Our favorite toys, music, and books that are made from safe, eco-friendly materials, alongside some that promote organic foods and biodiversity.
My First Organics Seed Starting Kit
5 & up
What it is: Each kit includes the earth-friendly materials needed to make a greenhouse to start eight plants. Children fill the pots with organic soil, plant 2-3 seeds in each and then place the pots in the bottom of the greenhouse. Fill the base with water to moisten the soil, cover with the top and place the greenhouse in a well-lit part of your home. Within a few short days, your plants will sprout. Instructions and organic plant food are included to transplant your plants to an outside garden.
Why we like it: With the My First Organics Seed Starting Kit, we had seven certified organic tomato plants sprouting in our kitchen within two days after planting them. And a week later, much to our surprise, an eighth plant made an appearance. Some would say there is nothing more rewarding than a garden. In this case, the experience of teaching our testers about the value of organic gardening and having them see their plants grow right before their eyes, has proven that to be true.
Green Creativity/Recycled Paper Beads
5 & up
What it is: The Recycled Paper Beads kit is a set for turning paper strips into tightly wound beads that can be strung into jewelry. The toy includes a manual bead winder that can be mounted on a plastic bottle; the bottle then serves as a collection point for finished beads. Also included are colorful paper strips, glue, a glue dabber, and string.
Why we like it: Any paper can be used. The instructions were very clear and the beads turned out perfectly even the first time. The children exclaimed at the results and how they barely seemed to resemble paper; even boys with little interest in jewelry-making, enjoyed the process of winding and fastening the beads.
Oceans Are Talking
5 to 12 years
What it is: The Ocean Foundation has created a CD and concert series to raise awareness of critical issues surrounding the health of the world’s oceans.
Why we like it: The lyrics are sculpted to teach, not preach; each song’s musical style is an authentic complement as the pacing changes beautifully to address a range of topics. The message and the melodies improve with each listening.
Can We Save the Tiger
5 to 7 years
What it is: Author and conservation biologist Martin Jenkins, consultant for the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, has teamed with illustrator Vicky White, former zookeeper and current wildlife artist, to create Can We Save the Tiger, their second picture book collaboration.
Why we like it: Tigers are one of the most charismatic species alive, and readers are likely to be familiar with their plight. Author Martin Jenkins takes care to address less popular, but still at risk, species like the tiny Partula snail and the not-so-pretty white-rumped vulture. He ends his book on a cautiously hopeful note, relating the story of several species revived from near extinction. The book’s index and list of additional resources online ensure that this book will be a launch pad for further research.
Hape Mini e-vehicles
3 & up
What it is: Lightweight, compact vehicles made from bamboo
Why we like it: Perfect as a stocking stuffer or small addition to a gift, these mini racers are fast, fun and eco-friendly. Colorful and well-crafted, they are a sure to keep little speedsters entertained.
Recycled Cardboard Zoo
4 & Up
Why we like it: For a family who loves to color and create, this set is a dream come true. There is something for everyone in the Recycled Cardboard Zoo, and the instructions encourage using other recyclables from around the house.
Hoot Owl Hoot!
4 & up
What it is: Hoot-Owl-Hoot is a game that teaches teamwork and cooperation as all of the owls try to make it home before sunrise in a game that is educational and fun. Players work together to ensure that all of the baby owl pieces make it back to their nest before the sun fully rises.
Why we like it: The illustrations are bright and vibrant,, and the pieces are not flimsy, even though they are made from recycled materials. In fact, the packaging is cleverly designed so as not to be wasteful. Each game takes about 15-20 minutes, which is great, because kids will want to play again and again.
Ages: 3 & up
What it is: Creatures ranging from dinosaurs through lions created from sustainable maple wood, bendable cord limbs, and soft fabric.
Why we like it: Aside from creating a product that is safe, entertaining and beautifully designed for the children that play with them, the Anamalz company also cares greatly about the animals they are modeling. A portion of all proceeds go to the “Anamalz Saving Animals” Foundation that contributes “funds to various wildlife and children’s organizations around the world.” The website adds a lot of play and learning value too.
Furnished All Season Doll House
3 & up
What it is: A realistically designed and well-appointed dollhouse made of sustainable woods and non-toxic paints.
Why we like it: It’s loaded with long-term play value that will host generations to come.
Discovery Spaceship and Lift Off Rocket
3 & up
What it is: A four level space ship, two astronauts, a working robot, land vehicle, a flag, solar panels, and many accessories
Why we like it: This imaginative set propels pretend-play scenarios that will take young explorers to infinity and beyond.
CitiBlocs Little Builder Rattle Blocs
2 & up
What it is: 22 wooden blocks that double as rattles.
Why we like it: Testers jumped right into building skyscrapers and whole villages, putting the steps in front of the buildings and adding the roof. The rattle inside of the blocks made for a fun addition to play. Each block is made from Grade A Radiata Pine from certified renewable forests in New Zealand. A great gift for city dwellers.
Green Toys Flatbed Truck & Race Car
1 & up
What it is: A toy car and truck made from 100% recycled plastic milk containers.
Why we like it: To children these are just two really cool cars to push around. The blue truck hauls a sleek red “hot rod” on its back, and has a flatbed that tilts up to allow the car to roll off. But to parents, these are prime examples of the rugged indestructibleness that all toddler toys should have.
My First Green Toys Stacking Cups
6 months & up
What it is: This collection of stacking cups from Green Toys, Inc. is the peak of stacking cup form – not that most kids will care.
Why we like it: What adults love about these stacking cups – aside from the fact that they’re made in the U.S. from 100% recycled plastic milk containers that save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions – is that they’re truly a learning toy. Each cup is numbered on the bottom from 1 to 6 and is “volumetrically accurate.” Fill cups 1 and 2, for example, and it will equal the volume of cup 3. Pretty ingenious for teaching basic counting and math concepts to your child. Plus, the cups are dishwasher safe and contain no BPA, PVC, phthalates or external coatings