Toy Fair New York: 28 Of The Best Eco-Friendly Toys For Kids

WE found the best eco-friendly toys from the New York Toy Fair 2020

Toy Fair New York 2020 is bigger than ever, and toy trends feature water play, pushing boundaries and developing gross motor skills, to name but a few. Check out the best toys for eco-friendly parents we found!

The Toy Fair New York is a huge event. Toymakers from all over the world come together to debut products and show the world how their toys impact our children.

As natural-minded parents, when it comes to toys, we’re obviously looking for more than just the latest trendy toy. All too often, those are not the eco-friendly, sustainable products we’d hope they’d be.

But that’s changing! While walking the countless aisles of the show, we were surprised (and delighted!) to find that more toy manufacturers are looking at what mamas like us want for our kids. We want toys that encourage imaginative play, getting out and getting dirty, socio-emotional intelligence building, eco-friendly, screen-free/limited and non-toxic. Not only are manufacturers looking at what we want, but we’re also encouraged to see that they’re listening to us, and the power of our dollars is making an impact.

Toy Trends For This Generation

Some of the trends that the Toy Association shared were ones that we natural-minded mamas already have been fans of for years.

For instance, a hot trend is toys that use water as the main component of their play. Many of the toys on display were ones that included surprise toys that use water to reveal hidden messages, colors, characters and more. Aquatic-themed toys like boats, sharks and mermaids are hot, and educational toys that teach about underwater life and conservation are also popular this year. Most of us know that kiddos and waterplay is often a winning combination, and the toy industry agrees!

We also LOVE seeing more toys that encourage kids to explore their physical boundaries and limits. We saw tons of toys for toddlers to teens that encourage the development of fine and gross motor skills, encourage team-playing and civil competition and have our kids wanting to get up and move, particularly outdoors. Again, the toy industry seems to note that kids being ‘kids’ is important not just to their childhood enjoyment, but their brain development as well.

“Kid-powered” toys are also big! Toy companies are taking note of the power of play in the hands of kids, and we’ve seen more toys that encourage building, tinkering, creating, designing and thinking critically when playing. Open-ended toys are big, as are toys that allow children to exercise their creativity in many different ways.

Related: Looking for eco-friendly, organic, long-lasting toys? Try wood

And what we really love is a focus on play being part of family life, and emphasizing that play across generations. The Toy Association’s Genius of Play initiative supports that when children play with adults, they end up displaying higher levels of language and problem-solving skills. Additionally, parents and grandparents engaging in toy play with their kids and grandkids take walks down memory lane sometimes as they think of their own childhoods, and bonding is priceless. There’s a big focus on family games, outdoor crafts, nostalgic and retro brands and crafts that the whole family can enjoy, and we’re ALL IN!

The Best Eco-Friendly Toys For Kids At The New York Toy Fair 2020

As is so often the case, we fall in love with the premise of a toy only to find that it’s made with materials we can’t trust for our kids, or without fair labor practices, or at an extreme detriment to the environment.

But mamas, that’s changing, and rather quickly! So many of our favorite finds at the show used recycled materials, or ensured that the materials they used were non-toxic, phthalate-free, responsibly and sustainably sourced. Additionally, many company brands shared their commitment to doing better for both the environment and our kids.

We also found a big focus on the social and emotional development of our kids, in games and toys. Realizing that that aspect of our kids’ development is vital, we loved companies that made feeding our children’s brains and hands with age-appropriate toys that were good for them and good for the earth.

And now, without further ado as there were SO many great finds, here are some of our favorites. Many are available now, but some debut later this year and we’ll be sure to keep you updated when they’re released!

One company we couldn’t get enough of was PlanToys. Plan Toys is exactly what we natural-minded mamas are all about! PlanToys has a mission of sustainable play, and that’s evident in all its incredibly crafted and beautiful toys. They’re made of reclaimed rubber woods (or, even cooler, reformed sawdust called PlanWood), organic and water-based paints and commitment to the environment that we don’t often find in so many companies, even eco-friendly ones. PlanToys legitimately keeps sustainability and eco-friendly processing in every step of its toy process, and they purposely work to minimize environmental impact while they engage in developing the brilliance of play in our children. They’re reasonably priced, heirloom-quality toys that you can feel good about and your kids will love!

