We’re so fortunate to live in a day where we have numerous choices for our children’s playthings. Unfortunately, this choice can be a bit overwhelming! So I’ve taken a bit of time to compile some of my favourite toy brands for babies and kids.
Why does it matter which brands you choose? Quite a few reasons:
- Sustainability: If you’re trying to be Zero Waste, like me, choosing toys made from natural materials is very important! I try to choose toys without plastic, and prefer wood that is sustainably sourced.
- Health: Lead and cadmium used to be used extensively even into the 1980s. And even now, it’s easy to assume that we’ve removed all lead, other heavy metals, and toxins from toys, but that’s not always the case. (Some good reading if you’re interested in learning more: this study and this article.)
- Minimalism: Some parents prefer a certain aesthetic to their children’s toys. Although I’m a sucker for a gorgeous playroom, I don’t think that maintaining a certain look or style, especially as children get older, is possible. That being said, my (apparently delicate) senses get completely overwhelmed by the bright lights and sounds of certain toys, so I can only imagine what these toys do to children! Some battery-powered toys seem to provide a whole song-and-dance, rather than letting the child explore the world in their own way.
- Montessori: I’m no expert in Montessori, but I do see the value in its method.
- Open-ended toys: I’m quite passionate about the value of developmentally appropriate, open-ended toys. For that reason, I veer toward classic toys like blocks, cars, and dolls. (And yes, I absolutely allow my son to play with dolls!)
So, all in all, I prefer to choose brands that are very conscious of health and sustainability, and create open-ended toys. It can be a bit pricier, and I recognize that this is a privilege. If you’re looking for lower-cost options, please read my section about used toys near the bottom of this post.
Without further ado, here are some of the brands I love!
These are mostly wooden toys. We have some of their puzzles, an activity centre, and musical instruments. My son is also obsessed with their little wooden cars. They have so much more than that, though, so it’s definitely worth a look. Hape also doesn’t shy away from bright, fun colours that kids love.
Another excellent brand that’s mostly wood. I’m particularly fond of their sensory blocks and puzzles, but they also have some really lovely dolls.
I’ve heard that some moms consider Grimm’s overpriced and too focused on beautiful toys than toys kids actually want to play with. I haven’t found this to be the case at all, though. I think that the price reflects this wonderful quality, and they can be played with in thousands of ways, as a child grows. (I actually love building towers out of the rainbow, to be honest!) Apparently there are a lot of knockoffs out there that don’t stack well, are made from cheap plastic or other questionable materials, or just don’t last.
If you’re going to choose plastic toys, this is the brand to go with. They use recycled, and recyclable plastics, and even some vegetable-based plastics. The toys are superb quality too. Great for bath time!
Cute, silly, Canadian hand puppets made from eco-friendly materials. You can find them at Parade Organics and their online store. They’re one-of-a-kind, and each has slightly different materials and colour combinations.
This brand has the sweetest designs! If you want your child’s toys to be safe, eco-friendly and beautiful, definitely check out this brand. We have their stacking toy and love it.
These are beautiful, 100% cotton toys knit by Peruvian craftspeople. They’re really lovely and cuddly.
Toys from local craftspeople
We have purchased several toys from local markets and stores, crafted by local artisans. The talent of these people astounds me! Look for options near you online, at small boutique stores, and at night markets/farmer’s markets.
Used toys can be wonderful! Check groups online such as mom groups and buy/sell/swap groups. (I’ve given away plenty of toys for free on such groups, and I’m not alone!) However, there are some precautions that need to be taken. As I mentioned above, lead and cadmium was used extensively even into the 1980s. Avoid older toys such as these, and be extremely cautious with off-brand toys.
Also (and this goes for all toys):
- only choose age- and developmentally-appropriate toys
- inspect toys carefully and on a regular basis to make sure they’re still safe for your child and haven’t become damaged
- check for recalls
- make sure only water-safe toys go in the bath
- try to avoid having your child chew on toys that aren’t meant to be chewed on
I really hope you enjoy this list, and I’d love to hear some of your favourite brands too. How do you choose toys for your children?