Thursday, November 23, 2017

Non-Toxic Holiday Shopping Guide: The Good, The Bad and Our Favorite Toys For Kids!


(Scroll down for the full guide!)
For their age, my kids know a lot about avoiding potentially harmful chemicals. We talk about it openly and organically (pun intended!) and I love the fact that they will grow up understanding what to avoid (soft plastics, strong artificial smells etc) and what to seek out (glass, stainless steel, wood etc). A topic that has been a bit tricky to navigate, however, are holiday gifts. They are under the impression that anything Santa would bring - regardless of what it is- would never be toxic to them because, as my then 5 year old said to me once, "Santa wouldn't put lead in my toys mommy, so don't worry"

Their logic makes sense; of course Santa Clause would never put lead or any other potentially harmful chemical in a toy he was making in the North Pole.

But, the sad reality is that sometimes toys that are left under the tree or gifted through other traditions during the holidays too often do contain harmful chemicals. And let's be honest, many of these toys end up in our children's mouths- thus directly exposing our munchkins to these toxins.

Let's take a closer look.


What else would 'Santa never put in a toy', but somehow end up in many popular toys?

  • Lead: According to the EPA (even low levels of) “Lead can cause decreases  IQ, cause nervous system damage and behavioral changes...” Academic achievement and the ability to pay attention are also affected - and the effects of lead exposure cannot be reversed or corrected. Can be found in paint and metal toys
  • Phthalates: These endocrine disrupting chemicals have been linked to reproductive abnormalities in baby boys, reduced testosterone and sperm quality in men and early puberty in girls. Found in toys that smell artificially and soft plastics
  • PVC: a known human carcinogen which can also exposure you to lead. Found in soft plastic toys made of vinyl
  • Cadmium: a carcinogen. Exposure can also damage the lungs and kidneys and weaken bones.  Can be found in inexpensive metal toys
  • Formaldehyde: a known carcinogen is commonly found in adhesives used in toys made of plywood or MDF 

As parents, we need to do our homework before purchasing toys for our children; because no one else will. Here is your cheat sheet (feel free to print and add to your munchkin’s Santa’s letter!) in order to avoid the most common toxic chemicals in toys :

1. INSTEAD OF: plastic toys, especially cheap plastic toys (birthday loot, Dollar Store etc)

TRY THIS: sturdy, heirloom quality natural wood. Bamboo is another great alternative to plastic.

INSTEAD OF: metal trinkets, like children’s play jewelry, which often contain cadmium a known human carcinogen that has also been linked to learning disabilities. Metal toys can also contain lead and lead based paint.

TRY THIS: soft cloth toys (ideally organic) or natural wood, especially for play jewelry. Make sure your wooden toys use water-based paints.

INSTEAD OF: products that are made of polyurethane foam (kiddie soft seating, baby changers, possibly anything with padding). These materials almost can contain flame retardant chemicals, which have been linked to learning disorders, cancer, hormone disruption, infertility and other serious health problems.

Try This: Wool; it is a natural flame retardant (no added chemicals necessary). Also, always read the label. The law now requires all foam products to have a label that will specify if chemical flame retardants were used in that product. Look for products that specify no chemical retardants were used.

INSTEAD OF: Smelly toys; if it smells like plastic it probably is made of PVC/vinyl which is a known human carcinogen. If it smells ‘fruity’ the toy probably contains phthalates, known endocrine disruptor's.

TRY THIS: Toys shouldn't smell, let your nose be your guide when picking a safe toy! That means avoiding fruity and plastic smelling toys!

INSTEAD OF: Purchasing something that has a ‘BPA free’ label, because it should be safe.....

TRY THIS: Choose an alternative to plastic. It can be cloth, silicon, wood, stainless steel. Even 'BPA free" plastic an still contain chemicals very similar to BPA and just as bad since they too mimic your hormones.

Safest materials:  When you are buying for little kids, especially kids who like to place toys in their mouths try to buy toys made out of:

  • natural solid wood
  • Silicone 
  • cloths (especially organic) 
  • Bamboo
  • Books (except water-proof plastic ones) are always a safe and great choice
Shop at reputable non-toxic toy outlets and brands. Our Amazon links below are a great start, but there are many small brick and mortal shops that carry great toys and online.  I work closely with The and highly recommend it as it is a curated, one stop shop for non-toxic, adorable and stylish toys. Peuro Baby in San Francisco, Caro Bambino in Santa Monica and Cou Cou in Boston are also
reliable outlets:  online and in person.

