Look for natural fibers, including organic and undyed materials such as wool, cotton, and hemp.

Choose solid wood toys versus those made with particleboard or pressed wood, or those that have glued parts. The glues often contain formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

Go with washable items. If you can throw Teddy in the wash, you can get rid of toxins, as well as dust mites, which contribute to children's asthma and allergies.


Don't trust every plastic toy. Plastic toys can contain toxic phthalates, which are used to soften vinyl and have been linked to prostate problems, breast cancer, and hormonal disorders such as early-onset puberty.

Don't go for painted items. While some painted toys are safe, recent recalls have focused on leaded paints. In 2007, Mattel recalled about 250,000 toy cars and more than 900,000 character toys that were found to have lead paint.

Portland, Oregon-based freelancer Megan McMorris has written for Self and Real Simple. Since writing this article, she has become a fan of fragrance-free household products.