Children, particularly young children, learn so much when they play.
They learn not only to harness their imagination and spawn creativity, but how to manipulate their bodies and the world around them.
The right toys aren’t only fun–they’re central to development.
But not all toys are created equally.
Some toys are more educational than others, some are designed with physical development in mind, and others are exclusively playthings engineered to captivate the attention of and entertain children.
Some baby toys are safer than others.
Today’s toys are safer for the most part, with fewer obviously dangerous parts—small pieces that could cause choking, or sharp points and jagged edges that could cut soft skin.
Yet a lot of our baby’s toys are still made of plastics and synthetics that may be safe enough to physically manipulate with the hands, yet can be flush with toxins, noxious chemicals, allergens, and other less obvious dangers.
Sorting those toys out of your nursery–and ensuring they don’t land there to begin with—can be an important part of responsible parenting.
Peace of mind comes from educating ourselves, and trying our best within reason and the constraints of our budget. Baby needs the best without breaking the bank.
And that’s why we put together this detailed guide.
We’ll cover the realities of children’s toys, including the major forward leaps the industry has made in the last few decades–and how far they still have to come.
We go over some of the chemicals and toxins most commonly found in children’s toys, the best ways to avoid them, and the realities of the risks these kinds of “polluted toys” can bring to playtime.
Do Toxins in Baby Toys Really Matter?
It’s almost unconscionable to think of a toy manufacturer using materials that might be toxic to a child, but, sadly, there are companies doing just that whether to meet their own budget constraints or due to unknowingness and lack of legal requirements.
A big part of this has to do with simple economics that compel companies to cut corners or use materials that may be less than safe to help offset thin profit margins. Regulations are lax, and business is business.
Think of it like binging fast food versus eating a nutrient rich meal cooked at home.
The former isn’t illegal. But the latter is a whole lot healthier.
The former won’t cause you immediate physical harm.
But the latter is a whole lot better for you and will fend off possible accumulative long term complications, illness, weight gain, allergies and even disease.
So this isn’t to broadly suggest that all toys are inherently dangerous.
Not in the slightest.
But it is to say that a cautious parent looking for the cleanest baby toys and the safest possible methods of manufacture, free of harmful chemicals, will find them here.
Another part of the equation is that there are companies that don’t fully comprehend the risks of using certain materials.
For example, almost every manufacturer now understands the risk factors that phthalates and BPA pose to the human body while not fully recognizing how much more toxic those chemicals are to the developing body of young children and babies (i.e., smaller people with less body mass that offsets any “parts per billion” computation dramatically).
While a fully grown adult may need years of exposure to BPA to experience a negative impact, a developing child might need far less.
Children have less body mass and are developing rapidly, with all kinds of biochemical changes happening. Exposure to BPA and phthalates could prove devastating to their long-term wellness.
Researchers have found that overexposure to dangerous chemicals in children’s toys can result in significantly higher metabolic activity, and immaturity of organ growth, or rapid growth of organ tissue–including too rapid growth of bones and the brain.
Combine that all with the higher instances of hand-to-mouth activity that children naturally have compared to adults.
What Makes Some Baby Toys “Toxic” Anyway?
As we alluded to a moment ago, there are a couple of reasons baby toys end up laced with toxins and chemicals.
For starters, sometimes companies are using materials that have been deemed safe for human use–even if those thresholds were designed to meet grown adult parameters and not the physiology or biochemistry of developing babies or children.
BPA found in children’s toys are a perfect example.
Companies do a decent job at trying to get as much BPA out of their plastics as possible when it comes to things like water bottles, plastic cups, plastic plates and plasticware.
At the same time, the same levels of BPA that could deem products used by adults as “BPA safe” aren’t going to have the same thresholds for babies or young children.
But because of regulation loopholes, those chemicals find their way into baby toys.
On top of that, every toy made of plastic is almost universally going to be made out of PVC. It just so happens that PVC is one of the most toxic forms of plastic that we have.
Practically all soft baby toys are made with PVC materials, precisely because they are so “baby friendly”–safe for them to play with physically without much risk of immediate injury anyway.
PVC, though, is filled with additives that make it particularly dangerous for young children and babies, additives like:
All of those chemicals can affect the health and wellness of your baby, especially since these additives are usually found in toys designed for babies to chew on (or at least “safe” enough for them to put in their mouths).
