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Party Time #2: The Best Sustainable Gifts for Schoolfriends

Sustainable children's toys for eco-friendly birthday celebrations.

We hope you enjoyed last week’s letter all about keeping birthday parties sustainable, party bags fun and decorations reusable. This week we’re looking at the flip side of that coin - choosing sustainable and open-ended toys for party gifts! If your little ones are just starting school, they are sure to soon be coming home with party invitations, and with this comes the inevitable birthday present purchases. 

When friends are new and budgets are perhaps on the smaller side, it can be easy to choose quick gifts that are tied to a set theme. These toys, while fun for a moment, tend to have short lives in terms of their play, but very long lives in terms of their non-recyclable materials. We would love to help with this! Here we’re sharing our favourite budget-friendly gifts (under £15) to treat little friends which will provide lots of open-ended play but won’t stick around on the planet forever.

For the outdoor adventurers 

Getting outdoors and running wild has always been a firm favourite for little folk - so why not add some enhancements to their play with simple, outdoors-focused toys? Not only will these be well loved, but they’ll encourage a love of nature - and that’s a gift in itself!

We love a great selection of simple gifts to encourage outdoor play. This Bug Spotter Kit from the Den Kit Company is sure to encourage exploration and enquiry - and will probably come back to school for playtime discoveries! Vibrant chunky Floor Chalks from Moulin Roty will also be a hit and encourage artists and outdoorsy folk alike. Another winner is the Potion Making Kit also from the Den Kit Company - sure to be a hit and wonderful for developing communication, language and fine motor skills. Finally, why not add a nostalgic feel to your gift with a colourful set of Marbles?

For the dreamers

Have a future actor on your hands? Perhaps your little friend loves fancy dress and all things imagination. There are lots of great options here. 

Let little ones express their imaginations with some simple temporary tattoos - will they be a jungle animal or a dinosaur? If your little one dreams up being a make-up artist, perhaps kid-safe make up will go down well, too! 

If little folk love imaginative play and small world creations, how about a set of PlayPress Toys Figures? Not only will these work brilliantly in an imaginative play set-up, but children get to build their own toys and take ownership too. We love this dinosaur set - just imagine little ones building this, then playing with it, such fun! 

For the artists

You are spoilt for choice when it comes to arty gifts for little folk. Art materials are often very budget friendly, and offer heaps of play potential - the limit is a child’s imagination. OMY’s Magic Pens are a great start, with double ends and erasers included for hours of colouring fun. 

OMY also have a lovely collection of colouring sets to inspire creativity, especially these brilliant Travelling Sets. Designed to fit on a table, they are perfect for on go the artistry and make a great alternative to plastic-covered colouring books. Designed with funky illustrations, they’re sure to be a hit. Sticker lovers will also love Moulin Roty’s Colour and Sticker Books, which combine a large colouring sheet with beautifully designed stickers to add an extra touch. 

If you’re after more of an art ‘kit’ ReCycleMe have a variety of inexpensive Upcycling Sets where little ones create wonderful usable pieces from household items like egg boxes and milk cartons. Parents will love these gifts too - as rather than adding extra toys to the toy pile, they actually reuse items already in the home (with a wonderful message of sustainability too). 

Finally if your little playmate is more of a 3D thinker, Plus-Plus have some brilliant options. Their budget friendly ‘tubes’ offer a fun construction activity for little ones to create a particular character with pieces collected in a party bag size tube. When children have made the inspiration figure, they can go on to use the Plus-Plus pieces to create anything they like! Plus-Plus are made in a Danish factory fully powered by wind energy - very cool!

Happy celebrating

These are just a few examples of simple, inexpensive gifts that will provide fun and grow little minds without growing landfills! Happy celebrating!

Emily Hanson

Freelance Writer, Education and Play Specialist

Emily Hanson is a freelance writer with specialisms in education and play. Emily holds a PGCE and M.Ed from the University of Cambridge - although her proudest achievements are her two beautiful daughters.

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