How to avoid toxic toys

Toys are wonderful for encouraging development, creativity and imagination. But before choosing toys for your tot, it’s important to know what they’re made from. Here’s a useful guide that outlines which materials to avoid and the best toys by age group.


What to look out for when choosing toys

Toys are an absolute necessity for growing babies and kids.  Playtime fosters creativity, fine motor skills, language development, and challenges their brains and cognitive growth. Textures, colors and sounds actually stimulate the brain and encourage healthy child development.  It’s often that when confronted by a wall of toys when shopping, that our eyes grow wide with disbelief at the over-the-top selection.  It’s important to be aware that many toys are manufactured using unsavory materials that can produce chemical off-gassing of volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, lead and hormone disrupting chemicals.

As kids get older it becomes more difficult to regulate what they play with, however in their most delicate developmental stages of infancy and toddlerhood, we can choose toys and products that will help instead of harm.

  • PVC and Vinyl: PVC is often used due to its pliable nature.  The addition of phthalates gives PVC that softness that lends itself well to baby doll heads and squeaky bath toys.  Phthalates mimic the human hormone estrogen and can pose a problem for developing children. Unfortunately, PVC can also host lead and can sometimes harbor mold if not allowed to dry properly.
  • Paints and varnishes: Toys are notorious for being recalled for lead and heavy metal content.  Lead is found in cheap jewelry and toys found at discount stores and many times found in paint and varnishes that make these fun things so colorful and sparkly.  Lead is a serious concern and while there may not be enough of it to poison your child in a specific toy, the compounded effect of extended exposure to lead could spell trouble.
  • Lead & Heavy Metals: Unfortunately you won’t know if a toy contains lead until it gets recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and even then you may not get notified unless you keep up with it.  A good rule is to avoid cheap toys from dollar stores, costume jewelry or toys that have a strong chemical smell to them.  You’ll know it when you smell it.

Toys that are safer for kids

Lucky for us there are a multitude of toy makers that are conscious of these dangers and produce imaginative and fun toys for kids of all ages that are safe and sustainable.  Here are some things to look for when choosing toys:

  • Natural and sustainable materials: Toys that are made with safer materials are easier to find that you might think. Keep your eyes out for items that pride themselves for the use of sustainable wood, are recyclable or use recycled plastics, and organic cotton.  There are tons of companies inventing new ways to make creative and fun toys for kids without manufacturing future landfill junk or risking lead or heavy metal exposure.
  • Water based varnishes and paints: When in doubt ask! Paints should be free of VOCs and be water or plant-based to provide color and vibrancy. Many toys also have varnishes or glues to hold them together and formaldehyde can be a risk factor. Formaldehyde-free glue and varnishes do exist and are in use by many conscious toy companies.
  • Age Appropriateness: Safety is always a factor regardless of how mindfully a toy is made. Be sure to check and adhere to the age recommendation on all toys.  Small parts can be choking or strangulation hazards and can come loose from toys or stuffed animals. If you’re not sure about the safety of a toy check out the company website and contact them to ask questions.

Our guide to non-toxic toys

Babies 0 – 6 Months

  1. Caaocho Latex Lamb Teether: Aside from being cute, this teether is totally non-toxic and Certified BPA, PVC, Phthalate and Nitrosamine-free, as well as being painted with food-grade paints.
  2. Cheengoo Crocheted Rattles: Baby can see, hear and chew on these without worry because they’re made using organic cotton and colored with natural dyes.
  3. Finn & Emma Wood UFO RattleThis fairtrade hardwood rattle is made from Indian hardwood, finished with natural vegetable seed wax, and stuffed with beans. It’s safe for baby to bite and shake!

Babies 6 – 12 Months

  1. Caaocho Bath SeahorseCertified BPA, PVC, Phthalate and Nitrosamine-free and painted with food-grade paints, so bath time for your little one is much safer. These bath animals are also sealed tight so there is no chance of mold or bacteria growth on the inside.
  2. Zubels Kai the Playful TigerMade using certified organic cotton and cute as a button to keep your little one company without worry.
  3. Franck & Fischer Hasse Sensory ToyAttach this cute toy to a play area or stroller and you’ve got instant safe stimulation and entertainment. It’s thoughtfully made using natural materials such as rubber wood, cotton and non-toxic dyes.

12 – 18 Months

  1. Green Toys Dump TruckI have always loved these sturdy fun toys by Green Toys where all their products are made of 100% recycled milk jugs. Safe plastic, and recyclable!
  2. Plan ToysPlan Toys take special care with their products. They use sustainable wood, safe glues and non-toxic plant-based paints, pigments and water-based dyes.
  3. Haba Animal Pegging GameHaba only build their toys with solvent-free paints and water-based dyes, sustainable wood and safe plastics. Their colorful toys are highly entertaining and stimulating for little ones!

18 – 24  Months

  1. Plan Toys Water Landing Net: This set includes a landing net, a fish, a turtle, a starfish and 2 different cups. Kids will enjoy experimenting different flows of water with these 3 cups. Some are pierced and kids can enjoy dumping, filling, reversing, the possibilities are endless.
  2. Plan Toys Twist & Shape Puzzle: Made from eco-friendly wood, this set includes 4 different blocks which can be twisted to new shapes and match the shapes on the base.
  3. Green Toys Watering CanNow that your little one is mobile they can help you in the garden! Letting kids help is the best way to learn about teamwork. And what better way to do it than with a 100% recycled toy made of milk jugs! Done with it? Pass it along to someone else or recycle it!