Over the last year, my son has become an anti-plastic activist. He’s concerned that it is polluting our oceans and he’s curious about finding ways to change it.
While I consider myself to be an environmentalist; striving to reduce my consumption and minimise my carbon footprint, I stumble, especially as a mama juggling all-the-things.
Sometimes convenience wins. Sometimes I forget my reusable coffee mug. Sometimes I just need something to be….easy.
But, with little eyes watching, the activist in me has woken from her recent slumber.
I wholeheartedly believe that one person can make a difference. I passionately believe that a family who makes intentional spending choices impacts mother earth and can have a ripple effect within the community. And I absolutely believe that as parents and grandparents we have the responsibility to leave our children with a healthy planet.
But, in our modern world, it can feel daunting, especially when we consider that over ninety percent of toys are made from plastic. And so, the paradox of Christmas is that it gives us an unparalleled opportunity for transformation; to support businesses who are invested in making long-lasting, open-ended toys that are created in a sustainable way. Many small changes add up and when enough people start to swim upstream, the river may change its flow.
Our impact is magnified with toys because not all plastics are created equal; toys are especially problematic.
Why? Because plastic toys are almost certainly destined to clog up landfill or pollute our oceans; they are notoriously difficult to recycle. Typically plastic toys are composed of other materials, such as metal; the recyclable components can’t be separated out, and become prohibitive for recycling centers to process.
Because plastic toys are inexpensive, it is easy to buy more and more and more of them. It contributes to a generational cycle of excessive consumerism. And ironically, we know that the more toys kids have, the less they play.
Because most plastic toys have short lifespans; typically serving only one purpose and failing to inspire creative or independent play.
Because the chemical used in the manufacturing of plastic can be harmful to our children’s health, especially when kids are young and put everything in their mouths.
So, am I suggesting a complete ban on ever buying a plastic toy again? Of course not. Am I suggesting that as I type this post that the LEGO sitting on our dining table is an illusion? Of course not.
Like anything in parenting, we need to find our own balance. Some plastic toys like LEGO and Magnatiles are incredible toys. But, if we can rebalance the scales and infuse our homes with intentionally chosen, well-considered toys, the impact of the odd plastic toy here and there is minimised. So, here is a list of toys your child may love this Christmas.
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1. Grimm’s Toys
Grimm’s toys are some of the most beautiful wooden toys on the planet. As a company, they’re motivated by the principles of Waldorf and Montessori education. Their toys are designed to encourage toddlers and children to engage in open-ended and independent play. Pieces are hand-cut and sanded, and colored only with non-toxic water-based dyes.
I’m eyeing up the Grimm’s Large Stepped Pyramid this year (…a little expensive so we’ll see!). We recently played with these at a friends house and my son and I both loved them. The colours are vibrant, the blocks feel beautiful and the quality is heirloom; I can totally imagine handing these down to my grandkids one day. You can check them out here on Amazon. And they also make a small version here which is less expensive.
Other Grimm’s favourites? Grimm’s Rainbows in small and large have become modern classics and offer no end to creative play, from building bridges and tunnels to developing fine and gross motor skills. Rainbow Peg Dolls are brilliant for inspiring open-ended play. And for younger kids, check out Grimm’s Wooden Stacking and Nesting Bowls and Bead Grasper.
2. Wobbel Board
Another Waldorf inspired toy, modern balance boards are great for stimulating balance and strength while supporting and enhancing physical awareness. Flip the Wobbel board upside down and it can also be used as an open-ended toy; is it a bridge, a car ramp, a reading table, a step stool or a hideout for small toys? With the winter rain having arrived in Vancouver, I am super excited for the indoor fun the Wobbel will unleash in our home. Wobbel is a European based company and their website has a list of local stockists for each country.
Kinderfeet is another brand that offers a wonderful balance board, which is more cost effective and readily available here on Amazon.
3. Lillagunga Swings and Rings
Speaking of indoor movement, have you seen Lillagunga rings and swings? I have been quietly craving these stunning swings, come works-of-art since I came across them on Instagram a few months ago.
Lillagunga, which means ‘little swing’ in Swedish embody joy, wonder and fun! Check out their swings and rings here, which can also be personalised.
And use code GOOD10 to claim a 10% discount until December 10th.
4. Micro Mini Scooters
If you’re searching for a scooter for your child, I highly recommend the Micro scooters. We got the Micro Maxi scooter for our son for his birthday earlier this year and he LOVES it. The quality is outstanding, it has three wheels so it balances when not in use and it is super lightweight (for when you have to carry the scooter!).
The names are a little confusing so, the Micro Kickboard Mini is for kids aged 2-5 and the Micro Maxi Kick is for kids aged 5-12. You can find them both on Amazon here (mini) and here (maxi).
5. Plastic Free Bathtub Toys
Begin Again Bathtub Toys are the toys we had when our son was a baby! You can find them here on Amazon. They are made with Eco-Friendly heavy duty plant-based natural rubber with NO BPAs, phthalates, or lead. Plus no risk of mold – they have wide openings so that the toys can fully dry between uses.
Green Toys are a fantastic company who make all of their toys from recycled plastic – to date, they have recycled over 58 million milk jugs into toys. Our favourite Green Toy to take into the bath is the ferry boat with miniature cars – you can check it out here on Amazon.
6. Hape Dynamo Wooden Domino Set
Nanna found this little gem and I’m so excited to watch my son open. Secretly I also can’t wait to play with this toy on Christmas morning! Loaded with STEAM value to help encourage spatial thinking abilities and hand-eye coordination. I can imagine this toy will promote resilience and a growth mindset as kids overcome setbacks and have fun while doing it. Check out the Hape Dynamo Wooden Domino Set here.
