Natural and green parents no doubt want to find sustainable, natural, ethical, and planet friendly toys for their toddlers to play with. Does that have to be a tall order?? Where do you start? Do you want wood toys, cloth toys, solar powered toys, organic toys, or a combination thereof? Browse our top picks below for the best green toys for tots!
Plan Toys Nuts and Bolts is an instant classic in sustainable wooden “tool” toys. Plan Toy Nuts and Bolts come with two large bolts and six threaded geometric pieces. Arrange the pieces in many formats and screw them onto the bolts to form different designs. Children love the repetitive twisting motion of threading the pieces on the bolts. It is great for developing fine motor skills. 2 years & up. Build dexterity and strength in little fingers by encouraging children to use their imagination to create forms and figures. Assemble the nuts and bolts with various mixes and matches.
International E-Racer Cars are an awesome wooden car choice, sleek and gorgeous! The E-Racer couldn’t be more sporty or stylish – its beautiful design will delight young and old as it races around the home track! The E-Racer will thrill eco-minded moms and kids with sleek design and nimble handling and the extra benefit of having a tiny environmental impact. The body of each E-Racer is built from one single piece of renewable bamboo and finished in non-toxic, water based paints from Europe. They come in multiple colors!
Plan Toys Hammer Balls are a hit in our home! It has a lovely curved wooden box design with three colorful balls and a mallet. Toddlers love to hit things and play with tools and hammers so this gives them something constructive to do with that energy. It helps toddlers to improve hand-eye coordination, aligning, slotting and aiming It will be great fun to pound the balls and watch them roll out one by one. The concept is incredibly simple but the fun lasts for a long time! It is made of rubberwood and painted with non-toxic dyes
What toddler doesn’t like blocks? The Kaleidoscopic Blocks from Haba takean old and classic concept and adds an exciting and engaging twist! These beautiful wooden blocks have colored Kaleidoscope windows in the middle. Not only are they colorful and gorgeous they give your toddler a new view if the world. They can have stacking them, making buildings and castles, and creating with them. Haba is another company that makes excellent toys that last!
Mini Automoblox Cars and Trucks are a completely wonderful adaptation of the classic push car and truck. Boys everywhere just love their wheels and vroom vrooms right? They are sure to love these and innovative versions as well. The mini cars have a new universal connector system that enables the rapid interchange of parts, further accentuating the fun factor of creating different car styles. They are basically wooden vehicles but they have plastic parts that can be interchanged. They are a great compromise if you want cool and snazzy looking push cars but less environmental impact.
The toddler age is when kids typically learn to identify and sort shapes andthere are many mass produced toys to encourage this activity but most of them are plastic. This Rolling Sorter is perfect! Two toddler-pleasing toys in one! The littlest ones love to shake, rattle, and roll the shape sorter to make lots of noise, while older tots have endless fun fitting six bright blocks through the corresponding cutouts on both ends. The all-wood toy is made in Thailand.
Wooden blocks are awesome for creative play and stacking but they just seemso … square! These Nesting Rainbows are a delightful toy for stacking play and they can learn their colors as well. These vibrant wooden rainbows stack into colorful mountains or separate for wonderful arches, bridges and wee gnome or fairy houses – the possibilities for creative play are endless.
Handcrafted in Germany for ages 3+.
Tube Sorting Toy – Take shape sorting to the next level and provide lots of educational and play value to toddlers with this well designed Tube Sorting Toy. Most of us had one of a tube sorting toy as a child but it was likely plastic and the tubes looked like doughnuts. This is a new look for a classic toy!This set is comprised of five colorful wooden tubes. Children are able to learn about size, color and scale. Made of natural, chemical free recycled rubberwood and finished with non-toxic water based dye.
This Pterodactyl Push Toy is cute as a button! What little dinosaur enthusiast wouldn’t love to push this little guy around? When pushed, this winger dinosaur will flap his wings up and down utilizing offset wheels. Toddlers will improve their balance and directional skills as they play with this adorable dinosaur push toy. It is made of natural, chemical free recycled rubberwood and finished with non-toxic water based dye.
I adore Play Silks for kids. They are beautifully crafted, open ended play things. Children can use these versatile silks to create all sort sorts play scenarios with their imaginations. They can be capes, veils and head coverings, pirate flags, parachutes, clothing, flags, fairy wings, streamers… the possibilities are endless. They also come in many gorgeous colors.
123 Grow With Me – With not one, not two, but three or more different ways to use this innovative apparatus as your child grows, it’s certain to bring years of enjoyment.
Babies ages 9 to 24 months use it as a walker (with wagon!) when they take their first steps; it also easily converts to a fun scoot-along ride so that toddlers 12 to 36 months can tote toys along with them; and kids 3 and up can employ it as a pretend-play shopping cart, doll buggy and toy trolley. It’s sturdily made from solid wood with smooth-rolling plastic wheels.
