Nov. 21, 2019
We’re kicking off our four-part 2019 Green Gift Guide with some ideas for the smallest among us. In this list, we've included innovative Earth-friendly gifts to appeal to youth of all ages. You might even find something for yourself!
Remember when you’re getting ready to shop this holiday season, consider locally-owned shops at the top of your list, like Fort Worth’s Toy Works.
“Little local toys stores are a dying breed,” said Toy Works owner Nancy Hay. “It is so important for people to support local stores and keep those dollars in our community.”
So what about the chains? It’s key to vote with your dollars there too. When we purchase organic, non-GMO and other sustainable products at big box stores, we encourage them to offer more eco-friendly items. Conversely, if we all stopped buying cheap, plastic junk, the stores would stop selling it.
In our Online section, don’t miss several eco manufacturers including Tree Hopper Toys – just the kind of business we love to support. The Chicago-based company minimizes waste, from toy making to packaging and more. All products are nontoxic, they use 100 percent renewable wind power to run the business and make the toys – and the products are so durable that they will last virtually forever, saving untold resources in replacements. That’s the greenest gift of all!
Any price listed is subject to change. Be sure to check availability before you venture out. And thank these retailers for carrying greener choices.
Toy Works has been a Fort Worth favorite since 1995. Nancy Hay and her husband, Art, hand-select top-quality playthings and they know what kids want. Nancy personally recommends Haba’s Fantastack Blocks for $36. Your little one can stack their way to a fantasy land with 26 funky wooden pieces in bright colors plus two prism triangles. Made with wood from forests that are managed with ecological care – these blocks are coated with solvent-free, non-toxic paints.
Haba Fantastack Blocks and Hape’s Quadrilla Ball Track Starter Set, below, are available at Toy Works in Fort Worth.
Nancy’s pick for older kids is Hape’s Quadrilla Ball Track Starter Set, a 44-piece wooden marble run that encourages young architects to use their noggin while having creative fun! Or the Hape Super Spirals, 129 piece set, for $156. Both made with eco-harvested wood, non-toxic paints and recyclable plastic. Shop the complete selection of toys for big and little kids at Toy Works, 6333 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth, 76116. 817-737-8697
Today’s kids will soon be designing tomorrow’s innovations. Help them think outside the box (or truck) with a kit that teaches them all about building a salt-powered vehicle – offered at another Fort Worth favorite, Houston Street Toy Company in the city’s historic Sundance Square. With this kit from Eco N engineering under the 4M and Green Science Brand, your child can build their own salt-powered truck and prepare its battery for action. Then they just add some salty water and watch the truck go! Teaches about eco-engineering and green science – and your child won’t even realize how much they are learning as they build. Includes all parts to assemble truck and the salt-powered motor, with instructions. $16.99. Lots of other exciting STEM kits at Houston Street Toy Company, 309 Houston St, Fort Worth, TX 76102. 817-810-9644.
WHAT'S THE BUZZ?
Kids 5 and older will love this 100-piece floor puzzle, made from heavy-duty recycled cardboard, that features 36 colorful insects, printed with soy ink. Part of Crocodile Creek’s 36 Animals Collection, it is challenging and fun for kids to learn the different species of bugs that inhabit our world. Includes a chart that lists each insect’s name in multiple languages – and a reusable storage canister so that nothing gets lost. Puzzle pieces are made of strong, high quality board that will not tear or break (unless the dog gets hold of them). Gorgeous and colorful illustrations that your child will want to assemble over and over again. Makes a great gift. Assembled puzzle is 14-inches-by-19-inches. $15.95 at Barnes & Noble stores in the area or buy online at BarnesandNoble.com.
Fair & Square Imports on the square in downtown McKinney offers lots of earth-friendly fair trade gifts for greenies both young and old. Your young folks will enjoy tossing this PocketDisc, an indoor Frisbee alternative. Soft and easy to catch, it is great for rainy days indoors, but also perfect in the backyard or on the trail. Easy to pack in a pocket or knapsack. PocketDiscs are handmade in Guatemala by the Maya people. Each disc also helps pay for new filtration systems that make river water safe to drink in a developing country. 7 inches wide. Assorted colors and designs, $12.50 each. Many other unique gifts sold in-store and online at FairandSquareImports.com. Fair and Square Imports, 219 E. Louisiana St., McKinney 75069. 469-343-4421.
