Sustainable toys: Good for the environment, great for kids

Best sustainable toys

by Hannah Carroll |
Updated on

As a parent, you will know the pain of unpackaging your child's new must-have children's toy only to be left with a mountain of packaging which is non-recyclable. Not only is it detrimental to our planet but it's an absolute headache. As your child grows, you may feel like you are swimming in garish plastic toys that all come in tonnes of plastic packaging. And as tempting as it can be to ban toys entirely, they do serve a purpose. Toys aid every aspect of your child's development, from emotional to cognitive skills. But the great news is now more than ever we can choose toys which are sustainable and eco-friendly.

One of the biggest trends in the toy industry this year is sustainability and eco-friendly toys and we couldn't be happier. More and more manufacturers are opting for recyclable packaging, minimal packaging or incorporating the packaging as part of the play.

Best at a glance:

Best overall sustainable toy: BigJigs Toys Baking Cookies, £26.99
Best sustainable toy for creativity: Green Toys Dump Truck, £29.99
Best sustainable toy for role play: Tender Leaf Toys Stacking Farmyard, £24.99
Best sustainable toy for under £24: TickiT My Emotions Wooden Tiles set, £23.99

Iconic French toy brand Janod has recently teamed up with The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to create a new sustainable line. A spokesperson for the Janod explained; "We recognise that our most basic needs are dependent on a healthy natural world, which is currently under threat so, inspiring the youngest members of our society to care about the flora and fauna is essential. The protection of the planet is key. What we produce today will affect our children’s tomorrow so let’s act together!”

Sensory toys are designed to stimulate a child's five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. However, many of the brightly coloured toys are made from plastic materials. We have scoured the internet to find the best sustainable and eco-friendly toys which will aid development, fulfil your little one's sensory needs and help to save the planet too.

Best sustainable toys 2024:

Best sustainable toy for adventure

Elephant toy
Price: $15.83

This toy is brand new to the market and it ticks so many of our eco-friendly boxes. We cannot get enough of this toy as it encourages children to plant and nurture their own plants whilst teaching them about endangered species habitats. Not only are the WWF Wild Scenes are made with 100 per cent recycled plastics but both the packaging and the product are recyclable.

Not suitable for children under 36 months due to small parts that may represent a choking hazard.

Review: "This is a really cute kit. It’s ages four and up, my daughters eight and we thought this would be a fun project to do together."

Pros

  • Comes with a fact booklet
  • Educational
  • Practical
  • Made with 100 per cent recycled plastics

Cons

  • Not suitable for all ages

Best sustainable toy for nature

Best overall sustainable toy
Playmobil Wiltopia 71013 Family Tree House with Animal Toys

Rrp: $99.99

Price: $81.69

PLAYMOBIL Family Tree House is our favourite sustainable toy as it is not only made with sustainable materials but also teaches children about the importance of sustainability, self-sufficiency and looking after the environment and its inhabitants.

Review: "Incredible for the little ones in the house. It helps their creativity and teaches them about the planet and the animals."

Not suitable for children under the age of four.

Pros

  • Engaging web app
  • Promotes creativity and role paly
  • High quality toys and figures

Cons

  • Parents need to assemble the toy

Best sustainable toy for bath times

Best eco friendly bath toy
 Green Toys Ferry Boat with Mini Cars Bathtub Toy

Rrp: $24.98

Price: $17.49
Alternative retailers
Walmart$17.49View offer
Kohl's$22.49View offer
Macy's$41.00View offer

If you are looking for an eco-friendly bath toy, look no further. This robust colourful toy is constructed entirely from recycled plastic. And although it is made of plastic it contains no BPA, lead, or phthalates.

Review: "The boat is much larger than I expected and was greeted with much enthusiasm by our three year old grandson. It is colourful and very robust and will certainly stand up to quite rough play. All in all a great toy with the added huge advantage of it being ethically sourced and made. So it's not cheap but worth the money on all these counts."

Recommended for children aged 3 years and up.

Pros

  • Easy to clean
  • Non toxic
  • Can even go in the dishwasher

Cons

  • Price

Best sustainable toy for sensory

Mother&Baby award wining sustainable toy
TickiT 72257 Sensory Reflective Sound Buttons

Rrp: $34.99

Price: $22.18
Alternative retailers
Walmart$22.18View offer

You may think it is a bit strange to give your child a metal toy. However, steel is one of the world's most sustainable materials and this is a fantastic sensory toy. Toddlers love looking at themselves in the shiny reflections. We love this toy because it is suitable from birth but can be enjoyed by all ages.

This toy won Gold for the Best Baby Toy at the Mother&Baby awards 2023.

