Hey there, fellow parent (or soon-to-be parent)!
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably spent countless hours scouring the internet and reading labels, all in the name of giving your precious little one the safest non-toxic environment possible.
In the world of childhood wonder and exploration, toys play a pivotal role in shaping a child’s development. While we often focus on the fun and educational aspects of toys, it’s crucial to remember that not all toys are created equal when it comes to safety. Many conventional toys are manufactured using materials that may contain harmful chemicals, posing potential risks to the health of our little ones.
In this article, we will delve into the materials and chemicals to avoid (or try to avoid!) in toys, explore the safest alternatives, and recommend the best of the best non-toxic toy brands that prioritize the health and well-being of our children—while still providing quality play that will be fun for your child and help with their development.
Remember: some toys you buy (or get as gifts) may not fall into the “non-toxic” category, and that’s okay! We can’t do everything “perfectly.” Kids are kids, and it’s fun to watch them select a toy of their choice from the toy section of a store, right?
Just try to do the best when you can and keep in mind that choosing non-toxic baby toys is most important when they are in the “anything and everything goes in their mouth” phase.
Okay, now let’s embark on a journey through the world of non-toxic toys together. I’ll share the hard-earned wisdom I’ve gained from doing hours of research for my own child, in hopes of saving you some valuable time and energy… So you can spend it with your kids(s) instead!
P.S. I’m not just sharing safe toys in this piece; I’ve also got recommendations for non-toxic art supplies, children’s books, dolls, and more!
Table of Contents
- Why Little Ones Are More Vulnerable to Toxic Chemicals
- Toxic Toys: What to Watch Out For
- Non-Toxic Toy Materials: A Healthier Playtime
- Other Factors You May Want to Watch Out for As You Shop for Green Toys
- 10 Best of the Best Safe & Non-Toxic Toy Brands for Babies, Toddlers, and Kids of All Ages
- 1. PlanToys
- 2. Green Toys
- 3. HABA
- 4. Grimm’s Spiel & Holz Design
- 5. Under the Nile
- 6. Hape
- 7. Tegu
- 8. Sarah’s Silks
- 9. Dëna
- 10. LEGO
- Best Non-Toxic Toy Subscriptions
- Best Non-Toxic Books for Children
- Best Non-Toxic Arts & Crafts for Kids
- Best Non-Toxic Travel Toys for Your Next Road Trip
- Best Non-Toxic Stuffed Animals
- Best Non-Toxic Dolls
- Best Non-Toxic Bath Toys
- Best Non-Toxic Dress Up Clothes and Accessories
- Best Non-Toxic Play Furniture and Equipment
This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase.
Featured Image: PlanToys
Why Little Ones Are More Vulnerable to Toxic Chemicals
Having a child is one of the most common ‘life-changing circumstances’ that motivates folks to start paying more attention to the ingredients in their products and switch to safer alternatives.
This is in part because of the fact that babies and kids are more vulnerable to the potential effects of chemical exposure compared to adults. There are a few reasons for this:
- Pound for pound, they eat more food, drink more water, and breathe more air than adults do. So in proportion to their body weight, they ingest more of the toxic chemicals that come with the food, water, and air they absorb.
- They are still developing. So small changes in hormones (from endocrine disruptors, for example) can have huge impacts down the road because of a sort of ‘hormonal butterfly effect.’
- They crawl around on the floor more (where they pick up toxicants of various kinds) and have more hand-to-mouth contact (which means whatever toxic chemicals they do pick up, they basically end up eating).
Toxic Toys: What to Watch Out For
Before we dive into it, let’s talk about what we’re trying to avoid.
1. PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): Or, as I like to call it, “the toy material with an attitude.” PVC is one of the most toxic kinds of plastic. It is commonly used in toys, but it often contains harmful additives like phthalates and lead. These unwelcome guests can mess with our kids’ hormones and brains. Not cool! Try to avoid toys made out of PVC if you can.
2. BPA (Bisphenol A): This one is a notorious troublemaker, usually found in plastic toys made from polycarbonate plastic. BPA is linked to hormone disruption and is especially concerning for infants and young children.
3. Formaldehyde: It’s not just for science class! Formaldehyde is used in some toys as adhesives and finishes. It is a known carcinogen and can emit harmful fumes.
4. Flame Retardants: Flame retardants might sound like superheroes, but they’re not. These chemicals can be overused and harmful when ingested or inhaled, affecting our little superhero’s endocrine system and brain development.
