Written by Denine W.

When I was little, whenever we went to the beach or pool, I played with a beach ball, water guns, pool noodles, a bucket and sand shovel, and various other toys… Needless to say, that’s a lot of plastic!

Now that I have kids of my own (and since we live a more eco-friendly lifestyle), I try to choose toys that are more non-toxic, sustainable, and ultimately have less plastic.

Unfortunately, (as I’m sure you know), that’s often a lot easier said than done when it comes to toys… And even more so when it comes to water toys.

There isn’t always a 100% perfect toy option for the little ones when it comes to outdoor play. But some options are definitely better than others, which is what this article is about.

So if you, like me, are trying to find more non-toxic and eco-friendly toys for your kids this summer, I’ve rounded up my recommendations for the best non-toxic pool, sandbox, and beach toys for kids here.

This guide contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. As always, we only make recommendations that are genuine. Featured image credit: Big Little Universe

What Makes Some Toys Toxic or Unsafe?

In recent decades, there have been various studies looking at chemicals of concern in kids’ toys. For example, a 2021 study published in the Environment International identified 126 substances in plastic toys that are cause for concern.

Some of the toxins we’re talking about include:

Considering that these chemicals are basically everywhere in our world these days, exposures can add up. Children more vulnerable to the potential negative effects of toxins in their environment in part because of the fact that they are still developing. Their metabolic rates are faster, their organs and tissues are growing, and they have a higher surface area to body weight ratio.

Not only that, but as every parent knows, kids love to put toys in their mouths! As they suck and chew on them, their levels of exposure are increased.

Even though it may not be realistic to get rid of 100% of the toxins in your child’s environment, parents can at least reduce exposures by choosing better toys when you can find them.

Toxic Materials in Pool, Beach, & Sand Toys

Identifying which toys are toxin-free (or at least almost toxin-free) isn’t always easy. Toys don’t come with the same kind of labeling requirements that food does, so you don’t always know exactly what’s in them.

Here are some of the materials that make toys unsafe for kids:

These ingredients are used in toys for various reasons, including:

  • Plasticizers to increase or decrease the flexibility and durability of the plastic
  • Stabilizers
  • Colorants
  • Processing chemicals to make the actual material

The Sustainability Aspect

Apart from the effect on children, beach toys, pool toys, and sandbox toys don’t last forever. When they are chipped or cracked, the toys almost always end up in landfills. One toy can take at least 450 years to more than 1,000 years to degrade… If they biodegrade at all! That means these toys end up polluting ecosystems around the planet.

According to World Counts, over 3.7 million tons of plastic have been dumped into the oceans. Of course, a percentage of this statistic includes toys that are dumped in the sea (or end up there on accident), where they leak harmful compounds into the water and disrupt aquatic life and ecosystems.

What To Look for in Non-Toxic Beach Toys for Kids

The safer toy materials you want to look for instead of plastic are things like:

  • Food grade silicone
  • Natural rubber
  • Bamboo
  • “Better” plastics like ABS
  • Solid wood (and/or wood that’s been treated with beeswax or natural oils)
  • Mineral pigments
  • Plant-based colorants

There are toys that fall in a kind of middle ground—they aren’t 100% perfect, but they are safer than most other toxic options. Plastic toys made from ABS or polypropylene fall into this middle ground. They’re still plastic, but they’re better than other types of plastic (like PVC).

This is an area where you may end up having to choose the “better” option, even if it’s not the perfect one.

Of course, you’ll want to look for eco-friendly beach toys that also meet US and EU safety standards, too. Be sure that the recommended age on the toys match that of your child and stay away from potential choking hazards.

The Best Options for PVC-Free Floaties & Life Jackets

Before we get to the toys, let’s talk about where to find non-toxic floatation devices. Most of the floaties on the market are made from PVC, which is one of the worst kinds of plastic.

But there are some safer options on the market for non-toxic swim aids, life jackets, and floaties:


pvc free life jackets from stearns

Stearns has a large collection of personal flotation devices (PFDs) that are US Coat Guard Approved. They offer standard life vests as well as life jackets for kids that go over the arms.

These PFDs are made out of polyethylene foam on the inside and nylon on the outside. While they’re still synthetic, these are better options than PVC. They are also treated with an anti-microbial coating, which again, is not ideal. However, considering that these products will be constantly coming into contact with water, it will help prevent mold growth (which can also be toxic).

Water Gear

pvc free floaties from water gear

Water Gear has a collection of swim training belts that are made from EVA foam. These are meant more for training and are not meant to be life-saving jackets.

10 Brands for Eco-Friendly & Non-Toxic Water Toys for the Beach, Pool, & Sandbox

Here are my recommendations for toys your children can play with in sand and water:


In terms of options, Minnow has a lot of them. Their Beach Market collection has a lot to offer.

You’ll have to check the materials on each of the product pages, because they vary quite a bit. Some of their products are natural, while others aren’t.

They have plastic-free kids’ swim goggle masks that are made out of 100% silicone, which is awesome.

They also have things like this cute set of boats, natural rubber flippers, silicone bucket & sand toy sets, natural rattan accessories, and more.

