The 12 Best Eco-Friendly Toys of 2023

Playtime and sustainability go hand in hand with these eco-friendly toys.

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Girl Playing with Wooden Train Toy

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All kids (and a lot of adults) love getting a new toy. But most found in big box shops are made of plastic, which has a heavy environmental footprint. Even if some of these toys could be donated when your child has out grown them or recycled when they break, so often plastic playthings end up sitting in a landfill or even incinerated.

Fortunately, finding more sustainable alternatives to plastic toys is easier than ever. Many smaller toy companies are sourcing sustainable materials to make their products, and many also give back by promoting or donating to environmental causes.

We deeply researched the market to find the best eco-friendly toys.

Swurfer The Original Stand Up Surfing Swing

4.9
Swurfer The Original Stand Up Surfing Swing

Courtesy of Walmart

The Original Swurfer inspires kids (aged six and up), teens, and adults to hang ten in the park or backyard. The board sets up in minutes and each panel holds up to 200 pounds. It’s also a fun way to build core muscles and improve balance.

Each board is handcrafted from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood. The company has also joined the Arbor Day Foundation’s Time for Trees initiative, a project that aims to plant 100 million trees by 2022—the 150th anniversary of the founding of Arbor Day.

Price at time of publish: $130

Red Fish Toys Snake Alphabet Puzzle

5
Red Fish Toys Snake Alphabet Puzzle

Courtesy of Red Fish Toys

This affordable snake puzzle is a great way to practice your ABCsssss. It’s designed to help little learners build hand-eye coordination, and develop letter and color recognition skills. It's also available in range of other charming animal shapes, including a butterfly, giraffe, and alligator.

RedFishToys puzzles are handcrafted from rubberwood and non-toxic paints. The company was founded by a mom, with the goal of creating educational ways for children to have fun.

Price at time of publish: $32

Begin Again Bathtub Ball Shark Tank

4.9
BeginAgain Bathtub Ball Shark Tank

Courtesy of Amazon

This adventure set featuring a diver, shark tank, octopus, and shark will make your little one look forward to bath time. It encourages your child to create all kinds of deep-sea stories.

All BeginAgain toys are made from rubber tree wood or sap. Any plastics are created from recycled plastics or bio-plastic sugar, wheat, and corn options. Bathtub toys are washable in the top rack of the dishwasher for easy barnacle removal. Ahoy!

Price at time of publish: $25

Plantoys Beach and Creative Sand Play Set

PlanToys Beach and Creative Sand Play Set

Courtesy of Amazon

A bucket of beach fun is the best way to describe PlanToy’s sand pail and sea animal-inspired digging tools. The set

All PlanToys are durable and made from spray-free rubberwood trees, so they’ll hold up to crashing waves or the backyard sandbox for years. They’re also assembled with certified E-Zero formaldehyde-free glues, and colored with organic pigments and water-based dyes.

Price at time of publish: $25

Play2Progress Mix-Up Animagnets

Play2Progress Mix-Up Animagnets

Courtesy of Etsy

Kids will go wild for these handmade animal friends. They’re made from FSC-certified wood with magnets safely embedded inside. They’re durable and double as adorable nursery décor once playtime is over.

These creatures are designed for ages two and up by child development experts. They work to enhance core skills like creativity, imagination, critical thinking, and motor skills.

Price at time of publish: $33

Eco-Kids Eco-Dough

Eco-Kids Eco-Dough

Courtesy of Thrive Market

Got crafty kids? Eco-Kids offers a range of all-natural art supplies from finger paints to crayons. This non-toxic “eco-dough” is made in the United States from non-GMO flour and all-natural ingredients, and is scented with essential oils.

The pliable dough offers hours of molding and sculpting fun. It is packaged in 100% recycled paperboard and reusable or recyclable plastic containers to retain its freshness.

Price at time of publish: $19

Lovevery Play Gym Activity Gym and Play Mat

Lovevery The Play Gym

Courtesy of The Tot

This play kit is designed to give a baby’s brain and body a workout during its first year. It includes five play zones that promote healthy brain development and improve motor skills.

Each wooden piece is FSC-compliant. While mouth able and plush toys are made from 100% organic cotton and silicone. The Play Gym contains no flame retardant chemicals, BPA, lead, or phthalates. For shipping, the company uses carbon offsets.

Price at time of publish: $140

Tegu Tints Block 24 Piece Set

Tegu Tints Block 24 Piece Set

Courtesy of Walmart

Tegu's building sets are crafted by Honduran workers who are paid a living wage. A magnet is tucked inside each block (so they’re not a swallow hazard). The woods are dyed with non-toxic, water-based lacquers.

