NOTE: Morgana Matus originally shared this article in July 2012, most recently edited in June 2024, at which time most of the toys she described were no longer available.

It used to be that the biggest danger to your children from their toys was not being able to find their favorite plaything before bedtime or a long road trip. Now, parents lose sleep over where action figures and stuffed animals are produced, whether the materials are safe, and what will happen to them once they reach the end of their life span. Toys are supposed to be enjoyable, not objects of worry and anxiety! Bamboo is an eco-friendly, non-toxic, and sustainable choice for fun.  Luckily, there are innovative and imaginative designers out there with our children’s entertainment and well-being in mind.

Takenoko bamboo board game reverse
The first board game to celebrate bamboo farming and the Panda lifestyle, Takenoko is available from Amazon.

Takenoko: Panda-monium for the whole family

Takenoko must be the most interesting bamboo-themed board game I’ve ever seen. Matagot is the creator of dozens of board games celebrating everything from the age of pirates to the summer of love. But this is the first and only game to explicitly celebrate bamboo farming and giant panda culture.

Though teeming with panda puns and not as botanically accurate as I would like, Takenoko is a unique, plant-based, strategy game that invites players to assume the role of bamboo plantation manager for the Giant Panda Emperor. Winning the game requires some horticultural mastery, steadily extending the bamboo fields while ensuring that the giant grasses get enough nutrients, water, and sunshine.

Takenoko is available from Amazon, and it’s considered appropriate for 2-4 players, ages 8 and up. One game typically lasts about 45 minutes.

Save the Planet: Introducing my favorite board game
Save the Planet is not available in stores.

Other bamboo games and playthings

Israeli designers and Chinese manufacturers have teamed up to create safe bamboo toys for children. The Hape Company and students at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Tel Aviv collaborated with traditional craftsmen to build rolling cars, garden sets, games, puzzles, and dolls.

For the young artists out there, Rocking Frog makes a bamboo version of the classic spiral drawing toy.  Just the right size to fit into a backpack with a couple of crayons and a few sheets of recycled paper, the smooth bamboo tablet and wheel are hand-crafted in the United States. The North Carolina builder also offers gorgeous rocking animals composed of bamboo plywood, and finished with with safe stains and seals.

Bambu Batu is proud to carry (and shake) Dandelion Toys Bamboo Zoo plush rattles, made from bamboo viscose and filled with corn stuffing. Machine washable, they are free of harmful toxins, extremely soft, and made in the US. Perfect for teething, coordination, and a snuggle, they are a great addition to your baby’s crib or stroller. (2020 Update: Bambu Batu closed its retail outlet when the pandemic started and no longer sells any merchandise.)

When your baby is teething, it is of the utmost importance that they are chewing on something safe and free from harsh dyes and chemicals. Opt for an organic knit blankie with a teething ring from Baby Green Sprout for your little one to gnaw upon. The ring is filled with sterilized water and can be cooled in the refrigerator to bring relief to sore gums.

Feel confident about your purchases! Look for bamboo, reclaimed materials, safe dyes and sealants, and non-toxic materials!

Organic cotton onesies
Organic baby clothes from Bambu Batu used to be a big deal!

Play on

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