Just Add Sun

Just add sun is eco-friendly

We also met with the amazing Reisa Schwartzman, founder of Griddly Games. She started her career as a dancer, dance teacher and choreographer and blending her love arts and sciences together (as well as her experience mothering three amazing boys) she decided to put her passion for helping children play and explore their worlds to paper (and purposed packaging) and develop these games. All of her products focus on intentional packaging, purpose in play, and creating curiosity and creativity in children with STEAM-based products that are screen-free. This Just Add Sun Kit is literally a solar oven, and teaches kids about eco-friendly energy alternatives. Bonus fun? They learn to upcycle as they create fantastic art in the process!

Slackers NinjaLine

This is the ultimate outdoor must-have toy for kids. We want our kids to be outside being kids, right? Getting dirty, developing motor skills and all while having fun. How to do that? The Slackers NinjaLine! Designed for versatility and from a company who believes that kids need to be outdoors, working their energy and their exuberance out while they learn all that nature has to offer, it’ll be THE toy that will have all the kids in the neighborhood in your yard!


Shore Buddies Sammy The Seal

We walked by the softest stuffed animals and couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that they were made from plastic water bottles! We met the founder of Shore Buddies, Malte Niebelschuetz, who told us that when he moved from Germany to California, he was surprised there was not as much an initiative to save the ocean. His video explains how he came to do so with these super soft plushies, fully recyclable and made from plastic bottles. AND every sale of the Shore Buddies helps save the oceans with a donation to $1 For The Ocean. Malte says his mission is to educate children, and the storybook that accompanies sweet little animals like Sammy the Seal is making a big splash in the eco-friendly education field!


ILuv Color GearsThis eco-friendly robot teaches about social emotional intelligence

This amazing little robot is eco-friendly, and comes from MeandMine, a line of products founded by educators, pediatricians, toy geeks, psychologists and parents. Their goal is to inspire love of self in every child and they have incredible eco-friendly toys that empower kids. We adored ILuv because he’s something that kids can put together on their own, and the brightly colored-gears encourage kiddos to explore emotions and feelings.


GreenTones Momma Bear Drum Set

This Momma Bear is one that your kiddos will love having around! Made from chemical-free rubberwood (sustainably harvested), it’s non-toxic and finished with German-made, VOC-free water-based paint. It’s perfect for creating some cool beats in a clean and eco-friendly way!


My Audio Pet

Our kids love music, and they love adorable characters. My Audio Pets combine both and we could not believe the quality of the sound that came from these babies. My AudioPets allow your kids to listen to their favorite jams, and now, even have stories read to them with the introduction of MyAudioStories. Written by founder and Dad KJ Robinson, these stories are quality tales that teach good values and recognition in our children, while using the adorable My Audio Pets to help. One of our FAVORITE things about My AudioPets was the “Hide and Speak.” You can hide the cute little speaker and then using the My AudioPets app, you can give clues and make sounds to ‘help’ your kids find it. Talk about hours of fun on a rainy day!


Micro Kickboard Maxi Deluxe Scooter

These scooters, balance bikes and mobility toys (and travel accessories) are uber neat and oh-so-light (in more ways than one)! Micro’s mission is to create and offer fun, superior-quality products that enhance health and use the power of their business to give back to difference-making organizations across the globe. Four times a year, Micro donates a portion of their proceeds to causes they’re passionate about…causes that focus on sustainability, exercise, housing and childhood nutrition and more.

Kids will LOVE the cool lights on this sleek Maxi Deluxe Scooter, and the new Sprite Deluxe offers tweens and teens some cool independence with a tube light LED that lets them be out and about more safely.


