Many families are environmentalists and into simple living. It can be disheartening to always see toy shops filled with toys that require batteries, which not only do not stimulate imagination, but also do not teach children about the wonderful world around us, both nature and creatures. Here are some lovely quality toys that you may wish to treat your child, niece, nephew etc to, when the next birthday or Christmas comes around.
Batteries are one of the top choking hazards for both children and pets (all stores that sell batteries by law must accept them – no matter where bought – so gather them up and get rid of unwanted batteries).
Begin by making ‘natural play spaces’. Just by removing all the plastic junk and creating a ‘snug room’ is good enough, with comfy sofas and rugs, to play and jump and chat. And outdoor gardens and parks are also good (toys from nature!) Then when time comes to go toy-shopping, check your local area, as most towns have at least one independent toy shop.
Wood is the main choice, but rubberwood is also good. Check toys have nontoxic paints and carry safety kitemarks, sold at the right age for your child (keep small parts away from young children and pets).
Hellion Toys makes unique wooden toys from Forest of Bowland. This company handcrafts toys by a woman with a PhD in design, blending traditional tools and methods with contemporary craft technologies, to bring eco collections to life. Each toy is hand-finished with little details and unique elements, for the perfect gift for happy childhood memories. Classic Waldorf Peg Dolls are finished in gentle pastel colours, and sold in a luxury cottage storage bag.
These little folk are ideal to populate your child. Many items are only suitable for over 36 months, see each item to learn about age restrictions). A few items like the nature wheels are CE-certified but the pegs and twine are not, so the founder instructs to only use these with close supervision, if using.
Everything is sourced where possible from local indie businesses, usually within 20 miles. Plastics and petroleum-derived paints are avoided and the entire collection is free from plastics, solvents, VOCs and is BPA-free. All the toys are vegan-friendly and safety tested and certified CD. The designer is also a member of the Heritage Craft Association and British Toymakers Guild, who uphold very high standards of craftmanship and designs. Forest of Bowling is in rural Lancashire/Yorkshire (combined, yikes!). Also known as the Bowland Fells, in an area of gritstone fells, deep valley and peat moorland.
- This board introduces British Sign Language depicting the two-handed finger-spelling alphabet. Idea for a child with hearing loss, or for any child who would like to learn (perhaps with relatives or friends who have hearing loss), this designer says this board is dedicated to ‘developing demonstrably disciplined digits and duly dexterous dactylology!’
- The Times Table Board enhances numeracy skills, and helps children to like to learn maths. Designed for all primary year groups, they can learn number relationships and spotting patterns.
- The Weather Blobs are also illustrated with a different symbol on each, to track changing conditions. Learn about meteorological conditions, then pop back in the luxury cottage storage bag.
- The temperature blobs are ideal to learn about hot and cold seasons, and cool/hot colours used in heat scales for forecasts. You can never have too many blobs, when talking of England’s changeable weather!
- The Space Set lets children explore the sun, earth, moon, solar panels and dwarf planet Pluto, in this beautifully handcrafted set. The reverse face of each item provides key facts on the order of solar planets, the diameter of each celestial body and its size, relative to the earth. A wonderful gift for little astronomers. Presented in a luxury cottage storage bag.
Blue Brontide makes timeless wooden children’s toys, that would not be out of place in a Victorian nursery. No plastic or batteries, just toys that are designed to last years, and pass on to the next generation. These are toys that are built to last, combining sustainable designs with memorable fun. See age guides for each item, for safety.
The wooden stacking animals (rabbit, cat and bear) are made from sustainable beechwood and unvarnished. Perfect for open-ended play with a detachable head and three stacking rings on base. Wood waste from production is used at fuel or for nearby households to save energy and emissions. CE certified. Includes 4 stacking pieces and a base. Packaging free.
The adorable mummy duck and duckling (which sits on her mum’s back) rocks back and forth when pulled along. The baby duck can be removed, when mum duckling is having a sleep! Also as a push-along cat.
The beautiful wooden block game is a classic puzzle, where the pieces are laid down in a handmade box. But children can also build the blocks (like Lego) into a house or city. The blocks encourage imagination, creativity and motor skills, with their endless combination of building, designed to stimulate a child through different stages of development.
Envirotoy is a good online shop to start. It only sells safe and reputable brands, mostly from wood or natural rubber. Everything is responsibly-sourced (so UK-made items are from sustainable wood and they don’t stock any toys from China, where materials have no provenance). Items like rubberwood toys from Sri Lanka or Indonesia are made to Fair Trade values, to ensure good pay and working conditions for the makers. Other items are sold by PlanToys (above), made in a carbon-positive factory.
Everything also biodegrades, including the packaging. The company reuses existing packaging and packs using biodegradable craft tape and bioplastic starch pellets. A portion of profits goes to ocean clean-up charities. The range includes:
- Balancing toys
- Eco beach games
- Push & Pull toys
- Learning games
- Wooden play sets
- Eco-friendly bath toys
- Wooden car toys
- Eco-friendly puzzles
Squidge & Squish is a food-grade certified vegan play dough. Due to be back in production in 20222, it’s in recycled paper and tins, and biodegrades and composts too. All tested UKCA by an independent lab, and suitable for supervised children age 3 and above. Keep away from young children and pets.
Sustainable Play is filled with 60 plastic-free creative projects and play ideas. The book is packed with crafts and games for slow and rainy days, inspired by the author’s family love of simple things. From projects to create magical toys from leftover cereal boxes to joy-filled games using everyday objects, this book will equip you with the inspiration you need to entertain your children in a creative, stimulating and sustainable way.