What kind of mom are you? Have you though about the dangerous amount of plastic and chemical substances in your child’s toy box? Or are you naive, like i was, and believe that they wouldn’t make a child’s toy with it if it were dangerous? With the numerous toy companies claiming to sell natural, organic, locally sourced, non toxic, wooden kids toys, i felt obligated to look into this multi-million dollar industry and find out which companies stand up to their claims and which ones do not!
Because there are so many companies that boast these claims i could never review all of them at one time, so for an overview i have chosen 5 different companies across the spectrum; some popular, some affordable, some that you may have never heard of. I started by checking out the company’s “about us” and mission statement, then reading reviews, and finally searching for facts about what, how, and where the toys are really made.
What i found was really surprising and, honestly, i guess it shouldn’t have been. Below i have listed the five companies in order from most natural, safe, and Eco-friendly to least as far as i can tell from their website and actual customer reviews. I have included affiliate links to the toys on amazon not only so you can see what I’m talking about, but also because amazon usually offers the best price on toys that you may have a hard time getting your hands on other wise.
If you decide to purchase a toy, I will receive a small percentage of the cost at no extra charge to you, of course! I am not however being payed to review or promote any of these products, it is solely my educated opinion.
I want to be clear and say that these are all successful toy companies and I don’t believe any of the products to actually be dangerous for children, but we are talking about going the extra mile to give your children the very best!
#1 Camden Rose
This company boasts locally designed and sourced wood. The owners founded the company after noticing a lack of American made quality wood toys. They favor hardwoods like cherry, maple, and walnut, close to their mid western roots. All toys produced are phylate and lead-free. In the beginning stages of their company, they relied on the craftsmanship of local furniture makers to construct their toys and to this day all wooden toys are made by American craftspeople. The company gives great attention to using renewable resources and says the difference in their toys is in the detail!
Camden rose toys vary in price from ten dollars to hundreds, but there is no doubt that the toys themselves will last a life time. Here are a few favorites, but if it where up to me i would show you everything! I’m in love with these people.
- natural maple baby teether
- maple wood little pick-up truck
- hardwood circle stackers
- hardwood toolbox
- country cottage doll house
- cherrywood play kitchen
All the toys I have seen from this company are absolutely beautiful and the company standards are unbelievably high. They also offer furniture, like this bookcase and table and chairs set, as well as kitchen utensils like this wooden bowl and spoon. Because of all this and the fact that I could not find one customer who is not totally in love with Camden Rose they are #1 on my list of non-toxic toy companies.
#2 Mary and Kate
Mary and Kate was founded on the principle: safer for baby, better for earth. Who can argue with that? Their products are made with completely natural materials, like the GOTS certified organic cotton that makes up their swaddles and bibs and the water-based coating, beeswax, and olive oil they use to seal their beech wood toys. Products are manufactured in the Unites States. Their website also offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee; if you are not satisfied they will “immediately replace the product or return your money”.
Mary and Kate products can be seen as expensive, but when you consider the quality and the amount of work that goes into each peace i still conciser it a value.
This company says they have an exclusive agreement with amazon but I could only find these two products so I’m not sure exactly what that means. I encourage you to go to their website and search for other items like the bibs, swaddling blankets, and more. Customers say that they are made of the softest organic material ever! Again, I couldn’t find any bad reviews on the company and that’s why they fall just below Camden Rose at #2.
The company calls itself the world’s largest producer of wooden toys. To it’s benefit, they do admit freely that there are plastic parts and “surface treatment”, that you would not see with a totally natural toy company, but they are strategically considered to minimize environmental impact. The fact that they boast their water purification system, stating that there are little or no chemicals released back into the environment, says to me that there are chemicals used in their toys. However, they do claim to use water-based paints and high quality safety-standards and I have to admit, I really love several of the toy designs. Not surprisingly, they are also very affordable toys.
