12 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 kinder to the environment? Dolls, games, cars and puppies: here's a round-up of fun ethical, sustainable and eco-friendly toys, including winners of our 2019 Toy Awards

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Toy Awards Best Eco toy

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 when your child is right in the middle of toddlerhood and 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 toddler toys around – and we’ve found some real keepers, from stacking cubes to shape sorters, and from chirpy, counter sparrows to pull along elephants.

Here’s our pick of the best sustainable, ethically-produced or eco-friendly toys…

1. Petit Collage Alphabet Wooden Tray Puzzle, £19.95 – best for puzzles

Age: 3+
Awards: MadeforMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Sustainable, Eco-Friendly and Ethical Toys – Gold

What it is: A multi-language alphabet wooden tray (30cm x 20cm) with 26 letter puzzle pieces. It is made from sustainable wood and printed with vegetable inks.

Why we love it: This colourful puzzle will help children’s fine motor control and hand-eye coordination, while helping them learn about the letters of the alphabet in English, French, German and Italian.

Laura, MFM tester and mum to Elodie, age 4, says, “This is a lovely, well-made wooden puzzle with multiple educational benefits. My 4-year-old enjoyed the puzzle aspect of the game, but wasn’t quite into the language, however she played this with her 7-year-old sister who has learnt various foreign words from the cards.”

And MFM tester, Leonna, mum to Hugo-Blaze age 3, says, “I love wood toys and the quality was great – the only thing is I would have preferred it if the paper inserts were laminated and more hard-wearing, they bent quite easily when changing over.”

Available from: Hurn and HurnAmazon and Wild & Wolf 

2. Toy Box Club, from £30 a month – best for monthly subscription

Age: From birth to 4

What it is: A monthly subscription box with a difference: you get an age-appropriate, gender-neutral, fun and educational selection of toys delivered to your house and then it’s collected and exchanged for another box the following month. All toys are cleaned thoroughly between deliveries and, if there is a particular toy your child won’t part with, you can make arrangements to buy it.

Why we love it: This is perfect for parents who want a guilt-free alternative to the ever-growing mountain of plastic toys filling up their home. And a new box of toys every month means the kids should never get bored (no promises, mind!).

Julie, MFM tester and mum to Joseph, 2, says, “Joseph loved the helicopter, the books and the puzzles he got – and his older sister was taken with the blocks and wooden counter. They happily played together for ages, exploring everything. Having different toys every month is a great idea – without constantly piling up new ones to keep them interested.”

And Annie, MFM tester and mum to Noah, age 3, says “Noah loved opening his box and there was a great variety of good, age-appropriate toys and books inside. A fair price for this much, I think.”

Available from: Toy Box Club

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3. Cuddle+Kind Violet the Fawn, from £52 – best for cuddly toy

Age: From birth
Awards: MadeforMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Sustainable, Eco-Friendly and Ethical Toy – Silver 

What it is: This 100% cotton yarn doll (in two sizes 13” and 20”) is stuffed with hypoallergenic polyfiller. For each doll bought, 10 meals will be donated to children who need it most. Handmade in Peru using sustainable, fair trade practices.

Why we love it: The dolls are beautiful, and so well-made. They’re really soft and cuddly, with such a wonderful message and mission behind it all. We think this would be one of those favourite teddies that would be passed down through the generations – and it’s a great size to fit into a doll’s pram.

We love its tag – “adventure awaits”. And our testers loved it, too. Emma, MFM tester and mum to Ellie, age 3, says, “It was lovely for my girl to have some quiet time and naptime with this. It’s a little expensive but definitely worth it for a good cause.”

Available from: Cuddle+Kind

4. Le Toy Van Stacking Veggies, £19.95 – best for stacking toys

Age: 18 months +
Awards: MadeforMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Sustainable, Eco-Friendly and Ethical Toy – Joint Bronze  

What it is: 3 mix-and-match stacking veggies (each approx 7cm x 7cm x 15.4cm) with hand-sewn felt leaves. Includes 6 interchangeable stacking parts. Mix and match to create a carrot, beetroot and radish. Made from durable, sustainable rubberwood. Decorated with non-toxic paints.

Why we love it: We love this cute and fun toy for toddlers. The veggies are beautifully made, and really sturdy, making it the perfect toy to pass down when your child has outgrown it.

They would also look very sweet on a windowsill or play kitchen as decor, when not being played with.

Available from: Le Toy Van, Precious Little One and Kidly

5. Beloved Boards Mini Bear, €120.00 – best for busy boards

Age: 6 months +
Awards: MadeforMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Sustainable, Eco-Friendly and Ethical Toy – Joint Bronze 

What it is: A busy board (64cm x 60cm, weighing 5kg) with lots of play options, like: a circle which can rotate, numbered 1-12; gears; a button which can be pushed up/down, left/right; wooden beads; a door with the seasons behind it; 4 spinning figures; laces; rattles and much more. The base of Bear and supporting legs are made of birch plywood and FSC-certified.

Why we love it: It’s such a good-quality toy that we can definitely see this one being passed down to siblings and kept for the next generation. It would make a fabulous toy for a nursery, as it’s really durable.

