10 Tips for Choosing Eco-Friendly Toys

Posted on: 17.05.2017.

Author: Ana G

How many times have you heard news stories about the recall of a popular toy? Often these troubling reports come during or after busy holiday seasons and cause consumers, especially parents, to worry. In many of these cases, toys get recalled because they contain hazardous synthetic materials that can severely damage a child’s health. Puzzles can contain formaldehyde, a carcinogen. Plastic toys contain chemical softeners that can cause hormonal problems. Similarly, teddy bears contain flame retardant’s and can also prevent the natural development of a child.

Although toxins are plenteous in products marketed to adults, the problem does not pose as such a serious and immediate threat. Adults have mature bodies and internal systems, as well as more body weight, and often require prolonged exposure to exhibit symptoms. Children, on the other hand, have small bodies and their fragile organisms have not yet developed resistances to harmful substances. Because of this, government agencies and private organizations place a priority on evaluating children’s toys for safety.

Plastic toysImage courtesy of pexels.com, licensed under CC0 1.0

Another problem with toys affects everyone in the world. Common materials, such as PVC, are set in landfills and dumps for decades. During the degradation process, they emit noxious fumes and other toxins that contaminate the soil, air, and water. A number of health organizations and activist groups such as Greenpeace have campaigned against the use of PVC to reduce the number of people in the world who are harmed by dioxin. Tests performed by independent laboratories suggest that practically all hazardous materials currently used to make toys can be replaced by safe and environmentally friendly materials. Before that happens, use the following tips to choose toys that are safe for your children and for the world.


1. Do Your Research

Most of us feel continuously pressed for time. As you balance your work and personal life, you may feel rushed into making quick trips to the toy store to prepare for birthdays, holidays and other events. Before you go, slow down a little bit.

Go online and check out the toy recall notices. These are published by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, recalls.gov, and the New York Health Department. If you see any toys on the list that are in the toy box right now, take them out immediately. Otherwise, print out the list and avoid the items when you go to the toy store.

An online database healthytoys.org provides the opposite of a recall list by telling shoppers what toys now on the market are safe. You can access this website from your phone or computer to get the latest information about the safety of a toy that you might buy.


2. Read Labels

Toy storeImage courtesy of pixabay.com, licensed under CC0 1.0

Paying attention to labels can give you a headache, especially if you’re shopping with the child in tow. After all, many of these labels contain international symbols meant to communicate meaningful information to people who live in many different countries. Spend a little time familiarizing yourself with the meaning of the symbols on product labels.

As you shop, make sure you avoid toys that contain phthalates, lead, and bisphenol A (BPA). The synthetic compound ranks near the top of the list of toxic pollutants found in toys along with chromium, cadmium, and arsenic. The Department of Trade and Industry has set a guideline for toxins and toys. Anything containing more than 90 ppm should be avoided at all cost. In the event that you want to buy a toy that has no labels, search online by description or image and see if any consumers have reported problems with it.


3. Buy Local

Right now, more than three-quarters of all the toys sold in the United States are manufactured in other countries. International toy suppliers from Europe, Canada, and Japan often have higher safety ratings than countries known for cheap labor and lack of standards. Still, the majority of toys on the market come from China, a place where safety and environmental concerns rarely affect manufacturers.

Knitted dollsImage courtesy of pexels.com, licensed under CC0 1.0

Buying from local vendors can help you save the planet by reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of vehicles used for transportation and by connecting you with local craftspeople who share your values and have children of their own. Visit local shops and craft fairs and spend your money locally while getting high quality, toxin free toys.


4. Choose the Right Material

You can easily see what dominant materials comprise a toy. Avoid plastic toys whenever possible, because they contain many toxins that are released over time. At the very least, choose toys made from safer plastics that have a 1, 2, 4 or 5 label.

