A lot of parents purchase wooden toys for their children to play with because they’re considered stylish, durable, and of course, not harmful to the environment. Environmentally aware parents often choose these toys because they believe that they don’t have the dangerous chemicals found in plastic that can harm their kids and the environment.

Unfortunately, however, this is not the case for all wooden toys. In fact, some wooden toys can leave your children exposed to formaldehyde, lead, and arsenic – that’s only for a start!

Prior to purchasing a wooden toy for your child, ask yourself these questions:

What is the toy made of?

It’s important to consider the wood that the toy is made of. Solid wood like natural maple or pine is always best, particularly when the toy is intended for infants. Unfortunately, many wooden toys aren’t made of solid wood. Sometimes toy manufacturers make wooden toys out of composite wood such as press wood, plywood, or even medium-density fiberwood. The problem with this is simple – composite wood requires an adhesive to hold everything together. 

Adhesives often contain dangerous chemicals. The glue commonly used on composite wood contains formaldehyde, which is a cancer-causing compound. It’s possible for this compound to be leaked into the air your child breathes, even if they aren’t biting it. 

Smart parents opt out of toys made of composite woods simply because they don’t want their kids to breathe cancer-causing compounds daily. However, that doesn’t mean that you should immediately rule out every toy made of composite wood. You can also contact the manufacturer to ask whether they use adhesives without formaldehyde. If they confirm that they do, then you can purchase the toy with a clear conscious.

Is the toy painted?

A lot of toys are painted with bright colors to attract kids. However, many paints used on wood contain dangerous substances such as lead and arsenic. These things can endanger the neural development of a young child. It’s best to look for water-based paint or even food-grade dyes. If the label doesn’t specify, it’s best to get in touch with the manufacturer.

Is the toy treated, finished, or sealed?

Wood can wear out and get damaged. A lot of wooden toy manufacturers choose to treat, finish, or seal the toys that they produce in order to help it last longer. Finishing it can often give it an appealing glossiness. Opt for toys that use food-grade or plant-based oils such as beeswax or jojoba oil – this is a lot safer than industrial polyurethane lacquers.

Is my child prone to chewing the toy?

It’s always important to consider who will be playing with the toy. This may make or break your purchasing decision. If you’re purchasing the toy for a baby who is around 6 months to 2 years old and still prone to chewing and putting toys in their mouths, it’s best to opt for toys made of completely natural, untreated solid wood.  

Older children who know better than to chew their toys may be able to play with toys made of composite wood as well. However, you’ll still have to make sure that there aren’t any harmful adhesives, paints, and finishes that may be unhealthy for your child and bad for the environment.