How to Choose A Safe Toy For Your Kid?

After publishing the article Why Wooden Toys Are Better Than Plastic Toys For Children, I have been getting readers asking the how/where/what type of toys to recommend. While I am no expert on toys or babies, there are just a few common sense guidelines from an eco-conscious standpoint that is relevant to all mothers and mothers-to-be.

Before you buy a toy, ask yourself…

Do you really need to buy a new toy? Most of us own too much stuff. But enthusiastic mothers and mommy-to-bes are in a category of their own. They are like the superhero hoarders of clothes, books and toys! Before giving in to the insatiable need to give your child everything you can get your hands on, consider this: how old is your child? does he or she love interaction with other beings or the environment? If so, spending more time creating experiences like going to the zoo, reading a book out loud and strolling along the beach could be better than buying a new toy.

If getting a new toy is still something you would like to do, there are a few things to remember.

Buy Used

These days, there are a lot of options to buying toys. Buying used or secondhand toys are a great way of  reducing carbon footprint. Not all hand-me-downs are rubbish. In fact, you might be lucky to find brand new items that other moms received as gifts or over-bought (sounds familiar?!) Some items might only be used once or twice because babies know exactly what they like, don’t like and they outgrow interests very fast. So why spend top dollar for a new toy to last a few weeks of playtime? The next time you drive past a Salvation Army Family Thrift Store or attend a charity weekend market, look out for good steals. Or, download a buy-and-sell app like Carousell to see what other moms are selling.

No batteries

Stick to one rule of thumb: No batteries. Babies love to put things in their mouths. Just yesterday, one of my best girlfriends told me she caught her eight-month old son eating a red paper lantern! She was mortified and she has reason to be. Growing news and research have shown a significant increase in the risk of button and cylindrical battery ingestions by babies. It is suggested that injuries can be prevented with more secure battery compartments but how would you know – until its too late. Battery ingestion is serious as it can led to infant choking and death. Also, batteries leak. Any form of exposure to liquid lead that can be ingested by a baby is extremely harmful and must be avoided at all cost.

Avoid Plastics

Plastic toys contain highly toxic chemicals that are linked to cancer, hormone disruption and developmental problems in children. Soft flexible plastics like dolls and soft balls often contain phthalates; hard sturdy plastics like building blocks and playhouses contain Bisphenol-A (BPA). And it is not just the toy alone. Paints on toys or sealants can contain lead and other heavy metals which can cause serious impairments in babies and childrens’ developing brains. It is unfortunate that the variety, low-cost and high entertainment factor of plastic toys are hard to resist. However, there are safer plastic toy alternatives in the market. You need to pay extra attention and look out for plastic toys labeled lead free, PVC free and BPA free.

Choose Natural Materials

Instead of plastic toys, go for wooden or fabric toys. There are plenty of organic bamboo and cotton-based toys that you can buy and rest assure that when your baby is chewing on it (instead of playing), you won’t suffer a heart attack. I love wooden toys. They are hardy, durable and educational (read Why Wooden Toys Are Better Than Plastic Toys For Children). If you choose wood-based toys, try for natural wood like pine, maple, beech, birch, ash or spruce. Avoid wood made from compressed wood chips or sawdust as these can break off and splinter easily. Watch out for the paints on wood as well. It should be painted with non-toxic, earth-friendly and water-based paint or vegetable dyes. I highly recommend investing in high quality wooden toy brands like Haba, Melissa & Doug, Hape, Montessori and Plan Toys. And of course, the very best kind of wooden toys are ones that are handcrafted and made with love.

In Singapore, these high-quality wooden toys are available online at (in alphabetical order):

Dear Baby
Pupsik Studio
Right Brain Babies
The Better Toy Store

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