Green Products

Check out these 14 ways to make your children’s play a little greener!

Eco-Friendly Toys and Games: 14 Things You Need to Know

It’s essential to teach the next generation to be eco-friendly. A great way to get the ball rolling is to take a look at your kids’ toy box. How safe are the toys your kids are playing with? What should you look for when buying new toys? How can you encourage your kids to be more eco-friendly while playing?

Here are 14 ways to make your children’s play a little greener.

1. Repurposed Toys are the Best

Before you run to the store to indulge your child’s wishes for the latest toy trends, take a look at what you have at home. The less you buy, the less will be tossed out.

  • Turn pots and pans into drums.
  • Play “tennis” with wooden spoons and wadded up newspaper.
  • Build a blanket tent in the living room.
  • Make a race track out of stacked books.

2. Upcycled Toys are Even Better

Here are some perfect ways to upcycle common items at home to make great toys and games for your kids. As an added bonus, these can be played inside or outside!

Bowling: If you think about it, just about anything can be used as bowling pins. Grab a handful of items (you don’t need exactly 10) that are similar in shape and size.

  • Building blocks
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Small boxes (check your pantry)
  • Small toys (stuffed animals, figurines, farm animals)
  • Plastic cups

If you can’t find an appropriate ball, try rolling a bunch of socks up together. Don’t worry about the technicalities—start playing!

Learn about Eco-friendly toys and gamesMini Golf: Grab some tin cans and create a miniature golf course. Depending on the age of your kids, you might want to add some obstacles. If you don’t have a real golf putter at home, try making one. A strong piece of cardboard could be the handle and an empty toilet paper roll could be the club head.

Cornhole: Cornhole is a big-kid game that is gaining popularity at backyard BBQs and tailgating parties. The simple bean bag toss game is fun for kids too. If you don’t know what cornhole is, don’t worry. This is everything you’d need to know about the official game, but having green fun at home isn’t nearly as complicated!

To make your own eco-friendly version, cut a hole out of a cardboard box. Let your kids take turns tossing bean bags (or rolled up socks if you don’t have bean bags). Aim for the hole, but a bag that lands on the box is pretty good too!

Ball-and-Cup: Grab some plastic cups and a wad of newspaper. Have your kids stand a few feet apart. One child tosses the newsprint ball to the other who tries to catch it in the cup.

Another game alternative would be to attach the ball to the cup with yarn. Your youngster will need to swing the ball up and catch it in the cup.

3. Make Your Own Art Supplies

Expressing creativity through art is essential for kids’ development. But if you aren’t careful, dangerous toxins can sneak into the house in the form of popular art supplies. If you make your own, you know exactly what chemicals are being used.

There are tons of DIY art supply recipes out there. You can make everything from finger paints to sidewalk chalk and playdough.

4. Do Science Experiments

Who says toys and games can’t be educational too?! Conducting science experiments is a great way to entertain older kids. There are even projects that help teach kids about environmental issues and the importance of living green.

5. Break the Age Limit

If you look at your children’s toys and games, some of them will have recommended age ranges. While it isn’t safe to give young children toys that could cause them to choke, there are ways to stretch the rules a little bit. The longer your children can use an item, the longer it will avoid the trash heap.

For example, young children probably can’t stretch all the way across the Twister game board, but they could use the brightly colored dots to sort items by color. Older kids might not be interested in serving up pretend meals, but they could use the fake food to learn about food groups.

6. High Quality Toys Last Longer

Again, avoiding the landfill is the ultimate goal of green living. High quality toys might be a little more expensive, but they are sure to last longer. You won’t have to worry about broken toys harming your children or needing to be replaced quickly. Quality toys will likely serve all future siblings well (maybe even future generations too!).

7. Repurpose Old Toys

Being eco-friendly is about more than just buying chemical-free toys for your kids. It also means being responsible with what you currently have.

If a toy gets broken, don’t throw it away. See if you can repurpose it. For example, you could…

  • Cut a hole in a plastic animal and turn it into a vase or flower pot.
  • The metal keys from a xylophone would be a great wind chime.
  • Tie a string around stray game pieces or toys and turn them into Christmas tree ornaments.
  • Can anything be turned into a kitchen magnet?
  • If you have a book with missing pages (or is otherwise damaged so it can’t be read), frame a few of the good pages and use them as kid-friendly art work.

8. Buy Natural When Possible

When possible, buy toys made from natural products. This helps keep toxic chemicals away from your young ones. Great natural fibers used for toys include:

  • Sustainably logged wood
  • Felt
  • Wool
  • Silk
  • Hemp
  • Organic cotton
  • Bamboo

Don’t buy anything made from plywood or particle board; there are unsafe chemicals used in the glue. Also, if you buy plastic, make sure it is safe plastic. The best plastics will have a 1, 2, 4, or 5 inside the recycling arrow logo.

9. Buy Local

We constantly hear the “buy local” tagline applied to the foods we purchase. But what about toys?

Buying local has several advantages. First, products that have a short ways to travel produce fewer emissions. Second, not all foreign countries adhere to the same production regulations.

If you can’t find what you want from local suppliers, see if you can coerce a friend to help you out. For example, perhaps you know someone who could make eco-friendly building blocks and stuffed animals. If you must shop overseas, Japan, Canada and Europe produce the safest toys.

10. Look for Open-Ended Toys

Open-ended toys can be used for various purposes. Not only does this boost a child’s creativity and cognitive development, using toys in multiple ways is good for the environment. For example, blocks can make a race track or a house. Dress up clothes can help your child be a teacher or a farmer.

11. Monitor Safety Issues

Even after conducting intense research, you might later discover a toy isn’t as safe as you thought it was. Sign up for recall notifications and get alerts as soon as an item you’ve purchased becomes unsafe. The U.S. consumer Product Safety Commission provides this service for free.

12. Buy Second Hand or Borrow

Some toys will last for decades. Eco-friendly people know there is a lot of life left in toys after kids lose interest. Check consignment shops or online swap groups for economical and eco-friendly deals. Check with friends, family and community members; does anyone have some toys you could borrow for a while? If so, see if you can return the favor!

13. Sell or Lend Later

Once your child is done with a toy, be sure to pass it along to someone else who could benefit. Don’t throw out perfectly good toys! Always sell, donate or lend toys that are still safe and in working order.

14. Don’t Buy Anything!

If we are all honest with ourselves, our children have plenty of toys and games as it is. They don’t really need anything else! Go outside, be in nature. We all work so hard to preserve the environment; we might need a reminder every once and a while to go enjoy the fruits of our labor!

Do you have any additional tips for creating an eco-friendly toy box? Let us know!

Jessica Velasco is a mom blogger who shares business and parenting tips on her website, The Leadership Notebook.

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