All the Hape products i could find on Amazon have at least a 4 star rating, which is saying something. I attribute this however mostly to the appealing design of their toys and this is why i ranked Hape #3.
This company focuses strongly on protecting the environment. All wood toys are made using rubber-wood trees over the age of 25, so that they can no longer be used to produce latex for commercial applications. Once the tree are cut down, more are planted in their place, so there is no deforestation. According to their “about us”, since 2007, they have planted more than 119,000 trees back into the forest.
This all sounds great, but the focus on child safety is minimal. The toys are produced in Thailand and although they are said to be up to international standards, as far as i can find, there is no 3rd party testing. Also many of the toys have plastic or heavily painted parts. I love the idea of saving the trees, but the lack of focus on safety testing leaves me skeptical. On the positive side the toys are very affordable and brightly colored.
Like i said above, I’m not going to tell you that these toys are absolutely not safe. Most of the amazon product descriptions say the toys have water-based paint and are non toxic. Although, to some that doesn’t mean much. To be honest, they are still better than filling your child’s bedroom with plastic junk from china! But, that isn’t the nature of this article so i digress. I will say it’s a step in the right direction for someone just learning about non-toxic toy options, and that’s why i ranked it #4.
#5 Melissa and Doug
If you haven’t been living under a rock the last several years, you have heard of Melissa and Doug! In my mind, at least, they are the most well known wood toy company to date. Their mission statement makes them sound like the same small company that started making puzzles all those years ago, with claims of “in home” product testing. However, I learned that even though this was the case when the company started in 1988, manufacturing is not so simple now.
The company’s headquarters is in Connecticut, and although the toys are still designed here, you would be hard pressed to find out that they are mostly produced in China. Gasp! Basically, this company is riding on it’s once-good name, to put it harshly. I struggle to even give links to products because as a consumer this is the one company on the list that i would not voluntarily buy from, but having said that, I will give an example of three popular Melisa and Doug toys.
The reason i have given these links is so that you can see the products and product reviews for yourself. A few instances: One customer had an issue with paint chipping from a toy and when she contacted the company was told that the water-based paint will chip if it becomes wet. Odd characteristic of a baby toy! Also she was refused a refund on the ground that they only sold through third party suppliers? Others say that the giraffe is prone to splinter, out of the box and after some playtime, again potentially dangerous for the child. Another customer stated that the “solid wood” jigsaw puzzles are just thin layers of wood, glued together, and hers started to come apart after the first few play times.
I know that these are all individual opinions and across the board Melisa and Doug still has mostly 4 star or higher reviews on amazon. I don’t think that will change. But, after reading this, it is worth an extra eye on this companies standards.
All in all, i find these companies to produce safe toys, for the most part. It is really just to what degree the parent wants to go to ensure their children are playing with non-toxic, natural, organic toys. Obviously the American based Camden Rose and Mary and Kate toy companies set a very high standard, and I adore them for that! I do believe that wood is better than plastic. I believe in a company that holds themselves responsible when it comes to the environment. I believe that water-based paint and safety-tested coating is not the worst you can do, when it comes to child toys. So, for that reason, I would purchase toys from the top four companies.
However, I do not appreciate the idea of being charged more for quality when the product is not living up to its standards. I can not stand behind such a popular company that is not totally transparent with it’s consumers on where and how the products are actually made. And finally, if you look up reviews on 5 different companies and the most popular one has the most bad reviews, what would you think? You would feel like they are kid of a fraud. At least, that’s how I feel. So, after all
I’ve read, I will be especially careful with products from this company.
I hope you try the toys on this list and enjoy them. I know I have some new things on the shopping list for my baby otw, after all this. I really enjoyed learning more about the wooden toy industry. I didn’t realize before that there is really a wide spectrum in the “non-toxic” category. I hope i could help you navigate through some of that. Of course, this doesn’t even scratch the surface on natural toy companies, but i hope it does help you see that not ever company is what it claims to be and some are even more!