Toys For Little Ones Living in Little Spaces

When you’re living in a compact space, finding suitable toys and gear for babies and toddlers can be difficult if you only search via big box stores and typical bestsellers. The following are some key considerations I’d recommend keeping in mind— particularly if you’re trying to be more eco-friendly this year.

 Above: Photo of the Cottage nursery by Sami Drasin for Cosmo (2017)

Above: Photo of the Cottage nursery by Sami Drasin for Cosmo (2017)

DESIGN
Is the toy beautiful for the adults to see while also being interesting and educational for the child/children? Toys are always left lying around, meaning they’re most likely visible from almost anywhere in a compact apartment or home. It really makes a huge difference if toys are well-designed with colors, materials, and/or shapes that compliment your space.

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MATERIALS
Can you opt for a hand-me down or vintage piece rather than something new? Plastic and metal toys from decades past are still sitting on this Earth, so why not make repeated use of them and save them from landfills? 

 Above: Photo from West’s temporary room (for 5 months) in the front tiny house, which we no longer rent.

Above: Photo from West’s temporary room (for 5 months) in the front tiny house, which we no longer rent.

SUSTAINABILITY
If the item is new, are the materials sustainable

SIZE + SHAPE
Does the toy wrap, fold, collapse, nest, stack, or can it be tucked away? Is the piece designed to be tall rather than wide? Can it slide under a table or lay flat under a mattress or cushion when not in use?

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CUSTOMIZATION
Can the item work creatively with the current items within your home? For example, a hallway tent takes up no extra space— same goes for a tablecloth fort, or a set of wooden magnets that can live on the exterior of your larger kitchen appliances.

MANUFACTURING
Do the manufacturing, packaging and delivery have a light footprint?

ADAPTABLITY
Can the item work just as well on-the-go as it does within your home, reducing the number of toys your child requires? Compact books, storage play-mats, roll-up gear, travel games, folding tools, and to-go sets are easy to tuck into a canvas bag and suspend from wall hooks within the house at the end of the day, and can also be tossed effortlessly into strollers and carry-ons when needed.

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LIFESPAN
Is this a piece that can be handed down to a children’s hospital, library, or pre-school after it’s not longer needed in your home?

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As always, Etsy is my favorite resource for all things handmade and vintage. (You can even write to the seller to inform them that the packaging doesn’t need to be fancy, decorative or even new, which can help cut back on shipping materials and waste in general.) But there are many other sites and shops to explore, depending on your region, tastes and shopping preferences. 

And don’t forget your local library! Borrowing books is a great way to cut back on clutter, waste, and cost— all without disappointing your little one(s).

Here are some items (and similar designs) that we have and love for our son and our home. They are a mix of materials, sources, and production methods. Hopefully you’ll find some options that suit you and yours. Happy holidays!