How to choose safer plush toys

While they might be soft, cute and cuddly, have you ever stopped to think about what plush toys are made of? Here is a handy guide to help you choose your tot’s toys wisely.

Why choose safer plush toys for babies and kids?

Most kids have a “lovey”. You know the one that they carry everywhere, the one toy that you will drive all the way back to wherever it was left in order not to risk a disrupted sleep? For many kids, a lovey is just their favorite stuffed animal or plush toy. While these toys might look cute, cuddly and adorable, have you ever wondered what they’re made of, or filled with?

Kids spend a lot of time cuddling and sleeping with these toys so it’s good to get in the habit of investigating what they are made of before purchasing any new toys. Your kids could be being exposed some pretty nasty materials including volatile organic compounds, flame retardants and hormone disrupting chemicals. Studies in the past several years have revealed that many mainstream toys could contain potentially harmful levels of  lead, phthalates, brominated chemical flame-retardants, Bisphenol A (BPA), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and heavy metals like cadmium. Not so cuddly after all?

What to avoid when choosing safer plush toys

  • Flame Retardant Fabrics and Stuffing: It may be difficult to tell but typically, artificial fabrics, fillers and batting can potentially be treated with brominated flame retardants which have been associated with hormone disruption as well as possibly being a human carcinogen.
  • PVC / Vinyl: This is probably the first thing to avoid when choosing baby or kids toys. While PVC may not be as common in plush toys, some products may have pieces or parts made with PVC. For instance a nose or paw pads. There are plenty of suitable replacements that are much less toxic.  PVC contains chlorine, possibly lead and other heavy metals, not to mention hormone disrupting phthalates which are added to make the material soft and pliable.
  • Phthalates: Phthalates are never listed on any packaging. They are disguised as “fragrance” or are added to other materials like vinyl. They  are also used to soften fabrics. While the human health effects of phthalates are not yet fully known, according to many independent studies, they have potential estrogenic properties and were deemed in a report by the National Toxicology Program, as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”. So remember that plush toys with a strong artificial scent may be hiding Phthalates.

What to look for when choosing safer plush toys

  • Natural Fabrics: Instead of choosing synthetics, fabrics like organic cotton, wool, bamboo, and hemp are safer and more sustainable choices.
  • Natural dyes and colors: Search out brands that use natural and non-toxic plant-based dyes and pigments in their products. There are also many water-based and earth-based fabric dyes that are a much better choice than petroleum-based inks. They are better for the environment and for baby.
  • Sustainably and Ethically-made: It’s important that you seek out toys that are made using people and earth-friendly practices. You and your little one will sleep better at night knowing that the toys you buy are not contributing to unsafe work practices, indentured labor or pollution. Remember that most stuffed toys are made using polyester which doesn’t biodegrade, and is made using unsustainable earth polluting oils.
  • Upcycled Materials: There is a growing trend in using repurposed fabrics like cashmere and wool instead of making completely new fabric.  This wonderful practice not only helps the planet but also makes charming toys such as the delightful Tiny Little Dream dolls. (Shop plush dolls here.)

Top 6 Plush Toy Picks

  1. Tiny Little Dream Travel Girl Doll: She’s not just adorable, but she’s also made with eco-friendly fabrics and upcycled cashmere for her hair instead of the usual synthetic fibers. There are three different girl styles to choose from and they are all lovely!
  2. Under The Nile Plush Giraffe: This adorable plush giraffe from Under the Nile is created with 100% handpicked organic Egyptian cotton. Created at a fair trade farm in Egypt, no chemicals or pesticides are used throughout the entire cultivation and production process.
  3. Zubels Flynn the Fox: Hand knitted using 100% cotton and made with eco-friendly dyes, this plush fox is sure to become your tot’s favorite!
  4. Elks & Angels Cuddle Bear: What child doesn’t have a good old fashioned teddy bear? Now they can have one that is naturally breathable, never smells, free of flame retardants, resistant to static electricity, anti-bacterial, hypoallergenic, and resists dirt.  And it’s made entirely from natural sheepskin! Amazing.
  5. Franck & Fischer ABC Knit Cubes: Large, soft letters and numbers adorn these knit blocks which are perfect for baby to hold and start to develop motor skills with. Made from 100% certified organic cotton and dyed without using nasty chemicals!