Non-Toxic Munchkin Approved Gifts for the little one in your life:

Loullou play gym

Among the many many play gyms available- this is my current crush. Manufactured in Denmark using FSC-certified materials, non-toxic eco-certified paints and varnishes and treated with organic beeswax and walnut oil. Besides loving the materials its made from and the designs I love the fact that when your child grows you can transform it into a dollhouse and other playtimes for older kids!  From $215

Hazel Village makes “real organic cotton woodland creatures and dolls, and real doll clothes that all the Hazel Village friends can share, to inspire hours of immersive, low-tech play. Also real matching clothing for babies and kids, because what could be more cute?”  From $42

Elephant Wooden Teether

Handcrafted in Iowa, all Bannor Toys toys are hard maple which is naturally resistant to bacteria and it is non-splintering wood, so it's safe for baby to gum on it for hours! Their cars are super cute too.  From $15

Hands down my favorite bath toy it is made of 100% natural rubber and hand painted with natural plant pigments.  Soft, malleable and perfect for little hands to play with. From $17

I try not to include clothing in my holiday guide, because lets face it few kids would ask Santa for clothing!  However this wool suspender short (for boys or girls- available in this neutral color and a brown) is so darn adorable I could not resist!!

Hape Emergency Vehicles Toddler Wooden Peg Puzzle
From $12
A classic toy that never goes out of style

Uncle Goose Chinese Blocks - Made in USA From $36

Made in Michigan, USA solid wood blocks come in a wonderful assortment of designs from Spanish, French letters to Chinese characters, American sign language, scientific themes, ‘ women who dared, bugs and geography.  From $20

These handmade wooden toys are colorful, will last forever and a true delight. Get the entire set or pick and choose your favorite animals (I love the play trees and the peacock! ).  The full set is $128, but individual animals and pieces start at $7!

Goki is another brand I love.  Their vehicles, and animals are made of solid wood and non-toxic paints.  From $19


This is currently my obsession - I find these trucks stunning.

• Made with natural, untreated wood

• Thermal finish contains no chemical additives

• Light natural wood scent

• Age recommendation: 3 years +

• Dimensions: 15.75″ x 5.7″ x 9.45″
From $94

Indoor or outdoor swing for babies 6 months-36 months.  Made of Wood and Canvas in New Zealand.  From $130
Janod Story Grand Prix Suitcase

Little race car fanatics will love this portable (and easy to clean up!) race track with wooden cars. From $41

Le Toy Van Honeybake Collection, Ice Lollies

Made from high quality wood, providing a durable set of fun accessories for the children to play with, helping them to develop their coordination skills and explore lots of role-play adventures. Your little ones will be completely immersed in the magical world of miniature home living. From $32

Janod Little Miss Vanity Case Playset (12 Blocks)

Finally a vanity set for little girls that is not made of plastic! From $41

Moulin Roty Play Doctor Kit

Not only is this a great set to inspire future physicians (or Doc McStuffin fans!) I am pretty obsessed with the valise (suitcase), which in itself is adorable.  From $40

An art project with will stick around long after completed and provide hours of fun imaginative play! From $17.50

Little Sapling Toys Wooden Mailbox
There is something about pretending to deliver mail that kids love.   Maybe, just maybe, it will inspire older kids to practice their writing and write their own letters too? From $45


Maybe its because I have two boys, but I love this wooden slingshot set! It comes with 5 X 3cm felt balls; so its safe and gentle to play with. Made in Nepal and hand painted in  Montréal. Clearly not for the under 3/4 set.  From $22

Brandnewnoise Player One voice recorder

Wouldn't your little one just LOVE hearing herself sing the Moana song over and over and over again?! What looks like a traditional wooden block toy is actually an incredibly accurate voice recorder! Easy to use, this voice recorder can pick up singing, talking, and story time, then play back what you've said. You can have it playback fast, slow, or keep it going on repeat! From $76

Theatre Nathalie Lete - Nathalie Lete theatre - blue

Yes it is super - I mean super- pricey but it is pretty amazing - and any mom out there that loves The Sound of Music as much as me will appreciate it for what it is! Sometimes Santa makes dreams come true!  From $495

For much less than the $400+ price tag from the last puppet theater- this alternative is easy to set up, takes up little space and just as fun! From $49

Papoose Bento Box Set

Made of 100% wool this company works with a fair-trade cooperative of skilled crafters in Nepal, to create wonderfully educational toys with natural materials. This fantastic set includes all the essentials necessary to prepare a proper sushi meal.  From $34

We have had ours 4 years and it has survived two rowdy boys and still looks amazing. Enough said.  From $100

Wishbone Classic Red Wagon

Ride around the neighborhood with one or two kids in this fun wagon made of birchwood.

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