Purchasing Wooden Toys

Why and How to Buy Wooden Toys and How to Make Wooden Toys

Wooden ToysHarkening back to days of old, many of us remember playing with giant wooden puzzles and brightly-colored wooden trains on the kitchen floor. Wooden toys are wonderful choices for parents looking to find eco-friendly playtime objects for their children. They’re highly durable, made of natural, renewable materials, and are biodegradable.

But not all is green in the world of wooden toys. Many on the market today are either finished with adhesives and paints that are potentially toxic or they’re put together using woods that haven’t been harvested from sustainably-managed forests. Our world’s forests are some of the most important ecosystems we have. They absorb carbon and breathe out oxygen, they prevent soil erosion and filter the air and water of poisons. They also provide habitat for 90% of all land-living animals and plants and we need them for building materials.. Yet they’re disappearing rapidly throughout the planet—an area the size of a soccer field is bulldozed every two seconds.[1]


What to look for in eco-friendly wooden toys 

The characteristics of a safe, green wooden toy for your child are pretty straightforward. These are some of the characteristics you'll want to be looking out for: 

  • FSC-certified wood: The Forest Stewardship Council is the only internationally-recognized third-party forest management organization recognized by major environmental nonprofits and is your key to finding natural wooden toys that are made from sustainable woods. Look for their stamp of approval on the packaging or right on the toy. (Note: The organization called SFI that is also a certification body but is not considered reputable in that they are industry-sponsored. Find out more at Don’t Buy SFI.)
  • Choose unpainted and untreated: Many paints and stains can contain toxins like heavy metals that can enter your baby’s body when he/she chews and plays with them. To avoid this problem, look for wooden toys that aren’t painted or treated in any way.
  • Natural wood finishes: Safe alternatives to buying unfinished wooden toys include things like beeswax, tung oil, and linseed oil.
  • Water-based paints and stains: If you really want toys with some color, choose water-based paints and stains. If you’re making your own toys, a safe bet is AFM Safecoat paints which are SCS Certified. Contact an organization like Environmental Products and Design for additional advice.
  • Choose solid wood: Pressed woods are made by gluing wood sawdust and particles together, but the glues can contain formaldehyde and other off-gassing ingredients that are neither safe for your indoor air or your baby’s body.

Many companies now create and sell beautiful wooden toys that will educate and inspire your children without the hazards of conventionally-made wooden toys, including:


Homemade wooden toys

Using the same guidelines for eco-friendly materials, DIYers among us can make their own handcrafted toys using sustainable woods. For ideas on making wooden toys, check out the following online guides:



1 Our disappearing forests. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2010, from Greenpeace: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/forests/our-disappearing-forests

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