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April 25, 2018  |  Login
Upgrading the Rubber Ducky: Green Baby Toys
By Dr. Alan Greene

I am a big fan of high-quality wooden and cloth toys for children. Both can be delightfully green—but not always. So when toy shopping, take time to examine the materials used to make the product and then choose wisely. And be sure toys are easy to clean if they will be shared.

Wood Toys

Well-made unfinished solid wood toys are safe for baby and the planet. There are no toxins to leech out, no toxic paint or sealant residues, and none of the urea-formaldehyde (UF) resin adhesives found in pressed wood. (You can tell if a toy is made from pressed wood by looking at any unfinished edges; they appear bumpy, and you can see the layers.)

Environmentally, solid wood toys are a sound choice. As explained earlier when we were discussing wood furniture, a solid wood toy has staying power, lasting through a family of children without adding clutter to our landfills. If you take time to search, you can even find wood toys made from FSC-certified wood or recycled wood that preserves forests from clear-cutting.

If adding a finish on a wooden toy, use a natural oil finish such as a walnut oil or beeswax. Mineral oil, linseed oil, and any plant-based oil with a strong smell are not recommended on the toys of children under age three.1

Cloth Toys and Stuffed Animals

Soft toys and cloth-covered stuffed animals that babies love to hug and chew (but should not sleep with) are now available in organic fiber fabrics—often of cotton, hemp, or wool. The outer-cloth fibers and the stuffing are made of materials that are grown without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers (which could be bad for baby to be chewing on and also known to be heavy polluters of groundwater and oceans). As a bonus, these soft toys are colored with nontoxic, colorfast dye (and not azo dyes made up of carcinogenic chemical compounds), and they are not chemically stain- and mothproofed as are most conventional fabric toys.

Toys to Love

You can find wonderful toys for your baby made of earth-friendly materials such as organic fibers and sustainably grown woods.  Some toy sellers, furthermore, make sure that the toys they offer are manufactured according to fair trade policies, follow environmentally sound practices, and do not use sweatshop labor.  Here are a few recommended sources to get you started:

  • offers delightful stuffed bunnies and baby dolls made of organic untreated cotton inside and out.
  • sells a line of stuffed toys made completelyof Egyptian organically grown cotton. Take a look at the cute crate of teething veggies, including a carrot, a string bean, and a mushroom, safe for babies to chew on.
1 .Lundquist, P. “Toxic Toys? No Thank You!” Children’s Health Environmental Coalition. . Jan. 14, 2005.

2. Greenpeace USA. “Toxic Toy Story.” . Nov. 8, 2003.

3.Greenpeace USA, 2003.


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