Natural Toys and Games for Safe and Non-toxic Holidays

Reader Contribution by Liam Kivirist and Jdi Enterprises
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There are plenty of more environmentally responsible toy and game options for the holidays. From games made from sustainably-sourced wood to toys made from recycled plastics that are free from PVC, BPA or Phthalates, the toy and game industry continues to recognize that fun toys and games for young people don’t have to destroy the planet in the process of making them or be made of potentially hazardous materials. Many are made in the USA, not on the other side of the Earth. I had a chance to check out the latest innovations at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair, joined by John Ivanko who covered this event previously.

“Toy and game manufacturers are becoming more green,” observes Mary Couzin, CEO and Founder of the Toy and Game Group which hosts the Chicago Toy and Game Fair held every year at the Navy Pier in Chicago. The event is the largest toy and game fair in North America and it’s open to the public on the weekend.

“As an example, Hasbro publicly lists their goals and have been given environmental awards for their efforts,” continues Couzin. “By 2020 Hasbro plans to reduce waste to landfill by 50 percent, energy consumption by 25 percent, greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent and water consumption by 15 percent.”

“I think people are concerned about the future, are more vocal and social media gives a platform to express concern and show shocking pictures like floating ‘islands’ of plastics in the oceans,” adds Couzin. “The growth of Green Toys is just one example of an environmentally friendly company embraced by parents.”

Here’s a preview of what’s hot and green when it comes to toys and games, just in time for the holiday gift-giving season. There are plenty of non-toxic toys that are made in ways that meet or exceed relevant safety standards.

Green Toys

Green Toys sets the bar for environmentally sound toys that are made from 100-percent post-consumer recycled materials that are made safe and in the USA. From toy vehicles to play with in the sandbox to dough making kits, Green Toys offers a wide range of non-toxic food-safe toys and tablewares.

“Green Toys was started by our co-founders’ desire to create better products for children and families,” says Cameron Passmore, with Green Toys. “Our mission has always been to provide the best products possible, and for us, that means using the safest materials that are also the most environmentally friendly. We strive to give parents an alternative to all too common wasteland of short-lived, discarded toys that can often fill up a playroom.”

“As more and more consumers are becoming interested in sustainability, we’re seeing parents looking at their children’s toys the way they look at food – they want to know what’s in them and where they come from,” continues Passmore. “We’re committed to manufacturing in the USA and using best-in-class materials, and we’re seeing that really resonate with our consumers.”

Tilt the Future | PinBox 3000

PinBox 3000 from the Cardboard Teck Instantute is a cardboard tabletop pinball kit featuring 39 die-cut parts and everything needed to build a customizable game. The PinBox 3000 is made in the USA, with 41% post-consumer recycled cardboard and corrugate sourced from a USA sustainably-harvested forest initiative. The PinBox 3000 is a shrunken down, eco-version of the American classic game of pinball.

Letting creativity permeate the very game itself, the PinBox 3000 allows for pinball customization. Players first build the cardboard pinball machine, add their own design elements that might include color and artifacts, then play. Two PinBox 3000 games can be linked together to make a Battlemode game. Assembling the game is a fun DIY activity that doesn’t require special tools or knowledge, since no electronics or batteries are involved.

“We set out to create a game that was sustainable and a fun do-it-yourself system,” explains Ben Matchstick, co-founder of the Cardboard Teck Instantute. The PinBox 3000 came to life when Matchstick and his business partner Pete Talbot took up a two-month-long artist residence at their local Generator makerspace in Burlington, Vermont. “We had access to a laser cutter, we took recycled cardboard and started designing a little pin ball machine. After a couple months, we had the PinBox 3000.”

“It’s been out for two years now and we’re really proud of it because it interrupts the idea that plastics are the direction we’re going to be heading forever,” adds Matchstick. “This is a cardboard game, it comes flat packed and you build it yourself. If you need to repair it, you just replace rubber bands, which is a lot better than throwing out batteries. People ask us ‘are you thinking of moving to wood or plastic’? No, cardboard is great, you can punch holes in it, you can hack it up and it’s accessible to people.”


The two to four player fast-paced ball rolling ricochet wooden board game, Bonk, is played on a small wooden board made from Forest Stewardship Council-certified, sustainably harvested wood. No batteries or plastic involved in Bonk, a game from Oy Marektoy Ltd., based in Helsinki, Finland. Metal balls are launched down chutes to bounce off a main wooden ball to move it into the opponents’ goal to score.


For those who want to get the oil out of playthings, there’s Sprig. From toy tractors to puzzles, Sprig toys are made in the USA from sugar cane, corn bio-based plastic, natural rubber, sustainably grown and harvested rubberwood hardwood. Only water based, child safe, stains are used for finishes. Some toys even smell like toasted corn.

“We see an opportunity to make great product with greater purpose,” says Chris Clemmer for Sprig/BeginAgain. Sprig is running a fall 2017 Kickstarter campaign in parallel with their seventh annual holiday toy drive allowing backers to contribute a toy to Tree of Hands, a children’s charity in the Caribbean. The first two Sprig vehicles will be available in 2018 along with the John Deere trucks made from sugar cane and corn cob bio-polymer.

Liam Kivirist is a tech writer, computer hardware geek, fledgling programmer and freelance web developer. Based on a small organic farm in rural southwestern Wisconsin, Liam marries his deeply rooted love of the outdoors, food, and camping with his passion for technology. Connect with Liam onTwitter,

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