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

The New York Toy Fair is where all the latest and greatest toy finds come, and we are always looking for the best. Natural-minded 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 (and kids).

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! 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.

Most Eco-Friendly Company

PlanToys BeeHive

One company we can't ever 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.

Plan Toys instills a sense of wonder and childlike imagination, all while using the latest technology to create toys that are non-toxic, sustainable, and good for the communities in which they are made. They've won countless awards for innovation, design and safety in children's products, and that's because their manufacturing process is fabulous from start to finish.

Plan Toys creates the neatest educational toys for stages of early childhood development, and the reason they can do so is that they ask moms how to help create age-appropriate toys that foster childhood creativity! Their "Mom-made Toys project" is where designers, engineers, education specialists, and moms come together to make toys for children who are on the Autism spectrum, have visual impairments, or Cerebral Palsy.

Related: 10 Resources to Address Tolerance and Social Justice

They use rubber trees as their main product base, sustainable from environments in which they give back generously. From there, they incorporate non-formaldehyde glues, eco-friendly colors, recycled papers, soy inks and a chemical-free kiln dry process for a durable product that will undoubtedly become a family heirloom.

We also love this company because they are leading the way to show that it's possible to have products that have superior safety and quality while also being socially and environmentally responsible. Their toys promote physical and intellectual development, but they are also concerned about improving the quality of life for their communities and minimizing their impact on the natural world around them. Because of this, being a green company is a way of life and a standard for their ethics-based designs and products.

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!

Key Features:

  • Eco-friendly
  • Organic dyes
  • Sustainable materials and sourcing
  • Heirloom quality

Best Outdoor Toys

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!

The Slackers Ninja Line comes from B4 Adventure, and the founder of B4 Adventure has one goal in mind for the products his company creates and has-to get kids outdoors. He believes it's so important that he focuses on product lines geared to do just that. The Slacker Ninja Line is a great way for your child's creativity to flow.

Key Features:
  • Inspires Creativity
  • Accessories can be added
  • One or multi-player options
  • Builds motor skills and coordination

Best Eco-Friendly Plushies

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!

Stuffed animals offer our kids security and friendship as well as empathy and social skill-building. But when we can let them do so with eco-friendly plushies that also educate children about being nature warriors? Even better.

Key Features:
  • Made from plastic water bottles; one of the first to do so
  • Portions of proceeds go to $1 For The Ocean
  • Educates Children with an accompanying story

Most Eco-friendly Musical Toys

GreenTones Momma Bear Drum Set

As suggested by its name, GreenTones is an eco-friendly company that makes the sweetest musical instruments out of chemical-free Rubberwood or Mangowood. They also use non-toxic glue and water-based VOC-free paint. They are not just environmentally gentle, they are completely safe for the mouths of our children (although they're best used as music makers!)

We love that they are just as committed to the Earth as they are to our children, and they belong to the 1% For the Planet organization. One Percent For The Planet is a global movement that over 1,200 companies participate in, donating one percent of company sales to dedicated environmental organizations. When you support GreenTones, you help support your planet and the environment as well!

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!

Key Features:
  • Chemical-Free Rubberwood that's sustainably harvested
  • Music inspires brain-building
  • VOC-free water-based paint
  • Charitable giving

Best Audio Books and Speakers

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!

Key Features:
  • Screen-free
  • Can be paired with other devices
  • Good character trait book-alongs

Best Scooter

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.

Key Features:
  • Charitable giving
  • Lightweight frame
  • LED lights for safety
  • Easy to adjust for different sized children

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.

Best Eco-Friendly Logic Game

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!

Key Features:
  • Screen-free logic building
  • Eco-friendly and responsibly made
  • Winner of German Children's Game of the Year

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

Best Eco-Friendly Building Toys

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!

We love the simplicity of design that still inspires creativity and limitless play. Each brick connects easily and allows flat mosaics or 3D works for different skill level. Plus-Plus bricks incorporate STEM skills with engineering and math, as well as art in creativity and they're great toys that travel and keep kids busy on car rides and in restaurants.

Key Features:
  • STEM focused
  • Made from PE Plastic (PVC and phthalate-free)
  • Certified according to EN71 (European standards)
  • Glows in the dark
  • Made in Denmark

Best Eco-Friendly Activity Block

EverEarth Activity Cube

EverEarth's vision is to teach families more about our environment. They do that with incredible products children and parents love. Their entire business structure revolves around sustainability. All toys are made from sustainable FSC-certified wood, and EverEarth preserves forests as part of it's Plant-a-Tree Campaign. They work to be as green as they can-using recyclable packaging and environmentally friendly shipping. The use solar cells and wind-power to manufacture and they work to inspire parents and children to be closer to nature.

EverEarth cares about your baby's health because they too are parents, and they also work to protect Mother Nature's health as well.

This colorful grasping ring acts as part toy, part teacher, part teether! It offers your baby lots of opportunity to work on visual perception and motor skills, as well as gross motor control. It has four colorful wooden beads that encourage your little one's curiosity and has a teeny tiny mirror and little bell to add to the sensory development that is pivotal for your babe. The bell helps train their auditory processing while the stimulating colors work on vision and they just think it's one of their favorite toys!

It's about as basic and yet incredible as they come, and bound to be one of your baby's favorite toys.

Key Features:
  • Sustainably and responsibly made
  • A charitable company that donates trees for every toy built
  • FSC-certified wood material
  • Recyclable packaging
  • Environmentally-friendly shipping

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 at the New York Toy Fair 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

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 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.

Enjoy the finds!

We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.

Photo: CreativeJourney/Shutterstock