5. Lead: Remember those vintage painted toys? They sometimes can contain lead, which may be the villain of the century for child development. Lead can also be added to plastic toys to make them more pliable. Even small amounts can lead to cognitive and behavioral problems; the CDC has said that there is no safe limit.
Lead has not been completely banned in children’s products, but the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) put a limit on the amount of lead that is allowed. That limit has been lowered a few times over the years; as of August 2011, the limit is 100pm.
6. Heavy Metals: In addition to lead, other heavy metals like cadmium, arsenic, and others can find their way into toys, especially those made in countries that do not have strict safety regulations. Heavy metals can cause a host of health issues including neurological problems and reproductive toxicity.
The 2008 CPSIA also prohibited children’s toys from containing more than .1% of three specific types of phthalates. In later years, several other types of phthalates were restricted as well. While this is certainly good progress, it’s important to keep in mind that not all endocrine-disrupting chemicals are banned or restricted.
Non-Toxic Toy Materials: A Healthier Playtime
Now that we’ve ousted the toy villains, let’s embrace the heroes: the safest materials for our children’s toys!
1. Wood: Natural wooden toys are a timeless choice! They’re sturdy, non-toxic, and can last a long time! Just make sure that if it’s a finished wood, the paints and finishes are child-safe. Look for things like water-based paints, food-grade mineral oil, or natural linseed oil.
2. Organic Fabrics: Toys made from organic cotton or other natural fabrics are gentle on a child’s skin and are much more likely to be free from toxic chemicals. They’re like a warm hug for your baby… and suitable for even those with the most sensitive skin.
3. Natural Rubber: Rubber duckies are a classic, right? Just make sure the ducky you buy for your child is actually made from natural rubber, which is soft, safe, and even biodegradable!
4. Food-Grade Silicone: Silicone toys are the unsung heroes of teething. They’re durable, easy to clean, and free from harmful chemicals. Plus, silicone acts and feels a lot like plastic, so it makes for a great alternative to plastic toys. This is a great material for the littlest of little ones!
5. Stainless Steel: Some toys, especially those for older kids like play kitchenware, are made from stainless steel, which is a safe and durable material. (The only exception to this is if your child has a nickel allergy, as some stainless steel can contain trace amounts of nickel.)
Other Factors You May Want to Watch Out for As You Shop for Green Toys
Okay, now that we’re all on the same page about what to avoid and embrace, let’s talk toy shopping strategy.
Here are a few other things to keep in mind:
1. Country of Origin: Where a toy is made can tell you a lot about its safety. Countries with stringent safety regulations are usually a safer bet. Typically, “Made in the USA” or “European Union” labels are a better choice, but that does not mean “Made in China” toys are automatically bad. There are plenty of high-quality factories in China, and it ultimately comes down to the specific manufacturing facility.
2. Age-Appropriate Toys: Always choose toys that are age-appropriate for your child. Those labels aren’t just for show; they’re there to keep your little one safe.
Other third-party certifications that can be helpful are things like Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and OEKO-TEX (both of which are usually for textiles), and GREENGUARD Gold (which is usually for furniture and wooden products).
4. Avoid Cheap Knockoffs: If a toy seems too good to be true in terms of price, it probably is. Avoid knockoff brands and stick with reputable manufacturers.
10 Best of the Best Safe & Non-Toxic Toy Brands for Babies, Toddlers, and Kids of All Ages
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for: a list of fantastic toy brands that make safe, non-toxic toys for your kiddos. Drumroll, please!
Committed to sustainability and safety, PlanToys produces wooden toys crafted from reclaimed rubberwood and finished with non-toxic, water-based dyes.
I personally LOVE how smooth the wood is. They provide an outstanding variety of toys for kids of every age, including wonderful developmental toys for the younger group and tons of pretend play options for toddlers and up!
2. Green Toys
This eco-friendly brand creates toys from recycled plastic milk jugs, ensuring they are free from BPA, phthalates, and external coatings. I want more from this brand! They don’t have as many toy options as some of the other brands mentioned, but I love the quality of these toys and how easy they are to clean… They’re my go-to travel toys!
My husband and I love playing with these toys with our daughter. Her first car set was this Mini Vehicle Set, which she still enjoys. (It’s no longer available, but you can still get this car carrier set, which comes with several cars and a semi-truck to transport them around!)
HABA offers a wide range of non-toxic toys, known for their quality and adherence to strict safety standards. It is great having a toy brand you can trust that has so many play options! From board games and dolls to ball and marble tracks, this brand doesn’t miss!
