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  • Writer's pictureandreakristin

Plastic Free Toy Ideas: Our favourite toddler and preschooler toys

Updated: Apr 22, 2023

About 2 years ago I decided I was done buying plastic crap for the kids. When I got cheap plasticy toys, we subconsciously didn’t care about them as they didn’t cost much, so we lost parts, they would break easy and found myself throwing things all the time. Knowing that every single bit of plastic thrown into landfil is still sitting there, and will forever, makes me feel sick to think about. Besides the longevity and environmental issue, plastic toys often don’t advertise that it’s BPA and paraben free - because they are not. We are getting enough exposure to micro plastics and hormone disrupting chemicals without needing to add toys that go in mouths and are constantly being dragged and banged around the house.

I landed on the starting point of only buying very minimal plastic for the kids if it was the only way to get something special that they really wanted or would like, and if so I would try to get it second hand to give existing plastic an extended life instead of buying new plastic.

It took a minute to retrain my brain from just taking the easiest option in front of me at the shops that was plastic instead of going home, researching alternatives and finding a better and more sustainable option. But once I got used it, I don’t feel like I or the kids are missing out of anything in particular, and in the end they just don’t need so much stuff!! I also keep these rules for anything I buy for people outside of my family - as I couldn’t not want any more plastic crap in my house but buy it for others and continue to add to the environmental problem! If I can’t find it in a plastic alternative I have a real think about if I need to drop it and come up with an out of the box idea.

So, if you are also wanting to avoid or lower your consumption of plastic toys, here are some of our plastic free toys that are proven favourites in our household and are always played with:

Imaginative Play

Dress ups

Dress ups are the ultimate in imaginative play, and a great plastic free toy option. From classic things like doctors to modern things like make up artists and vloggers (!) I am sure you will find something that your kids will love. Lots of these options are wooden that you can find at a range of stores. Our kids love playing doctor with a set from Bello, but there are great range of professionals from Le Toy Van, Make Me Iconic and other leading wooden toy brands. Their little doctor coats were hand made by my mum!

Wooden Toy House

A nice toy house is hours and hours of fun for both boys and girls and can last generations. Kids love mimicking the family roles so having your family members as dolls is loads of fun for them to role play with. There are so many options for wooden doll houses for all sizes, budgets and family types. Ours is the Dove House from Tender Leaf toys, we have had it for 2 years now and still very loved by the kids.

Play Kitchen and Play Food

If you have the space, a play kitchen is always going to be a hit. Kids love doing what their parents do and cooking is one of them! We have a wooden play kitchen in our cubby house from Tender Leaf.

Regardless if you want a play kitchen or not, play food and small cooking items are also a great choice. Majority of our wooden play food is from Kmart, they have a great range. We also have some felt food which is just so bloody cute and tactile. Ours is from Fun Play Food on Etsy.

A tea set is also a great choice and will last as they get older too for play tea parties. But for my little ones we are making coffees and teas Every Single Day!!! I am fueled by pretend tea!! our tea set is from Make Me Iconic and it’s amazing, with a range of tea bags, tea pot, milk, sugar cubes, biscuits, honey, and menus - that’s a really important part!!

Our little coffee machine is from Kmart and our market counter also from Kmart is great to store all the tea and coffee items and the kids use it as their cafe.

Finger Puppets

Not only is it a plastic free toy, it’s also very small (yay for storage saving) and promotes both imaginative play and singing. Ours are from Little Fish Co where they have a range of nursery rhyme puppets so you can use them as you sing along. Great for both babies and as they grow into preschoolers they can start to use and sing with them too. They also have just a range of animals and figures perfect for imaginative play, we love to use them for travel as they take up no space and when I am wanting to wind them down for quiet and focused play at home.

Wooden Train Set

I have been suprised how much use our train set gets - almost daily two years on! I think because there are endless ways to play with it if you help them open up the world of imagination. We set up places and stops for the train to take people to, like family member‘s homes, shops, preschool, playgrounds, swimming class, etc. Kids imaginations can goes wild with the scenes and track designs. We have two small train sets both from Kmart, we use traffic signs from Make Me Iconic, and we also use coloured blocks also from Kmart to make buildings and homes along the track.

Opened Ended Play

Plastic free play dough and tools

Ready Scent Dough make their play dough by hand with a range of different natural scents such as mint, lemon, ocean, strawberry, etc - they smell great! And best of all they are stored in plastic free glass jars with a wide opening making it easy for little hands to get the dough out. They also sell a bunch of plastic free accessories like wooden rollers, gem stones, stamps, scoops and team up with Beadie Bug Play that make plant based 3D cut accessories like cutters, stamps and my kids favorite - icecream set to turn the dough into a little icream shop with scoops and a range of cones.

Potions and sensory fizz

These are a great plastic and waste free toy idea, it’s a huge sensory experience, as well as creative and imaginative. A company called Little Potions Co make little kits of different ingredients and a card on how to make a magic potion which your kids will absolutely love. Another company we use is Wild Mountain Kids they make a range of play fizz and crumbles which the kids can mix and explore as well as Fairy and Dragon eggs to discover hidden flowers and jewels with instructions to follow along and spark their imagination. Both are all natural ingredients and small Australian companies which I love to support.

Walkers, Ride ons and Trikes

From traditional walkers, wagons and play prams that grow with your kids as they develop new playing skills, to fun ride ons to zoom around on and trike and balance bikes for developing motor skills - this is a great area to go plastic free and choose from one of the many wood or metal options. We have this beautiful dear ride on from Le Toy Van, a wagon walker from Hape which is still used so much from learning to walk to 4 years on, and we have a Kinderfeets convertable trike to bike. Toys like this are great to let your kids burn energy in a positive way, build on their motor skills, plus you will be delighted to see what types of amazing play and imagination comes from them.

Educational Toys

Montessori counting boards

Although it’s educational, my kids love it!! The felt balls are tactile and fun for the kids to practice their counting and fine motor skills. Then the stylist to trace the numbers is something they fight over doing. This set is from Etsy by a store called OnWoodLt. It is solid, very smooth and beautifully made.

Games and Puzzles

While it is pretty obvious that most puzzles and games are plastic free, we often forget about them as toys for kids. Toddler and preschooler games are a great way for your kids to not only learn new concepts but also engage in focused and calm play. Great to pull out when they start to get a bit wild, on rainy days, and at witching hour before dinner. My kids always have fun when they are pulled out and stay engaged until the game or puzzle finishes. It’s also a great option to play on the kitchen counter with them while you cook, as you can continue getting your cooking done between turns while also giving them attention and chatting to them. We love the cardboard games from Orchard Toys, they have so many types to suit your child’s age and interests, we also have a great wooden body puzzle from Nordic Kids, UNO Junior, kids charades by HABA, wooden picture dominos from Moana Rd, and jigsaw puzzles from Jimmy Jack.

I really hope this as given you some great ideas and inspiration to look beyond plastic toys that kids will love.

Nothing listed here was gifted or paid to promote. Everything was chosen from my own research and purchased full price.

AK xx



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