12 Tips for Choosing Greener & Safer Toys

You’re probably careful about avoiding choking hazards and other common safety issues with toys, but did you know there are a wide variety of synthetic chemicals and heavy metals that could be in them? From lead and cadmium in paint, plastics, and jewelry to xylene, toluene, and phthalates in play cosmetics–when did toy boxes become a toxic minefield?

Make your toy box healthier for your child and the planet. Here are 12 ways you can reclaim the fun and reduce worry when it comes to playtime.

1. Go au natural. Look for safe toys made of natural materials like solid woods (with no finish or a non-toxic finish) and organic textiles (like cotton, wool, and felt).

2. Simplify. Buying fewer toys is eco-friendly. It’s better for the planet (and your pocketbook!).

3. Re-purpose. Can something you already have be used as a toy? An empty box or set of stainless steel bowls can provide hours of safe and happy play, depending on the age of your child.

Cat Toys from Reused Household Items

4. Look for items that will last. Safe, high quality toys may cost a bit more, but they will last much longer and can be handed down to younger children. Also, if you decide to sell them, you’re more likely to make your money back.

5. Read labels. Before you buy, ask yourself “What’s this toy made of? Where does it come from?” Get to know a toy before you buy it. This is important for pet toys, too.

6. Look for local. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by buying local as well as healthy. If you’re shopping globally, opt for European, Canadian or Japanese toy imports. Other countries may have lax toy safety regulations.

7. Opt for open-ended toys. Look for items that encourage creativity and are capable of being used for many different types of play. Wooden blocks, colorful scarves, smooth stones, and even cardboard boxes are fun, safe toys that can be the foundation for innumerable creative adventures.

Make Paper Dolls from Recycled Materials

8. Avoid cheap jewelry and kids’ cosmetics. Both of these types of dress-up products are high-risk. Cheap jewelry often has high lead levels and kids’ cosmetics can have any number of questionable and unsafe chemicals.

9. Purge plastics. Okay, this is nearly impossible these days, but make your best effort. If you do buy plastic, look for safer plastics like those labeled #2, #4, or #5 in the chasing arrows symbol usually found on the bottom of the product. Not labeled? Call the manufacturer. This is key for buying safe pet toys, too, as they’re obviously chewing on toys–a direct route of ingestion.

10. Text for Healthy Toys. HealthyToys.org is a database to help you find safe toys. You can even access it from your mobile phone. Just text keywords and you’ll receive information immediately regarding any testing that’s been done to determine whether or not a particular toy is safe. They even rank pet toys by safety.

11. Sign-up for recall alerts. The Consumer Product Safety Commission posts recalls online, as does the website Recalls.gov. If a toy you own is recalled, take it out of rotation immediately and follow the company’s instructions on how to get a safe replacement.

12. Have fun! Playtime isn’t about what you have, it’s about what you do. Get down and dirty with your kids. Laugh and simply enjoy spending time together.

For more on the benefits of safe and healthy playtime with your kids, read more here:

Healthy Child’s Play: Time to Get Serious about Goofing Off




By Alexandra Zissu, editorial director, Healthy Child Healthy World


Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

It's for our future

Bryna Pizzo
Bryna Pizzo4 years ago

Thank you for the tips; as a new grandmother, they will come in handy!

greenplanet e.
greenplanet e4 years ago

Less or no plastic would be good.

Joanne S.
Jo S4 years ago

DITTO Susan B. bravo! My thoughts exactly!

Tim C.
Tim C4 years ago


Vicky P.
Vicky P4 years ago


Susan B.
Susan B4 years ago

Good to see this advise on your site. Unfortunately toys also fall into that "got to have the newest trend" category and so many parents, grandparents and others fall into the trap! I kept a lot of my children's toys and their big, wooden toy box. It is now in the basement family room and 'Mommy's toys' are a BIG HIT every time my granddaughters visit. The favourite toys? - wooden blocks and large Lego!

Eva Adgrim
Eva adgrim4 years ago


Denise Morley
Denise Morley4 years ago

Good article, thank you

Lynn C.
Lynn C4 years ago