Most of those additives are known carcinogens, and many are recognized as disruptive to the hormonal balance of babies and young children, and almost all the chemicals in PVC can lead to significant organ damage in the long-term.
What to Look for in Natural, Non-Toxic Baby Toys
Thankfully though, there are things you can do to avoid giving your babies toys that could wreck their health and well-being.
For starters, you could abandon plastic toys altogether and instead give your children wooden toys.
There are some risks here (particularly when it comes to the density of wooden toys and anything that they have been treated with) for sure, but the risks are significantly mitigated.
You can also choose to let your children play with 100% PVC-free and 100% BPA-free toys, double confirming that these toys are in fact totally free of those substances. Only trust toys with this promise that have been made by reputable manufacturers, too.
Polypropylene plastic toys are super safe as well.
These toys are heat resistant, aren’t likely to leach any chemicals when exposed to warmer temperatures (like the human body or bathwater), and are usually more durable than PVC toys.
It’s not a bad idea to confirm that these polypropylene options are free of PVC and BPA, though.
Cloth toys are another option.
You’ll want to choose cloth toys made from natural fibers that haven’t been treated with petrochemicals.
You also want to be sure that your cloth toys aren’t filled with polyurethane or PVC.
Silicone toys are pretty safe. Thus infant teethers, pacifiers, and the nipples of baby bottles are made of silicone.
All things considered, you’ll have options available, even if your primary freak out or focus is keeping your child safe during playtime.
What to Avoid When Buying Natural or Non-Toxic Baby Toys
There are a few things you for sure want to avoid when buying natural or non-toxic baby toys, but nothing is more important than avoiding any toys that have been made in China.
Over the last 10 years more than 15 million children’s toys from China have been recalled–including those that were described as “natural” and “non-toxic”.
Some toy manufacturers have an unethical practice of sneaking lead-based paint into products that they promised are free and clear of lead, PVC into products that they promise are PVC free, and other harmful chemicals, toxins, and carcinogens into toys they promise are totally safe.
It’s also a good idea to make sure that the natural or non-toxic baby toys you choose our free of tiny parts that can prove to be choking hazards.
You want to make sure that these toys are sturdy, well-made, and capable of handling the beating that an energized child is inevitably going to put them through.
Finally, you want to be sure that these toys are actually fun and engaging.
Boring toys are toys that won’t get played with–and it doesn’t matter how safe they are if your child is ignoring them completely to play with toys that present health risks merely because those toys are more interesting.
Our Favorite Baby Safe Toys on the Market in 2022
Now that we’ve gone over the most important things to consider when you are searching for baby toys, it’s time to highlight some of our favorite options on the market today in 2022.
These 100% BPA free and PVC free squeezable blocks are good for hours and hours of fun. Designed for babies six months old and older, you’ll get blocks with shapes, animals, numbers, and letters to make playtime exciting and educational.
Coolplay Baby’s First Cloth Bookset
This little book set includes eight different storybooks, all of which are printed in full color on soft cloth with totally safe and color fast materials. The stories are fun and engaging and you don’t have to worry about children nibbling on them, either.
Negi Mini Kitchen Utensils
These cool little tools are perfect for a playtime kitchen or cafeteria, with 24 different pieces made out of stainless steel materials, wood, or 100% BPA and PVC free plastics. There are some sharp edges, though, so these toys are recommended for children that are a little older.
B.Toys Stackable Rings
The cool thing about these stackable toys is that they are made from completely non-toxic plastics, including polyethylene, that keeps them safe but also pliable and fun to use. You won’t have to worry about your children putting them in their mouths, either.
This music set is intended for babies that are at least 12 months old, though younger kids can still probably bang and wail away on the instruments all the same. The toys themselves are made completely out of wood or non-toxic materials to keep them nice and safe.
Green Toys Starter Set
You’ll see a couple of brands keep popping up on our recommended list of baby toys, and Green Toys is definitely one of them. This starter set is great for gifts or for your own children. It includes a rattle set of keys, a stackable set of cups, and a cute little elephant your baby will love.
B.Toys is another of the super popular safe baby toy manufacturers out there, and this accordion zebra is going to be a lot of fun for your kids to play with. It’s so much fun, in fact, that you’ll probably be limiting their time with it every day – especially since it’s so loud.