Their Kullerbu track sets are great for toddlers. Soon after we bought a small starter set, we invested in the Ultimate Track Bundle. Our daughter is still a little too young to build the tracks herself, but they are a lot of fun for adults to build (if you like that kind of thing) and it gives my daughter a lot of independent playtime watching the balls roll through the course.
First Orchard is a great first board game, teaching your little one how to take turns, work on colors, and roll dice!
Their wooden toys are works of art! Using natural finishes and non-toxic dyes instead of paint, these wooden toys won’t chip and are built to last.
Their rainbows are a favorite amongst the non-toxic toy world; beautiful and can be used for so many different forms of play. They make them in many different sizes and colors!
Shop at: Bella Luna Toys
Known for their organic cotton toys, Under the Nile ensures all products are free from harmful chemicals. This is our go-to for soft toys! They are the cuddliest toys and almost all of them are machine washable!
Hape’s line of non-toxic wooden toys is rigorously tested for safety and sustainability. Like HABA, they have so many options, including larger items like rideable toys, play kitchens, and tool benches. They do team up with other toy brands, like Baby Einstein, and can contain plastic parts, but because of their quality and safety standards, I feel completely safe buying Hape toys.
They have great toys for budding musicians, including the Pound & Tap Bench and Magic Touch Piano. I haven’t yet purchased a play kitchen for my daughter, but knowing how much she has enjoyed every Hape toy we have purchased, I will definitely be going with one of their kitchen sets!
Tegu’s magnetic wooden blocks are not only fun but also made with non-toxic, water-based finishes. They are a great first block set and come in some great travel sets!
They have several basic magnetic block sets to get you started and many Travel Pals, that come with only a few blocks and a chart to help your child create many different magnetic block masterpieces, making these sets perfect for travel!
Not only does Sarah’s Silks offer high quality, non-toxic play silks for imaginative play, but they also carry many Waldorf inspired, sustainable wooden toys as well! Their silks are dyed with Jaquard acid dyes with a white vinegar solvent to keep them colorfast.
When first looking for some play silks for my daughter’s Music Time class, I quickly came across these silks, read their fantastic reviews, and now own many toys from them. The Mini Primary play silks were a great first set for my daughter and really helped with her color recognition. She also enjoys their many dress-up options!
Dëna makes silicone toys that are perfect for teething and imaginative play. These non-toxic baby toys are made from a food-grade, non-toxic silicone and come in different shapes and sizes for a variety of play and teething options!
Their diversity collection is beautiful! I especially love the dëna kids diversity set because it is great for both imaginative play and stacking for toddlers and tactile development and teething for newborns.
Who hasn’t stepped on a rogue LEGO left out? OUCH! At least you’ll be happy to hear that you’re stepping on a non-toxic toy! I was very excited to be able to add LEGOs to this list! Yes, they are plastic, but they are made of ABS plastic which is generally considered safe and non-leaching (especially in comparison to most other kinds of plastic).
The world of play is endless with LEGO… just make sure to have a good organization system because it can get overwhelming fast!
With a room dedicated to me and my husband’s Lego builds, including our daughter in our love for LEGOs has been great! At 2, she enjoys playing with LEGO Duplo and would spend all day playing with this Wild Animals of the World set if I let her.
Now that I have addressed my best overall toy brands, I want to single out some brands that fall into more specific categories.
Best Non-Toxic Toy Subscriptions
I could write a whole article just about these subscription toy boxes.
Not only is this brand non-toxic, but their toys are Montessori inspired and I credit these toys for many of my daughter’s early developmental milestones. They are toys she will play with for hours and I love getting new, age-appropriate toys every three months without having to do the research!
The Block Set is a favorite non-subscription option from Lovevery. It has a great assortment of blocks and as with every play kit, comes with instructions that include many different and creative ways you can play with this set.
Who doesn’t remember as a kid sitting in the doctor’s or dentist’s office waiting room and leafing through a Highlights magazine, and (my favorite), finding the Hidden Pictures puzzles?
What I was surprised to find, is that they have magazines for younger readers, Highlights Hello, that are not only tear-proof and washable, but also printed with non-toxic inks containing soy and/or vegetable oils! These little magazines have wonderful short stories, games, and songs for the youngest readers (ages 0-2).
I love having a book subscription for my daughter and this company doesn’t disappoint. By selecting books specifically for your child’s age and interests, they have selected some of my little one’s now-favorite stories!
Reading to our children is so important for their language development so having a new rotation of books regularly has been wonderful.
