Choose green holiday gifts for the kids in your life.
Celebrating greener holidays can mean reducing the number of gifts you give, choosing intentionally to focus on relationships, human connection, and the spiritual meanings attached to the season. Still, many find great joy in sharing gifts with the children in their lives. Fortunately, there are many wonderful gift-giving ideas guaranteed to bring a smile to a child’s face while embracing simplicity and supporting green businesses.
Because all of the finalists from Green America’s summer 2014 People & Planet Award are experts on products and services for green kids, we asked for their best recommendations for holiday gifts, from among the products they sell and also from others.
For holiday gift-giving, Nasrin Noori, owner of Baby Eco-Trends, nominates her company’s Tree Owl Shadowbox Wall Art as a whimsical decoration for a child’s bedroom. The wall hanging, made by painting layers of sustainably harvested wood, colorful felt, nontoxic veneer, and recycled book pages, results in a bright, three-dimensional rendering of an owl that can be personalized with a child’s name.
In addition to the wall art, Baby Eco-Trends specializes in handmade heirloom-quality children’s furniture and toys made by Amish woodworkers in the Midwest. Noori points out that the builders she works with consciously choose hand-tools over power tools or power their workshops with solar energy.
For more holiday giving ideas, Noori endorses toys made by woodworker John Michael Linck, who builds rocking horses, dollhouses, pull-toys, and more at his workshop in Wisconsin. Linck uses only sustainably grown local hardwoods, and finishes his toys with nontoxic, all-natural walnut oil.
Husband and wife team Morris and Mindy Saintsing founded Bamboosa
to accomplish several goals at once: to produce eco-friendly clothing and other products for newborns, to manufacture those products close to their South Carolina home, and to create local jobs for textile workers suffering from out-sourcing. The fabric for Bamboosa’s baby products comes from 100-percent organically certified bamboo fiber, or is blended with organic cotton, Lycra, or recycled polyester.
For the infants on your shopping list, Mindy Saintsing recommends Bamboosa’s hooded bamboo bath towel. “It’s generously sized and can still be used in the toddler years,” she says, pointing out that bamboo fabric is extraordinarily soft and absorbent. Fellow finalist Dhana EcoKids, also gets Saintsing’s endorsement; she suggests Dhana’s 100-percent organic cotton kids’ T-shirts, especially the “Earth Day Winter White Tree” design, featuring a tree formed from the intertwining words rethink, revive, recycle, renew, regenerate, remember, respect, reuse, restore, and recover.
Mill Valley, CA
California-based Dhana EcoKids produces apparel for children ages 4-12 using only 100-percent GOTS-certified cotton and carcinogen-free, eco-friendly dyes.
For the holidays, owner Shamini Dhana suggests a product outside of her company’s standard manufactured line. She’s partnering with the cooperative Panchachuli Women Weavers to sell a limited number of fairly traded, hand-spun, and nontoxic “Hope” scarves for girls, handcrafted by Himalayan women who lost their homes in the devastating floods that swept through India’s Kedarnath Valley in 2013.
Dhana is also a big fan of the meaningful books for children published by Little Pickle Press, including What Does It Mean to Be Present?, a picture book about living in the moment.
Maple Landmark Woodcraft
Maple Landmark Woodcraft manufactures all of its wooden toys in its own factory in Middlebury, VT, packing orders for shipping with shredded junk-mail and magazines, and giving leftover sawdust to local farmers to reuse as livestock bedding. The factory fashions the scraps of a local furniture maker into toys, while it sustainably sources other woods, like maple and pine, from within Vermont.
Co-owner Barb Rainville recommends the company’s “Made By Me” kits that allow kids age three and older to assemble and decorate their own wooden toys, like tractors, tugboats, and trucks. She also recommends locally sourced toys from her neighbors at Eco-Kids USA in Maine.
“Naturally Playful is committed to offering gifts that are made in the US and Canada or fairly traded, and are meant to be handed down to the next generation,” says Lindsey Wills of her family-owned business. “We actually want you to buy less!”
