6 Eco-friendly “toys” from Mother Nature

child on wood swing

During our Family Sponge cardboard treehouse giveaway, we asked our readers to fill in the blank:

“My favorite eco-friendly toy is _____________________________.”


I loved the responses from our readers. No one recommended their kids’ cool eco-friendly toy. Which makes me think that The Story of Stuff is on to something. Do we really need to buy all of these “eco-friendly” toys when our kids would much rather climb a tree, play in the sand, or build a fort with a cardboard box?

Don’t get me wrong– cool wooden and sustainable toys are fun and inspire play at home (these are some splurges I’ve made on Amazon– Green Toys Tea SetPlan Toys Fruits and Veggie SetMelissa & Doug Building Blocks Set). But nothing beats the great outdoors. Nothing.

My daughter Zoe has so much fun with just a rope swing hanging from a tree or using sidewalk chalk to decorate the box her store-bought toy came in. I think we can eliminate a lot more “stuff” in our lives and just play with the never ending possibility that is all around us– and it’s free. Hanging out with Mother Nature not only sparks imagination play, but when you get down and dirty with simple objects outside, it triggers some of our happiest childhood memories. So here’s a list that our readers shared:


6 awesome toys that are sitting in your recycling bin or just right outside your door

Sandbox Trucks

1. Beach Sand (Here’s a great way to bring the sand indoors)

“My favorite eco-friendly toy is beach sand. There’s nothing better” ~ Ash & Matt 

“My favorite eco friendly toy is sand also!” ~ Wendie

“My favorite eco-friendly toy is sand. I am constantly amazed at the way my girls can entertain themselves for HOURS with nothing but a shovel, a bucket and a stretch of sandy beach. The best!” ~ Christy

2. Tire Swing

“Our favorite (as in both myself and the kids) eco friendly toy, our tire swing!” ~ Leslie

3. Trees, Twigs, Dirt

“I grew up on ten acres and playing outside was a must. And my toys were the dirt, trees, and mountains! I want the same for my kids. My imagination was endless!” ~ Corrin

“My favorite eco-friendly toy is a twig or small branch. My eight year old son, finds endless entertainment from them. And they are also great for toasting marshmallows over a bonfire too.” ~ Popo Joy

“Dirt and water! They can go a long way with children.” ~ Melissa

4. Cardboard Boxes

“Our favorite eco-friendly toys are cardboard packaging…we paint, build, and create with them.” ~ Corrin P.

“Our favorite eco-friendly toy is cardboard boxes. We save them all and Madison draws, colors, paints, cuts them.” ~ Catty Young

“The long cardboard box we made into a ship today!” ~ Jackie

“My favorite eco-friendly toy is anything we can make with what we have. She is enjoying the cardboard car we built for her out of a box.” ~ Sarah

5. Toilet Paper Rolls

“We make a lot of things out of cardboard toilet paper rolls–pirate spyglasses and binoculars, mostly. But also caterpillars and phones and people with whacky “hair”. Paper towel rolls become swords. It’s actually all about swords-for-super-heroes lately.” ~ Pamela S.

6. Milk jugs

“My favorite eco-friendly toy is using milk jugs to make lanterns or bird feeders” – Amy Linderman


Yup, this list is pretty simple. Now go play!


What’s gives your child endless play time that doesn’t involve a store-bought toy?

, , , , ,

4 Responses to 6 Eco-friendly “toys” from Mother Nature

  1. Trina {Beginner Beans} July 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    This is a fun list 🙂 My kids love playing with stuff from recycling! Especially turning oatmeal containers into drums and drawing on used paper. Makes me wonder why we both with toys 🙂

  2. Claudia March 4, 2013 at 7:48 am #

    I agree with Tine. When I was a child, we were always outside & making up our own games, toys, etc. We would use pieces of scrap wood in all odd shapes with cotton from a cotton field & scraps of material to make our doll furniture. Had some really unique furniture! Our dolls were the tops of ears of corn with the silk hair on them. We used scraps of material to wrap around them for clothes. It was really fun and for games, we played Evie-Ivey-Over were part of us kids were on 1 side of the house & the rest on the other. We used a ball of some sort (doesn’t matter what kind) & yelled to the other team Evie-Ivey-Over & the other team would throw the ball over the house & we would try to catch it. Then we would yell Evie-Ivey-Over & throw it back to them. We did not have a lot or lazy, over weight kids then. Kids today don’t know what they are missing by not being outside & exploring their surrounds & just enjoying life the Mother Nature Way. More kids should try it! It usually isn’t boring because you always find something interesting.

    • Family Sponge March 7, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

      I played this game too— so wonderful. It’s the simple things in life that we remember, right? Thanks for triggering a memory— think we are gonna have to teach our kids this game.

  3. JerryRMendia July 21, 2016 at 6:50 am #

    Heya i am the very first time here. I stumbled on this board and that i believe it is really useful & it helped me out much.
    I really hope to provide something back and aid
    others such as you aided me.

Leave a Reply