Simplay3 Wobble Disk

This simple-looking toy is actually an impressive piece of equipment that offers fun and development for our kiddos. It allows them to have moving fun spinning and climbing, and they don’t even realize they’re enriching their proprioceptive and vestibular systems while they’re at it. Yes, it’s plastic, but it’s made in the USA, which is important, as much of the plastic in toys are made in China, which creates significantly more pollution and poorer carbon footprint than USA-made plastic. This is the type of toy that will last through generations because of its limitless play opportunity and durability. And, Simplay3 uses recycled as well as recyclable materials to watch its environmental impact.

The Wobble Disk offers more than imaginative play; it offers developmental growth too!


Minecraft Builders And BiomesEco-friendly toys from the New York Toy Fair 2020

Created in conjunction with Mojang (the creators of Minecraft), Builders and Biomes lets our kiddos have a new Minecraft adventure (screen-free!) every time they play. The instructions are easy to learn and kids can explore new Overworld grids or new building and Biome strategies each time they play. It’s a great cooperative play game that appeals to kids who love Minecraft, and you can let them play to their heart’s content without worrying about screen time!

Related: Meeting Milestones: Where Should Kids Be at Age 4 and 5?


ThinkFun DogCrimes Logic And BrainTeaser Game

Speaking of games, we fell in love with DogCrimes from ThinkFun. A witty game that accompanies the popular Cat Crimes game, it’s minimally packaged and allows kids to develop critical thinking, reasoning and deductive skills while having a howling good time solving crimes. There are 40 challenges, ranging from beginner to expert, and players have to use sequential reasoning to figure out the final order of the dogs around the board.

And seriously, the adorable artwork? Kids won’t be able to resist playing with Suzette and Daisy, and they’ll love poor old Beans!


Code Master

We also found ThinkFun’s CodeMaster to be a great way for kiddos to work on STEM skills, but screen-free! Too often, companies believe that the only way to teach STEM is to use electronics, and that’s simply not the case. The best STEM/STEAM toys are the ones that strengthen our children’s logic and critical thinking skills first. Code Master teaches programming logic without a computer, using 10 maps and 60 levels to solve. The challenges become increasingly more difficult as kids play through them, and they’re building coding and programming skills without even knowing it. They’re just having fun!


Chalk of the Town Patch

We told you how much we loved Chalk of the Town a couple of Toy Fairs ago, and this time, they’re introducing the coolest thing! They’re introducing patches that can go just about anywhere, and using fine-point chalk markers, you can leave messages over and over and over for your kids. Stick them on the mirror and tell kids to brush well! Stick them on the lunchboxes and tell kids a funny joke each day. Stick them just about anywhere you want to leave messages in a fun and eco-friendly way!


Brio Builder Motor Set

Brio has been a trusted name in toys for generations because they’re beautifully crafted with sustainably and responsibly sourced materials. The European beechwood used is FSC-labeled, which means that it all comes from renewable forests and no biospheres are destroyed in the process. And while this fun Brio Builder Motor set does include plastic pieces, Brio is known for using clean plastics that don’t have any PVC or plasticizers (like phthalates) and only with purposed intention for a quality product.

We think this STEM-based Builder Set is the Bee’s Knees because it promotes open-ended play while helping kids develop hand-eye coordination, fine-motor skills, logical thinking and task-completion. For budding designers, it’s a quality toy that will last for years, and the real motor included will delight little engineers everywhere.


HABA Valley of The Kings

We’ve loved HABA for generations because they’re a family-owned and run business that believes in making quality products for children. They’re rooted in Germany as are the sustainably managed forest trees used for their wooden toys. They earn lots of awards for their eco-friendly and socially responsible practices, and we love that their toys are non-toxic and safe for kids while still being stimulating. We came across HABA’s Valley of The Kings game, which won the German Kinderspiel des Jahres (Children’s Game Of The Year). That’s a pretty prestigious award, and this is a pretty impressive game. It encourages cooperative play, calculated risk-taking, and adventure and is completely screen-free fun every time it’s played!

