Cool, eco-friendly gifts for kids

happy birthday

We have been to a lot of parties already this year and rather than agonise over each present, I decided to buy the same thing for each kid. No, it wasn’t a plant! They were very cool eco-friendly kids’ toys and I will tell you more about them below, along with some of my other favourites.

The first rule of buying planet-happy present for kids is this: get them something they will love.

Although a hand-sewn Peruvian doll made from ethical cacao-bean by-products is a gorgeous, considerate gift, if the child unwrapping it thinks “boring!” it will be dispatched to the “out” pile in no time and all those wonderful, fair-trade materials wasted.

Most kids I know are into superheroes or princesses, which makes it tricky when looking for birthday gifts. Unless you know a kid really, really well and you’re giving them something pretty unique, it’s probably not appropriate to give them a second-hand gift (unless you are regifting!). But it’s not impossible to buy new eco-friendly toys that will genuinely excite kids.

In addition to the rule above, here are some tips on minimising the impact of your gifts:

  • Try not to buy last-minute so you aren’t tempted to grab the biggest, gaudiest thing you see in KMart.
  • Ask the parents what the child is into, then think beyond the standard merchandise. If a girl is into My Little Pony, maybe you could get her a beautiful colouring and sticker book featuring horses, for example.
  • Search online for eco-friendly toys – try Sustainababy, Green Gifts Australia  or TreeHugga.
  • Try to avoid discount department stores and go for a locally-owned toy-shop instead.
  • Buy the best quality you can afford – it’s better to buy something small that won’t break than something that falls apart in minutes.
  • Choose low-impact materials where possible. Wood, paper, cloth are all renewable materials, plastic is made from oil, which we are fast running out of.
  • Look at the packaging. Is this toy over-packaged? The less plastic and cardboard packaging the better and if there’s any sign of polystyrene, forget it!
  • If you find a company that has good sustainability initiatives, stick to it!

Some of my favourite eco-friendly toys

As I mentioned, we’ve had lots of parties this year and there are plenty more to come (I remember a time when I had a life too..). Here some ideas for less-impact toys, perfect for kids’ parties or that special little someone in your life.

Lego: Lego is my go-to present, which may surprise you seeing as I am always harping on about using less plastic. Allow me to explain. As a company, Lego has a sound sustainability plan and is on a mission to reduce its emissions. I also love that the company has a vision of making its blocks from renewable materials and ensuring each block will last 50 years. It’s easy to buy or sell Lego second-hand so your gift will have a life after the child grows out of it or can grow their collection more sustainably. Start them off with something small from the Creator series, which they can then build upon, or the Friends series for girls.

Hip kids trolleyOld fashioned: Think back to days of old when kids pulled trolleys around with their baby sister perched dangerously inside. I love the steel wheelbarrows and toy wagons at Hip Kids, and I particularly love this miniature piano. When choosing old-fashioned toys, go for something that is timeless and can be passed along.

Wooden: There are some fantastic wooden toys around, but they tend to be more expensive than plastic. Really cheap wooden toys are unlikely to come from sustainable sources and are more likely to break quickly, so it’s important to choose a trust-worthy brand. PinToy and Brio are both good options with fun ranges.

Activity: I’m all for giving kids gifts that they can engage with quietly, while mum has a lie-down after the hectic kids’ party. I adore the Seedling range of craft and activity sets, which cover off princesses and superheroes with the crown/cape design kits. Then there are these 4MGreen Science and Creativity kits which provide kids with everything they need to make stuff from recycled materials, or make cool stuff like windmills.

Recycled plastic: Last but not least, you’ve got to love toys made from recycled plastic. Green Toys are made primarily from reclaimed milk bottles in the US and printed with soy inks. All packaging is made from recycled materials too.

 Do you struggle to find eco-friendly toys for parties? Or do you have any favourites you want to share?

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photo credit: Philippe Put via photopin cc


  1. Bernadette Eden says

    Totally agree, We attend and give so many birthday presents these days we all really need to think how ethical and sustainable our gifts are. Is there anything wrong with second-hand though? Because there are so many gifts given it also means that second-hand shops are exploding with many barely used pre-loved gifts. If I can find something appropriate that is pre-loved and I know I would enjoy receiving it or my kids receiving it I always buy second-hand. I let the receiver know that it is second hand and that I buy second-hand for sustainable reasons. I find always that the response is positive and it gives others the okay to buy second-hand and takes away the stigma that is can be around pre-loved goods. Sorry to write an essay just feel that pre-loved gifts are an untapped market for everyone! Cheers.
    Bernadette Eden recently posted..Top 5 Ethical and Sustainable Online Present Shopping ChoicesMy Profile

    • (dt)em says

      Bernadette, I am in awe – good on you for living your convictions so wholly. I would love to buy second-hand gifts, but I often chicken out or feel pressured (by who? Most of my friends would expect me to choose second hand! It’s me pressuring myself, which is ridiculous). You have inspired me!

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