I often get questions here on the blog or on Instagram about where we buy our toys and materials and I have decided to put together some ideas that can make beautiful gifts.
First of all, before starting, I would like to point out that it is my conviction that the best present for a child is to mindfully spend time together. The first section of my Gifts Guide is just about that.
Then, my main concern is how much of the resources of our Planet are used for the production of the things we buy (toys, materials) and what is their impact on the environment. That’s why I think it’s always a good idea to buy second-hand toys and to favour brands and companies that are mindful about how they produce: ecologically, fair-trade, ethically
And last but not the least, children very often prefer to use and to play with real objects (baskets, jars, stones..) that are not toys. I have included some suggestions too.
All the ideas are Montessori or Waldorf- inspired
My aim is not to make an exhaustive list of items that you could gift to a child but to select those who are made of natural materials, mostly organic, ecological and fair. It is hard to find items that are perfectly ecological or ethical. Every object we buy or make has an impact on our environment because we use resources to produce it. But there ways to reduce our impact on the environment by mindfully choosing what we buy. I am aware that, depending on where you live in this world, some items won’t be ecological for you because of the transportation. I feel very grateful that we live in Germany at the moment and we can buy locally-made toys: many of the German brands like Grimm’s, Ostheimer produce in Germany or Europe.
Organic, natural, environmental-friendly, fair trade products have the reputation of being expensive and very often they are. With a reason. Many reasons actually (too many to write about them in this introduction). But they are also more sustainable and by mindfully choosing what we buy and reducing the amount of things we buy, we end up spending much less. It is also quite easy today to buy them second hand. Wooden toys, when bought second-hand, have a beautiful patina and a story to tell.
Go on holidays. They don’t need to be expensive. you don’t need to travel to the other side of the world. It’s about spending time together in a different setting.
Go to museums, exhibitions, art galleries, theaters, music halls, concerts together. Offer an annual pass. Not only those especially designed for children but also regular ones that are children-friendly.
Share your passions with your child. If you practice yoga, take your child to a parent-child yoga trial class. If you are passioned about music, find a concert where children are allowed too (I always think about the Jazz Festival in Paris in “Parc Floral” where parents bring their children, listen to some of the most famous jazz bands in the world while having family picnics). If you enjoy handiwork, include your child and build something together. Focus on the time spent together and on communicating your passion, not on the result. Tell your children about your passion, why and what is so important to you. Children love to know more about what makes us come alive.
Camp together, hike, explore together woods and natural parks
Go on adventure. For children anything can be a big adventure. One of my daughter’s best memories ever was sleeping in a tent in our garden instead of our bed.
Cook, bake together
Visit an organic (biodynamic) farm. Harvest together. Go fruit picking. Feed animals together.
Offer a membership to swimming pool, riding center, other sports clubs that your child has interest in
child-size but real gardening tools
real cooking/ baking tools. You will find some ideas here
a real knife. Opinel has long-lasting, practical, beautifully-made knives for children. We love the Petit Chef and the Children’s First Knife. They also have pocket knives that children can take outdoors. Opinel produces their knives in France and uses FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) wood
a hand-made Montessori apron. We bought ours on Etsy from MimiaMontessori
all the organic ingredients they need and a recipe to make their own cake or a new dish. For younger children you can use pictures instead of writing to show them what they need to do
put together everything they need to make candles. You will find here a tutorial + what to put inside the kit
put together a kit for clothes washing: a little basin + clothes pegs. You can find beautiful hand-made enamelled basins and bowls by RIESS, an Austrian family business. And beautiful, ecological clothes pegs by Grimm’s
Objects that are not toys
a tree to plant and take care of. It can be a fruit tree or a real pine tree with roots that you can use as Christmas tree and then plant - a gardner can advice you about how to help your tree acclimate from indoors to outdoors
organic seeds for a little vegetable garden (if you find biodynamic seeds it’s even better- biodynamic farming is an ecological, ethical and holistic approach to farming, gardening and food)
a beautiful collection of stones
natural treasures: a beautiful collection of leaves, chestnuts, pine cones, empty snail shells,
empty baskets are amongst of my daughter’s favorite “toys” ever
organic yarn, organic fabrics
HANDICRAFT & SELFMADE
Children love the things we make especially for them
knit something for them
sew them a costume, an outfit
make them a doll, a hand puppet
prepare homemade play dough - there are plenty of recipes online
write them a poem, a story
organize a little shadow theater (you can find my DIY tutorial for a shadow theater here)
If you don’t feel like making something yourself, you can always find beautiful handmade objects online. Etsy is a good place for that. You can not only find beautiful objects, but also support families who craft. You can also find local projects that support people who handicraft. For example, in France Les Mamies Tricoteuses, brings together grandmas who knit and sell their knitwear.
