10 Ethical Christmas Gifts to Get Your Toddler This Year
Everyone looks forward to the holiday season, and those of us with toddlers know that presents are often at the top of the list.
But along with the gifts come ethical concerns. Who made these presents we’re giving our loved ones, and under what conditions? What’s the environmental impact of our Christmas gifts?
It can be overwhelming.
But don’t worry. In the sea of single-use plastics, packaging, and non-recyclable wrapping paper, there are fair trade and eco-friendly gifts to be had.
This gift guide is a great starting point for family discussions on zero-waste living, sustainability, and working conditions around the world.
Related: The 10 Best Ways to Spread Christmas Cheer for Kids and Families
What Makes an Ethical Gift?
The first question is, what do we mean by ethical? This, of course, will vary from person to person. But there are some important things we can all consider…
One plastic toy might not seem like a big deal to you or your child, but companies produce millions of toys each year. From pollution to packaging waste and eventual disposal, the environmental impact of toys can be huge.
So, how do you ensure the sustainability of those Christmas gifts? One option is to buy gifts made from sustainable materials such as wood, organic cotton, or recycled plastic. But you can also consider:
- Choosing gifts made close to home to reduce carbon release during transport.
- Buying from companies with certified carbon-neutral production.
- Buying gifts that can be repaired easily.
Repair and Reuse
“Eco-friendly” isn’t only about production. It concerns the entire lifetime of a product.
Many products are made to be replaced, not repaired. Often, it’s cheaper and easier to just “buy a new one” than try to repair it. This is great for companies, but terrible for the planet. On a personal level, this can be heartbreaking for your kids.
And it’s by design.
The Right to Repair movement seeks to address this problem and others. Until repairable products are the norm, you can choose washable and repairable toys for your holiday gifts. The repairs themselves could even be a fun family project.
As for reuse, consider buying pre-owned gifts. Websites such as Vinted give new life to great toys. You can save money as well as the environment.
And for everyday play, check out your local toy library before taking out your credit card.
Do you know who makes your children's toys?
One reason why there are so many cheap products on the market is that the supply chain depends on underpaid, overworked labor. This sometimes includes child labor and unsafe working conditions.
And it’s not just in factories. Workers around the world have been protesting the working conditions at Amazon, both in the production and fulfillment sectors.
Many companies don’t advertise where, how, and by whom their products are made.
But some do. Organizations like The Ethical Consumer can help you to research the rest.
Sustainable Doesn't Have to Mean Expensive
Sustainable materials and production methods cost more. And it's far more expensive to pay workers a living wage.
But this doesn’t mean that every sustainable gift is out of reach for everyday people.
We have chosen the gifts on our list partly for their affordability and value for money.
Sustainable and Ethical Gift Ideas
Green toys? Wooden toys? We've got ‘em. Find your next favorite, high-quality eco-friendly toy right here.
1. Baby's First Basic Blocks from A Toy Garden
Building blocks are a big hit with toddlers and can be a great gift. The Pennsylvania-based company A Toy Garden makes two sets.
Baby’s First Basic Blocks is an affordable set of twelve wooden blocks in six colors, each measuring 1.5 inches by 1.5 inches. Colored blocks are excellent for developing motor skills.
Older kids may enjoy the 36-piece Branch Blocks set, made from sustainably harvested tree branches. This is one to set a child’s imagination soaring.
2. Age-Based Play Kits from Lovevery
Image Source: Lovevery
Lovevery is a certified B corporation. This means that its operations have been verified to meet high social and environmental performance standards.
Lovevery makes imaginative play kits for children aged zero to three years.
A gift set from Lovevery contains books, toys made from wood and textiles, and other fun things. Each kit addresses a specific stage of development.
This is a subscription box service, but you can cancel at any time.
3. Honeysticks Bath Crayons
Kids of all ages love bath toys. Non-toxic, ethically made bath toys can be one of the best gifts of all.
Honeysticks bath crayons are made from responsibly sourced beeswax and soy wax. They’re handmade in New Zealand, and plastic free, too.
4. Handmade Musical Instruments from Ten Thousand Villages
Ten Thousand Villages is a fairtrade company that works with individual artisans around the world.
Their products are ethically produced from sustainable materials. But more importantly, their toys are affordable and fun.
Choose a bamboo flute or a Peruvian pan flute.
And if your little ones prefer quiet fun, check out their selection of adorable finger puppets, hand knitted in Peru.
5. Juggling Kit / Footbags from Buena Onda
Even if your kids aren’t quite ready to join the circus, throwing and catching are excellent for motor development. And this affordable kit of handmade juggling balls is a great place to start.
Buena Onda is a fairtrade company that trades with individual Mayan artisans in Guatemala. They make their products from organic materials which come with a lifetime guarantee. The company also donates to various environmental causes.
6. Adopt an Animal from The World Wildlife Federation
Ok, so you can’t bring home an actual penguin for your child. But you can symbolically adopt one of over 100 animal species from the World Wildlife Federation.
Each low-cost adoption kit contains a certificate, a photo of your animal, and information about its species. For an additional donation, you can get a twelve-inch plushie of that animal.
83% of the WWF’s spending goes to their worldwide conservation activities.
7. Toy Library Subscription
Do your kids play with their toys for a bit and then want to move on to something else? It’s perfectly natural!
A toy library subscription allows them to do this without guilt. And it prevents them from filling your house (or the landfill) with unwanted toys.
It works like this. For $12.50 per month, you and your child can choose two sanitized, age-appropriate toys to arrive in the mail. At the end of the month, return the toys. There’s also an option to keep ones that your child really, really likes.
This isn’t the only toy library out there, by the way. If you want to keep it local, a lot of community organizations have toy libraries. There’s probably one in your area.
8. Spinning Top from Shop With a Mission
Shop With a Mission is a charity that helps vulnerable people make a living through handicrafts. They help orphans, widows, and refugees develop businesses to become leaders in their communities.
Guatemalan artisans handcraft this affordable wooden spinning top. Spinning tops teach kids scientific concepts like torque, rotation, and angular momentum. More importantly, though, they’re tons of fun.
9. Plant a Tree Kit From Hands Producing Hope
Planting trees is one of the easiest ways to save the planet. Your whole family can take part with this Blue Spruce kit from Hands Producing Hope. Even better, a tree is a gift that lasts a lifetime.
Hands Producing Hope provides people around the world with opportunities to market their handicrafts.
10. Plush Animal from Amani Ya Juu
Lots of little ones love stuffed animals, and these sustainably made minis have a lot to love!
Amani Ya Juu started as an organization providing help to women refugees in Kenya. These women brought their skills and experience to communities all over Africa, and even to places in the United States.
These lovely (and affordable!) stuffies are made by women in Amani, Uganda. Choose from a lion, giraffe, hippo, elephant, or rhino. Because if there’s anything kids enjoy more than a stuffed animal, it’s a good story.
Give the Gift of Sustainability
We can all take part in making the world a kinder, gentler, greener place. And we can start with our little ones’ toys.
What’s your favorite sustainable gift for kids? Did it make our list? Tell us all about it @FamilyEducation on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Want to learn more about environmentally friendly presents? Read Eco-Friendly Baby Shower Gifts
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Jess Faraday is a writer, a certified teacher, and a parent. She enjoys writing about family life, arts and crafts, and pets.