We also got a sneak peek at an upcoming game, Cloaked Cats. It’ll be out later this year, and it promises to offer kids a fun way to learn about drawing conclusions, using deductive reasoning and again, playing screen-free!


PlayZone-Fit Stepping Stones and Fit Wheel Walker

We love these stepping stones! Why? Endless play. Endless opportunities for creativity, hopping, jumping, balance-building and more. Children can create paths over and over and over, and the multiple sizes and shapes encourage kids to stack and organize and plan and PLAY.

And talk about fun! The Playzone-Fit Wheel Walker is an indoor-outdoor pedal walker and what we love is that it keeps kids moving and encourages them to strengthen their core without even knowing that’s what they’re doing! As kids get older and more balanced, you can take the rails off too!

Related: Waldkita: This is What a Forest Kindergarten Looks Like in Germany


Plus Plus Learn To Build Glow

We know kids love building toys and we do too. There are so many different reasons why, but it’s often hard to find ones that are eco-friendly. That’s why Plus-Plus uses puzzle-like pieces to create all sorts of amazing and fun projects and it’s made from PE plastic. That means it’s PVC and phthalates-free, and certified according to the EN71 (European) standard because it originates from Denmark. PE plastic is non-toxic, biodegradable and is most often used in food packaging, but in this super cool glow kit, it’s just fun for kids!


Aurora’s commitment to eco-friendly materials and initiatives is refreshing, and their lines are all working toward their move for a greener world. We thought these little YooHoo friends were the sweetest; made of quality materials, embroidered features and sharing information about environmental friends. Chewoo is a red squirrel who loves acorns and carries them wherever she goes. Slo the Sloth is an elder who takes care of the very special Sparkling Tree. Part of Netflix’s YooHoo & Friends series’ collection, these plushies teach our kids to take care of the earth and its creatures.
EverEarth’s vision is to teach children (and parents) more about the environment we live in, and how we can take care of it. All toys are made from sustainable FSC-certified wood, and EverEarth preserves forests with the Plant-a-tree campaign. The toys are beautifully crafted, use water-based and paints and colors, focus on recyclable packaging, environmentally friendly shipping and more. They use solar cells in production so they can make products that are good for the earth and good for kids. We’re all in.

These adorable and beautifully crafted cards are perfect for young children. They inspire natural curiosity with questions and answers, and the fun is that there are cute little hints to help kiddos along as they explore the riddles and topics. Perfect for car rides or restaurants or just some snuggle-fun on the sofa!


Hand2Mnd Squishy Beads Lab

Today’s kids crave sensory experiences, and that’s what this Squishy Beads Lab offers. Kids will learn about the science of solids, liquids and gasses while they play with sensory water beads. It’s a great science kit for kids who have sensory sensitivities or extra input needs, and all kids will love the mood lamp they get to create and learn with! They’ll be able to build and create sensory crafts that in turn can offer them calming properties while they learn about the science behind them!


EBlox Build A Radio

This STEM Kit encourages skill development without screens, and lets kids build over 120 different projects. They can build a working FM radio, a one-finger DJ and more. Creativity and technology come together in a fun way that kids are motivated to use again and again!


Little Medical School How To Be A Veterinarian

Team-work, problem-solving, social development skills, cooperation–this Little Medical School Kit has it all. The plush puppy is included and up for adoption, and your kiddos can put the lab coat on and go through the process of making sure the puppy is in tip-top shape.

These eco-friendly toys are made from sustainable bamboo, silicone, and water-based paint and offer endless opportunities for open-ended play and construction. The Flexistix encourage creative thinking and building, and in an eco-friendly way!

Brainy Yak Lab’s Party Lamp Kit

We met Tony Hu, the fun founder of Brainy Yak Labs, who showed us his cool party lamp kit. Kids build it, design it and use their creativity to personalize and exercise their artistic abilities. Tony says this was because his kids wanted to build and tinker but they also wanted to be creative, and this was the result. It’s a cool way to learn how real products are engineered and designed, and kids can do it themselves!


 

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Photo: CreativeJourney/Shutterstock


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