Thursday, November 11, 2010

Great green, learning gifts and books for ages 4-6

The school year is only one quarter over and already Pre-K student Abigail Birch has been invited to six birthday parties.

While no one wants to be the mom who always gives the educational gift instead of the fun one, there comes a time (just about the same time as you receive the fourth party invitation in as many weeks) where shelling out a large amount of cash for one more piece of plastic junk makes you feel like a brainless cog in the overly-consumerist, made-in-China, mercilessly-marketed American buying machine.

With more birthday parties looming, not to mention the holidays fast approaching, here are a few excellent, green and/or educational and fun gifts for the four to six year old set, all for under $25:

  • Green Toys Tea Set by Green Toys, $20.17 - made in the USA (less pollution because it doesn't have to ship from overseas) out of recycled milk jugs! Includes tea pot with lid, sugar bowl with lid, four cups and saucers and four teaspoons in lovely shades of pink, purple, blue, and green. Green Toys also makes a dish set, chef set, dining set, tool set, dump truck, and sand play set.
  • Sprig Adventure Toys - a full line of toys made from recycled woods and plastics, encouraging imaginative play in which the characters explore the outdoors. Prices range from $6.95 for an Adventure Guide to $24.92 for the Dolphin Adventure Playset or $19.99 for the Side Kick Vehicle Baja Scout.
  • Idbid Eco-Friendly Character Kits - Choose Waverly the Water Drop, Lola the Flower, or Scout the Cloud. Includes plush toy, organic cinch sack, and story book, and field guide that makes the concept of environmental sustainability simple for children. Packs in frustration-free packaging (no hard plastic cases or bindings - annoying and wasteful) and 50 cents of each purchase is donated to the Nature Conservancy.
  • Melissa & Doug - classic wooden toys of all varieties, from kitchen pots and pans and pantry items to puzzles, trucks and trains. Also arts and crafts supplies, learning mats, doll houses, puppets and stuffed animals. These are well made, high quality toys that will not disappoint the child or the Earth! Available at Target,, and
    • ImagiPlay ColorMe Up Animal Puzzles - 3D wooden animal puzzles that come with water color paint kids so that children can paint and assemble their own chick, stegosaurus, bunny, love cows, or butterfly. Prices range from $10 to $15. Made from renewable, sustainable, and fair trade materials.
    • Global Green Pals - Recycle Kyle, Carbon Offset Chet, Pink Coral Laurel, Clean Air Kate, Pani Rani - each available for $25, are made of organic cotton and stuffed with 100% post-consumer recycled plastic stuffing. Each comes with a character tag with tips on how kids can help save the Earth. Adults help save the planet with each purchase, as a portion of proceeds go to environmental efforts around the globe via One Percent for the Planet. This toy won the Creative Child Magazine seal of excellence in 2009 as well as Dr. Toy's Best Green Product 2009 and Mom's Best 2009.
    • Eco-Friendly Arts & Crafts Supplies - Did you ever wonder what happens to all those broken crayons? Well, the lucky ones get recycled! Crazy Crayons makes recycled crayons in classic colors as well as crazy shapes and color mixes for less than $9 per pack. Pair that with a roll of recycled newsprint art paper ($12.90) and you've got an eco friendly, artistic afternoon for one kid or a bunch!

    If you'd like to pair an eco-friendly or earth education book with the gift you give, here are a few favorites for young children:

    • I Can Save the Earth!: One Little Monster Learns to Recycle by Alison Inches, published by Little Green Books, $4
    • The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, published by Random House for Young Readers, $10 (a classic, worth twice the price!)
    • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, published by Harper & Row, $10 (a tree-hugger's primer, not to be missed!)
    • The Let's Read and Find Out Science series of books, published by Collins, $6 each - this series covers everything from Clouds to What Makes Day and Night to How a Seed Grows to What's It Like to Be a Fish and Oil Spill (particularly appropriate for Gulf Coast kids right now). Series is divided into levels which are clearly marked on each book. Levels 1 and 2 are appropriate for ages 4-8. Outstanding introduction to all things earth science related; kids will love them and adults will learn something, too!
    • Why Should I series of books, published by Barron's Educational Series, $7 each - includes Why Should I Recycle?, Why Should I Protect Nature?, Why Should I Save Energy?, and Why Should I Save Water?. All are right on target for this age group, simple and entertaining.

As a last note, prices listed above are retail. There are great deals to be had on like-new items at tremendously reduced prices - and buying these is even better for the Earth than buying new!

And, don't forget, wrapping in the colored Sunday comics or, even better, with your own child's art drawn on a roll of recycled newsprint will save money, paper, and the planet!

Stay tuned for green gift and book recommendations for other age groups, from infant to adult!

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