If there is one thing babies love to do, it’s play, play, play! And, of course, the best way to do that is with toys specifically designed for baby. But not all toys are created equal. Some are made with cheap, toxic material that can be harmful or easily broken.
Toys are critical in a healthy baby’s development. They hold them in their tiny, soft hands, throw them all over the living room and even put them in their mouth for an afternoon treat. With this in mind, you need high quality, non-toxic, sustainable toys to last as long as you need them to.
But what makes a baby toy truly eco-friendly AND safe for baby? It is easy to see the label “All Natural!” on a box and go for that one. But these products can often be crazy over-priced and aren’t 100% accurate in their definition of all natural. Here are some red flags you should look out for when finding a new toy for your baby to play with:
- Avoid plastic toys, especially single-use cheap plastic. An exception here would be toys made from recycled milk jugs or bioplastic.
- Be wary of products that are made of polyurethane foam. These almost always contain flame retardant chemicals.
- Avoid toys that smell. If it smells like plastic, it probably is made of PVC/vinyl – a known human carcinogen. If it smells ‘fruity’ the toy probably contains phthalates – known endocrine disruptors.
- Remember, a ‘BPA free’ label can still contain chemicals very similar to BPA and be just as bad since they too mimic your hormones.
Now, that list may seem scary. “What will I buy if all of these qualities in toys are bad things!!” Many companies continue to mass produce products using harmful materials that are cheaper to source and more readily available. That is why it is so hard to avoid ingredients that carry a toxic burden. I know that all this technical talk can seem overwhelming, especially because we’re talking about the needs of your baby.
Fear not! In the case of toys, it is easier to go with eco-friendly versions than you may think. Here is a list of tips for what to look for when choosing an eco-friendly toy:
- Natural wooden toys that have been sustainably sourced (as in made from wood that grows quickly like bamboo or rubber wood))
- Soft cloth and plush toys that are made without pesticides (ideally organic) and colored with non-toxic dyes
- Items that have been finished with either water-based, non-toxic paints or non-toxic vegetable dyes
- Items that have paint or finish that is Low or No VOC
- Toys made from natural rubber or latex from Hevea trees
When looking for toys that fit these qualities, there are many smaller brands committed to producing quality products and who are more in tune with consumers’ needs. They tend to be more socially conscious, taking up causes to support a portion of their profits. These companies’ products are more likely to be found at farmer’s markets, specialty boutiques, and online marketplaces than the big box stores. You might need to expect to pay more for these toys, but you can also expect them to be high quality. Plus, you’ll be supporting small business, and who doesn’t love doing that!
And remember, this isn’t an “end-all, be-all” rule. You don’t have to feel guilty if your child has some organic toys, and some plastic toys. That is okay! Life is all about balance, and you can decide what that balance will be for your baby’s life – and for yours!