TeyToy Soft Books
Not only are the stories in these cloth books really fun and engaging for young minds (not to mention educational), but the books themselves crinkle and crunch. Little kids absolutely love them.
Baby Bath Books
The beautiful thing about these baby books is that they are 100% waterproof, made of cloth designed to be fully submerged, and made with textiles and color agents that aren’t ever going to leach chemical toxins.
B.Toys Toy Keys
This funky little key set isn’t just your traditional key rattle noisemaker. It also includes a couple of preprogrammed buttons that play different sounds and lights, good for hours and hours of entertainment. It’s also totally baby safe.
Stackable Rings from Gemem
These stackable rings are made from wooden construction materials and polyethylene, keeping them totally safe for your young children. They are still soft enough to not have to worry about them hurting little fingers, and will not leach chemicals or toxins if your children pop them in their mouths when they are teething.
Vatos Water Play Mat
This play mat has been designed for children as young as three months old, providing plenty of sensory feedback while staying super safe across the board. The inflatable set as fun little ocean characters, shapes, and toys children can play with tucked inside of the mat itself – and a little bit of water really brings everything to life.
AngelBliss Teething Set
These teething toys are certified BPA free, PVC free, and totally leadfree. The synthetic material is pliable but will not distract or break into dangerous chunks that could pose choking risks. You can pop these into a freezer for a change of pace for your teething baby, too.
Finding bath toys that can withstand the heat of bathwater without leaching chemicals or softening and becoming choking risks is a challenge – unless you go with this adorable baby whale. BPA, PVC, and phthalates free, this toy’s made from 100% all-natural materials.
Pure Natural Bath Seahorse
This is another 100% all-natural material baby toy designed for bathtime fun, though this time it takes the shape of a yellow and orange seahorse. It also happens to be BPA, PVC, and phthalate free.
HABA Pyramid Puzzle
There isn’t a baby on the planet that won’t be captivated for hours and hours by simple puzzles like this, particularly useful if mom or dad could use a little break. This was made from wood and polyethylene materials that are totally chemical free.
Fishy Tales Cloth Story Books
Another great soft, cloth set of storybooks, these ones revolve around the undersea world that children just can’t seem to get enough of exploring with their imagination. This book crinkles and includes a handful of soft “sea creature” toys that are attached, too.
If you need a small army of rattles to keep your child interested and engaged this 10 piece set is definitely the way to go. These rattles have different tones, pictures, textures, and, in all kinds of sizes and colors. That means one (or half a dozen) are going to be perfect for your little bundle of joy.
Supkiir Baby Safe Blocks
Unlike traditional baby blocks that can be made out of PVC, covered in lead paint, or are foolishly heavy and pose injury risks, these baby safe blocks are lightweight, flexible, and made from 100% safe synthetic materials.
Newborn Rattle and Teether Ball
A cool little rattle and teether ball style puzzle, you’ll not only have a toy that your children can safely put in their mouth with this choice but you also have one design to help them build and develop fine motor skills, too. This option is fantastic for infants as young as three months old.
AngelBliss Teething Giraffe
This giraffe style teething set is a little on the larger side of things, designed for children around six months of age or older, but it’s 100% safe and made from natural and organic materials.
Tudou Baby Blocks
These baby blocks are a bunch of 100% safe toys in one. On one hand they are building blocks that children can play with “as is”, but they also double as great teething toys and educational options to teach kids about shapes, numbers, colors, and more.
Green Toys Shape Set
Another great little toy shape set, this simple puzzle is safe enough for children as young as three months old to fool around with but also works well as a teething playset, too.
B.Toys Squeeze Blocks
If your kids want to get their hands on some squeezable blocks that can be used to develop motor skills, muscle tone, and also help them unleash their creativity this is the way to go. These 100% BPA and PVC free toys are also stored inside of an included little carrying case to make cleanup really easy.
Bessentials Wooden Teething Ring
This teething ring is made completely out of wooden construction materials and silicone, making it incredibly lightweight but also unbelievably safe. You won’t have to worry about chemicals or toxins leaching into your children’s body when they are chewing on it–and you won’t have to worry about them hurting themselves with a heavy teething ring, either.
(Featured photo by Antoni Shkraba)