Photo: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock

Perfect Sustainable Gifts for the Kids in Your Life

Sustainability Family Travel
by Noelle Alejandra Salmi Nov 12, 2021

When it comes to our ever-growing collection of stuff, many of us have come to realize that, at least for the planet’s sake, less is more. Try telling that to a kid around the holidays. And, of course, there is the joy of giving. So how to square our desire for gift-giving with Earth’s plea not to produce vast more quantities of plastic toys? Look no further than these irresistible, and sustainable, gifts for the kids in your life.

We hope you love the sustainable gifts for kids we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to make a purchase.

1. Adopt an animal in a child’s name

We suggested this last year, and the feedback was positive — so why not adopt a new one again this year? The World Wildlife Fund lets your child symbolically adopt an endangered animal, since you can’t actually bring home a blue whale or a blue-footed booby. The NGO offers different giving levels, from $25 to $250, which come with an adoption certificate and the corresponding stuffed animal, be it sea lion or snow leopard. Even if it’s a tarantula or prairie chicken you want to support, the WWF has stuffies. If your child is younger, the token stuffie might be perfect, but if they’re a bit older, consider the virtual adoption kit. That means nothing is wasted and more of the gift goes to saving the animal in question. Sadly, there are plenty of animals to choose from.

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2. Plan Toys

beehive game from PlanToys

Photo: Plan Toys

PlanToys has been at the forefront of sustainable toy production for forty years, creating toys with minimal waste and garnering dozens of eco-awards along the way. To make their lovely and creative toys, it uses the wood from tapped-out Thai rubber trees, which will be destroyed anyway; it even reuses leftover sawdust to make more toys. An adorable beehive matching game costs $30, while a more classic wooden play kitchen comes in at $84. Every step of the Plan Toys process is well-considered, with even recycled packaging that uses plant-based inks. These ultra-green toys are also thoughtfully designed to foster specific physical and social-emotional developmental goals.

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3. Recycled Paper Beads

box for recycled paper beads toy

Photo: 4M Toys

There’s hardly a more satisfying gift to give a kid than beads with which they can spend hours making necklaces, bracelets, lanyards, and what-have-you. There’s just one small problem: the beads in question are nearly always made of plastic, tiny little items that end up in your dog’s stomach, between the sofa cushions and, more ominously, in our waterways. Green Creativity has solved this problem with a disarmingly simple solution: a toy that lets your kids make their own beads from recycled paper. And since it’s gift-giving time, there will probably be some brightly colored wrapping paper around to use for the first set of paper beads.

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4. Earthhero Paint Kit
sustainable paint kit for kids

Photo: EarthHero

With sidewalk chalk, colored pencils, and fingerpaints, the proud new owner of this kit will have plenty of options to design their masterpiece. Plus, EarthHero fingerpaints are made of fruit, vegetable, and plant extracts, so they not only spare the planet, but the child who uses them, from exposure to petroleum-based dyes and chemicals. The $29.50 kit comes in boxes made with post-consumer egg cartons and cardboard, making it yet more eco-friendly. Time to start creating!

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5. Mokulock Wooden Blocks
child playing with mokulock lego toys

Photo: Mokulock

There’s no arguing that Lego’s are excellent for learning and creating, and for making surprisingly enjoyable movies. But that’s a whole lot of plastic right there. How about mixing it up this year by adding Mokulock Blocks to that Lego set — stretching the use of those Lego’s with toys that are made from six different types of trees harvested locally and sustainably: cherry, maple, hornbeam, birch and a Japanese magnolia.

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6. Flower Seeds

Flower seeds are a pretty unique gift, and you’ll win points for a gift that may teach your child a new skill: gardening. Of course, you’ll have to add to that another skill: patience. While the rewards of seed planting aren’t immediate, the reward of spending time with the child in your life as you plant the seeds together definitely is. Depending on the weather, you can certainly plant seeds inside, as long as you have a good windowsill. You’ll find plenty of vendors of non-GMO seeds, like David’s Garden Seeds, with easy-to-grow marigolds or flowers you can sow in winter like pansies.

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7. Green Toys sand toys

Green Toys sand play set

Photo: Green Toys

There are some instances when wooden or paper toys are a bit more challenging: for playing at the beach or watering the garden, say. Green Toys makes all of its toys with 100 percent recycled plastic, so when your budding architect is nurturing their inner Zaha Hadid while creating sand structures, you’ll feel better knowing the plastic they are using was repurposed from milk containers, with no phthalates or other harmful chemicals. The sand playset is $25.87, while the watering can, hoe, and rake are $14.78.

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8. Magnetic wooden blocks

Tegu blocks

Photo: Tegu

Magnetic tiles free kids to put together shapes in an entirely new and creative way. Unfortunately, most magnetic sets use a lot of plastic. Tegu makes an assortment of magnetic sets using only sustainably sourced hardwoods from Honduras, and colors them with non-toxic, water-based finishes. The blocks come in options to create specific things, like cars a toddler might put together, to more freeform shapes for older children.

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9. Organic cotton kids’ clothing

gray Jackalo pants

Photo: jackalo

Conventional cotton farming is pesticide-intensive and can use thousands of gallons of water to produce just one T-shirt. Fortunately, several options exist today for organic cotton kids’ clothes, including Winter Water Factory, which we’ve listed before. Another one designer we’ve fallen in love with is jackalo, which not only uses organic cotton and sustainable manufacturing processes but keeps the clothing sustainable even after you’ve bought it. They will repair your kids’ clothing for you (minus shipping costs), offers tips on minimizing washing, and will take back your kids’ outgrown clothes for discounted resale on their site. And jackalo will give you a $15 discount on their next, always fashionable, item.

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