An Eco-Friendly and Awesome Toddler Wishlist

by - Sunday, November 19, 2017

Last year, my friend Mindy wrote me some genius toddler Christmas ideas for her two daughters. And then I was a jerk and never finished writing it out for you. But trust me, her list is the one we have been waiting for.

Mindy's two daughters are sweet, active, and powerhouses. These two girls are right in the toddler years and are so much fun, but with kids these age, you are in serious danger of spending tons of money on junk with Elsa and Ana on it instead of getting a gift they can really enjoy. I know I can feel intimidated, and I have a toddler too! But I think the options Mindy gives make so much sense, and if you want to nail it this Christmas, take her advice.

Bath Toys

Bath toys often get forgotten, but they are an awesome place to opt for the eco-friendly option, because there are plenty.

First, we have gotten some of our favorite bath toys off of Buy Nothing. Some were intended for the bath, some weren't, but this is a perfect thing to find used. Because honestly, they are just for getting wet anyway.
green toys tug boat for toddler christmas list bath toys
from Amazon
Green Toys is one of our favorite toy brands (made in the US of recycled plastic) and they make a couple of cool bath toys. We love their tug boat in our house (and you can spill the water out of it easily, which matters for bath toys). We have also noticed that their simple set of cups can create seemingly endless fun in the bathtub (and out of it if we aren't paying enough attention).

If you want to do something more classic, this rubber duckie and this purple one are both made in America. We have the little fellow who is cute and yellow and chubby. He does in fact make bathtime lots of fun.

If you like the teether idea but ant to do something different, this starfish bath toy is adorable and looks absolutely perfect for little hands. I think they

Lastly, they have some bath color tablets that change the color of the water? Might be cool, but really, who wants a bath in yellow water?

Membership to the Zoo, Children's Museum, etc.

 and Swimming, Gymnastics, Horseback Riding Lessons

YES. Mindy speak for all moms of toddlers (ok, maybe not all, but probably most) when she says they get more out of experiences than toys.

Even better, give them an experience YOU will do with them. This is the best gift you can give a toddler- your time, an adventure, and a memory shared. 

I paired these two together, because they are both great suggestions that people aren't likely to take. I have heard a couple moms say that they ask for experiences over and over again, but no one ever goes for it, I get it, to give a membership means giving up the big huzzah moment when they open the gift, but I think an experience gift can still get the huzzah moment (or better) with a strategic approach.

First (and most importantly), participate in the activity! If you live nearby, be the person who takes them to the class, and if you live far away, have the zoo be that special thing you do together when you visit. Channel your enthusiasm for that tiny little person into real quality time you can spend together, and it will be a gift to both of you.

Maybe you won't get the big huzzah moment Christmas morning, but make going to the museum or zoo with them your thing, and you will get to experience so much more excitement with them. ahave you seen a toddler at a zoo? Pure joy.

Sharing experiences as part of the gift creates moments they will remember, that aren't just drowned out by a long line of toys. My son stiill talks about going to the playground with grandparents months later. That stuff sticks, so if you want to gift an experience, being a part of it is the best way to really enjoy it.

Second, pair the experience with a gift. Want to gift a zoo membership? You could pair it with a  copy of Goodnight Gorilla or Dear Zoo (get them used, even on amazon ,and you can get a pile for a few dollars). Kids this age are sponges, and you can build excitement for the big gift with a little one like this. When we went to the zoo, the Bub actually asked where the gorilla's keys were, because that is what happens in the book. You could also go to Goodwill and find a stuffed animal for so little money to send through the was and pair with your gift (a horse with horseback riding lessons, etc). It gives you a place to start talking about the experience. It doesn't have to be big or expensive, just a way for you to help them talk about what they are going to do.

I promise you, this may seem like a tougher gift to give, but the kid and their parents will love you for it. Toddlers come with so much stuff. Always, tons of it. And people want to buy them the big plastic thing from elsewhere, because it has huge impact for actually not too much money. But our generation often has less money and less space, so those big plastic toys become a real challenge when a bunch of people go that route. Trust me, the experience or class gift will be beloved in the long run.

art supplies toddler christmas list table and mess

Art Supplies

My biggest advice is that if you are shopping for art supplies for kids, look in consignment. In fact, if you are in a city, look for stores that specifically sell donated art supplies. The recycled art supply store I work for recycled 60 tons of art materials this year. All of that out of landfills, which is ridiculously amazing. Even better, I can buy giant piles of construction paper there, the size of any pack you can buy, for a dollar. I will never buy fresh construction paper again. So, look up recycled art supplies + city name on google before you shell out, because you might have an amazing place like Seattle Recreative near you!


If you can't find leftovers somewhere, Use recycled paper. Always recycled paper. I don't care if you think you are raising the next de Kooning or Rembrandt, those early works aren't worth a tree coming down. Seriously, I will never accept the ludicrousness of regular construction paper when better options are easily available.

Riverside makes 100% recycled construction paper. I don't see a mixed set, but plenty of colors are available. The other recycled option is Pacon. They look about the same to me reviews-wise.

Sunworks paper is all from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and made in America. A pretty good option.

For basic white people, I recommend Farber Castell which is made of 50% post-consumer paper (mostly newspaper I think). They make great paper, so I am sure their recycled option is great. If you just want a lot of paper to cover an art table or to roll across the floor, I would say go recycled kraft paper. Always. You can use it for wrapping paper too. Recycled kraft paper is the first love of creative moms (or at least this creative mom).