In addition to classic products like recycled cardboard puzzles and organic stuffed animals, Wills’s business sells cooperative board games made by a family company in Canada, which she recommends for the holidays. These games teach kids about cooperation, while also educating about topics like loss of animal habitat (“Then There Were None”), world geography (“Explorers”), and grammar (“Star Words”).
Apart from Naturally Playful’s products, Wills endorses the all-organic bubble bath from the “Clean Kids Naturally” line made by Gabriel Cosmetics, which also includes soap, shampoo, and de-tangler. “These are some of the safest, most natural products for kids,” she says.
Peapods Natural Toys and Baby Care
St. Paul, MN
In addition to its brick-and-mortar store in St. Paul, MN, People & Planet winner Peapods Natural Toys and Baby Care operates an online store with plenty of green gift-giving possibilities.
“One toy we’re very excited about is the YOXO Dragonfly Construction Kit,” says co-owner Millie Adelsheim. “YOXO, a local toymaker here in St. Paul, makes construction toys out of compressed recycled paper. Not only are their toys fun to play with, but they also encourage kids to reuse other household items like paper towel tubes or cereal boxes. We particularly like the dragonfly toy for its gender-neutral design and for the huge three-foot-long dragonfly you can build with it.”
If you need stocking stuffers, People & Planet winner Glee Gum’s founder Deborah Schimberg makes six flavors of chewing gum certified by Fairtrade International. The company also offers kits for kids to make their own chewing gum, chocolate, and gummies. For more stocking stuffers, Schimberg recommends chocolate from fellow Fair Trade business Equal Exchange.
Green Beginning Community Preschool
Los Angeles, CA
Finally, while People & Planet winner GBCP doesn’t sell items for kids, director Veronica Cabello is an expert on helping children learn about sustainability. “At our preschool, we like toys that don’t come with instructions,” says Veronica. “We also like to use things we find in nature that can be used for play and that inspire children to use their own creativity.”
For green gift-giving around the holidays, Cabello recommends assembling a “do-it-yourself gardening kit” consisting of: three to five clay pots, water-based paints to decorate the pots, a small bag of potting soil, vegetable or flower seeds, a small shovel, and a child’s set of gardening gloves.
Cabello also recommends a “do-it-yourself rock garden kit,” including a collection of gathered stones and a tray of nontoxic paint for creative decoration. She encourages adults to work together with children to beautify the rocks.
“Kids love to paint the rocks, and animal patterns look great for this, like snake-skin patterns, tigers, or ladybugs,” she says. “We like activities that kids can do with a parent to foster and strengthen their relationship and build memories.”
Need More Ideas?
Try these great green gifts for kids from other Green America Green Business Network members:
- Art kits from Artterro allow children to indulge their creative side, using responsible materials. Kids can make their own bubble wands and wire-and-bead sculptures with the Bubble Wand Kit.
- Terra Experience sells fair trade doll clothing handmade by Guatemalan artisans. The clothes feature Mayan patterns and fit 18” dolls, including American Girl dolls.
- The Children’s Earth Paint Kit by Natural Earth Paint features nontoxic, kid-friendly paints made from natural earth pigments and organic milk protein.
- The made-in-the-USA Labyrinth Wooden Balance Board from Bella Luna Toys challenges kids to maneuver up to three balls (included) along the grooved path of the labyrinth.
- The mini Djembe Drum from Tara Luna is made by fair trade artisans in Indonesia.
- Engage your child’s imagination with the Earth and Sky Playsilk from Down to Earth Toys.
- Global Green Pals are soft, 12-inch dolls made of certified Oeko-Tex 100 and organic cotton, and stuffed with fibers made from recycled PET plastic bottles.
- The Olive and Pickles Crinkle Bunny Teether Toy from Wild Dill provides a safe, all-natural teething toy for babies made from wood and organic cotton.