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10 of the best sustainable, eco-friendly and ethical toys

Looking for a toy for your baby, toddler and pre-schooler that's a bit less plastic and a bit more kind to the environment? Here's our round-up of the top ethical, sustainable, eco-friendly – and fun – toys

10 of the best sustainable, eco-friendly and ethical toys

More and more of us are looking for toys that have been manufactured and packaged in ways that have as little impact as possible on our environment – but are also fun to play with. And that can be hard –especially when your child is right in the middle of toddlerhood – when every toy on the shelves seems to be plastic, wrapped in plastic.

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We've had a good look – and play – with some of the more eco-friendly toys around – and we've found some real keepers, from stacking cubes to shape sorters, and from build-your-one bee hotels to a nippy little scooter

Here's our pick of the best sustainable, ethically-produced or eco-friendly toys for babies, toddlers and older kids...

1. Apples to Pears Build a Bee Hotel Gift in a Tin, £11.99

– Great for nature appreciation

Build a Bee Hotel

Age suitability: 6+ | Best for age: 7+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A compact 14cm x 10cm tin packed with all you need to make a 9.5cm x 11cm x 9cm house for solitary bees and other insects. Features untreated wood (which bees prefer) and the plastic wrapper round the tin is made from recyclable low-density polyethylene. Comes with glue and instructions, plus tips for attracting bees to your garden.

Why we love it: It's a gorgeously presented little kit and turns into something truly useful for the eco-system: providing a home for nature's prime pollinators. The instructions are picture-led and really clear. Our child tester Carly, 10, said: "I didn't need much help to make the bee house, but my dad helped with putting the roof on as it was tricky seeing where the holes went. I really enjoyed this toy: it was fun to make, and I really liked the design. We put the house in the garden on our shed, and I'm excited to see if any bees go in it."

Available at: Present Mill and Scouts

2. Henry the Bunny, from £60

– Great for cuddling

Cuddle + Kind Henry the Bunny _

Age suitability: From birth | Best for age: 6 months+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Silver, MadeforMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A hand-knitted lop-eared bunny handmade in Peru from 100% premium cotton yarn, using sustainable fair-trade practices. Stuffed with hypoallergenic polyfill. Henry is available in two sizes: 33cm and 50cm. Each bunny sold provides 10 meals to children in need.

Why we love it: This is a high-quality cuddly toy with a premium price tag but also a conscience. And Henry, in his a cute romper suit, is undeniably super sweet. Emma, mum of our child tester Mali, 9 months, said, "He’s so gorgeous! Mali loved meeting Henry. Her eyes lit up and she clapped her hands. When we come downstairs in the morning, she goes straight to him – which says it all for me!”

Available at: Cuddle and Kind

3. Mini Micro Eco Scooter, £79.95

– Great for active fun

Mini Micro Eco Scooter

Age suitability: 2+ | Best for age: 3 | Batteries: None
Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A lightweight, 3-wheeled lean-to-steer toddler/preschooler scooter, with an extra grippy foot deck made from recycled discarded fishing nets. Features all the features of the bestselling standard Mini Micro Deluxe model, including adjustable handlebars, rear brake and removable stem. Only available in Ocean Green.

Why we love it: Here you’ve got all the high-spec features you’d expect from Micro Scooters but with improved eco-credentials, thanks to a deck made using discarded ocean plastic. All the other parts are replaceable, so this is a scooter that can last a long time, and reliably be passed from sibling to sibling. Rebecca, mum of our child tester Odin, 3, said. "Odin has the biggest smile on his face when he rides this. It has a nice wide board to stand on and the 3-wheeled design makes it easy to balance on from the start. I do like that it is helping clean up the oceans by using recycled plastic, and that the parts can he changed out, so it can be used for a long time without ending up in landfill."

Available at: Micro Scooters and Amazon

4. Petit Collage Alphabet Wooden Tray Puzzle, £22

– Great for letter recognition

bestecotoypetitcollagealphabetrs

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None

What it is: An alphabet wooden tray (30cm x 20cm) with 26 letter puzzle pieces, made from sustainable wood and printed with vegetable inks. Comes with learning sheets with icons corresponding to the letters in English, French, Italian and German.

Why we love it: It's a lovely, colourful puzzle that requires some fine-motor control and hand-eye coordination, as well as concentration. The learning sheets are cute and well designed, although attempting anything other than the English alphabet is probably more than your average (non-multi-lingual) preschooler can manage.