During warmer months it is easy to send kids outdoors for some fun in the sun and fresh air. Bike riding, tree climbing, soccer, hopscotch, and dozens of other outdoor activities provide children with hours upon hours of creative play that is healthy for their bodies and mind. Less than favorable weather such as rain and extreme cold may present a problem at times though and moms need to get creative in helping their kids to find productive play activities. In an age where video games and TV can easily become too important in a child’s life, many parents are reluctant to encourage these things. Luckily there are many alternatives for parents that want to stress productive and creative play rather than mindless screen time.
Help Them Make Believe
Pretend play is particularly important for a young child’s development. It helps them to develop their critical thinking and communication abilities. The great outdoors provides a grand stage for this type of play but parents can facilitate make believe any time with just a few clever props. A box of costumes can create hours of pretend play fun as your kids pretend they are pirates, fairies, knights, or even characters from their favorite movies and books. Homemade forts also provide an excellent opportunity for kids to imagine they are playing in a log cabin, a castle, or a tent. A simple sheet draped over a table can provide hours of fun and creative play. We have an indoor/outdoor teepee that my kids love.
Instead of toys with lights, sounds, and movement give your children some basic toys that they can use to build and create. Legos and wooden blocks are usually very popular among kids as they can spend hours creating virtually anything they can come up with. I highly recommend marble runs. My boys adore them, as seen in the photo above. Take some pictures of their creations and help them create a photo journal to record all of their inventions and accomplishments as mini architects. Post them to Facebook and help them feel like a celebrity.
Play kitchens and play food can also provide hours of creative play as kids pretend to cook their favorite meals and serve their family. Even an item as simple as a playsilk can be used as a flag, as part of a costume, as a sail on a boat, or a doll sling or hammock. Give them the raw materials and watch them create!
Forget video games what about old fashioned board games, card games, and the like? There is no time like the present to teach your kiddos to play Gin Rummy or War. A deck of cards is cheap and the fun can last for hours. Break out the dominoes and let them line them and knock them over to their heart’s content. There are also some amazing cooperative and educational board games on the market. In the former category I recommend Ticket to Ride and in the educational games category I recommend WildCraft.
Books for Homegrown Adventure
For younger and older kids it is great fun to read a book aloud and ask them to re-enact it in a play or with puppets. They can build the set, create the costumes, and then act out the part of their favorite character. If you have a video camera handy you or an older child can record these performances to let them view later and to create memories that the whole family will treasure for years.
For children that insist on TV time perhaps you can strike a deal asking them to select a movie that originated from a book and then after they read it you can all watch the movie together and discuss how the book and movie compared.
These are just a few of the ways that parents can encourage creative and productive play and leisure within their children.
For a very long time now I have looked at play tepees and thought about how much fun it would be to have one for the kids. I am not sure why but I have yet to get over my childhood fascination with tepees. I have even been checking out a camp resort that has large family size tepees to camp out in. I think it would great fun.
In the meantime though I have been living vicariously through my kids, especially my littlest guy, and his new play tepee…the Little Turtle’s Tepee from Down to Earth Toys. It is a great toy made from natural materials (cotton canvas and wood) and made here in the USA. Bozeman, Montana to be exact. It sets up in minutes and basically provides an instant play house for 1-3 kids that can be used indoors or out. And it’s no boring, ordinary playhouse. It a tepee!
Natural toys made from quality materials are always better than anything made with plastics and other materials that will end chilling in a landfill for hundreds of years, long past their useful stage. The material is untreated, un-dyed natural cotton canvas and the poles are FSC Certified Solid Wood. Toys made in the USA are also going to have less impact than those made in foreign countries and then shipped here. You are also supporting local economies and usually small family business, which is important. This is a toy made with high quality, natural materials that are planet friendly AND meant to last. It taken care of this tepee will last for years and be a play object for many different kids over the years. It is a keepsake that can be passed around throughout the generations.
I also like that it is an open ended toy that encourages creativity and unplugged fun. My kids are not immune to the lure of the xBox and the iPad but it is important to me that they also know how to entertain themselves without the bells and whistles. Play houses are perfect for that and this tepee fits the bill.
Another bonus is that this toy is educational and can open doors to learning opportunities about other cultures and living history. A tipi is a Lakota name for a conical tent made from animal skins and wooden poles and used by the nomadic tribes. This toy could open the door to all sorts of historical learning, which I love.
