Eco-Friendly Guide to Kids Toys

Eco-friendly toys have never been more common or made from such a wide range of materials. Toys made of wood and sustainable materials are the most eco-friendly, but today’s battery-operated toys can be eco-friendly when made from recycled materials and disposed of properly. Besides, battery-operated toys play an essential role in a child’s development, and are often more engaging and fun than wooden toys. 

Choosing the best toy for your child 

Your child’s age is the most crucial consideration when choosing a toy. An infant’s needs are very different from a five-year-old or even a two-year-old. Use the following outline as a guide:

0-12 Months

At this age, children’s toys should stimulate the senses. A baby’s vision is still blurry, so choose toys with bright, contrasting colors. You can also use soft toys, toys that make squeaking or crinkling toys, and textured toys for teething. Because infants are likely to mouth toys (and anything else they can get their hands on), battery-operated toys should have secure screw-in battery receptacles to keep batteries safely away from children. Popular toys for infants include the following:

  • Activity boards
  • Battery-operated soft toys that make noise or provide soothing lights
  • Floor gyms
  • Musical, light-up crib mobiles 
  • Rattles
  • Soft, washable stuffed toys with no small parts
  • Stuffed fabric balls
  • Unbreakable mirrors

One to Two Years

Toys for this age group should allow children to develop their motor skills. Interactive toys that respond to the child’s actions are especially popular, whether as simple as wooden stacking rings or as high-tech as battery-operated toys that make sounds when buttons are pressed. Possible toys for this age group include:

  • Bath toys
  • Electronic learning toys
  • Four or five-piece puzzles made from wood 
  • Hammering sets 
  • Nesting cups
  • Push- and pull-toys that make noise, have popup pieces, or respond in other ways to the child’s actions
  • Shape sorters
  • Simple musical instruments
  • Stacking rings

Two to Three Years

Children develop the motor skills needed to use blocks or complete puzzles by themselves between two and three. Pretend play becomes more important, usually centered on imitating parents and older siblings. Older favorites like push toys remain popular, but this is also a good age to introduce interactive battery-operated toys like talking dolls, cars that make sounds, and toy telephones. Now is also a great time to introduce ride-on toys. 

Possible toys for this age include the following:

  • Dolls and stuffed animals (especially ones with interactive features)
  • Make-believe toys like telephones, toy kitchens, and dress-up costumes
  • Musical instruments with flashing lights that show which buttons to press to play tunes
  • Puzzles
  • Ride-on toys, either foot- or battery-powered
  • Simple snap-together construction toys
  • Toy vehicles with buttons for horns, sirens, and other noises

Four to Five Years

By age four, you’re going to need the best batteries for children’s toys because the importance for electronic learning toys explodes at this age. Battery-operated toys that teach math and reading skills help prepare your kids for school. At the same time, imaginative play has developed to the point where kids pretend to be police officers, doctors, teachers, superheroes, astronauts, and more. Ideal toys for this age group include: 

  • Art and craft supplies
  • Battery-operated educational toys
  • Construction sets with varied pieces
  • Action figures
  • Dolls with clothing, cars, and accessories
  • Dress-up clothes
  • Transportation-themed toys such as airports and construction sites
  • Simple board games
  • Basketballs and soccer balls, especially those from brands who use a mix of biodegradable and recyclable materials
  • Bikes with training wheels

Six to Seven Years

At age six, kids start exploring individual interests. Your child might suddenly become obsessed with dinosaurs, crafts, dolls, a particular sport, or television shows. Six and seven-year-olds become more aware of their friend’s toys, so don’t be surprised if they suddenly want a toy because everyone has it, even if “everyone” is one friend. Video games are often popular, but so are sports, board games, and imaginative play with friends. 

Popular toys at this age include:

  • Construction sets, especially those made with recycled plastics
  • Craft kits
  • Realistic dolls, like those made with natural, biodegradable rubber
  • Remote controlled cars and robots
  • Simple science kits
  • Sports equipment
  • Strategy-based board games
  • Toys that help children explore their environments, such as telescopes and magnifying glasses

Eight Years and Up

Kids continue to explore their interests and acquire new hobbies, interests, and hobbies at this age. Scooters, bicycles, in-line skates, and skateboards are popular (make sure they come with helmets and other safety gear). Some kids keep diaries, get into more complicated crafts, and high-tech items such as video games, computers, and real phones become longed-for possessions. Kids can also complete crafts, puzzles, and model kits which take several days to complete. Toy options include: 

  • Bikes and scooters
  • Board games
  • Complex craft kits
  • Computers and video game consoles
  • Family board games such as Scrabble and Monopoly
  • Model kits
  • Outdoor sports equipment
  • Science kits (microscopes are fascinating at this age)
  • Toys that cultivate specific interests (magic sets, diaries, subject-specific books, etc.)

Making Sure Your Toys are Eco-Friendly

There's a widespread belief that only toys made with wood, cotton, recycled paper, and sustainable natural materials are eco-friendly. This isn’t strictly true. Plastic and battery-operated toys can be eco-friendly if they meet the following criteria:

  • They are made from recycled or biodegradable materials, such as biodegradable types of rubbers or recycled plastics.
  • The toy itself can be recycled.
  • The manufacturer has performed a cradle-to-grave life cycle analysis, has taken steps based on the results to offset the product’s carbon emissions, and works with a carbon offsetting partner such as Carbon Fund
  • If the product requires batteries, the toy manufacturer or your preferred battery brand works with a recycling partner such as Call2Recycle

Not coincidentally,  the best batteries for children’s toys take similar steps to offset their product’s carbon emissions and keep as much of their product out of landfills as possible. Not to toot our own horn too much, but that’s exactly what we do at Better Battery Co.

The best batteries for kids’ toys

You might be expecting a hard sell for our batteries now, but we’re not going to do that, as the best batteries for kids’ toys depend on the type of toy and how it’s used. Here’s a breakdown of which batteries to use with which toys. 

  • Rechargeable batteries are best for toys that are in constant use. However, they are not the best choice for toys and devices that are only used occasionally, as a rechargeable battery discharges when not used. There’s too much chance the battery will be dead when the child returns to the toy. 
  • Lithium batteries offer high performance but are more expensive than other battery types. Lithium batteries can also lead to explosions or fires when ruptured, making it less ideal for objects that kids do not treat not very gently.
  • Alkaline batteries are ideal for devices that draw small amounts of power, such as remote controls. High-quality alkaline batteries match the performance of lithium batteries and have a shelf life of years. 

How to properly dispose of toys

Some toys are treasured for a lifetime, but most have a limited lifespan. Whether you can recycle or properly dispose of toys — especially battery-operated toys — often determines how eco-friendly a toy ultimately is. 

Check with manufacturers to see whether they have special programs for disposing of their products, especially if the toy’s construction requires electronic waste recycling. Being able to recycle the batteries the toy uses also helps reduce your carbon footprint. We can help with that!

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