When this writer was a kid, one of my favorite toys was a little farm set with an assortment of animals and a red barn. Playing with this set fostered a love of critters that endures to this day. Green Toys, makers of play gear molded from 100 percent recycled milk jugs, offers an updated version of this classic toy, The Green Toys Farm Play Set. It could even be called the Animals in Charge Set, especially since a cow is running the farm! Includes a barn, pick-up truck, farmer cow characters, sheep, pigs, fences and a shed for endless imaginative play. As little ones interact, they also learn about animals and hone fine motor skills and coordination. All pieces fit inside the barn, so clean-up and storage is a breeze, and the built-in handle makes it easy to take all the fun on-the-go. Made in the USA. $49.99. Other Green Toys sets start under $10 at a shop that is a true jewel near downtown Dallas – Froggie's 5 & 10 Toy Store, 3211 Knox St, Dallas, 75205. 214-522-5867
Looking for a toy that will last and last? Boston-based Schylling’s porcelain tea set ($24.99) is quality-made and sold locally at Rooster Home & Hardware as part of their delightful kids’ department. Stout enough for real use, the teacups are all a bit different so each “guest” can tell them apart. Genuine porcelain, just like Grandma used to have when she was a little girl. Your youngsters will enjoy the bold colors of this Fiesta style set. All pieces are a little bigger than most other kid’s sets but sized just right for little hands. Includes four cups and saucers, sugar bowl with lid, teapot with lid and creamer. Even George the Rooster would approve! Bring your kiddos to meet George and have their picture taken with him and Santa on Dec. 14 (9 a.m. -noon), Dec. 21 (9 a.m. - 1 p.m.) and Dec. 24 (10 a.m.-2 p.m.). Call 214-343-1971 for more info. Rooster Home & Hardware, 10233 East Northwest Hwy. Suite 409, Dallas 75238.
Whole Foods always has wonderful gifts for kids but this nifty pair of products is also good for the planet. Now your youngsters can get clean and help kids around the world at the same time. Choose either a Soap Slime Set with three sweet scents - watermelon, berry, and coconut -($24.99) or Bath Crayons ($9.99), both from Nebraska-based Pacha. Toxin-free, hypoallergenic and crafted with plant-derived colorants, non-toxic slime and crayons encourage thoughtful play and fine motor skills. They wash away for a clean canvas every time. Founded in 2013 by Andrew and Abi (Burrows) Vrbas after Andrew volunteered as a teacher in Peru, Pacha products spread goodness by supporting ethical sourcing and clean water initiatives worldwide. Pacha products are available at Whole Foods stores around the area. Learn more at PachaSoap.com.
If you missed these ideas last year, they are worth a repeat – give your child an experience that they won’t soon forget and include your own time well spent with them as you both enjoy a day at one of our local science museums. The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is a blast for all ages. Be sure to catch a show at the Omni Theatre such as The Polar Express (Returning to the Omni Theater on Nov. 23) and Polar Pajama Parties (Returning to the Omni Theater on Dec. 7) while you’re there. Visit this link for more fun ideas in and around Fort Worth.
While at the Perot Museum, check out their gift shop which is filled with fascinating and useful doodads, many of which are sustainably made, such as Sand Straws. Your kiddos will take these reusable stainless steel straws with them everywhere. The straws were created by friends John Weil and Brian Ruthenberg after spending a day at the beach and being appalled by all of the waste (especially straws) that they saw there. Your child can help save the ocean while supporting their favorite sea animal - 10 percent of Sand Straws net profit is donated towards ocean conservation. Three-pack reusable Sand Straws with straw cleaner and cotton carry bag is $10 with any purchase in the Perot Museum store or $15 without an additional purchase.
Little chickadees will just adore finding a match with Match Stacks ($20), an easy-to-play game that even pre-schoolers can enjoy as they mate up the animal pictures. Older kids can read the animal names for a match. Many ways to play – stack, match, identify colors or animals, charades, or create stories. Woodland themed set of 16 sustainable hardwood “nickels” that will last for years. Finished with organic beeswax and made in the USA by uber-green Treehopper Toys. Supplied with a lovely, reusable tube for storage.
Another wonderful “toy” from this company is this set of cool drawing tools designed by company owner, Eric Siegel, inspired by some that his great-grandfather used for many years. When his own son asked for a similar folding ruler, Eric decided to make the whole kids’ set to match. Includes protractor with waves, folding ruler, triangle, circles, pencils, pencil sharpener and a handy drawstring bag. Perfect for the young designer in your life. ($20) at TreeHopperToys.com.
WARM YOUR NEST
Did you know that plastic fibers and filler beads from children’s plush toys are a major contributor to microplastics in our environment, many of which end up in people? It’s a good reason to do some research on the toys that you are buying.
The 15-inch Small Gray Goose Warming Pillow ($69) is covered with soft organic cotton, not plastic plush, and designed to delight and comfort children of all ages – and is vegan-friendly. The Small Gray Goose contains a removable insert filled with cherry stones, secured inside a zippered pouch that helps ease a sore tummy or sleeplessness when gently warmed. Cherry stones can also be cooled to help ease teething pain or other booboos. The 31-inch Large Gray Goose ($99) contains a removable insert filled with pure natural spelt which can be warmed in the oven. The Large Goose makes a cuddly companion for older children or even adults. Great for seniors too! To warm, simply remove the insert, wrap in a linen or cotton towel and place it in a 160°F oven and warm to hand hot (do not microwave). Hand Washable. Made in Germany. BellaLunaToys.com.
