Would you like to know where to find natural safe toys? Children love to play, and being naturally creative – they don’t need as many plastic-wrapped, battery-using toys that you think they do. In fact, using too many of these toys can hinder creativity. Problem-solving comes from imagination: not pressing a button for the ‘toy’ to do all the work for them. And 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).
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
These gorgeous hand knitted teddy bears are all made by artisans in Vietnam, to empower disadvantaged women and people with disabilities, through training and outreach programs. All the teddy bears are made from natural cotton and natural linen ribbon (remove before washing). Presented in recycled gift boxes, these are lovingly hand-crocheted using fair trade quality materials. Lizzie the polar bear has a pink heart crocheted on her bottom! Also meet Bobbie (top)
Perfect up to age 10. CE tested. Always supervise children with toys. Never leave toys in cots with babies, to help prevent crib death.
Foxxie is a friendly red fox
Barbra the Lamb has a pink heart.
Also as Poppy Lamb
Leo the Lion has a jumper with buttons down his back
Karu the Kangaroo is the guardian of speed.
His sister Karo has a pink jumper
These cute organic soft toys are ideal for children, for the right age ranges. Most soft toys are filled with rubbish, so it makes them difficult to wash, without releasing microplastics into the sea. These are all eco-friendly, from stuffing to outer covers.
Always check toy safety kitemarks and age ranges, and keep small parts away from young children and pets. Never leave young babies/children (includes pets) alone with toys. These are for older human children!
Justice the Bear is made by Woolly Organic (he’s not made from wool but organic cotton with corn fibre filling). This is produced in partnership with Blue Bear Coffee, which is trying to end slavery in the coffee production chain. Produced in Latvia, this blue teddy sends profits to help children rescued from exploitation in the Dominican Republic. The same company makes a soft toy bunny and soft toy teddy
These pretty organic cotton rag dolls, are ideal companions for little girls, rather than plastic-wrapped rubbish toys. All have natural stuffing too, so can be safely washed in the machine, unlike ones made with recycled polyester (the microfibers will break off, and go into the sea, unless you use a Guppyfriend).
Emma the organic rag doll is a beautiful doll that is the perfect first friend for your child. Suitable from birth, Emma is made using ethically sourced materials, and ecologically sound methods of production. This doll is from a little family company in Durham, which loves nature. Made ethically in Sri Lanka, and supplied in a cardboard box.
Organic Cotton Bunny Toy is well-made and sustainable, sure to be loved for years to come. A lovely keepsake. Choose from mustard or teal.
Organic Owl Crinkle Toy is made from organic cotton shell with a crinkle paper filling. All babies will love holding and grabbing this stimulating toy for curious explorations. The adorable high-contrast design make owl cute and lovable. Machine wash cold.
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.
Handcrafted Wooden Chalk Board is ideal for writing, drawing and imaginative play. It is sold with a STABILO woody 3-in-1 crayon, that functions as a colouring pencil, wax crayon and watercolour. It also washes off windows! Suitable for paper or cardboard the pencil is long-lasting and thick/comfy for little hands (always supervise children with crayons).
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 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.
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!
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.
This 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.
Wooden Building Blocks
This 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.
A Matching Nursery Decoration
These wooden sitting toys are as cat, mouse, dog and bear. This is a nursery decoration, not a toy. CE certified for 3 years plus.
Many vets are not fans of ball throwers, as it can cause later leg problems for dogs. It’s up to you, some dogs may think life is not worth living if they can’t run after balls. Try nice long walks with stimulation first. But if you throw balls, then interact with other exercise. Don’t just stand there with a ball thrower and throw a ball miles, just because you’re too lazy to take a walk through the forest.
- Dogs love socks (especially smelly ones) but these are choking hazards, so keep them safely stowed away. The same with slippers.
- Play hide and seed behind a sofa. Call them and they think they found you, they love this game as they think they are St Bernard finding someone in a mountain. Give them lots of praise. One Newfoundland in Cornwall loves saving people so much in water, that locals pay (money goes to a rescue charity) to jump in the water and get saved by him!
- Sticks can impale when thrown, so leave them to forage, but don’t throw them. At the beach, avoid throwing frisbees near seals (you should not be near seals anyway, near dogs). One frisbee recently got caught around a seal’s neck and almost decapitated her. She survived, but others are not so lucky.
- Rotate toys, as dogs love a variety. Most dogs adore tugging games.
- Antler chews are best avoided as they can cause broken teeth. One vet says ‘never give a chew or toy you would not like to be whacked on the knee with’.
- Clean toys with warm biodegradable non-scented dish liquid and water, rinse well and use a hot cycle on the top rack with strong water pressure and air-dry (don’t dry in ‘dry rooms’ they could go mouldy.
- Squeakers can be a choking hazard, especially as many dogs will try to kill them!
- Rough play is okay for dogs that won’t go out of control. But always keep toys at waist height to stop them jumping u and getting too over-excited, which could injury.
If playing in the garden, be sure to remove toxic plants and mulch. And never use slug pellets or other dangers. See make your garden safe for pets.
Choosing Safe Toys
- PDSA has a shop of toys that are likely safer as they work with vets to approve, before sale.
- Blue Cross is a fan of balls with topes, as they are less likely to be swallowed. Beco has a good one, made with biodegradable materials.
- Choose brand names that are safe like Kong (these are made from tough rubber and can be filled with treats. For soft toys, always use only supervised and throw away, if damaged. Play is important, but PDSA says to ensure the toys are for the right age, breed and size, and made from non-toxic materials. If a dog can pick it up and carry it around in its mouth, it’s likely a choking hazard.