Kids are surrounded by plastic. At every special occasion they seem to be inundated with toys and trinkets that once home, are inevitably discarded in a toy box, drawer or worse, the bin. Although often provided by well-meaning parents on Birthdays, Halloween and Christmas, these seemingly inoffensive toys have a short life span and are hazardous for the environment, impacting the very world our children are set to inherit.
Most toys are made from hard plastic and a mixture of different materials, meaning they are considered non-recyclable waste that ends up incinerated or in landfill. While some can be handed down to other children or charitable organisations, the majority simply get thrown out in the garbage. It’s estimated that up to 80 per cent of toys end up in landfill and once there, they can take up to 1000 years to biodegrade. When you consider that in 2021, the world toy market was worth $104 billion, that’s a staggering amount of toys destined for the dump.
The good news is, as Christmas approaches and children hand over their never ending wish lists for Santa, that there are many ways to continue buying toys for your kids that don’t involve the P word.
Start by making thoughtful decisions about what and how much to buy. Choose premium toys that are made to last longer and can be handed down generations. Ensure you choose durable, natural and biodegradable materials, and don’t forget to check thrift stores and online exchanges for nearly new bargains! Children often outgrow and get bored of a toy quickly (six months is the average interest time apparently) so it’s always worth scouring social media for toys in excellent condition.
Another great tip to extend their shelf life is to rotate your child’s toys every few weeks – hiding those that are no longer in use. This increases the toy’s novelty factor and the overall number of them you then need to buy.
So, with these thoughtful tips in mind, the following sustainable toys are sure to have you kids falling in love with them as much as the materials they are made from, love the planet. Natural, durable and premium these toys are certainly not just for Christmas…
Kinderfeets’ Push & Pull Swan
Handmade with durable bamboo and rubber-rimmed wheels to prevent any scratches, this stunning swan push and pull toy makes a soft jingle sound when played with to stimulate engagement.
All Kinderfeet’s toys are handmade using sustainable materials, non-toxic finishings and non-formaldehyde glue to protect both children and the environment.
My First Book of Reduce, Reuse & Recyle
This is the third title in the popular Terra Babies at Home board book series that helps early readers connect with the natural world. My First Book of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle is a beautiful introduction to the simple steps we can all take to help the environment. The book is made with FSC materials and nontoxic inks, and it is 100 per cent recyclable.
Simple text pairs with charming art by Asa Gilland in a book where little ones learn how to reduce water and energy use, how to reuse plastic containers and paper, and how to recycle.
Kalusha, Wooden Pink Bus
This charming little wooden bus in pink is sure to take your little explorer’s imagination on trips to far off lands.
Made from sustainably harvested birch wood, painted with natural milk paint, and polished with raw linseed oil this bus will provide your child with a safe toy that will stand the test of time. Just as beautiful on a nursery shelf this handmade toy made from 100 per cent natural, biodegradable materials, truly will be loved by your kids and the planet.
Little Dutch Beauty Case
This cute pretend play beauty case is perfect for some dress up fun. The pretty floral carry case comes complete with everything your little fashionista needs to be all grown up. From wooden play perfume to lipstick, nail polish, face powder, eye shadow, mascara and a nail file she’ll look picture perfect with none of the mess of real make-up.
Little Dutch use sustainable wood for all their wooden toys and water based paints which are better for the environment. The carry case bag in this set is made from 10 recycled bottles.
AED145, £32.99 ScandiBorn.co.uk
Maison Tini, Reya Doll’s Cot
Because your doll surely deserves to sleep in sustainable style! This beautiful hand crafted doll bassinet is a fun and ethical addition to your child’s play area. Role playing real life routines are a great way to learn and even better when the imaginative toy has eco credentials. This boho bassinet is handmade with 100 per cent natural rattan so no two pieces are identical.
AED 389 MaisonTini.com
The Barbie Inspiring Women Series, Dr. Jane Goodall
The Barbie Inspiring Women Series pays tribute to courageous women of their time who paved the way for generations of girls to dream big. Recognizing decades of dedication, ground-breaking research and heroic achievements as a conservationist, Barbie® honors Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace, with a collectible doll made from 75 per cent recycled materials.
She is joined by chimpanzee David Greybeard and comes equipped with a pair of binoculars and a notebook.
Available in the UAE from AED130 on Ebay.com
Natura Pura Play Dough, Natura Tribe
Natura Pura Play Dough is a selection of 4 handmade and 100 per cent natural play doughs that are free from preservatives, artificial colouring, and fragrances. The ingredients list reads like a summer’s garden with flower petals, raw plants, dried vegetables, and spices used to create this super soft, squishy, and long-lasting play dough.
Each play dough is packed in a reusable 320g glass jar. Due to the natural colourings used, shades may vary slightly.
Recommended for ages 3+.
AED340 (Large) NaturaTribe.com
Meli Essentials Doll & Kitten
These superb dolls are handmade by Meli, a Turkish expat living in the UAE who after losing her job during the Covid pandemic, decided to take up crochet. The results are a beautiful and limited edition collection of handmade dolls in many shapes and sizes.
From ballerinas, to fashionistas, beach goers to fairies, the choice of 100 per cent organic dolls is endless. There are even two converse rocking twins for those with similar siblings.