7. Cuddle + Kind Dolls
For babies and younger kids check out Cuddle + Kind handknit dolls. Every doll has a unique story. This is Wyatt the Fox, for example. He came from a magnificent forest of towering trees where there’s plenty of room to roam, run and be free. He may be little, but he can do anything he puts his my mind to, just like your little.
These dolls are heirloom quality and I love that there is a doll for every child to identify with. But, the reason I am sharing this company is because of their dedication to childhood hunger. For every doll they sell, they donate 10 meals to hungry children (and over the holiday period, 1 doll = 20 meals). So far, Cuddle + Kind have donated almost 3.5 million meals to children in 66 different countries. Check out Cuddle + Kind dolls here.
Books! Yay! Books are a staple on our Christmas list. Here are the books under our tree this year.
Manfish: this is the story of Jacques Cousteau, internationally known oceanographer and champion of the seas. The story begins with Jacques as a little boy though; curious and passionate about the ocean. It is a magical and inspiring story to follow one’s dreams; something all kids need to believe in.
Atlas of Animal Adventures: we have the Atlas of Dinosaur Adventures already, which we love and are excited for this book this Christmas. If you have an animal lover check it out. It is full of adventure as you explore nature’s most unmissable animal events from pole to pole, including epic migrations and extraordinary behaviours. There are hundreds of things to spot and facts to learn. You can find it here on Amazon.
Wild Animals of the South: we’ve been reading Wild Animals of the North all year which is amazing and to complete the puzzle Wild Animals of the South is under our Christmas tree this year. These books contain some of the most beautiful and colorful illustrations I’ve seen. Sure to arouse a curiosity for nature in your kids. You can find it here on Amazon.
9. Sprout Tables and Chairs
I was beyond excited to find Sprout Kids recently. Sprout is a US-based environmentally responsible designer and manufacturer of modern furniture for kids and families. Their minimalist design is Montessori inspired, which I love.
From weaning tables and floor beds for toddlers to tables and kitchen helpers for kids, you’ll love their offerings. Sprout has a month-long sale on at the moment, which you can check out here.
10. Green Kid Crafts Box
Since we officially started homeschooling I’ve been looking for a subscription box to help make it easier to incorporate STEAM activities into our days. The boxes were created by experts in early childhood development and include experiments and crafts that help to activate an inquiring mind and original creation.
The Green Kid Craft boxes are so much fun and they have options for kids from two to ten years of age. Plus they are a green company meaning that they’re boxes are 100% recycled, packaging is minimal, they’re carbon neutral and give back 1% of sales to environmental organisations.
Check out the Green Kid Crafts Boxes here and use code get50 to receive 50% off your first order.
11. Big Life Journal
Children with a growth mindset believe in the power of effort; that they can learn more or become smarter through hard work and determination. These kids are likely to learn faster, see mistakes as learning opportunities, become more resilient and better problem solvers.
One of my favourite resources to help foster a growth mindset is The Big Life Journal. It incorporates reading, expressive writing, and critical thinking while teaching social and emotional learning and growth mindset skills. It is suitable for kids 6-11 years of age and you can find it here. And the Teen Edition is suitable for 12-14 year olds which you can find here.
Have you heard the difference between closed and open toys? Closed toys are generally defined as those that serve one purpose, once they’re completed, they’re done. Whereas, open-ended toys can be used for many different purposes. For example, coloured blocks can be used to build a castle, a bridge or for counting, sorting or balancing. Open toys spark the imagination. Generally, we aim for a ratio of 75% open toys and 25% closed toys.
Officially, puzzles are closed toys, which we try to limit, BUT we LOVE puzzles, especially at this time of year! So, here are a couple of our favourites! Put on some Christmas music, snuggle in front of the fire, make a hot chocolate and enjoy!
Crocodile Creek puzzles are so much fun and this Wild Animals puzzle is our current favourite. Our son has taken to making this a more open toy by tossing the pieces back into the canister at the end. Those pieces that miss make it to Round 2 of putting the puzzle back together. Those that land in the canister are “out”. So, as you can image…..by Round 4 we’re making a 100 piece puzzle with 68 pieces and my mind is bending!
This Crocodile Creek Canada Puzzle + Play is under our tree this year. For all my Canadian friends this looks like such a fun way to learn. This giant floor 100 piece jigsaw puzzle comes with a Canadian guidebook and 21 stand-up figures to use in a seek and find game. And Crocodile Creek also makes a US Puzzle + Play too, which looks amazing. Now we need Australia, NZ, UK, Europe, South America, Africa…..oh the places we’ll go! 🙂
We love Magnatiles (which are plastic) and were a Christmas gift last year. They are super easy to tidy up, provide endless free play opportunities and are designed to develop fine motor skills, critical thinking and mental math muscle. If you’d like to check out Magnatiles they can be found here on Amazon (they’re one exception to our plastic-free rule). But, in the spirit of this post I was excited to find Earthtiles which are wooden magnetic tiles – I haven’t tried them myself but they look incredible and get great reviews. Check out Earthtiles here.
14 and 15. Giving Back
I get so excited about giving back and supporting charities who are striving to make this world a better place for our children to grow up in. I’d love to know in the comments below, what are your favourite charities to donate to? It’s so personal but I love supporting animal conservation efforts and in the spirit of this post a couple of my favourite charities that strive to protect our oceans and those living in it are Pacific Wild, and The Australian Marine Conservation Society.
Wishing you and your family a very merry Christmas and all the best for an incredible 2022!