Whenever you can, choose toys made from natural materials such as unpainted wood or organic textiles, such as bamboo fibers, cotton or hemp. They rarely contain harmful pesticides and should be relatively safe for your children. When you buy puzzles, books, and other printed toys, make sure they were printed on recycled and degradable material using natural inks.

Wooden tranImage courtesy of pixabay.com, licensed under CC0 1.0

Some of the best toys in the world are found in your backyard. Smooth stones from the garden, sticks and cardboard boxes can be wonderful playthings that minimize the environmental impact of childhood.


5. Use Second Hand Toys

Giving new life to old toys can go a long way to preserving the environment and saving you money. You can look for toys at charity thrift shops and websites such as Freecycle or eBay. Even better, you can get with your friends and exchange toys to give your children new experiences without raiding store shelves.

Be careful and check if any of those toys, despite the good condition, have been recalled without the previous owner’s awareness. Also, make sure you check with your child before exchanging their favorite toy.

Some local libraries have toys in their collection that residents can borrow for a small fee. These give you a good opportunity to let your children try new toys before spending the money.


6. Buy Quality Products

Challenging economic times can pressure parents to take shortcuts. Beware of low-priced toys. Manufacturers cut corners to reduce production costs and, in the process, deliver dangerous products to our children. Rather than feel pressured by holidays and peers, buy judiciously.

The extra money required to purchase high-quality toys can prove to be a wise investment, especially if your children grow to become healthy and strong young adults. High-quality toys can also outlast more than one childhood making them an extremely good value over the long run. Reputable brands tend to have more transparency concerning their policies and procedures and are therefore more likely to produce goods that are eco-friendly and safe.


7. Do It Yourself

DIY rabbitImage courtesy of pixabay.com, licensed under CC0 1.0

Do you really have to buy all the toys your children play with? Why not take a shot at making a few toys on your own. Look carefully at the things you throw away and you just might find opportunities that can entertain your kids for entire days or weeks.

Masks made from cereal boxes, bottle rockets, shakers filled with beans and trains made from cardboard give just a few examples of things you can make before you take out the trash. Get creative and you can, in turn, stimulate the creativity of the children in your life.


8. Play Safely

Encouraging safe play can also help the children in your life have fun in an eco-friendly way. If you play dress-up, instead of face paint, use cornstarch-based products that have a proven safety record. Avoid cheap jewelry with your little princesses: more than one-half of the jewelry products tested by HealthyStuff.org were unsafe.

Face paintImage courtesy of pixabay.com, licensed under CC0 1.0

While doing crafts, be mindful of the plastic fuse beads that can release toxins. Don’t heat the sculpting clay because the polymers in it will release noxious fumes. Think twice before letting your child play with some common items around the house. Cell phones and television remotes are not subject to the same safety standards as toys and can cause injuries. Keys can contain lead and cause substantial health risks.


9. Avoid Batteries

Batteries make fascinating and fun toys possible, but at a huge cost to the environment. Not only does battery production leave behind tons of toxic waste, batteries pose a serious threat to small children who can easily choke on them.

Rather than choosing battery-powered toys, consider options that children power with their hands and imagination. Keeping kids physically and mentally active can lay a solid foundation for a healthy and happy life.


10. Buy Fewer Toys

Finally, does your child actually need all those toys? Try encouraging the children in your life to enjoy life without depending on material possessions. Complement careful toy choices with wise choices to get high-quality, safe toys that can last long enough to serve all your children.

Consider fun activities such as going on a picnic or trip to the movies. Outdoor playgrounds, hiking trails, museums and other activities can also contribute to well-rounded child development without breaking the bank or ruining the environment.

Playing with waterImage courtesy of pexels.com, licensed under CC0 1.0

Buying safe toys ensures that your kids have a safe, fun and healthy childhood. At the same time, through careful decision making, you can do your part to preserve the environment while rewarding responsible toy makers. As you put the above tips into practice, you will probably find other ways to make life wonderful for all the kids in your life.