While pregnant, I started doing a little research and discovered that not all toys are created equal. Many toys are made with plastics high in phthalates, stuffed animals are often filled with polyester (which offgasses VOCS), and a surprising number of toys contain heavy metals such as lead. These concerns are enough to make me want to steer clear of the toy aisle, but I obviously want my little guy to have a fun collection of imaginative toys - Thankfully, there are some fantastic safe brands out there and we have never struggled to find enough interactive and captivating toys. I'm continually adding items to the toy section of the Harmless Home Amazon Shop and thought I'd call out some of my favorite brands for you.
Our favorite brands of non-toxic toys:
- Haba - We especially love this German line for their brightly colored wooden baby toys
- Plan Toys - This brand has extremely high standards and makes great basics such as wooden fruit and an incredible dollhouse
- Sevi - Italian brand of wooden toys
- Hape - More German wooden toys (thanks to their high chemical standards, many European countries produce safer toys)
- Under the Nile - We love these adorable organic stuffed animals
- Miyim - More organic stuffed animals
- Green Sprouts - Safer bath toys!
And if you feel like your little one absolutely must have some more mainstream plastic toys, check out Green Toys and on Target shelves the B. line of toys.
You'll quickly notice that some of these toys are pricier than the typical Toys R Us fare - We decided that we'd rather have fewer toys and make sure they are safe. Inspired by this, this, and this, we like to choose quality over quantity, find toys that can last through multiple kids, and know that having fewer toys means our little one actually has more opportunities for creativity.
The only thing that's been tricky about choosing to go with nontoxic toys has been the social messaging bit - Our baby is blessed with a big network of loving family and friends who have been showering him with gifts since before he was born! We didn't want our loved ones unknowingly purchasing toxic gifts, or spending their money on things we knew we wouldn't use, so we spent some time trying to think of a friendly, inoffensive way of letting folks know about our toy preferences without coming across as snobs or boring them with research. We opted to put a little message on our baby registry, which you can read here. The response we got was fantastic, and now our friends and family are on board with our decisions. Since it is holiday season (and first birthday season in our house!), we went ahead and let our family know that we hope to enter into 2014 with a less-is-more attitude, and if they really don't want to go gift-less, we'd much rather receive something like a children's museum/science center membership than a bunch of toys or clothes that will get old quickly.
If you're struggling to get the people in your life on board with your goal to green your toy box, feel free to send them this way :) The links below offer some more detailed research (all in very easy-to-read formats) and suggest alternatives.
All of this being said, I'd like to point out that my son still plays with plastic toys and polyester stuffed animals pretty regularly, since he loves playdates with friends and I'm not going to deprive him of the common culture of childhood when he's playing with other toddlers. And happily, I don't feel any stress over this, because I know that the toys that he's playing with at home are safe :)
- PBS special on non-toxic toys
- Toy brands that use toxic flame retardants
- Annual report on toy safety
- Rochester Institute of Technology powerpoint on toy safety
A big thank you to the fabulous Mandy Watson for doing our photography - Check her out here!