**Review: "**These multi sensory discs are brilliant. Babies love the shiny look of these discs, the rattle noise when shook and can view their own reflection on them. They are smooth and are perfectly sized for little hands.
Perfect quality and look great. A perfect addition to our sensory toy collection."

Pros

  • Disks are hollow with no seams or holes
  • Easy to clean
  • Great for sensory development

Cons

  • May not be as engaging for older children

Best sustainable toy for communication

Best sustainable toy for emotional development
TickiT 73494 My Emotions Wooden Tiles set

Rrp: $32.99

Price: $29.15

Toys are a fantastic way for children to express how they are feeling and process situations have that happened. We love these wooden emotion tiles as they convey different emotions and a diverse range of children.

Mother&Baby Review: " These tiles are great as they evoke conversation and allow a child to express how they see emotions. We think this wooden tools are a fantastic talking aid and could help improve children's wellbeing."

Pros

  • Encourages conversation
  • Helps a child identify facial expressions 
  • Comes with a cotton drawstring storage bag
  • Suitable for all ages

Cons

  • No online reviews

Best sustainable toy for lovers of animals

Best sustainable toys for role play
Tender Leaf Toys Stacking Farmyard
Price: $29.99
Alternative retailers
Walmart$29.99View offer
Neiman Marcus$30.00View offer

These stacking and balancing wooden animal toys can great for helping to develop fine motor skills. This toy has been made from sustainably sourced wood as well as non-toxic water stain paints.

Review: "Amazing quality from tender leaf toys. Love the range of products cottage toys source. My little one loves her animals and they are perfect size to take out with us"

Pros

  • Great for hand-eye coordination
  • Help develop fine motor skills
  • Wipe clean

Cons

  • Animals are a little small

Best sustainable toy for motor skill development

Best sustainable toy vehicle
Alternative retailers
Walmart$24.08View offer
Macy's$29.99View offer

This dump truck has been made from recycled plastic milk containers. We love that this toy truck has no metal axles. Kids will love lifting the workable dumper that encourages motor skill development.

Review : "A proper truck! Brightly coloured and sturdy with the added benefit of being sustainably made (recycled plastic milk bottles). Apparently you can even stick it in the dishwasher."

Pros

  • Robust
  • No small bits
  • Two colour options

Cons

  • Hard to get items in and out of the window

Best sustainable toy for bonding

Older children can enjoy bonding with their parents whilst creating these unique animal figure. ThIS model is made from biodegradable card and printed with natural ink. They can be fixed together with non-toxic glue.

Review: "Our little one has made a few different Eugy Models, but I think this one is her favourite, she likes learning the facts on the cards."

Suitable for 6 years +

Pros

  • Creative
  • Made from biodegradable card
  • Easy instructions

Cons

  • Not suitable for all ages

Best sustainable toy for stacking

Best sustainable stacking toy
Koala StackerJanod

This stacking Koala has been created by Janod and WWF. Babies can learn to stack the different sections onto this cute roly-poly koala stacker also helps develop hand-eye coordination.

Review: "It looks great. I love that each layer is a different colour."

Best from 12 months+

Pros

  • Develops hand eye co-ordination
  • Great design
  • Wip clean

Cons

  • Not suitable from birth

Best sustainable toy for storage

Best sustainable packaging
Floss & Rock Space Playbox ToyFloss & Rock

Rrp: $36.95

Price: $30.00

We cannot get enough of this toy because there is no waste. The box is part of the toy, so nothing gets thrown away. This toy has 15 wooden pieces which can be stored in the box and carried with the handle..

Mother&Baby review: " One of our biggest bug bears is throwing away empty boxes once you have opened the toy and then having no where to store all of the parts, which then inevitably means they become lost. This space play box looks fantastic and is of premium quality"

Pros

  • No waste
  • Wooden pieces
  • Easily stored

Cons

  • Not made from sustainable wood

Best sustainable toy for riding

Best sustainable toy for promoting a healthy lifestyle

Kids love scooting around the streets and we love that it's made using discarded fishing nets. The fantastic thing about Micro Scooters is all of the parts are replaceable. So they never need to end up being chucked away. 

Review: "We got this for our two-year-olds birthday. It is pricey for a two-year-old but we know that if he is anything like his big brother, he will certainly get the money's worth out of it! He is loving it, he hasnt quite mastered the tilt steer yet but that will come. It feels like it would be a smooth ride, I wish I could have a go! "

Pros

  • Made from recycled discarded fishing nets
  • Light up LED wheels
  • Easy to ride

Cons

  • Price

Best sustainable soft toy

Beet eco-friendly plush
Living Nature Golden Retriever
Price: $26.99
Alternative retailers
Walmart$33.00View offer

We cannot get enough of this super sweet dog teddy which has been made from recycled bottles. Your little one will love snuggling up to this soft plush.

