While the greenest or most eco-friendly gifts of all are the gifts that don’t involve manufactured items wrapped in manufactured wrapping paper and decorated with manufactured bows, many of us will still be purchasing gifts for our children this holiday season. Sure we might make them some things from recycled items (that’s great!) and we will make sure to spend lots of good family time with them (the best gift they will ever receive!), but we will probably still go buy them toys for their stocking and wrap up at least a few gifts to put under the tree. So, if you are going to be out purchasing gifts for your own children, or for other special children in your life, consider buying gifts that are a little bit more eco-friendly than many of the traditional plastic toys you see gifted as Christmas time. I realize that everyone’s idea of what eco-friendly means is a little different, but below you will find a list of gifts for babies, toddlers, and children that I find to be on the eco-friendly spectrum. Please feel free to post your ideas for eco-friendly gifts in the comments below, it is always great to have new gift ideas.
1. Panda Teether by Hevea (current Amazon price $12.79)
My notes: I like that these teethers are made of natural rubber with no additional paints or dyes. I probably would have bought S. one if I knew about them earlier, but I didn’t find this brand until I was looking for some good bath toys for her (you can read about her bath toys in this post).
2. Chan Pie Gnon Natural Rubber Teether (Blue Chan) by Vulli (list price $16.50, current Amazon price $14.85)
My notes: this little guy is from the company that invented Sophie the Giraffe, the natural rubber teether that almost every baby has. S. actually liked this one better when she was little. It is a softer rubber, has a wobbly mushroom head that has a nipple shaped top, is easy to make squeak, and in general just fun for little hands. As a warning, if your baby spits up in the hole the squeak noise might not work quite so well. If your husband then tries to clean the spit up out with an air compressor you will never hear the squeak again and your toddler might declare the toy “broken”.
3. Picnic Pal Organic Soft Block Set by Apple Park (list price $30.00, current Amazon price $23.20)
4. Swaddle Blanket Set by Under the Nile (list price $32.00, current Amazon price $25.20)
My notes: these were my favorite swaddle blankets when S. was a newborn. They are made from soft organic cotton and are just the right weight and size as well as slightly stretchy. I still often cover S. with one during naps and it is one of the two blankets she sometimes likes to have next to her when she falls asleep.
5. Swim Lessons or Other Activity
After the first month or two there is nothing better than a good excuse to get you and your little one out of the house. Why not give them the gift of swim lessons or another mommy and baby (or daddy and baby) activity? We started swimming lessons with S. when she was 2 months old (you can read about it in this post). If swimming isn’t your thing then perhaps a mommy and me yoga class or stroller exercise class? In most decent size cities there are quite a few mommy and me activities available.
1. Toddler Zoom by Camden Rose ($6.99, but doesn’t currently qualify for free shipping on Amazon)
My notes: recommended age is 18+ months so use your best judgment when giving it to a crawler or young toddler.
2. Pilot Cap in Organic Cotton by Hanna Andersson ($10.00 to $14.00 depending on hat selected)
My notes: S. received some of these little organic hats from her cousins in Maine and I have to say they are the best hats for keeping little heads warm once little hands start pulling at things. They fit snug and stay on! For cold days you can put a regular winter hat over them for added warmth.
3. Scrappy Cat or Scrappy Dog by Under the Nile (list price $14.00, current Amazon price $11.65)
4. Wonder Walker by Hape (list price $99.99, current Amazon price $64.57)
My notes: Hape claims that their products are eco-friendly, made from sustainable materials, and meet the strictest international standards for quality and safety. Hape products are however made in China which I know might disqualify them from some people’s “eco-friendly” list. S. received this walker for Christmas last year and for us it is a very durable product that I am sure could easily last through many different toddlers. To me, that helps bump it into the “eco-friendly” category.
5. Zoo membership (cost varies, but look for coupons on daily deal websites)
My notes: To me, the greenest thing you can do is not buy a physical item for your child, but instead buy an experience. I am not the biggest fan of zoos just for the simple fact that they keep animals in cages, but there are good zoos out there that treat their animals well. Luckily for S. Austin has a small zoo/animal sanctuary that takes in exotic animals that have often been kept as pets or in other similar circumstances and need a good home. If there aren’t any zoos you can easily go to you could look at other wildlife sanctuaries or farms where you can visit the animals. At this age I think most kids really like to see live animals.
1. Natural Non-toxic Crayons by Clear Hills Honey Company ($9.95)
My notes: since things still go in S.’s mouth both purposefully and inadvertently, I really would like to have some safe art supplies. I purchased some other expensive crayons for her that are little squares and they are kind of a letdown because she can’t figure out how to hold them up on their side so that they will actually draw. I haven’t purchased these crayons for her yet, but they are on my wish list.
2. Wooden Toy Camera by Keepsake Toys on Etsy ($28.00)
My notes: according to the seller this little wooden camera is handmade and finished with a homemade mix of beeswax and certified organic food-grade oil.