You can get them sketchpads used as well (you would be surprised how many people use a page or two and then never touch it again), but if that isn't an option, recycled absolutely is. Bee Paper makes my absolute favorite sketchbook, and the cute simple design is perfect for kids or adults.

For something more kid oriented, try eco-art pads. They look great and are made of sustainable paper in Maine. Eco-Kids is a whole line of this stuff, so if you want to go this route, browse ther page. Canson/Parrot makes recycled paper sketch pads that look great. Cottonwood makes a recycled sketchbook too.

toddler christmas list item is finger paints red yellow blue and green


For face paints, you can try Ellie Arts pretty big set or Bayleaf Botanicals face paint kit. They are both made in the US. This might be a cool gift for little kids, but I am not sure how they would work for everyday use.

If you are looking for finger paints, you can get a couple of good made in America and organic options like these ones from Go Green.

Crayola makes their acrylic paint in the US as well. One of my friends used these sorts of no-spill cups which were genius for toddlers, but I can't find them made in the US, so decide what matters to you.

A lot of paintbrushes are thankfully still made here. AIT makes pretty affordable sets (you probably don't want to invest a ton for kids' artmaking), but keep an eye out, and you can probably find other ones as well.

Making Marks

Forget Roseart. Eco-friendly crayons are easy to find. First, never throw out your nubbins- they can be easily melted down into new crayons. If that is too DIY for you, try recycled crayons on Etsy, colour blocks, or the Eco-star crayons.

You can also get vegan crayons, veggie crayons, or honey sticks from New Zealand, which are made of beeswax. I am not sure how I feel about these, but they do remove that much more parafin from your home.

Crayola still makes their crayons in the United States, so they will always have my vote if you want traditional crayons. Their markers are also made here, and even cooler, you can return them once they dry out and they will recycle them for new markers. YES. Why aren't more companies like this? Their colored pencils are not made in the US, but they do use reforested wood.

You can find a crayon/pencil sharpener made of recycled materials. Might be a good stocking stuffer?

Dot Markers are always a hit with little ones and they are still made in the US as well. Honestly, I don't think they are the best option because they come with so much plastic, but they are wayyy better than lots of other options because they cut down on shipping distances and fossil fuels.

Other Creative Stuff

toddler christmas list big box creations pirate ship
from Big Box Creations

Box Creations- This big boat is made in the USA with recycled materials. We do something like this at my Grammy's every year, and people love working on it. Might be even more fun with actual children involved. They have lots of cool options, and they look like a lot of fun.

Frames- This set helps your toddler make a masterpiece and frame it. I love the idea, but honestly, I bet you could find the separate parts at a consignment store.

Wiki Stix- When I am not blogging shopping lists, I work as an art teacher. I have seen more tiny people lose their shit over Wiki Stix than any other item. They speak directly to the toddler soul. They are wasteful, but they will be a big hit, so buy a bigger wet with cardboard (not plastic) packaging. And they are made in the US. So maybe worth it to you?

Weaving Loom- Come on, who didn't love making these potholders as a kid? These looms are a classic for a reason. Harrisville Designs makes their looms and all their loops in New Hampshire. I will totally be getting our sons this for a future Christmas. There are other American-made loop options as well.

Art Desk/ Storage

green toddler christmas wish list art table
from Ana White
I love this idea, and I think you could go big by making something to fill these purposes. Pinterest has lots of relatively simple DIY art tables, so be sure to check them out before you shell out big money for something you can do yourself. This one is an Ikea hack, but I bet you could do it with any low table from a consignment shop or garage sale.

 This table from Ana White's blog looks so simple, and her plans are so clear it would be easy to pull off.

This one just uses an old table shortened with tin buckets for storage, and the result is stunning. Seriously, why do we buy new furniture when a simple old piece is so much cheaper and can be used in such a cool way?

 Lastly, this outdoor one recycles an old counter top into a fresh new table! I love it.

If you don't feel that ambitious, you can still get something made of wood (not plastic- why would you want plastic for this?) and Made in the US. This Anatex All in one art table is probably the best of the bunch, though it is pretty expensive. If you want something simpler that could be used for other things, my favorite is this Kid Kraft table. And if you want an easel, for goodness sakes check any garage sale, street curb. or consignment store, because those things are everywhere.

Riding Pony

Ok, since a real pony is solidly out of the question (at least for most of us), so I am thinking stick ponies. They don't seem that "in" anymore, but they can inspire so much imaginative play! Even better? There are a couple of Etsy stores that specialize in these, and what they make look so sweet. Could be a great opportunity to support an American maker and to buy something they will treasure forever.

Here are a few stores worth checking out:

willow lane costumes green toddler christmas list riding pony stick horse unicorn
Willow Lane Costumes (25 dollars, and they have dragons and other creatures too)

stick pony from toddler green christmas wish list HC Woodcraft
HC Woodcraft (55 dollars, looks like a family heirloom)

stick pony from toddler green christmas wish list tan rustic horse shoe
Rustic Horse Shoe (49 dollars, so many choices, these are my favorite)

stick pony from toddler green christmas wish list giraffe
Sock Monkey Bizz Toy Co (39.50, so adorable, other favorites)

Thank you Mindy for all of the awesome ideas and suggestions! What are you buying the toddlers in your life this Christmas?

For more shopping ideas, check out my Giant List of Shopping Lists!

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  1. Your ideas are amazing!! Some of my favorites are the zoo or horseback riding lessons. I really feel like experiences make the best gifts!!

  2. Yes, yes, yes to experience gifts like museum passes! We have gotten those and it is fun for the whole family. It is something to use year round. Love it!

  3. I just love the art desk! Great ideas!



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