is why we carry brands like Grimm's, Goki, Maple Landmark and Hape. These major toy companies are known for their product safety, for following environmentally sustainable manufacturing practices and for relying on third party product safety testing. Grimm's makes absolutely beautiful toys like these 7 Rainbow Friends in 7 Bowls.
As awareness of environmental and health/safety issues grows, so too does the demand for toys which are environmentally sustainable. We're proud to have been a purveyor of safe and environmentally sustainable toys for years.