As part of our course on How to Build an Eco-Friendly, Non-Toxic Nursery, I’ve discussed clothing and toys for newborns, including what to watch out for and companies we recommend that make truly eco-friendly, non-toxic products for babies. I also offered some tips for choosing eco-friendly, non-toxic toys for newborns in a separate blog. If you haven’t signed up for the course yet, here’s a look at why wooden toys are a great choice for your baby and the planet, and some of my favorite companies making wooden toys.
What to watch out for in wooden toys for infants
Wooden toys are a lovely traditional way to go and can also be environmentally friendly and non-toxic, depending on how they are manufactured. High-quality wooden toys are durable enough to pass on to future babies and, if they are discarded instead of being reused, they naturally biodegrade without polluting the environment.
Ideally, any wooden toys will be made with sustainably sourced wood. Look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification and try to find toys made with locally sourced wood, wherever you are.
It’s best to avoid painted wooden toys unless they’re made in Europe or in the US using natural, safe, non-toxic paints or stains. Lead is still a problem in paint and other finishes in some countries, including China, and recalls still occur in the US for some painted toys. Hardwoods that are sanded to a smooth finish and left unstained or painted or finished with linseed oil or jojoba oil are good choices for baby toys. Rubberwood toys, made with wood from rubber trees that no longer produce latex, are also a good sustainable choice (check out Plan Toys in the Product recommendations below).
Some toy manufacturers avoid glues (which can contain formaldehyde), stains (which can also contain VOCs), and the risk of a toy falling apart and becoming a choking hazard by making beautiful toys from a single piece of hardwood, cut and sanded to a smooth finish.
The best wooden children’s toys
My Very Own® Rattle – made in Vermont from a single piece of American maple, without glues or any toxic finishes or paints. Each rattle is sanded and polished to a smooth finish and is ideal for babies form 5 months onwards, or for younger babies as a toy held by an adult (because the toy is a little heavier than a plastic rattle).
Finn + Emma – makers of beautiful baby clothes and gorgeous toys that are organic and fair-trade, made with eco-friendly dyes and real wood, as well as 100% organic cotton. Their rattles, teethers, and stroller toys are all good choices, but they really shine when it comes to the play gyms that are certified organic and far more eco-friendly, non-toxic, and attractive than any plastic monstrosity.
Nature Baby – my favorite is their Wooden Teether Ring (View Price on Nature Baby) which is made in New Zealand using 100% food grade, BPA-free and non-toxic silicone and untreated beechwood finished with organic beeswax.
Hape – lovely toys made with natural materials including bamboo and sustainable wood, finished with water-based non-toxic paints. They are well-made and available in a range of fun, creative designs to fire the imagination.
Holztiger – this German company makes delightful wooden animals that provide plenty of fun for kids of every age (and adults!). These are made with a solid piece of hard maple or beechwood and water-based, non-toxic paints. While advertised mostly for kids 3 years and older, some of the rounder animal shapes, such as their lovely turtle (View Price on Amazon), may well be suitable for supervised play with younger babies.
Camden Rose – wooden toys and teethers finished with beeswax or jojoba oil or a food-grade mineral oil. Their hardwood cherry rattle is particularly lovely, with wood harvested responsibly in the US (View Price on Amazon). The company also makes Waldorf Dolls with reclaimed cotton, but it’s not clear if the materials are organic, free from azo dyes or other chemicals, so I’d stick with the wooden toys.
Lovevery – A favorite for play gyms, Lovevery also make gorgeous toys using solid wood, non-toxic water-based paints, and organic cotton. Their Play Kits (View Price on Lovevery) are available on a subscription model, with new age-appropriate toys delivered on schedule to help your baby’s growth and development. The kits include toys made with sustainably sourced FSC certified wood, 100% organic cotton, baby-safe finishes, and all kits are shipped in a carbon neutral fashion with the company offsetting any carbon emissions.
Uncle Goose – Arguably the best wooden blocks around (View Price on Amazon). These are handcrafted in the US from basswood and are printed with non-toxic, child-safe inks, and no sealants, so are suitable for infants through to toddlerhood and beyond. They currently offer more than 60 different block sets, including planets, bugs, numbers, letter, animals, and the periodic table, for budding STEM babies.
Grimm’s (AKA Spiel & Holz) – this longstanding German company makes wonderful wooden toys using non-toxic stains and sustainably harvested alder, lime, beech, and maple wood. Their Large Rainbow Tower is a fantastic stacking toy and is made in such a way as to not present a choking hazard even for younger babies, making it an excellent sustainable toy that can last throughout childhood (View Price on Amazon). Grimm’s also have a lovely baby rattle grasper toy made from hardwood and stained in non-toxic rainbow colors (View Price on Amazon).
PlanToys – a newer company making waves in the eco-friendly toy industry, PlanToys make all their non-toxic toys in a sustainable factory in Thailand that is powered with solar power. The toys are made with natural rubberwood trees that no longer produce latex, and they even take the approach of stopping fertilizing the soil around the trees three years prior to harvesting, to ensure strict chemical exposure limits. The wood is kiln-dried in a chemical-free process, and the company uses formaldehyde-free glues, dyes free from heavy metals, and recycled paper and soy inks where necessary. PlanToys wooden square clutching toy (View Price on Amazon) is a great choice for babies and toddlers to help develop clutching and grasping skills. The toy is squishable, but pops gently back into a square shape without applied pressure. And, after 12 months, you might want to consider getting your budding astronaut this adorable rocket stacker toy (View on Amazon).
Tegu Magnetic Blocks – Tegu Magnetic Blocks come in a variety of designs, some suitable for your baby’s first year and others for older children. These blocks are made with responsibly sourced hardwoods handpicked in Honduras by knowledgeable locals as part of the company’s socially responsible ethos. The blocks are painted with non-toxic water-based paints and pigments and are durable and fun. They’re designed in the US and made in Honduras at a purpose-built toy factory designed to create jobs and support the local economy. Plastic-free, non-toxic, and downright delightful, Tegu has you covered for baby’s first blocks and beyond. Check out the Tegu Magnetic Floating Stacker (View Price on Amazon).