When you were a kid, how did you spend your days? You probably went to school, and maybe had a few chores, but if someone asked how you spent your free time, you’d probably just say you played! Play has become a hot topic in the child development world as we learn how beneficial it is to kids. Simple play helps them learn how to be independent as adults. Open-ended play promotes physical and language development and encourages problem-solving at any age.
Knowing how important play is for your kids makes it tempting to create an elaborate playroom filled with the latest toys, games, and activities. But before you max out your credit card, it’s important to know that all kids really need is a safe place to explore inside and out. And many toys you find in stores today contribute to the ongoing problem of plastic pollution.
Impacts of the Toy Industry on the Environment
Toy commercials have us believing that piles of colorful plastic are the only way to bring joy and fun into your kids’ lives. Between talking dolls and oversized car garages, toys are getting bigger, more expensive, and arguably, less engaging.
Not only are some of the latest toys taking away open-ended play, but the toy industry is also the most plastic-intensive industry in the world. According to The World Counts, the toy industry uses 40 tons of plastic for every $1 million in revenue. Not only does the production use non-renewable resources, but when toys are eventually discarded, the plastic breaks into microplastics. These microscopic pieces pollute our land and water by leeching toxins that harm humans and wildlife.
Why Bamboo Is a Great Alternative to Plastic Toys
Many favorite childhood toys can easily be made more sustainable by using bamboo. The bamboo fibers are durable and can be cut down and pressed into almost any shape. Bamboo is one of the most sustainable materials on the planet. It doesn’t need fertilizers or pesticides to grow and naturally regenerates itself. One stalk can be harvested 5-6 times during its lifetime. And the root system helps prevent climate change by absorbing more CO2 than trees making it a powerful carbon sink.
Bamboo really shines at the end of its lifecycle when compared to plastic. Bamboo toys will break down and decompose in a matter of months. Not the hundreds of years plastic will take. As long as no harmful glues or chemicals are added bamboo toys can even be composted!
When choosing gifts for kids you know, consider more sustainable toys like bamboo. It’s best to stick with classics that league room for open-ended play. Here are a few of my favorites.
Bamboo Building Toys
Always a classic, building toys let kids’ imaginations run wild. They can take simple blocks and make a castle, racetrack, or even create a new game. Bamboo building blocks are durable and lightweight. They’re perfect for any age because they’re non-toxic so you don’t have to worry about curious toddlers putting them in their mouths. Older kids will love them too because they can be used for almost anything! I love seeing my kids incorporate their bamboo building blocks with cars and dolls to create fun stories! These will keep your kids playing for hours.
Bamboo Cars and Trains
Boys and girls alike seem to be fascinated by anything that moves. Even babies love to watch toy cars roll off tabletops or zoom across the floor. This bamboo car collector pack is a perfect first set to replace those sets of giant toddler cars your kid loves to roll down the stairs. They’re minimally processed and made of simple materials like bamboo, lead-free eco paint, and natural beeswax making them super sustainable toys.
One of the most popular toys to this day is train sets. Even grown-ups still love setting up train tables and creating entire villages to enjoy. Introduce your little conductors to trains sustainably with a bamboo train set. Putting together cars and tracks helps their fine motor skills and choosing bamboo ensures you’re getting a durable set that can withstand frequent derailments. I adore this bamboo train from QToys because each car can hold little treasures as it chugs around the imaginary town.
Bamboo Doll Houses
One of the first things kids are exposed to is ordinary life in their own house. It’s no wonder they want to recreate it and make up fun scenarios with dolls and dollhouses. A birthday party every day? Yes, please! A trip to the zoo? Sounds perfect for this little pretend family.
What I love most about classic dollhouses is they double as decor. Set them up in your kid’s room and it creates a fun reminder of childhood whenever you walk by. I prefer the more realistic dollhouses which can easily be made into more sustainable toys than the plastic versions. Whether you want a whimsical setup like this adorable Woodland Villiage from Wee Gallery or a more traditional model like the Bamboo Sunshine Doll House from the Craft Shop, this is one bamboo toy you’ll never want to put away.
Bamboo Toys for Active Play
You probably already know playing outside is good for kids, but do you know why? Outdoor play has been shown to improve motor development, lower obesity, and even lower the risk of becoming nearsighted! While nature gives us plenty of ways to keep ourselves entertained, it’s always fun to add some sustainable toys to the mix.
A very engaging activity for kids is simply digging in the dirt. Think of all there is to discover under rocks and in different types of soil. These bamboo sand toys from Willow + Sim are perfect for the beach. They’re lightweight, but durable and will keep your toddlers busy for hours. Better yet, these sand toys eliminate plastic from your day of fun. They’re made from unbleached compostable bamboo and bio-degradable corn. You’ll want to keep them forever, but if they do end up left at the beach, you won’t have to worry about adding to plastic pollution. Pair them with a set of bamboo sand tools and you’ll have an afternoon of exploration and fun!
I just recently discovered this bamboo Swurfer – 50% swing, 50% surfboard, and 100% going on my wishlist. The bamboo board can hold up to 200 pounds and can be hung from a height of up to 40 feet! If that’s too high, you can hang it from a more reasonable eight-foot tree branch. This fun bamboo toy encourages balance and coordination while giving kids an adrenaline rush like no other.
For the big kids in your life, check out these bamboo longboards. They’re like a skateboard, but the flexible bamboo deck is longer than a skateboard which makes it easier for users to stay balanced. Your kids will spend hours cruising the neighborhood feeling super cool on their stylish bamboo longboard.
Bamboo Board Games
If you have kids and want to play with them, but the thought of sitting on the floor at a stuffed animal wedding is enough to make you cry, this category is for you. Bamboo board games are a great way to encourage critical thinking and develop fine motor skills. Many traditional board games require plastic pieces or coated boards, but it’s easy to find eco-friendly versions of some of your favorite childhood games.
These bamboo chroma tiles are like the old school dominoes game but remade into a coffee table-worthy set of bamboo tiles stored in a beautiful wooden storage box. This is one toy you won’t be telling your kids to put away. Need something a little more exciting? Try this bamboo pallina from Hape. It’s a much more sustainable version of your kid’s favorite game of Kerplunk. Looking for something new? Try this bamboo version of Go and teach your kids how to conquer the world with a lighter carbon footprint.
Switch to Bamboo for Eco-Friendly Fun
Each of the bamboo toys here can easily replace a plastic counterpart saving the earth from some of the 400 million tons of plastic waste we create every year. The best part is your kids will still get all the fun and may even learn a little about how to protect the environment while doing it!
If you’re looking for other bamboo gift ideas, check out our bamboo gift guide. You’ll find the perfect bamboo present for any time of year!