Best Non-Toxic Books for Children
Let’s quickly talk about toxicity in children’s books. Many books printed before 1985—including those vintage Golden Books and Dr. Seuss books that we all had—can contain heavy metals and even unsafe amounts of lead in the ink.
Most publishers these days have stringent policies on the safety of their books during production, so it isn’t as big of a worry these days as long as you are purchasing newer books.
I definitely have to recommend PaperPie because not only do they sell books that are tested to make sure they are safe and non-toxic for little readers, but they also sell wonderful books, including activity books, for kids of every age! I *may* have a slight addiction to this company.
There are so many options that it’s hard to recommend any one book, but my daughter currently loves many of their music and sound books, like the Calming Music Book, and their reusable sticker books, like All Better!
Best Non-Toxic Arts & Crafts for Kids
They make non-toxic art supplies, perfect for budding Picassos. Their food-safe finger paint, made with ingredients including potatoes, rice, and beans, is a great option for a first-time painter.
These non-toxic crayons are shaped like rocks for a fun twist on coloring. They’re made from soy and are great for young children training to use the tripod grip. The colors are rich, and the crayons are smooth gliding over the paper. Also, for a child that loves rocks, these are a perfect choice!
This brand makes several different types of non-toxic toys including wooden toys, musical toys, and puzzles.
Best Non-Toxic Travel Toys for Your Next Road Trip
Mess-free chalk and coloring books for creative kiddos. All materials and ingredients used in the wipe-away board and Butterstix are clean and non-toxic. Not only are these books great for travel but they also make eating out much easier and screen-free!
Best Non-Toxic Stuffed Animals
This brand not only has wonderful, quality, non-toxic stuffed animals, but they also have a “buy one, give one” model meaning that for every bear sold, they will donate a bear to a child in need.
One important quality to look out for when purchasing plush toys is stitched eyes, which this brand provides. Beaded eyes are not only dangerous as they could come loose and pose a choking hazard, but many can contain harmful chemicals and even lead!
Best Non-Toxic Dolls
Yes, I know I have already mentioned this brand, but I feel their dolls are special enough for them to also be mentioned in a category all their own. Their Waldorf dolls are sturdy, beautifully made and even come with a bag that includes a change of clothes.
My daughter enjoys changing her dolls from their day clothes into their jammies for bedtime!
Best Non-Toxic Bath Toys
Hevea’s line of plastic-free, natural rubber bath toys is wonderful for newborns and those little ones who like the chew! These non-toxic baby toys are adorable and still a hit for my almost 3-year-old, even bringing them to the shower when she refuses to take a bath!
Yet another brand worth mentioning twice! Green Toys has a great selection of bath toys that make getting clean fun and they are so easy to keep clean. Their water toys are also great for play at the pool!
Best Non-Toxic Dress Up Clothes and Accessories
They have so many different costume options from fantasy, like superheroes, dragons and Disney princesses, to real world costumes like firefighters, astronauts and many animals.
Most costumes are made from polyester and nylon and their products meet all safety standards for the U.S., Canada, and the E.U. Some of their costumes do contain foam, so if you prefer, you can stay clear of those.
Best Non-Toxic Play Furniture and Equipment
I have so many different pieces from this brand! They are a master of non-toxic large wooden play furniture, including their signature Learning Tower which is a parent favorite and perfect for getting little ones involved with helping in the kitchen! We also have the slide attachment and balance set.
While there is no “perfect” play couch on the market, this option from Brentwood Home is about as close as you can get.
Made greener by using BioFoam, this is the only GREENGUARD Gold play couch available. It comes in several great colors and has been a wonderful addition to our playroom! It gets used daily and is super fun to try out different configurations. Definitely a “must-have” for our family!
Are Melissa & Doug Toys Non-Toxic?
Melissa & Doug is a popular toy brand that’s available at Target and other big box stores. Unfortunately, back in 2009, Health Canada recalled more than 26,000 Melissa & Doug toys because they were tainted with lead. Most of their toys are made in China.
That recall was definitely a while ago, and I haven’t come across any recalls since then. But it does give me pause when deciding on how many Melissa and Doug toys I was my child playing with.
So, there you have it, my fellow toy-conscious parents! Armed with this knowledge, you can now navigate the toy aisles like a pro, choosing only the safest, non-toxic toys for your little ones. Remember, parenthood is an adventure, and it’s always better when we share our wisdom and laughter along the way. Here’s to toxin-free playtime and countless hours of giggles and smiles with our kiddos!