A Busy Parent’s Gift Guide - Green Alternatives to Popular Baby Toys

Posted by Jahzel Misner on

While it might not seem like it yet, Christmas is right around the corner. In a hectic household with young kids, it’s always nice to get something like gift shopping ticked off the to-do list early. Especially with COVID-19, we all want to be avoiding long lines and stock shortages. So, with that in mind, let’s think about some gifts for your little ones. 

Around 6-months your baby is going to start to play, and I mean really play, not just gumming and grasping toys. At this age, you’re going to start seeing their adorable imagination emerge. With my first baby, I bought every toy imaginable. And since he was also a first grandchild, grandparents also spoiled him with every plastic, noise-making, gigantic toy - keep in mind too that we lived in a 1-bedroom condo at the time.

Fast forward to 9 years later. We’ve since moved out of the 1-bedroom and have a room dedicated to toys - a room that my son never goes in.

This time around with Cora I am determined to do better. My goal is to focus on toys that are long-lasting and focused on inspiring imagination and open-ended play. While not all the toy options below are made of sustainable materials, they are a more eco-friendly choice since they will be used longer and have less plastic.

1. Push Toy Walker

The Original: Plastic Walker

It helps your baby learn to walk. Your baby will likely not use this much past the 1-year-old milestone. 

Cora wearing Tradle - Parade Organics

The Alternative: Radio Flyer Walker

This toy is far more versatile. We especially love the extra space to transport toys (or babies). Littles love to push things, load and unload, or drag things along. I foresee this being a toy that will be used happily for years.

2. Exersaucer

Cora wearing Tradle - Parade Organics

The Original: Plastic Exersaucer

Cora is using her brother’s 9-year old exersaucer here. If your babies are anything like mine, they are screaming to be free in 20-minutes or less. 

Cora wearing Tradle - Parade Organics

The Alternative: The Old-Fashioned Floor 

Studies now show that “container baby syndrome” (when a baby is constrained in some way for the majority of the day) can actually result in taking a longer time to develop skills such as sitting, standing, and walking1. Floor play has all of the benefits of skill development, spatial awareness, muscle building, and balancing2

Playmats come in a range of stylish colours and styles that can complement any decor. Unlike the exersaucer which is used less than a year, playmats are used for many years. My 9-year old still use ours to play with his legos or Beyblades. Here are some examples of non-toxic mats.

3. Plastic Play Structures 

The Original: Plastic Play House

A backyard favourite and the source of many hours of imaginative play from our own childhoods. These are almost always made out of plastic that doesn’t stand the test the time. 

Cora wearing Tradle - Haven Kids 

The Alternative: Pikler Triangle 

The Pikler Triangle is a wooden indoor climbing structure that is suited for kids aged six months to six years. The toy is based on the Montessori learning method and serves to empower children to safely explore. This toy is perfect for rainy Vancouver days when we’d rather play inside. There are days where the only toy Cora wants to touch is the Pikler triangle! 











The 9-year old is in the Pikler fort, hiding from his sister.

If you are not into Montessori style, or simply just don’t have space for a Pikler triangle. Another great alternative is foam climbers. Both the Pikler Triangle and foam stairs are still used by my older son for fort building - or as barricades to prevent his baby sister from bugging him.

4. Electronic Toys

The Original: Electronic Toys

These toys are very popular and fun gifts that are not expensive. But the truth is, your baby will play with this for what feels like 5-minutes. These toys usually have a very specific function, like press a button and it makes a sound or lights up. Once your baby masters this, it becomes a boring toy. 

The Alternative: Sensory Play Toys

Sensory play toys have infinite uses and can be more commonly found in natural materials than the always plastic-based electronic option. Two examples to inspire your gift-giving imagination are the Grimm Rainbow and wooden animals. Both encourage imaginative play, emotional progress, and even language development. You can also create a loose parts sensory basket with things you already have in your home. 

5. No New Toys 

Some of Cora’s favourite “toys”: 

  • laundry 
  • pots and pans
  • a box of dress-up hats and scarves
  • just the box! 

I have learned over time that sometimes the best toy is no new toy. I have changed my habits to buy far fewer toys and opt to buy higher-end items when I do. It really is about quality over quantity. I never worry about her getting bored because I know she has enough to play with already, and if she does need something new, I love watching her get creative and finding new ways to entertain herself. 

At the end of the day don’t stress yourself out about what to give your baby for Christmas - at the moment they’ll likely be more interested in the wrapping than the gift itself. 

Looking for more gift ideas for babies? Check out Tradle’s baby clothes subscription box.

We support local businesses! Toys features in this post can be found in these Canadian shops:


Jahzel & Cora  

A Tradle Mommy Post

Jahzel Misner is a Vancouver Mom, designer and toy-maker. She is on the quest to reduce her family’s footprint so that her children and their children can enjoy nature in the same way we do today.



baby clothing kids activities

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published



Sold Out

Sign Up