With Christmas quickly approaching, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite eco-friendly, great quality toy companies, along with a few other ideas. The first couple years for a child are really just about learning about and experiencing the magic that is Christmas. They don’t need much, really. My son was way more impressed with the wrapping paper than the gifts for the first couple years. I really think a big box filled with paper and a few simple balls would have been good enough for him. We try to keep things fairly simple at Christmas and choose to invest in a couple of good quality toys. Plus, I love the idea of passing down sturdy toys to the next generation. My hubby’s parents kept his wooden Brio train set from when he was a little boy and my son now plays with it. I hope our kids can do the same with their toys eventually, passing them onto their own children. While interests are constantly changing with age, there are a few companies we have been buying from for years now and are continually impressed with the quality and the fact they are actually eco-friendly. With a recent greater demand and awareness for non-toxic wooden toys, there are a lot of companies coming out with options now. But be careful if you are looking for good quality, non-toxic stuff. Some of these companies seriously lack in quality (we know from experience) and their finishes and paints are far from non-toxic. Also, check out your local artists and independent stores, and even Etsy for some great ideas and unique toys.
You can find a lot of these eco-friendly gift guide for kids items I’ve listed below on Amazon. In Canada, Mastermind Toys (a great toy shop with locations across Canada) or even Chapters have a decent selection as well.
This is one of my favourite toy companies. All of their solidly built toys are made of preservative-free rubber wood and finished with non-toxic finishes like soy and water-based inks. We have several of their products and are always impressed with the simple yet sturdy design, and our son loves them all. They also have great customer service. We had an issue with a drum that arrived with a small crack (due to temperature changes after the manufacturing process) and they immediately replaced it for us. Some of my favourites from Plan Toys are:
- Push-Along Toys: My 3 year-old still sometimes takes his out for a go. Perfect for ages 1 and up. This duck is just one of the few kinds they have.
- Plan Toys Instruments. We have a few instruments from both Plan Toys and Hape, but the xylophone and drum are favourites in this house for family music making.
- Block Set: This is my favourite block set so far, and the block set is still constantly used over 2 years later. Although they come with a fair number of pieces, if you want to build a pretty big castle, I’d suggest two sets. These are perfect, safe starter blocks that can be used for years.
- Parking Garage: For the car lover (ahem, most boys!) in the house, parking garage is an instant hit. Our parking garage is almost always full.
Another awesome company, German-based Hape makes some great solid wood and bamboo toys for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and more. The Hape wooden kitchen was given to my son as a Christmas gift and we have slowly collected some of the kitchen items along the way. Some of our favourite Hape toys are:
- Food and Kitchen Items: For the budding chef, Hape has some great products, including the fruit and veggie sets, which come with a small (super safe) wooden knife to cut through the Velcro. Great for learning!
And this toaster set rules. It has been a favourite in our house since day 1 and my son just loves serving us our honey toast.
- Tea Set: For the tea lover in the house, this tea set is really cute and perfect for tea parties. It even comes with its own serving tray and little tea bags.
- Alphabet Abacus: We received this alphabet abacus as a gift for my son’s first birthday and are starting to use it a lot more now that he’s older. It’s perfect for learning the alphabet and basic numbers.
Playsilks are such simple, awesome little things. Made out of 100% natural silk, they can be anything the child wants it to be. A cape, a cave, a tablecloth, a lake. Let the imagination run wild…that’s what is so great about them. They can be used with a baby (peek-a-boo) all the up to an older child. You can also find them on Etsy.
I love Stockmar art supplies, especially their crayons which are made with beeswax. They are not cheap but they are amazing quality and our block crayon set has been going strong for over a year with no end in sight yet. The block crayons are perfect beginning crayons when children are still developing and learning coordination, making holding the crayons and colouring easier for them. They also make regular style crayons as well as modelling clay. These are an investment art-wise but well worth it. They are the first set we’ve had that have held up to my son’s wild ways and not broken in half almost immediately like the rest. Our local Waldorf school carries Stockmar products but you can also find them online, like here in the United States, and here in Canada.
What kid doesn’t love stories? The library is one of our favourite places to visit and I love discovering new children’s’ authors. Books can be passed down time and time again and make the perfect gift for any age. Right now, some of our favourites books for toddlers and preschoolers are:
Shadow Chasers – Elly MacKay, a Canadian author, is an absolutely gorgeous illustrator and storyteller. Her books convey all the magic that can be found in childhood and nature in particular. I love all of her books and this nighttime story is a current favourite of both my son and I.
Bear Has a Story To Tell (Philip and Erin Stead) – This is a perfect book for the coming winter, with Bear helping all his friends prepare for the winter before he does so himself.
Owl Moon (Jane Yolen) – The beautiful illustrations that accompany this book make it enjoyable for both kids and parents. A child and Pa go on a journey through the woods at night, encountering all the nighttime creatures.
Beautiful Oops (Barney Saltzberg) – This is such a wonderful book, outlining the many beautiful things a “mistake” can be: “A smudge and a smear can make magic appear!” My son already has this one memorized. The simplicity and engaging content make this book a good one for almost any age.
The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats) – A classic, simple story about a boy who wakes up to discover that snow has fallen. Always a good read to show the excitement and wonderment of the first snowfall.
How to Catch a Star – Oliver Jeffers books are sweet and fun, detailing a boy’s fun adventures like flying to the moon and trying to catch a star. We love this one right now:
Merry Christmas, Curious George (H.A. Rey) – My son is a BIG George fan and this one gets him especially excited for Christmas. Picking out the tree and then helping out the children at the local hospital, this book will be a favourite of any Curious George lover.