Please note that many of these articles were originally written for the old GB Wildlife site in between 2008 – 2010 and organisations may have changed since then.


Eco-Living – Green Guide to choosing toys

Playthings often get overlooked when making ethical purchasing decisions. But toys can be just as carbon intensive to produce as food and there are often human rights issue behind manufacture. So what should you look out for for choosing green toys for your children?

JOIN A TOY LIBRARY These toy lending facilities work in the same way as a regular library, loaning out toys for several weeks to local families. The best thing is swapping them for a new selection of playthings once the old ones have lost their appeal. Many toy libraries also organise social events such as play morning and fundraising efforts. 

AVOID PVC Toys made from PVC plastic can contain phthalates – hormone disrupting chemicals that can alter testes development as well as causing liver and kidney damage. Reports show that some plastic toys produced in China contain up to 55% phthalates, whilst the workers in the factories are more at risk from liver and other cancers. In fact, research suggests that the risk of liver cancer for these workers is 200 times higher than average. Choose wood to protect your child’s health and ensure that his playthings are not contributing to someone else’s ill health. 

GET CREATIVE You can have fun making your own toys for your children. I particularly like the ideas such as how to turn shelves into a playkitchen, how to turn a doll into a mermaid and some gorgeous soft seahorses that can be made out of felt.  More quirky projects like this can be found at

BE MEDIA AWARE Violent video games and television shows can be damaging for a child, who is less able than an adult to separate fact from fiction. If at all possible, avoid the TV and games consoles and encourage imaginative play instead.

PLAY, NOT WORK Often child labour is involved in the manufacture of toys in Asia, in fact the International Labour Organisation reports that over 200 million children worldwide are involved in child labour, 95% of these in developing countries. Reports circulated several years ago about the abysmal working conditions in a Bangladeshi factory employing women and children to make garments for a well-known cartoon company for just 12 cents an hour. The massive hamburger chain that gives away free toys with meals has been vilified for using child labour – see Other reports highlight issues with other major toy retailers and manufacturers. Choose fairtrade toys to ensure that the people who make your children”s toys have been paid a fair price for their handiwork.

GO FAIR This ensures that workers are paid a fair price and that strict ethical standards are adhered to. There are so many wonderful fairtrade toys to choose from, from footballs to jigsaw puzzles, soft toys to finger puppets. Check out the British Association for Fair Trade Shops to find a shop selling fairtrade toys local to you.

INVOLVE THE FAMILY Have a family games night and get together to play board games once a week. Try, or your local charity shop for a wealth of ideas.

PASS IT ON When you have finished with toys and games, pass onto friends, freecycle or, if they are in good condition, donate to the charity shop. 13 million toys are chucked into landfill every year in the UK. 

DITCH THE BATTERIES Batteries contain heavy metals such as cadmium, nickel and mercury that leach into the water system when thrown away. If you need batteries choose alkaline manganese ones, free from heavy metals. 

Happy playing!


Melissa Corkhill editor of The Green Parent magazine and author of two books on green living will be writing monthly articles for She lives in rural Sussex surrounded by woodland and wildlife and is passionate about environmental issues.

The Green Parent magazine makes is an excellent, interesting subscription magazine and makes a lovely gift. You'll find lots of information and inspiration here, whether you want to read articles on natural parenting or try out guilt-free shopping. This gorgeous magazine covers all aspects of family life from birth to alternative education, eco house and garden to nutrition.