Prices vary and are upon request.
Beach Time Doll AED180 MeliEssenitialsDXB
Imperfectly Perfect Rattan Bamboo Hula Hoop
This wooden hula hoop is a glorious plastic free alternative to the 1950’s favourite. Ethically handmade of rattan wood in Indonesia, these simple beauties are sure to impress any little hula hooper. Hula hoops strengthen muscles, and improve coordination for kids of all abilities and age. Great for outdoor play!
As this hoop is made by hand using natural materials only, no two hula hoops are identical. They may feature slight wood stains and imperfections.
Perfect for children aged 2 to 6, this beautiful Banwood trike made from steel, oakwood and soft vegan leather is the ultimate Christmas gift for boys and girls. Inspired by minimalistic Scandinavian design and including a wicker basket for bringing favourite toys in tow, it comes with a removable push bar that can be attached to the back of the trike to help the little one get started safely. Comes in a variety of colours.
Fathers Factory Wooden Camera
This high-quality wooden toy camera is perfect for little budding photographers. With a kaleidoscopic lens, magnetic flahlight and a clickable button it will provide hours of imaginative fun.
This 35mm toy, made of sustainable walnut and beechwood, can double up as cute bedroom decor, and fits a Wooden Tri-pod that is sold separately. It is naturally safe, non-toxic, no lead, no paint, and only natural wax-based colour.
Mumba – Upcycled Children’s Elephant Toy
Delight little ones with some elephant magic and help to support a wonderful social enterprise providing Afghan women refugees in India with a sustainable income.
Beshlie has partnered with Silaiwali, a social enterprise based in New Dehi that up-cycles waste fabric generated from the fashion industry to create handcrafted toys and dolls like this beautiful Mumba elephant toy.
£49 (AED300) BeshlieMcelvie.com
Maison Tini, Camper Van Toy
This gorgeous classic camper van with its nod to the original 1947 VW version will likely be as popular with dads as it is your little one. With its wheels which roll perfectly on the floor, it is a fantastic toy for hand and eye coordination. Handmade using grade A rattan with a beautiful natural finish, it is perfect for play and as a display piece too.
AED 270 MaisonTini.com
The popular Cubebot is an action toy and puzzle all rolled into one. Made to hold dozens of poses, this robot folds back into a perfect cube when playtime is over.
Made from sustainable beechwood, this classic interactive eco toy is made to last for generations. Recommended for ages 3 years old and up it is available in a variety of colours
Polar B Modern City Blocks
This Modern City set of wooden blocks shaped as buildings, cars and other elements is sure to get your little ones excited to create their own busy city.
Spark their imagination with this FSC certified non toxic set that includes a floor puzzle for a city background and 56 blocks including cars, trees, road signs, traffic lights, and buildings.
Fanny & Alexander Wooden Tool Set
Gift your little one the tools to let his imagination run wild. With his own saw, wrench, hammer and set square, he’ll be equipped to take on a host of adventures.
Wonderfully detailed in contrasting sustainable teak and rubber wood, this set of four toy tools encourages manual dexterity and creative thought.
Sea Turtle Legend Plushie
Meet Sam the Sea Turtle plushie who is on a mission to help save injured sea turtles and remove plastic ghost nets from our ocean. Super soft Sam is 10 inches long, and made of spandex and recycled polyester. Give the gift of helping to rescue real sea turtles with this collaboration between Follow Your Legend and the Olive Ridley Project.
The soft toys are also come in an orange elephant and a black and white panda to help save those endangered animals too!
The 16 Magicube magnetic cubes that connect on all sides are a great introduction to STEM activities for your little ones. The 4 different coloured cubes are made of 100 per cent recycled plastic in Switzerland, and follow stringent international safety standards. Award winning Geomag collections help kids of all ages develop imagination and curiosity through the science of magnetic construction toys.
Nobodinoz Wooden Mini Croquet Set
Whether indoors or outdoors, in a team or on your own, croquet is an entertaining game to play anytime, anywhere. From the size of the mallets to the colour of the balls, everything is designed to be child friendly. Made in France, by artisans from the Jura region using traditional techniques and skills, this eco friendly toy is handmade from hornbeam and beech wood.
Better be quick though as only a limited number are made to ensure no mass production.
One for the whole family
Why not help save the world’s last two remaining northern white rhinos by supporting the Ol Pejeta Rhino Sanctuary in Kenya? This 1000 Piece Jigsaw featuring one of the two rhinos, Fatu, is the perfect gift for boxing day family fun. Made from 100 per cent recycled cardboard, it is printed in the UK in a renewable energy-powered factory using eco friendly inks.
Ol Pejeta is the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa, and home to the world’s last two remaining northern white rhinos. It has some of the highest predator densities in Kenya, and still manages a very successful livestock programme. Ol Pejeta also seeks to support the people living around its borders, to ensure wildlife conservation translates to better education, healthcare and infrastructure for the next generation of wildlife guardians.
Don’t forget, when you have bought toys – which is inevitable given the love you hold for your child and the love they hold for new toys – remember to pass them down to someone else when they have outgrown or simply out loved them!