17 Green Gifts for Very Good Kids

Get the junior set keen on exploring, enjoying, and protecting

By Katie O'Reilly

December 7, 2020


Photo by smrm1977/iStock

We scoured the internet's toy stores, game outlets, booksellers, and adventure outfitters for unique gifts that will provide kids with some old-fashioned (i.e., screen-free) fun while challenging developing minds. We are pleased to present 17 among 2020’s most Earth-conscious—and awesome—gifts for green-minded kids.

Australian wildlife photographer Doug Gimesy, known for his award-winning documentary work on the effects of Australian’s devastating wildfires on wildlife, recently published a delightful children’s book about the grey-headed flying fox, an oft-misunderstood, peculiar type of bat with a wingspan nearly one meter long. Life Upside Down ($20) consists of 48 pages chock-full of natural history and personality-filled bat photos, geared toward five-to-10-year-olds. It’s been a hit with our photo editor’s very discerning little one (pictured above).

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that carving out space to identify and process complicated feelings can be crucial. Sonder Kids creates curated monthly wellness journals for the six-to-12 set, aimed at helping kids develop their writing skills and spark their curiosity. A gift set of three ($45) includes journals themed around friendship, empathy, and perseverance—each comes with space to track daily gratitude, moods, and habits; coloring pages; kid-friendly recipes; poems, quotes, and prompts aligned around the theme; interactive activities like word searches, optical illusions, and crosswords; and nature exercise. 

The carbon-neutral PlanToys company manufactures toys and games in Trang, Thailand, where abundant, native rubber trees used to be burned when they got old and could no longer produce latex. Now, PlanToys turns them into brain-building playthings via a chemical-free kiln-drying process. We’re partial to the Camping Playset ($20), which includes a toy tent, camper, cup, kettle, backpack, guitar, lantern, sleeping bag, log, fish, tree, and of course, the campfire. What could be more perfect for turning long, winter pandemic nights into fodder for springtime adventure?

Kids get to reunite dinosaurs with their skeletons through Match These Bones ($17), a memory-style game that comes with an educational booklet containing fun facts to guide junior paleontologists’ play. 

In 128 in-depth pages, journalists Valentina Giannella (author of 2019’s We Are All Greta) and Lucia Esther Maruzzelli spell out for third through seventh graders how exactly the world needs to change (think new professions and altered geographical borders) to withstand and overcome the climate catastrophe. Green Nation Revolution ($13) makes for a colorful, data-rich resource for young folks wondering what comes next in their (and our) fight for the future. 

Patagonia’s ultralight Baby Down Sweater ($99) is toasty and insulated, wind-blocking, water-resistant, compressible, easy to layer, and made from 100 percent recycled polyester. Plus, it comes in almost a dozen adorable styles.

Created by two moms who believe that the right gear leads to better adventures, Wanderwild backpacks are durable, water-resistant, and full of special features with kids in mind. The roomiest offering is The Adventurer ($60), designed for camping or travel, with a hooded cover, ergonomic padded shoulders and chest straps, “fidget tabs” for busy hands, a front zip pocket (for quick access to snacks or sunscreen), and side pockets sized for a water bottle. Wanderwild also curates family-friendly activities on its website and gives a portion of each sale to organizations that address childhood hunger and education. 

Fact: Kids love travel souvenirs. But rather than buying young travelers a commemorative mug from every trip (and watching the cupboard gradually burst at its seams), the gift of one Color Map Mug ($18 to $24) from Trouvaille (which translates to “a lucky find” in French) allows them to color in and keep track of all the places they’ve visited with one fetching vessel. Choose either a US or world map. Each mug comes with a marker (expansion packs are available) in plastic-free, recyclable packaging and carries the power to remind young tea- and cocoa-drinkers of all of their adventures. 

The jumbo three-piece jigsaw pieces of My First Story Puzzle: Nature ($13) feature colorful images of seeds sprouting, flowers forming, suns eclipsing rainstorms, rainbows forming, and other transformational phenomena. Give the toddlers in your life the gift of a head start on the mechanisms of cause-and-effect in the natural world—and the joys of simple, sequential stories–with the puzzle gift. 

Know a kid who’s caught the national-park-hopping bug? This whimsical National Parks of the USA Checklist Poster ($25) from Parks Project is printed on FSC-certified paper and will obviously look awesome on their bedroom wall.  

Help little ones rest their noggins upon organic, nontoxic materials. The gift of the Organic Toddler Pillow ($25) from Avocado Green is more than a cozy, organic cotton pillow to help a youngster sleep through the night—it’s the double-whammy present of a safe, comfy travel pillow for Mom and/or Dad too! 

Gift your fave youngins a camping trip, and let them explore their surroundings and develop their love for nature with a little help from the Outdoor Explorer Kit ($25) we found on Etsy. It comes complete with toy binoculars, a magnifying glass, insect clamps and tweezers, a bug catcher net, and more.

Nurture a junior gardener with help from an adorable Kid’s Watering Can ($17) from Green Toys. Like most of the company’s wares, this gift is made from 100 percent recycled plastic milk jugs and comes free from BPAs and phthalates. 

Know of a child who has an inner lumberjack? GSI Outdoors created a fun (and safe!) backyard/basement Ax-Throwing Kit ($35) out of lightweight foam axes that are fitted with gripper strip “blades” that stick to bullseyes. This popular indoor-outdoor game compacts down into a travel sack, making it easy to store in a backpack for outdoor adventures.

The game and puzzle crafters behind Adventerra are all about helping kids have a blast while passively learning why and how they should protect the planet. We find the Respect the Earth puzzle ($15) to be a total blast—it calls on players ages two+ to match pairs of common lifestyle habits with adapted ones that are kinder on the earth and society.

Are your fave kiddos dreaming of a white Christmas? New from the kids' adventure outfitters behind ShredDog, the Elevated Kids' Convertible Bib/Pant ($180) offers waterproof zippers; inner thigh vents; reinforced knees, hem, and inner ankle; and a removable bib module, giving parents and kids the choice of bibs or pans, depending on weather conditions and style preferences. Oh, and it comes in eight sizes and five snazzy colors.

This holiday season, consider adopting a young loved one’s favorite wild animal and giving them the symbolic gift of a soft, cuddly plushie that comes with a 16-page color booklet containing fun animal facts, coloring pages, sticker sheets, adoption certificates, and more. Choose from among 24 critters (we love the harbor seal, gray wolf, and manatee options), and know that your purchase helps support the Sierra Club's diligent work protecting wildlife.