Most of the suggestions in this sections are from Grimm’s and Ostheimer. They produce high quality toys, out of wood from sustainable forests, painted with natural dyes or just oiled. Grimm’s is involved in social projects. Both Grimm’s and Ostheimer produce in Germany or Europe. Another German brand, Schöllner uses FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) wood and their toys are oiled with linseed oil or waxed.
Wooden animals: Ostheimer, Holztiger
Dolls and wooden figurines: Grimm’s has soft little dolls certifies Oeko-Tex, beautifully handmade in Romania. Ostheimer produces wooden figurines in Germany. A beautiful selection of organic dolls here. Gorgeous Waldorf dolls handmade by Mains de Laine in France here
Grimm’s toys are a special category, you can’t really classify them because they are so special, right? We love the Rainbow, the Elements (earth, fire, waterwaves), the 7 Friends and actually all the Grimm’s toys.
Blocks: Grimm’s 1001 Nights building Set, Grimm’s Stepped Pyramid, Grimm’s Semicircles…
Construction: Matador, made in Austria. My daughter loves this because she can build her own objects and use them for imaginative play. For example she makes tables and chairs and then combines them with the Grimm’s furniture. Or she builds cars and planes and plays with her wooden animals
Train set: Everearth uses FSC wood
Kitchen: Waldorf-inspired, beautifully made out of beech tree by Glückskäfer
Beautifully hand-made and hand-painted puzzles. Made in Latvia
We love books and they always make the best present for my daughter. It is hard to find ecologically printed books but there are some. Visit your local library and ask for ecologically printed books. For ideas and reading lists, have a look at our favorite books, sorted out by topics and seasons
natural, non-toxic pencils, finger paint, felt-pens, watercolor, chalk, modeling clay, glue… We love ökoNORM, a German brand who strives to produce natural art supplies that are non-toxic for children and environmental friendly
organic, naturally dyed felted wool, organic handicraft felts... Brands like Filges, Glückskäfer, produce ecologically in Germany
plat-based waxes, ground rock crayons. We have recently started using Crayon Rocks and my daughter loves them
Instruments. I found some of the best real instruments on local handicraft markets (and Christmas markets). Some ideas of instruments that you can buy online. On this website I found a very good selection of instruments.
Glockenspiel, fipple flute, shakers by Goldon. Made in Germany out of natural materials
Flutes by Manufaktur Wiener Made in Germany of pear tree wood
Audio-books and CDs as for regular books, it’s hard to find ecologically produced audio books. Here you will find some of our favorite audio-books and CDs Consider buying good quality musical performances and not children versions. Go for the real experience. Children know how to value a good quality musical experience and don’t need “kiddy” versions.
GROSS MOTOR SKILLS
Wobbel Board. Ours gets to be used every day and always in a new way. The Wobbel is made of pressed sustainable European beech wood, treated with water-based paints and varnished, wool felt and sustainable cork.
Organic wool rug, ideal for babies but not only. Search for the GOTS label which guarantees that the animals are treated well. This small family business in Austria makes rugs by hand and ships worldwide. We have visited their little workshop many times and see them working.
Pikkler structures (climbing structures inspired by Emmi Pickler), ecologically made in Spain
Rocking horse. To encourage your child’s autonomy, choose one that enables your child to get in and out without your help
ESPECIALLY FOR BABIES
Montessori mobiles. We have recently bought hand-made Montessori mobiles on Etsy from Jacobstoyshop
Waldorf mobiles. The Ostheimer ones are gorgeous
Rolling Wheel, also from Grimm’s
Organic balls by Efie (Made in Germany)
Organic musical boxes, made in Germany, also by Efie
I found a beautiful selection of ecological items for babies on this website
None of the items here above has been sponsored and this blogpost does not include affiliate links. I believe in the values and the philosophy of the brands I have mentioned. Many of them are family businesses. I have tried to select items and brands that have lower impact on our environment, although, I know, nothing is perfect. No matter what we do, we do have an impact on our planet’s resources. But we can choose to buy less, consume less, choose brands that have an ethical and ecological engagement and be mindful about our choices.