It’s definitely a pricey one – but we don’t think it could be cheaper and still be the same quality, with the same eco-credentials, so the cost feels justified. Edyta, MFM tester and mum to Armaan, age 1, says, “My child is 14 months and he really loves it. I think it’s the best toy ever – it keeps him well entertained.”

Available from: Be Loved Boards

6. Green Toys Recycled Toy Rocket, £23.99 – best for recycled plastic toys

Age: 2-5 years

What it is: This 100% recycled plastic rocket (20cm x 22cm x 29cm), with a detachable top and 2 astronauts, helmets, and dual-tank backpacks. Made from safe, non-toxic materials, with zero BPA, PVC or phthalates.

Why we love it: We love these recycled plastic toys – and they are extremely well-made and seriously sturdy, too. The rocket is lots of fun because it comes with astronauts. Zoom! 

Available from: Amazon, Green Nippers and Bebeco

7. Petit Collage Safari Wooden Puzzle + Play, £28 – best for jigsaws

Age: 18 months +

What it is: A set of 9 very friendly-looking, hand-etched chunky animal characters made of FSC-certified beech wood and presented as a jigsaw. The packaging is made from recycled paper printed with vegetable inks, so there is no plastic waste whatsoever.

Why we love it: This set is so beautifully made, it will be passed down for generations. And there are so many ways you can play with it: stacking, role play, puzzle.

Sarah, MFM tester and mum to Ivy, 2, says, “Ivy loves stacking them and naming the animals. This toy would make a stylish decoration for a nursery before a child is old enough to play with it – a great, long-lasting baby gift.”

And Sophie, MFM tester and mum to Maggie, 2, says, “A lovely natural toy. Maggie plays with the animals for a long time.”

Available from: Kidly and Amazon

8. Plan Toys Balancing Cactus, £8 – best for a game

Age: 3 +

What it is: A mini balancing game with cactus stem and 12 pull-out branches. The idea is to build (or take apart) the cactus without making it fall. For 1 or more players. Comes in a tin with instructions.

Why we love it: It’s made from natural rubberwood from trees that no longer produce latex and painted with water-based dyes. And it’s particularly beautiful to look at and handle.  

Available from: Green Tulip, Kidly and Babipur

Green toys shape sorter

9. Green Toys My First Shape Sorter, £16.49 – best for shape sorting

Age: 6 months +

What it is: A 20cm x 13cm x 20cm shape sorter with 8 brightly coloured pieces (2 stars, 2 circles, 2 squares and 2 triangles). The sorter’s two sections simply twist apart when you want to retrieve the pieces that have been popped inside.

Why we love it: It’s made from 100% recycled milk cartons, is BPA-, phthalate- and PVC-free, and is printed with soy inks. It’s a good, grabbable size but still amazingly lightweight. And, if it gets grubby, you can just pop it in the dishwasher.

Available from: Green Toys, Amazon and Ethical Superstore

Lanka kade double decker bus

10. Lanka Kade Double Decker Bus, £6 – best for transport fans

Age: 10 months +

What it is: A 9.6cm x 14.6cm x 5.8cm rubberwood bus with smooth working wheels and a driver and passengers painted (in non-toxic paint) on both sides.

Why we love it: It’s Fair Trade and handcrafted in Sri Lanka from sustainably sourced rubberwood. It’s lovely and chunky at 2.5cm thick.

Available from: Lanka Kade and Babipur

11. Petit Collage Wooden Pull Toy Jumbo Jumping Elephant, £20 – best for pull-along toys

Age: 18 months +

What it is: A beautifully designed, 2.5cm x 2.5cm x 2.5cm, wooden elephant who bobs up and down and sways her ears as you pull her along.

Why we love it: This plastic and BPA-free bobbing Nellie is made of FSC-certified wood (meaning the wood comes from forests that are managed responsibly) and painted (gorgeously) in non-toxic paints. The pull-along cord is natural cotton cord – although some of our child testers would have liked it to be a little bit longer.

Available from: Kidly, Amazon and The Ethical Superstore

12. Bajo Sparrow Abacus, £20 – best for counting toys

Age: 2 +

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.

Why we love it: Made in Poland by a company committed to sustainable toy products, using locally sourced materials and non-toxic paints. It’s lovely and sturdy – and a fun (non-plastic) way to start teaching colours and numbers.

Available from: BabiPur, Naturally Ethical and Proper Toys

13. From Babies with Love Nautical Nesting Cubes, £25 – best for nesting toys

Age: 12 months +

What it is: A set of 6 differently-sized hollow wooden cubes, each decorated with colours, numbers and shapes on a jaunty nautical theme. They can be stacked up (and knocked down) or nested together (to be pulled apart).

Why we love it: These beautifully decorated, nicely stacking cubes are made from sustainably sourced wood and come in a 100% recycled and recyclable box. Best of all, Babies With Love is a charity that donates 100% of its profits to orphaned and abandoned children around the world.

Available from: From Babies with Love, Ethical Superstore and Not On the High Street

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