3. 6 Piece Magnetic Wooden Block Set by Tegu (list price $30.00, current Amazon price $32.99, but check other color options for different prices)
My notes: I have been intrigued with these little blocks since I first saw them in a store a few years ago. They come in a variety of colors and shapes as well as sets with different quantities of blocks in them. I always thought they were a little too expensive for blocks, but I recently read about the company and I think that they are pretty clever blocks from a company that is worth supporting.
4. My Very First Games – My First Orchard by Haba (list price $29.49, current Amazon price $28.03)
My notes: I love board games and can’t wait until I can play them with S. This game has great Amazon reviews and says it is for ages 2 and up, so maybe if I get this game we can start playing sooner than I thought! Too bad all of her Christmas shopping is pretty much done.
5. Music, Dance, or gym “lessons” (price varies)
My notes: your toddler is most likely going to get a lot of gifts from relatives as well, so why not give them something that doesn’t sit in the toy box and will provide them with weeks, months, or even a year of fun. There are so many different activities out there that involve music, dance, and movement for little ones. I know S. loves to bop to music or run around and climb on things so I think this would already be a great gift for her. We go to a free music show every week, but I would like to enroll her in a little weekly gym class as well, or maybe a mommy and me yoga class that we would both enjoy.
1. Mushroom Kaleidoscope by Plan Toys (list price $5.00, current Amazon price $8.78)
My notes: made from rubber wood. Plan toys manufactures their toys in Thailand from materials they claim are all environmentally friendly.
2. Waldorf Selection Unlacquered Triangular Giant Colored Pencils, set of 6 by LYRA (list price $12.05, current Amazon price $11.32)
3. Wooden Fruit Set in Shopping Bag or Wooden Vegetable Set in Shopping Bag by HABA (list price $25.99, current Amazon price $46.60, but recently they were selling for around $23.00 so I would expect it to change again soon)
My notes: manufactured in Germany from beech wood with a non toxic water based stain. There are quite a few companies that manufacture the wood fruit and vegetable products. Melissa and Doug is probably the one you see the most; however, I find their quality to be inconsistent and they are manufactured in China. Hape also makes the wood food play sets and while I haven’t purchased any of their wood food, I have been pleased with the quality of their products; however, they are also manufacture in China. Plan Toys makes similar products as well and they manufacture their toys in Thailand from materials they claim are all environmentally friendly. I have read good things about Plan Toys, but don’t have any personal experience with their products. HABA manufactures their wood toys in Germany and generally has good reviews when it comes to wood toys, for those reasons I chose to include HABA play foods on my list instead of similar products from other companies.
4. Monthly Subscription Craft Box by Green Kid Crafts ($19.95 a month)
My notes: if you sign up for multi-month plans you can get a slightly lower rate. I have also seen deals for this company on various daily deal websites so keep your eye open if you are interested in this program.
5. Children’s museum membership (price varies)
My notes: we have a relatively new children’s museum in Austin that S. loves to go to. If you have one in your area this can be a great gift for a young child that doesn’t involve buying more stuff. If you don’t have a good children’s museum or other child-friendly museum close by, how about the gift of a trip to one?
1. Potato Clock by 4M (list price $11.99, current Amazon price $9.25)
My notes: keep batteries out of the landfill by setting up this little clock. For an added bonus grow your own potatoes! If you aren’t into potatoes, you can also find clocks that are powered by water.
2. Handmade Paper Bookmaking Kit by Artterro (list price $22.00, current Amazon price $20.71)
My notes: paper used is 100% post consumer waste. Artterro also has quite a few other craft kits if bookmaking doesn’t appeal to you.
3. Earthopoly by Late for the Sky (list price $29.99, current Amazon price $16.97)
My notes: an environmental twist on the traditional game of Monopoly. Players are the caretakers of places around the planet and increase their property value by collecting Carbon Credits and trading them in for Clean Air. They have also made an effort to make the actual game materials more environmentally friendly.
4. Light Duffle by RAREFORM ($39.95)
My notes: made in California from upcycled billboards. Water resistant and durable, this could be the perfect bag to take to sports practice and games. They also have backpacks; however they cost $49.95 or $64.95 depending on the style you choose.
5. Adopt a Whale, Dolphin, or Turtle by Pacific Whale Foundation ($25, $75, or $97 depending on options you choose)
My notes: there are many different programs that you can adopt a whale or sea animal through. If you live on the ocean it might be worth looking for a local organization; however I like that the Pacific Whale Foundation is a non-profit organization with a mission to protect our oceans through science and advocacy. I also like that many of their adoption programs include maps of sightings of the animal that you adopted. I still remember that the humpback whale my parents adopted for us when I was a kid was named Salt and we would get updates about when and where she was spotted.
Please note that I do not have personal experience with all of these products so please use your best judgment when determining if a gift is appropriate for a specific child based on their age and skill levels. Also, I think it is great if you can find these or other eco-friendly products from local retailers; I link to Amazon because it is the easiest way to provide additional information about many of the products. Prices change on Amazon all the time, so my “current Amazon” price may be different from the price you see when you click on the link, many times I find that Amazon prices are competitive with other retailers, but not always so it can pay to shop around. Happy Holidays and thank you for at least thinking about making some eco-friendly gift giving choices this year.