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How to Choose Green Toys

3 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Living Green with Children

Thanks to the growing green movement and the Internet, finding toys that fit an environmentally friendly lifestyle is much easier than it used to be. Although you don’t want to cut off your children from electronic tools that can help them learn, it’s a good idea to aim for a balance between screen-oriented playthings and those that boost their imagination, especially if the latter don’t expose them to harmful materials.

When looking for green toys, keep these points in mind:

  • Choose natural materials. Toys made from solid wood and nontoxic finishes are your best bet along with those made from natural, preferably organic, fabrics. Avoid soft plastics that contain PVC, which has been linked to health hazards. For babies and toddlers, you can choose stuffed toys made from organic cotton, and puzzles and pull-along toys assembled from solid wood with nontoxic paints.

  • Free up energy. Choose well-made, durable toys that will last for a long time. The fewer toys you have to replace, the more energy you save in manufacturing a replacement, and the fewer toys end up in the landfill. Choose toys that don’t require batteries and toys driven by alternative energy, such as solar power. You can find solar-powered frogs, robots, and cars suitable for children of all ages at many toy stores and online.

  • Boost imagination. Ensure that your children have access to unstructured play opportunities, whether outdoors or in. Science-based kits are great sources of inspiration and cover every subject from gardening to chemistry to arts and crafts, but even a collection of eco-friendly dress-up clothes (made from natural fabrics or secondhand items from friends and family) or building blocks, some Legos, or a Meccano set (as age appropriate) can provide hours of imaginative fun.

    Let children use their imaginations instead of a game screen.
    Let children use their imaginations instead of a game screen.
  • Go local or Fair Trade. Find out if local artisans or manufacturers produce toys near you, and support their businesses. Buying locally helps to reduce the energy costs associated with transporting toys to your local store.

    For toys made elsewhere, research the manufacturer to find out who made them; look for toys certified under Fair Trade programs to ensure that those involved in the manufacturing process were treated well and paid fairly. Local, independent toy stores may carry Fairtrade toys; if not, check out Ten Thousand Villages, which offers a selection of toys including rattles, puzzles, mobiles, simple musical instruments, kites, and games, all of which are Fairtrade items.

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