Intentional Gifts: Toys with a Greater Purpose

A few years ago someone told me that they think of spending money like voting for the type of world we want to live in. You use the power of your $ to tell companies what you value and what type of products you want. (A good example of this is grocery shopping – if it’s important to you to have quality organic food, you need to purchase quality organic food. The more money companies make off of organic food, the more they’re inspired to keep working to provide lots of organic food options. Then other companies notice and start providing their own organic products, the food industry starts to shift, now there are more organic food options – often at better price points! – because consumers ‘voted’ with their money).

This has stuck with me ever since, and I now try to be very intentional with the type of purchases I make. Whenever possible, I try to consider the type of world I want to live in and ‘vote’ with the power of my dollar. Does it always happen? No. But one area that I do really try to consider how I’m ‘voting’ is with toys.

Toys with a Greater Purpose

Last week, in my post about gift ideas that aren’t conventional toys, I shared some ideas for practical gifts, experiences, and consumable products. It’s true that I love non-toy gifts, but it’s also true that I do love toys! I just don’t love having a TON of toys around. There is a big difference in my mind between having a few quality toys that get frequently played with and inspire my kids to be creative, use their imagination, and have fun than having a playroom so full of toys that half of them don’t even get played with. (As always, if that’s not your thing, no judgement here! This is what works for us).

My kids will always have toys on their Christmas wish lists. Since they are still too little to request specific toys, I’m the one coming up with items for their lists and I try to be intentional about what goes on the list. I love finding toys that are not only cute and fun but also have some sort of greater purpose: this could mean supporting a small business selling products made in the USA or fair trade products made in Peru. It also means trying to find toys that are made from safer materials or sustainable materials (even better if they’re made from recycled materials). In other words I’m not looking for just a toy, but I’m looking for my dollar to also do a little good in the world. Now, does every single toy we own fit this bill? No. Do my kids still receive toys that aren’t on their list? Of course they do. We’re not perfect and I’m not worried about making sure every single thing that comes into our house has a greater purpose. We just try our best to make the effort when we can and don’t lose sleep over it when we can’t.

Since the holidays are coming up, I wanted to share some of the brands/stores I’ve found over the years that sell toys that have a mission or purpose that I love. This isn’t sponsored at all and I’m not making any money off of this – I just enjoy sharing what I’ve found! Plus, you know how I like to keep things as simple as possible so having this compiled list of go-to stores makes my own holiday shopping simpler.

There are so many great options beyond the specific items I share so if you’ve got some little ones in your life that you’re needing gift ideas for, I hope you’ll consider checking one of these brands out!

Plan Toys – I love Plan Toys because they are eco-friendly and made from sustainable materials like reclaimed rubber woods. They also have a strong focus on providing toys that aid in child development. A green company that makes development a priority and has cute products? Sign me up! LJ’s still frequently plays with this bulldozer that he got last Christmas so we’re putting this firetruck, this mini roller, and this excavator on his list this year.

Eco Kids – I mentioned in my previous post that I love asking for consumable toys because they are fun, inspire imagination and creativity, and eventually get used up (less clutter over time). I love this company because it is a family-owned business that uses non-toxic, natural ingredients and environmentally friendly packaging AND all products are made in the USA. I love these crayons (made from all natural beeswax so I don’t worry if LJ puts them in his mouth. . . which he does) and I have this finger paint set on his Christmas list this year.

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Begin Again – This small US company is committed to making toys for plastic-free play by utilizing plants such as rubberwood, natural rubber, and water-based stains. Last year LJ got this dump truck (seen in the corner of the picture above!) made of a bio-plastic consisting of sugar cane and corn cob and he still plays with it almost every day. They also have cute puzzles and bath toys!

Caaocho – This company makes bath toys out of 100% natural rubber and they are colored with food-grade paint. Plus they are super cute! LJ got this turtle during his first Christmas and Vi has this butterflyfish on her list this year.

Cuddle + Kind – I love the mission behind this company! They sell heirloom-quality knit dolls that are SO beautiful. Their products are handmade and fair trade, meaning the artisans that make them are compensated fairly for their work. Not only that, but for each doll purchased, the company provides 10 meals to children in need around the world. It’s just an incredible mission and I feel so good purchasing their products. Now their dolls aren’t cheap, but my preference would be to get one super cute and high quality doll rather than 10 cheaper dolls that aren’t made as ethically or sustainably. Vi has this one already and this one is on her Christmas list. 

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Green Toys – These toys are made safe in the USA from 100% recycled materials. They have recycled over 83 million milk jugs to this day! I have this dough set on LJ’s list this year – bonus that the dough is made with organic flour in a food-safe facility!

Chalk Full of Design – These small business sells a variety of cute and educational chalkboards made in the USA. I love so many of them! LJ is a little too small this year, but next year I’m going to ask for this personalized name chalkboard!

New Creation – I love supporting small businesses and I especially love supporting small businesses with a great mission. This shoppe’s mission is “design for justice” and they partner with many organizations in the fight to end sex trafficking and provide next steps for survivors. They are faith based non-profit selling survivor made goods and fair trade accessories, and they also provide prevention education on and rescue from human trafficking. I always ask for jewelry for myself (they have a great selection, and this mini stud set is on my list this year!) but they also offer some adorable items for children.  LJ got this donut rattle and this woodland fox for his first Christmas and I love these bandana bibs for Vi.

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OMG – baby LJ making me feel all the feels!

Secondhand shops – Another great place to buy toys? A secondhand shop/Facebook marketplace/yard sale/etc! There are so many places that sell used toys that are still in great condition. These toys are often sold for a fraction of the retail price and still have a lot of life left in them! Now does this mean every toy there is in good condition and worth buying? No. I’m not interested in adding junk toys to our collection, but when there are quality options, I’m all for it! Last year LJ got a full bag of Mega Blocks and a Melissa and Doug Spin Gear Board for Christmas. Both items were bought at a local consignment shop for less than $10 total (retail price is about $32 for both).  They were both in great condition and he loves playing with them. And I feel good about the purchases because they were inexpensive and gave new life to toys that were no longer being played with by their original owners and might’ve ended up in a landfill way too soon. Buying secondhand means you might have to hunt a little more for treasures, but it can be very worth it!

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What are your favorite places to buy toys? If you have found a great shop that sells toys and has a great mission behind it, I’d love to hear about it!

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