Available at: Amazon

5. Le Toy Van Stacking Veggies, £19.95

–Great for early sorting skills

Le Toy Van stacking veg

Age suitability: 18 months+ | Best for age: 18 months+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A set of roughly 15cm-high wooden veggies with hand-sewn felt leaves that come apart so you can stack and match and fit them into 3 wooden pots. Made from durable, sustainable rubberwood. Decorated with non-toxic paints.

Why we love it: The little carrot, radish and beetroot are light, cute, well made and really sturdy – and charmed the pants off our child testers. A nice simple stacking and sorting toy for a toddler.

Available at: Le Toy Van and Kidly

6. Beloved Boards Mini Bear, €120.00

– Great for developing problem-solving skills

Beloved Boards Mini Bear

Age suitability: 6 months+ | Best for age: 9 months+| Batteries: None

What it is: A 64cm x 60cm wooden busy board, made from ecologically clean raw materials, with lots of play options including a rotating circle that reveals numbers, gears, buttons to push, wooden beads, an opening door, spinning figures, laces, rattles and much more.

Why we love it: It's a really good-quality toy that your child will find engaging to play with from baby to toddlerhood– and beyond. This makes the high price more justifiable than you'd think at first. All of our child testers were entranced – and found plenty to keep their little fingers (and brains) busy.

Available at: Beloved Boards

7. Green Toys Recycled Toy Rocket, £25

– Great for imaginative play

bestecotoygreentoysrocketrs

Age suitability: 2+ | Best for age: 2+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 29cm-high rocket made of 100% recycled plastic, with a detachable top and flip-down door. Comes with 2 astronauts. Made from safe, non-toxic materials, with zero BPA, PVC or phthalates.

Why we love it: It's solid, smooth, well-made and nicely detailed – and it's light enough to be swept up and swooped around on space flights round the living room. The little astronauts are very cute in their helmets and backpacks. The flip-down door can become a bit hard to close after a lot of energetic playing, though.

Available at: Amazon and Green Nippers

8. Green Toys My First Shape Sorter, £16.49

– Great for shape recognition

Green Toys My First Shape Sorter

Age suitability: 6 months+ | Best for age: 9 months+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 20cm x 13cm x 20cm flying-saucer-shaped shape sorter with 8 brightly coloured pieces (2 stars, 2 circles, 2 squares and 2 triangles) to slot inside. Made from 100% recycled milk cartons, BPA, phthalate and PVC-free, and printed with soy inks.

Why we love it: It's a good, grabbable size but still amazingly lightweight. We like how you just twist the sorter's 2 sections apart to retrieve the pieces. And, if it gets grubby, you can just pop it in the dishwasher.

Available at: Amazon and Ethical Superstore

9. Bajo Sparrow Abacus, £20

– Great for counting and learning colours

bajo sparrow abacus

Age suitability: 2+ | Best for age: 2+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 25cm x 12cm x 9cm wooden-framed abacus with 5 brightly coloured sparrows on the top row and 5 brightly coloured beads on the bottom row. Made in Poland by a company committed to sustainable toy products, using locally sourced materials and non-toxic paints.

Why we love it: It's super-sturdy – and a fun (non-plastic) way to start teaching colours and numbers. Although, it has to be said, our child testers had the most fun just spinning the colourful wooden sparrows round!

Available at: Naturally Ethical

10. From Babies with Love Nautical Nesting Cubes, £25

– Great for counting and stacking fun

nautical nesting cubes

Age suitability: 12 months+ | Best for age: 12 months+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A set of 6 differently-sized hollow wooden cubes, each decorated with colours, numbers and shapes on a jaunty nautical theme. Made from sustainably sourced wood and sold by a charity that donates 100% of its profits to orphaned and abandoned children around the world.

Why we love it: These beautifully decorated cubes can be stacked up (and knocked down) or nested together (to be pulled apart). We really like that they come in a 100% recycled and recyclable box.

Available from: From Babies with Love, Ethical Superstore

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About the author

Helen is Deputy Editor of MadeForMums, the author of Parenting for Dummies (Wiley, £17.99) and runs the MadeForMums Toy Awards. She has written about parenting for Mumsnet, Pregnancy & Birth, Prima Baby, Boots Parenting Club and She Magazine and she's also been Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby. She has 3 boys and a heavy-duty washing machine.

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