Most sets are made from Huesito (“little bone) trees, an abundant species in Honduran forests. The company works with cooperatives to select the trees they use to ensure they aren’t contributing to deforestation. When your family has outgrown the set, Tegu will cover the shipping costs to return it, so it doesn’t end up in a landfill.

Price at time of publish: $70

Cuddle + Kind Doll

Claire The Koala

Courtesy of Cuddle + Kind

Each Cuddle + Kind doll is hand-knit with natural cotton yarn, hand-loomed, embroidered and crocheted by women artisans in Peru. These workers have flexible hours and are paid a sustainable wage for their skill and artistry. There's a range of charming creatures, from elephants to mermaids.

The company also partners with humanitarian agencies—like the World Food Program and Children’s Hunger Fund—to distribute ten meals per doll sold to children in need.

Price at time of publish: $84

EverEarth Garden Activity Cube

EverEarth Garden Activity Cube

Earth Hero

Babies and toddlers love things they can touch, move, and manipulate. This great activity cube has plenty of moving parts (that won’t come off!) to learn about shapes, colors, creatures, numbers, and more. 

This toy is made with fair labor from FSC Certified wood. The colors come from low impact, toxin-free dyes. We also love that for every toy purchased, EverEarth plants a tree in its FSC-Certified forest. The company also uses solar energy, and ships products in recyclable packaging. 

Price at time of publish: $130

Free the Ocean Ocean Life 300 Piece Shaped Scene Puzzle

Free the Ocean Ocean Life 300 Piece Shaped Scene Puzzle

Free the Ocean

For kids over the age of seven, this ocean-themed puzzle is perfect for a rainy day. This colorful scene features corals, fish, and turtles, and the assembled image is the shape of a whale. The puzzle pieces are 90% recycled paper, and the box contains 70% recycled paper. The inks are nontoxic, and all deliveries are carbon neutral. For every puzzle sold, 10 pieces of plastic are removed from the ocean. This could also make a great gift for puzzle-loving adults too. 

Price at time of publish: $17

Finn + Emma Feather and Bird 2 pc. Stroller Toys

Finn + Emma Feather and Bird 2 pc. Stroller Toys

Finn + Emma

For entertaining littles on the go, a toy with a strap is super handy. These stroller toys are made with natural materials in Peru and India. The knit bird is made from GOTS certified wool, and knit by a collective of female artisans. The wooden feather toy is from untreated hardwood that’s coated with a non-toxic vegetable seed wax. 

These toys also make an appearance in one of Emma and Finn’s play gyms, or you can swap them into any play gym with removable parts. 

Price at time of publish: $135

Final Verdict

All of these toys will provide hours of enjoyment. The Swurfer swingboard gets high marks for offering fun for (most) ages. Cuddle + Kind’s handcrafted plush toys are great for snuggle time. Red Fish Toys puzzles are great ways for kids to learn that are easy on a budget.

What to Consider When Shopping for Eco-Friendly Toys

Do You Need New Ones?

A cost-saving option to plastic playthings are secondhand toys. It can be a fun outing with your kids to hunt for pre-loved toys, games, and puzzles at yard sales or thrift shops. You can also peruse online marketplaces like Facebook or find curb alerts on NextDoor. There are even apps that make it easy to swap, or look for a local Buy Nothing group.

Safety

In the United States, toys for kids under the age of 12 must be third party tested to meet government safety standards. However, parents and caregivers should still consider if a toy is age and developmentally appropriate for the child who will use it. Most manufacturers will list what ages the toy is intended for, and it’s also a good idea to read any safety instructions that come with the item. 

Materials + Certifications

Generally speaking, natural or recycled materials make toys more eco-friendly than toys made of new plastic. That means opting for toys made primarily from cotton, wool, wood, natural rubber or latex, and plant-based dyes.

A sustainability certification is also a good way to confirm that an item was responsibly made. We look for items with Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and OEKO-TEX fabrics and wood with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifications. Another good certification to keep an eye out for is Made Safe, which indicates a product is free from toxic substances.

Will Your Child Use It?

A toy that never gets played with isn’t great for the planet, although you can always give it away to someone who may use it more. It’s best to think about what your child actually loves to play with the most when shopping for a new toy. We know this is easier said than done, as parents and kids often have different ideas about what’s fun, but it’s still worth being mindful about. 

If you’re giving a gift and feeling unsure, check in with the child’s parents to find out what they like. 

Why Trust Treehugger?

Heidi Wachter has been writing about the health and environmental impacts of plastic for a decade. Her passion is helping people find more sustainable and safer replacements for single and multi-use plastic.

Margaret Badore is Treehugger’s Associate Editorial Director and has over 15 years reporting on sustainability. As a mom herself, she knows how important it is to find playthings that are fun for our kids and also kind to the planet.  

View Article Sources
  1. Toy Safety Business Guidance & Small Entity Compliance Guide.” United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.