Big Little Universe

Big Little Universe offers a couple of beach bucket sets that are made out of 100% food grade silicone. That means it’s FDA approved and completely free from things like BPA, BPS, phthalates, and PVC.

The set comes with a bucket, shovel, and four sea-shaped accessories.


Liewood is a super cute kids’ brand that carries a collection of summer toys made from (mostly) 100% silicone. They carry several different sets that include buckets, shovels, sand molds, and more. Their toys come in several different beautiful colors, too.

Liewood also carries inflatables like float rings and inflatable pools, but they’re made from PVC so we don’t necessarily recommend those.

Liewood doesn’t currently ship to the US, but you can find their products on Smallable (who does ship to the US).


These beach toys from Spielstabil are not plastic-free, but they are made from ABS plastic, which does not have any BPA, lead, PVC, or phthalates. Plus, they’re actually welded together so you don’t have to worry about any toxic glues.

They’re also incredibly durable and colorfast—they even come with a 10-year warranty. They have buckets, shovels, sieves, rakes, and even little ice cream scoops and cones to make pretend sweet treats in the sand.

Green Toys

Green Toys carries different kinds of sustainable toys, including several that are great for the beach, sandbox, pool, or bath.

Their toys are made locally in the USA from 100% recycled milk jugs. Although products made from recycled materials can be problematic at times because they contain unknown amounts of phthalates and other materials, Green Toys’ products are actually phthalate-free, PVC-free, and BPA-free.

You can often find Green Toys in stores like Walmart and Target.


How cute are these fins!? These kids’ flippers are made out of 100% natural rubber, which means they’re plastic-free. The heel tab and open toe design make it easy for your child to put these flippers off and on. The foot pockets are flexible and soft, too, so your child can play comfortably when you hang out at the beach.

They also carry other products like bath toys, pacifiers, and teethers.

Hevea is a sustainable brand that’s based in Denmark, where regulations about about what kinds of ingredients and materials are allowed in kids’ products are more strict than they are in the US. Their products are made out of 100% natural rubber, making them 100% natural, eco-friendly, and compostable.

You can ship the US from their website, but to save on shipping, you can also find some of Hevea’s products on Minnow.


Ekobo’s sand bucket and set of three sand-scooping tools are ideal for building sandcastles at the beach or in a sandbox. The bucket is inspired by the shape of a bird, the large scoop is a whale, the sieve is a turtle, and the shovel is a manta ray—so cute.

These toys are free from BPA, phthalates, PVC, and latex. They’re made from eco-friendly bamboo covered in melamine. Although melamine is not the perfect option, it helps to extend the life of the toys and prevent things like mold growth for toys that are in contact with water all the time. And it’s still a better option than 100% petroleum-based toys that may contain unknown phthalates and more.


non toxic sand toys from plantoys

Plantoys’ sand and water toys are sustainably made in Thailand using natural rubberwood, formaldehyde-free glue, organic pigments, and water-based dyes. They carry super cute sand sets for digging and building, as well as several different kinds of boat toys for the pool or bathtub!

Colored Organics

Although Colored Organics is focused on organic apparel for kids, they have a pretty good toy collection, too.

They have a couple of different kinds of stackable nesting cups, which are great for building towers at the sandbox or beach. You may also want to check out this wooden sail boat or this Beach Craft Set from Eco-Kids, too.

Depending on which specific product you’re looking at, you’ll find materials like food-grade silicone and wheat straw. It’s all BPA and lead-free, and the stacking cups are also completely free of PVC, latex, and phthalates.


When it comes to floaties, the options are unfortunately really slim.

Almost all pool floats and floaties are made using PVC. You can find PVC-free pool noodles that are made out of polyethylene foam instead, which are a little bit better of an option.

Another better (though still imperfect) option is Kai’s collection of pool noodles and floats. These are made primarily out of Sunbrella fabric, which we did a full breakdown of right here.

In short, Sunbrella has its pros and cons. It’s very durable and UV-resistant, which is why it’s used for so many outdoor products. Even though it’s made from synthetic, it does come with GREENGUARD and OEKO-TEX labels, which do indicate a certain level of safety with regard to the materials and additives used.

The main concern with Sunbrella has to do with the added PFAS. They do have a line of PFAS-free fabric, but as far as we can tell, the Kai collection is not made from PFAS-free material, unfortunately. You should be aware of this when deciding if you really want to buy these products.

Kai carries several different kinds of pool floaties, including noodles, big floats, water hammocks, pool seats, and even a drink caddy.

Related guides for more non-toxic summer fun:

The next time you hit the beach, skip the plastic toys when you can and opt for better alternatives like silicone. Although it can be difficult to find a perfect option, the brands listed above are some of the best options for eco-friendly beach toys currently on the market.

And to get more non-toxic tips, news, and more delivered to your inbox once a week, sign up for Filtered Fridays!

Enjoy the sun!

About Guest Author

This article was written by a guest contributor. We love to welcome content written by fellow writers, researchers, and advocates for safer products!

Related Posts

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *