Happy holidays! We hope this non-toxic toy guide is helpful for those of you looking to have a toxin-free and environmentally-responsible holiday!
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Toys, like evvvvverything else, can introduce toxins into your home, to say nothing of the environmental impact of producing and disposing of ALL THAT plastic.
I’m certainly guilty of buying my fair share of cheap plastic toys, but I am always trying to do better.
While you will inevitably end up with some plastic toys in your home, you can minimize the risks to both your kids and the planet by investing in higher-quality, non-toxic toys. And, there are some happy surprises when it comes to the risks posed by toxins in toys (see The Good Stuff below).
(By the way, if you are interested in finding safe, non-toxic teethers/baby toys, check out this guide. And here’s our 2022 Non-Toxic Gift Guide.)
This non-toxic toy guide helps you minimize the risks to both your kids and the planet by investing in higher-quality, non-toxic toys.
3 Tips for Choosing Safer, Non-Toxic Toys
If you want a truly toxin-free toy box, you will need to:
- Avoid painted wooden toys, unless they’re made in the United States or Europe or by brands you’ve vetted. Lead paint continues to show up in Chinese-made toys. Lead has been banned from toys produced in the United States, so you can be reasonably sure that toys that are made in America will be lead-free.
- Avoid Chinese toys. Unfortunately, lead paint isn’t the only thing to fear in Chinese toys. Many Chinese-imported toys have also been found to be contaminated with brominated fire retardants (including notorious PBDEs). Although these chemicals are banned for most uses in Europe and Canada, and no longer produced in the U.S., a legal loophole allows finished toys that contain these toxins to be imported and sold here. Since more than 85% of toys are made in China, they are not easy to avoid! Being made in China doesn’t necessarily make a product Bad Stuff; in some cases, a company will be based in Europe but may have a devoted manufacturing facilities located in China (or elsewhere in Asia). In general, when companies go to the trouble to use organic cotton, real wood, water-based paints, etc., they are also the companies that maintain close control over their production facilities–wherever they are located.
- Avoid toys made of vinyl (PVC). Phthalates are typically added to PVC toys as a softening agent. You can find phthalate-free PVC, which is safer than conventional PVC, but I would still avoid it where you can. One study by HealthyStuff.org found that 78% of toys tested contained PVC in one or more components, so again, avoiding this entirely is easier said than done.
Here’s a quick non-toxic toys cheat sheet, with a few brands that you may be wondering about:
The Worst Stuff in Toys
Some types of toys are consistently found to more toxic than others in study after study. Be especially cautious when purchasing:
- Sidewalk chalk, which has been found to be contaminated with asbestos. Here is safe chalk.
- Play jewelry, which may contain lead. Here’s safer toy jewelry and here is a safe necklace-making kit.
- Rubber duckies, which usually made of PVC and contain phthalates. Here’s a safe duck.
- Plastic play food, which can contain high levels of chlorine. Here’s some safe play food.
Non-Toxic Toys Should Also Be Earth-Friendly!
For the purposes of this guide, I am not going to designate any toys that are entirely made of plastic as “Good Stuff.”
That said, there are some plastics that are likely completely inert and therefore don’t present a health risk. See “The Okay Stuff” below for a bunch of safe plastic toys. Toys that use recycled safer plastics also deserve a mention.
From an environmental perspective, I would love to see us all support those companies who make high-quality wooden toys that can be passed down rather than thrown away.
Apple Park makes adorable plush toys made from 100% certified organic cotton and OEKO-TEX 100 toxin-free dyes. These are stuffed with a corn fiber, making them plastic-free.
Bannor offers a bunch of non-toxic toys to babies and toddlers. Everything is handmade in Iowa with wood from local lumberyards and only VOC-free paints.
Begin Again makes great bath toys of 100% natural rubber. They also make a range of safe wooden puzzles and other non-toxic toys.
This line of wooden toys and teethers uses a beeswax/jojoba finish or a food-grade mineral oil on all of their non-toxic toys.
We love this European brand’s line of platinum silicone toys–and they are safe for the youngest kids because they are entirely non-toxic should they end up in a mouth.
Eco-Kids makes great art supplies, such as crayons and modeling dough. Their materials include natural wax, mineral pigments, and 100% pure beeswax. We also love their candle-making and necklace-making kits.
This German brand also goes by Spiel & Holz, and is admittedly expensive! Still, their wooden toys are absolutely stunning. The non-toxic stains (rather than paints) means that you don’t have to worry about these toys chipping.
Haba produces most of their wooden toys in Germany, and they use nontoxic paints and finishes. Haba’s timber comes from sustainable forests from Germany, Finland, and Russia. Their paints are water-based and free of all solvents.
When Haba uses plastic, it’s polypropylene or ABS, both of which are among the safest plastics out there. I’ve assembled a collection of my kids’ favorite Haba toys here, all of which are produced in Europe.
Hevea makes an awesome line of PVC-free natural rubber balls, bath toys, and teethers (along with pacifiers). My kids loved these non-toxic toys when they were babies.
Made in Germany of hard maple and beechwood, Holztiger wooden animals are colored with water-based paint and finished with a water-based sealants.
I had two key-obsessed babies, and I was freaked out when I learned that not only are your set of house keys filthy, but they also often contain lead. Kleynimals 100% stainless steel toy keys are made in the USA.
You can see the whole lineup of stainless steel toys and rattles here.
Some of my favorite wooden animals are those made by Ostheimer, mostly because of simply how pretty they are. They are hand-carved in Germany, and use only non-toxic paints and natural oils for finishing.
This company’s Schoolhouse Naturals line is free of any kind of finish. Note that the other toys made by Maple Landmark do have petroleum-based lacquer and urethane finishes and would not be considered Good Stuff.
This brand makes my very favorite wooden letter blocks, which are handcrafted in the USA out of basswood and printed with non-toxic ink.
Under the Nile
UTN is my go-to source for organic cotton toys and teethers (as well as adorable clothing!) because they use 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton. I am obsessed with their line of Waldorf dolls in particular.
Natural Earth Paint
This is a great brand of safe, natural paints and face paints. Ingredients include simply organic corn starch and natural mineral pigments.
Petit Collage makes adorable sticker books, games, puzzles, wooden pull toys, instruments, and other non-toxic toys. Everything is made without PVC, and using recycled paper and vegetable inks.
Plan makes all of their non-toxic toys in a sustainable factory in Thailand, where they maintain control and employ solar power.
Plan Toys wooden toys are made from natural rubberwood trees that no longer produce latex. To keep the wood pure, no fertilizer is added to the soil for at least three years prior to harvesting the wood, and the wood is strengthened via a chemical-free kiln-drying process.
Plan’s printed materials are made of recycled paper and soy ink, and assembled with zero-formaldehyde-free glue. Plan’s dyes are free of heavy metals.
Tender Leaf Toys
Like Plan, Tender Leaf Toys are made of rubberwood and painted with water-based paints. I rank them slightly below Plan because they are less transparent and overtly eco-friendly, although I can’t find anything to suggest they contain toxins.
Tegu Magnetic Blocks
Tegu blocks are made of solid wood and coated with water-based paints with water-based pigments.
My kids have tons of Tegu blocks and they don’t emit any odor, and hold up well after years of play.
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A lot of you asked about this brand, and while their toys are made in China, they are all free of lead, phthalates, and BPA. This company is also committed to environmental sustainability in their packaging.
Bruder vehicles, which are made in Germany, are constructed of ABS plastic, which is non-leaching and safe.
There is nothing overtly toxic about these toys, but their claims of non-toxicity are vague and there are no third-party tests available.
Green toys are among the best plastic toys you can find. They are made in America of recycled polyethylene, which is a non-leaching and safe kind of plastic.
While Hape does make their toys in China, they maintain control of their factory, and most of the materials (paints, etc.) are sourced in Germany. The wood they use comes from forests that Employ sustainable forestry practices and are FSC certified. Their paints are solvent-free.
The Swedish giant has phased out PVC from all of their toys, but don’t offer a lot of info on the paints or glues used. Many of Ikea’s toys are made in China, although some are made in Sweden. The plastics in Ikea’s toys conform to EU laws, but Ikea does use some synthetic rubber and some lower-formaldehyde particle board.
Many of you have asked me about the play kitchens made by KidKraft. These kitchens are made mostly of wood, but they do employ some particle board (though it’s CARB II compliant), and some plastic.
This company didn’t get back to us with any certifications to back this claim up, but they assured us that none of their plush toys are treated with flame retardants.
Legos are made of ABS plastic, which is a safe, non-leaching type. This is great news for moms like me, who often feel like we are drowning in a sea of Legos! Unfortunately, Legos are not recyclable, so I still don’t consider this an eco-friendly toy.
Le Van Toys
This brand makes the prettiest dollhouses, and I was hoping I could call Le Van Toys Good Stuff. While I didn’t find anything alarming in terms of toxicity, the materials used in all Le Van Toys are not especially eco-friendly besides vague claims of “non-toxic” paints.
Magna-Tiles are one of my boys’ favorite toys, and while they are manufactured in China, they do not contain any BPA, phthalates, PVC, or other toxic materials. The clear Magna-Tiles are made of non-leaching ABS plastic.
This line is under the Haba umbrella, and produces high-quality, nontoxic, plastic toys. All Spielstabil items are made in Germany and are all free of phthalates, BPA, lead and PVC. Spielstabil products are made of food-grade ABS plastic and anything that needs to be joined together is done so using hygenic ultrasonic welding rather than glue. I am tempted to call these Good Stuff, but am sticking with my rule that nothing plastic gets categorized as such!
While not organic or certified as non-toxic, I think Steiff is the best brand for more realistic stuffed animals. Steiff animals are made from higher-quality materials, like mohair, alpaca, cashmere, 100% cotton, and wool felt.
Don’t see your favorite toys in any of the Good, Okay, Bad, or Sneaky categories? Comment below and let us know!
Alex chalk and their twist-up crayons were both found to be high in mercury in HealthyStuff studies. Their “Best Friends Bracelets” are high in arsenic, so two strikes is enough for me to call Alex Bad Stuff that should be avoided. Better alternative: Eco-Kids art supplies.
Barbie Dolls are made at least in part of PVC vinyl. On the upside, Matell has ditched the solvent-based paints for Barbie’s eyes.
Manhattan Toys contain polyurethane tubing.
My kids used to love Mash’Ems, and we have many of them. Unfortunately, they have been found to contain xylene.
Play-Doh’s exact formula is proprietary (which is always a bit of a red flag for me), but chemists suspect it’s a mix of innocuous ingredients like flour and not-so-good stuff, like borax, fragrance, PEG chemicals, and of course artificial colors. Better alternative: Eco-Kids art supplies.
Like Legos, Hasbro Transformers are made of ABS plastic, so I assumed they would be safe. In a recent study, Hasbro’s Transformers were found to be free of even trace amounts of heavy metals and other contaminants. However, a phone representative told a reader of ours that they are “neither BPA- nor PVC-free,” so we have to call them Sneaky Stuff.
Janod makes really cute European wooden toys, and while they use water-based paints, the wood is plywood, which likely means formaldehyde.
Melissa & Doug
Melissa & Doug is sold absolutely everywhere, and my kids have a lot of their toys. Unfortunately, Melissa & Doug toys are all made in China, and some of them have been found to be contaminated with heavy metals.
Schleich Animal Figurines
We own a lot of Schleich animal figurines, because I assumed they would be safer than the cheap alternatives (it’s a German company and the animals are beautiful and high-quality, the paint never chips, and they don’t smell toxic). Unfortunately, Schleich figurines are made of PVC, and they only mention being free of the phthalates that are banned in children’s toys.
I was disappointed to learn on Healthystuff.org that Playmobil is contaminated by a range of toxins and heavy metals. These were among my favorite toys when I was a child, and I assumed they would be a safe plastic choice until my research told me otherwise.
Maia, Founder & CEO
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