I also like that it is fun to use inside the house and out. When the weather takes a turn for the worse (it already has here in Ohio) then the tepee can be transferred indoors and used there. It is super easy to take up and down (it takes seconds literally) and it has a nice canvas tote for storage so it can be easily tucked away in the garage or basement when not being played with. The ease with which you can get it out and set it up and also take it back down and store it are super important to me because we don’t have a lot of room in our house (about 1100 square feet). Anything hard to put up and take down would quickly be a pain in the you-know-what. If you have a decent size car this would also be no problem to take with you to the park, camping, grandmas’s house, etc.
Below you can see it indoors, in the Florida room …
The tepee also came with stencils so you can jazz it up if you want. We may do that later on. Also it came with a traditional game that uses sticks and rocks. Yet another great intro into living history. All around this would make a great gift for the kiddos if you are looking for open ended natural toys that will encourage creativity and that will provide maximum benefit for your dollars, since this is one that will last.
The manufacturer’s website.
I have mentioned dozens of times how crazy I am about the game Wildcraft. It is a game for the whole family that teaches about herbs and natural healing. Read my complete review here. It is just a perfect way to integrate fun with learning and my whole family just loves it. Plus we have lots of time to play (and learn) during the cold winter months here in Ohio! It just gets us excited for spring…
One obstacle for many though, is price. It is something I have had to come to grips with myself since the cheapo games from big toy companies can be had for $10 or even less around the holidays. I recently saw one popular mass produced game selling for $1 this season. Quality games though can cost 5 to 10 times the price of a mass production game, though Wildcraft does not actually. It was created by a Dad who just wanted his kids to play something more valuable than Candyland and it is sold direct from his family to others. There is no big toy manufacturer behind it. So much love and creativity went into this game and it really shows…
The regular price ($39) is actually very reasonable but I still keep my eye out for the annual sale that comes around the holidays and I just received word of it this morning. From now until Friday November 16 you can get Wildcraft for only $19.99 AND you get a host of cool bonuses including:
* Winterize Your Kids: Optimizing Health with Herbs, Diet & Common Sense” This is an 80 minute audio class with Aviva Romm M.D., author of many herbal books about natural child care.
* 2013 Herbal Wall Calendar PDF
* Herb Fairies Book One! They are also including the recipe cards and journal pages! If you’ve been waiting since May for Herb Fairies to reopen, here’s your chance to get a head start.
* A FULL issue of Herbal Roots zine.
* The revised “Herbal Gifts” eBook by Rosalee de la Forêt.
* A class with What the Robin Knows author Jon Young on how to mentor your child in nature!
This game is the perfect Christmas gift and a good way to get lots of extra goodies for yourself or for others. Enjoy!
Sadly at the height of summer this year it was just too darn hot to spend much time outside. I started to think I was back in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona rather than in Central Ohio. It was so hot that my kids ended up playing video games and watching TV way more than normal. The temperatures were too high and the normally cool, soft grass was dry and crunchy. Our lawn still hasn’t recovered. Ugh.
The weather of late though has been wonderful and I am hoping for a mild Fall so that we can make up for lost time…and spend lots of it outdoors, playing. One activity that brings back memories of my own summer fun is croquet. My grandmother had a vintage set that I played with for hours upon hours with my younger brother and cousins. So I was excited when Down to Earth Toys offered to send us a croquet set for us to review and enjoy. The store has been selling high quality, natural toys for years and we have enjoyed several of their products over the years, including this wonderful SpellMaster.
The croquet set was just what I remembered. All wood, made with classic bright colors, and oh so fun to play. My kids and I were excited to give it a try. Even if some of us didn’t quite dress for the occassion:
We had to read through the instructions together first to see how to play (since I did not remember) but after the first game we played together my own kids ended up doing what I always used to do when I was a kid…invent their own game/rules. Whether you play a structured or game or make up your own it always fun to hit balls through an obstacle course.
The set itself is very high quality and will last for years and years, as most wooden toys do. I know my grandmother’s set seemed indestructible. My brothers and cousins and I all played with it for years, every single summer. It lasted right up until she died and it was auctioned off. I wish I snagged it back then but it didn’t occur to me that I wanted to create those same wonderful summer memories with my own children, until later. That is why I think this set has so much value in my eyes…it helps us to recreate the fond croquet memories so many of us have from our own childhoods. Of course it is also great for teaching hand eye coordination and good sportsmanship. Kids of all ages, even small ones, love to play.
This hardwood, six-player croquet set includes six maple mallets with 32″ handles, two 24″ goal posts, nine indestructible heavy steel wickets, six 3-1/4″ polymer balls, a canvas storage bag and complete instructions. Down to Earth has toys made in the USA so you are supporting American businesses when you buy.
The price ($144.00) seems kind of steep at first but I know that set will get much use over the next few years and unlike so many conventional toys and games I know it will last for many, many more. I have no doubt that someday my grandchildren could be playing with this set on my lawn and creating fond memories of summers at grandma’s house.
Do you have croquet memories from your own childhood?