For the kids on your list this year, young and old, from bikes and scooters to toddler mats, toys, and more, these are the best sustainable gift ideas for kids.
As a parent, making peace with the piles of cheap, plastic toys is a must, lest you lose (the rest of) your sanity. It seems even with the best of intentions, it’s impossible to avoid the junk that accumulates, especially come holiday time. Fortunately, there are some terrific options that are sustainable, natural, and supporting some pretty worthy causes. Plus: kids love them.
These sustainable gifts for kids prove that the industry has come a long way. There are scooters and bikes, and even Barbie is getting in on the eco-action.
What makes a toy sustainable?
In today’s gift market, brands are likely to toot their own horns when it comes to sustainability. If they’re using certified sustainable materials, or Fair Trade practices, this is likely to be noted on product descriptions. Look for the certifications such as FSC-certified wood, certified organic cotton, or Greenguard certified materials. Some brands go the extra mile with eco shipping materials and eco practices in offices, warehouses, and factories.
Some brands are sustainable through and through in everything they do. It’s great to support these efforts that are setting examples for the rest of the industry. For other brands, like toy giant Mattel, it can be harder to flip on the green switch overnight. But they are taking small but meaningful steps toward sustainability goals, like through Mattel’s PlayBack program that recycles old toys into new ones, and a new, eco-minded Barbie, who’s on the list below.
Best Sustainable Gifts for Kids
1. Lovevery Play Gym
Perfect for the wee ones or expecting families on your list, the Lovevery organic play gym pairs nontoxic materials with researcher-created activities for developing brains. The play gym has won a Parents’ Choice award for its range of activities from batting and to teething to focus. Made with safe, organic cotton, and silicone instead of plastic, tummy time gets a sustainable upgrade.
2. Minted Whale Art
For the kid who loves animals, gift this gorgeous whale art picture. A Design Challenge Winner, Minneapolis-based Mia Posada says she’s always taken inspiration from nature, especially animals.
“I love to use simple and elegant shapes to capture their unique, wonderful qualities. In this piece, I use hand-painted paper collage to create the positive and negative shapes of a big happy whale,” she says.
Minted is helping independent artists and artisans that don’t have access to traditional retail channels. It provides them exposure and opportunity, and pairs consumers with some of the best, most unique works out there. This commitment extends to the natural world, serving as an example of excellence with 100 percent of its stationary packaging recyclable or compostable by the end of this year, and more than 80 percent coming from post-consumer waste, plants, or sustainably sourced materials. It has also developed a resource guide for small businesses to help them navigate the world of sustainability initiatives.
3. Veggie Baby Finger Paint
Make more art in the new year with these eco-friendly finger paints in vibrant natural colors. Kids love finger painting and parents will love that these are non-toxic and free of common allergens. These eco finger paints are made from natural, organic vegetables making them fun, easy to use, and even edible.
4. Tegu 42-Piece Magnetic Toy Set
Start building a better world with this gorgeous magnetic builder set from Tegu. Made from FSC-certified Honduran hardwood, and safe water-based lacquers, this set is one you’ll want to keep for the grandkids. With gorgeous colors and a range of sizes, the builders on your list will have hours of fun with this set.
5. The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life With the Chimps, by Jeanette Winter (2011)
It’s hard to condense Jane Goodall’s work with chimpanzees and her environmental efforts over the last half-century, but her efforts are gorgeously and insightfully detailed in this kids book by Jeanette Winter. Great for young readers and animal lovers on the quest for a new and worthy hero. The Watcher was named a Best Book of the Year by the Boston Globe, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and the Bank Street College of Education.
6. Recycled Plastic Barbie
Mattel is bringing a little green to everyone’s favorite blonde—Barbie Loves The Ocean Beach-Themed Doll is made from recycled plastic, and ready to clean up those littered Malibu beaches. She’s dressed in recycled plastic, too, right down the sunglasses. And the box is made from FSC-certified recyclable packaging.
7. Micro Recycled Plastic Scooter
The first name in kids’ scooters, Micro wants to help you scoot your way to a more sustainable world with its eco collection. Made from recycled ocean plastic salvaged from the maritime industry, this scooter requires no assembly. Holds up to 110 pounds for the bigger kids on your list, too.
8. Banwood Bikes
These gorgeous handmade bikes from Banwood marry Scandinavian design and mid-century charm. Durable, sturdy, and the highest quality, these cute balance and pedaled bikes feature vegan leather saddles, steel and aluminum frames, and detachable rattan wicker baskets—perfect for collecting rocks and pine cones and whatever else two-wheeled adventures bring!
9. Cuddle + Kind Fair Trade Dolls
Hand-knit Fair Trade stuffies with a world-changing give-back program make these the perfect gifts. With the purchase of each doll, Cuddle + Kind donates ten meals. The dolls are ethically produced in Nepal and Peru from premium cotton. Workers are paid living wages, supporting more than 1,000 artisans. And, here’s a fact: everyone on your list needs a koala.
10. Magneto Bamboo Skateboards
Made by skaters for skaters, the Magneto boards are designed to get kids outside. Made with natural materials including renewable bamboo and long-lasting aluminum for a strong, durable board and a smooth ride, this board is sure to stoke veteran skaters and newbies alike.
11. Pottery Barn Anywhere Chairs
Personalize these chairs with slipcovers in a variety of machine washable styles and fabrics. Greenguard gold certified, these chairs and covers are made from durable materials like cotton, and screened to be free from more than 10,000 chemicals and VOCs. And who doesn’t need a faux fur Labradoodle chair? Put this on everyone’s list.