Review: "This gorgeous Golden Retriever is soft and a very good representation of the real dog! I bought two of these, one for each my grandchildren, they have a real Golden Retriever dog which is 15years old! They are going to love this very lifelike plush dog!!!"

Pros

  • Comes with an educational tag
  • Realistic dog plush
  • Made from two recycled plastic bottles

Cons

  • Small

Best sustainable toy for making

Best sustainable subscription toys

Lovevery Play Kits are made with sustainably harvested wood, organic cotton, nontoxic paint, and baby-safe plastics. Designed by child development experts, The Play Kits help parents make the most of playtime.

The Play Kits by Lovevery are available from ages 0-48 months and deliver at 2-3 month intervals with subscriptions starting at £80.

Mother&Baby writer, Hannah James said: " My children cannot get enough of the Lovevery play kits and I really enjoy playing with them. I love that the toys have been hand selected by experts. Each play kit is of amazing quality and is very well thought out."

Pros

  • Premium toys
  • Selected by experts
  • Tailored to your child's age
  • Sustainable materials

Cons

  • Price

Best sustainable toy for imagination

The Green Toys Pink Dumper Truck Toy is the perfect toy for your little one. Here to save the Earth! Enjoy teaching your little one that trucks are used to haul pebbles, sand, toys and more. And, when little bubba is ready to offload, they will be able to tip the dumper to release, and help boost their imaginative skills,.

Pros

  • Pink dumper truck with workable dumper 
  • Easy to clean and dishwasher safe

Cons

  • Only suitable for 12 months +

Best sustainable for flying

This amazing Green Toys Seaplane is ready to take your child on a fun adventure in the sky or out at sea, where they’ll be able to fall in love with nature. A sustainable and yellow water toy, which comes with a spinning paddle and strong oversized pontoons great for cruising into any seaport.  You can even take this into the bath or pool, as it easily floats, making it entertaining for young captains! 

Review: "The seaplane is very well designed with no small or loose parts, but the attention to detail is fantastic. It is strong and sturdy, it survives been thrown around by a toddler! Made from recycled materials with minimal packaging it is clear that the manufacturer has a great ethos! My son is two and a half and hasn't put this down since it arrived, perfect from age 1 yr on-wards and great value for money. We love it!"

Pros

  • Seaplane water toy with spinning propeller and chunky pontoons
  • Made with recycled plastic, safe, non-toxic

Cons

  • Not many seaplne colours to choose from

Best sustainable toy for cooking

Get ready to have some fun and bake something magical in the kitchen! With this sustainable FSC® certified wood and coloured with non-toxic paints, your little one will be (pretend) cooking a batch of cookies, with their own miniature kids baking set. It features a wooden baking tray, kitchen scales, pastry cutters, a rolling pin, mixing bowl, sliceable butter, an egg, flour, sugar and milk!

Pros

  • Toy baking set
  • 1 wooden baking tray

Cons

  • Only suitable from 18+ months old

Best sustainable toy for counting skills

This clever 10-piece Woodland Counting Puzzle and shape matching game. Comes with four woodland creatures, a fox, bear, rabbit, and badger, separated into creative puzzle pieces for your child to match and find the correct spaces on the board.Learning to spot and identify matching the animals to its right shape, will help boost their hand and communication skills.

Pros

  • Woodland animals wooden puzzle
  • 10 play pieces

Cons

  • Not suitable for newborns

FAQs

What makes a toy sustainable?

We have defined a toy sustainable if it is made of biodegradable natural material like wood, cotton of metal. As well as this, we have also considered toys which utilise packaging so that there is little or no waste. As well as including toys which are actively created in an eco-friendly way.

What are sustainable toys made out of?

Sustainable toys are created from materials that do not have a negative effect on the planet. The most popular materials are :

•Wood - renewable is best
•Cotton
•Metals
•Recycled paper
•Stainless steel
•Bamboo

Why shouldn't kids play with plastic toys?

According to recent studies, 90 per cent of toys are made out of plastic. So realistically, some of your children's toys will be made out of the material and we aren't encouraging you to dash them all. However, a lot of plastic toys do not have the durability that their wooden or steel counterparts do. This means they are more likely to break or lose bits which means they are likely to be chucked in the landfill only a few months after being purchased. Plastic toys can take anywhere between 20 to 500 years to decompose. So basically, that toy that was enjoyed for just a month can harm the planet for centuries.

Hannah Carroll is a Senior Parenting, Lifestyle and Home Product Writer. In her capacity, she curates top-notch listicles, crafts insightful how-to guides, and delivers expert product reviews. As a mother of three, Hannah draws upon her comprehensive understanding of all facets of family life to bring true insight into all the products that make running a home easier.

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