Our friend, Jennifer Stuart, who runs Seed Preschool in Dallas, recently told us about a must-have for her classroom. Young children and those with special needs often have trouble holding crayons which leads to frustration and sometimes even tears. Special Ed teacher Barbara Lee developed Crayon Rocks which are just right for smaller hands. Their ergonomic “rock” shape is touted by occupational therapists and preschool teachers because it strengthens the tripod grip muscles in the hand and improves fine motor coordination.
Crayon Rocks are also better in other ways. Some crayons are made overseas from petroleum paraffin with chemical colorants. Crayon Rocks are made in rural Kentucky Amish farm country from domestic soybean wax and other plants plus non-toxic pigments to create beautiful colors that mimic nature – with special tones to match human skin because kids love to draw people! Crayon Rocks glide on smoothly, like an oil pastel, and can last for years because they don’t break in half like other crayons. $14.50 for set of 32 colors in polka-dot bag + shipping. Boxed set of 64 (2 of each color) is $28.50 + shipping, Watch a video about them here. Order them at CrayonRocks.com and Amazon.
Tired of changing batteries every year or so in your kid’s old alarm clock? With the Bedol Water Clock, you’ll never need batteries again. This unique gadget runs on water. That’s right – your child can simply fill with H2O and forget it. Inside the semi-transparent water reservoir are metallic plates that allow ions in the water to be turned into current that powers the clock and alarm. It’s a great way to teach kids about electricity, batteries and atoms! The clock has a cool, contemporary design that looks awesome in any bedroom décor and can even be packed in a knapsack for camp or visits to grandma. Several colors from which to choose. Great for college students too! $26.99. Visit BedolWhatsNext.com to order and watch a fun video about how the clock works.
Your kids will be more likely to brush their teeth when they know that they are helping the planet with each stroke. Five delicious natural flavors: Banana, Blueberry, Black Currant, Strawberry and Raspberry, with Calendula to soothe gums, they are non-GMO and free of palm oil derivatives. BPA-free, recyclable packaging, no fluoride, no preservatives, no Sodium Laureth Sulfate or dyes makes them ideal for babies and children ages 6 months and up. $6.99 each.
Mate up with a fun and Jack N’ Jill compostable toothbrush for an adorable gift set. Choose from Bunny, Hippo, Koala or Dino. With rounded nylon, soft bristles they are superior at cleaning. $5.99 each. (note: bristles must be removed before composting). Both available at TheChoosyChick.com.
It’s so nice to see some of our major retailers that are starting to carry organic and eco-friendly products. When we support them with our dollars, we can help to change the world! Bed Bath & Beyond offers several eco toys including this sweet baby doll with removable blue outfit and diaper. His little bear booties are just too cute! Also available in pink version with bunny booties. Kimono style clothes are easy for little hands to grasp. Promotes empathy, creativity and versatile play. Made of super soft 100-percent organic cotton jersey knit and filled with a blend of organic cotton and hypoallergenic corn fiber. For age 6 months to 6 years. Hand washable. $35 each. Online Only at BedBathBeyond.com.
Not all wooden toys are eco-friendly made but this set is crafted from sustainably-sourced trees and coated with nontoxic paint. Your children or grandchildren will love learning the classic “Noah’s Ark” story with 62-pieces including pairs of animals, Noah, and his wife, Naamah. This quality set is sold through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, complementing the many depictions of this ancient story that hang in the museum. Animals are just the right size for small hands to grasp. Sturdy ark opens for storage and portability and is strong enough to use as a bench for little tykes. An heirloom that will last for generations. $110 at MetMuseum.org.
Get ready for some messy kids! Encourage your youngsters to play outdoors with this washable wooden mud kitchen, made from FSC Certified pressure-treated lumber. Removable splash sink holds up to nine quarts of water or two gallons of mud. Chalkboard for recipes teaches writing skills while the cooktop and oven are great for mud pies! Top shelf and roomy bottom shelf provide plenty of storage. Includes a set of stainless steel pans and a whisk. Great to use as a kids’ sized potting bench too. $199 at MagicCabin.com.
One of our dear friends Dan Lepinski is a solar energy engineer who traces his interest in science back to the first radio kit that he built as a kid. Not only does Dan now design solar energy systems for buildings all over the Metroplex, his own roof is covered with solar panels and even a solar hot water heater.
Starting children young and teaching them about green technology is one way that we can help save the planet and nurture a budding sustainable designer. With Elenco's Deluxe Solar Educational Kit, children can learn how to make an electrical current and a solar circuit; how to increase voltage and current; and how to use solar power to produce energy for a music player, calculator, battery charger and more! $22.95 + shipping. Offered by Elenco, a leader in kids’ make-it-yourself kits since the 1970s. The company’s Mech-5 ($39.95 + shipping), code teaching robot, is a Finalist for 2020 The Toy Foundation’s Toy of the Year in the STEM/STEAM Category! Find more exciting educational toys at Elenco.com.
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