A good green gift for a kid is, first of all, made of sustainable materials, and free of any and all toxins.  This has been given greater importance for many parents by the recent scandal over lead painted and other unsafe toys from China.  A green gift ideally will also begin the long process of turning these miniature consumers into environmentally sensitive ones.   Oh, and green gifts for kids can actually be fun.

FAO Schwartz carries a whole line of eco-friendly toys for the very young in their on-line store including pull toys, wooden trucks, and "lets pretend" kitchen cookware, fake food, and appliances and city and farm play sets (some of which are more pricey than our self-imposed $150 limit.)

For example, My First Green Teddy is made from certified organic cotton and natural plant dyes.  Teddy (in his package) is 14 inches high.  $25

The Wonderworld Eco Friendly Mini Police Car comes equipped with an officer who cannot be removed from the car.  It is made of non-toxic and sustainable materials and is kid powered.  $12.99; for ages 18 mo to four years.


For an older child, ages 10-14, the Planet Earth Recycling Kit guides kids toward this important habit.  The kit includes colored sorting containers, a dry erase board for tracking family trash disposal and how it changes with recycling, clear trash bags, and an activities book.  FAO Schwartz, $14.99

FAO Schwartz and Toys R Us  carries a whole line of Sprig Rig toys made from an eco-friendly bio composite called Sprigwood which uses reclaimed wood and recycled plastic.  Packaging is also made from recycled materials.

Sprig toys are kid rather than battery powered and some such as the Sprig Discover Rig have an internal generator that operations lights and sounds as the toy is rolled around.  Sprigs start at $9.99.

Smart Gear wooden balance bikes are pre-trainers for a first bicycle.  There are no pedals or training wheels so a child develops the balance and motor skills necessary to move on to his first two-wheeler.  The bike is made of rubber-wood, a sustainable hard wood and painted with water-based paint.  For children under 66 lbs (and probably up to age five or so.)   Toys R Us, $74.99

Lincoln Logs have a green competitor called Kapla Pine Planks.  Designed for kids three to 12 years of age, the wooden planks are cut from pine in renewable forests; no snaps or screws or glue.  A 200 plank set is $69.99 at Toys R Us.

One great gift (my kids devoured each and every issue for years) for age seven and up is The National Wildlife Federation's monthly magazine Ranger Rick.  The publication is filled with age appropriate articles on animals, the environment, games, puzzles; lots of fun stuff.  Order it for $19.95 for one year.  Paid subscriptions will also receive a pair of free binoculars.  www.nwf.org/magazines.

NSF has magazines for even younger kids too.  Animal Babies is for infants through age four and Your Big Backyard is designed for the three to seven year old set.  Both are $19.95 (Animal Babies publishes 10 times a year) and also come with a free gift.

There are a lot of books out there about the environment for all age groups and many have been best sellers for years.  Even determined non-readers can be attracted by picture-heavy books about animals or tales of eco-adventures in scary places.  Spend a fun afternoon exploring in a local bookstore or search on line at Amazon.com, Borders.com. or Barnsandnoble.com.  Look under children's' books; keywords green, eco-friendly, or environment will get you started.

It seems like teenagers and pre-teens prefer presents that are very much like them - noisy and constantly in motion - so it is easy to shrug and decide the environment can wait a few years for them to re-engage.  Don't despair.  This group does care maybe even more than their elders.  They still want an X-Box or a cell phone but you can temper that message with a good book or a subscription to a magazine like National Geographic. 

One gift that does work with this age group is a living one.  We aren't advocating a puppy or a pony but plants are easy to care for and will contribute a little fresh air to the toxic waste site some teenagers call a bedroom.  For the kid with a short attention span an Amaryllis or Paper White bulb set will bloom beautifully and then go away - at least until next year.  These are $5.99 to $10.99 at garden centers or home improvement stores and virtually no-fail.

You can also give a small plant for as little as $5 - carnivorous tropicals like a Venus Flytrap are always a hit and cacti require minimal care - or build a garden package in any price range that can include seeds, garden hand tools, ready to bloom seed kits (herbs in particular), multiple plants and an attractive planter and so on. 

If you have a good green gift idea for a kid, especially a teenager, please pass it on by posting a comment to this article.