Natural Wooden Montessori Materials and Educational Toys Crafted in the USA

Going Green: Toys That Are Safe For Your Baby & The Planet

Dr. Toy names Young Minds At Play a Best Green Product Award Winner 2011

WESTON, MO – May 27, 2011: For young parents, going green isn’t just about caring for the planet today - it’s about safe-guarding their baby’s future. A typical trip to a local store may make an eco-friendly toy seem impossible. Jeff and Charlene Smith felt that way in 2009 while shopping for their infant son. They decided to make a difference by starting their own eco-friendly toy company, Young Minds At Play, in 2010. Their efforts have been rewarded with a 2011 Dr. Toy Best Green Product Award for their First Jigsaw Puzzle – Square. A leading national toy expert, Stevanne Auerbach, PhD, aka Dr. Toy, started the Dr. Toy Best Green Product Award, “We are pleased and proud to identify the BEST GREEN PLAY PRODUCTS again this year and to commend the conscientious companies that are making these products.

The award-winning toys are made safely, are healthy to use and have a high play value. Green criteria includes: being made from safe materials, clean production methods, use of renewable/recyclable materials, designed for disassembly/recycling/remanufacture, efficiency of materials and natural resources, durability of product: ability to be repaired/reused/biodegradable, and use of renewable energy. Winners are listed in Dr. Toy’s Guide at “Many parents are interested in eco-friendly toys, but they do not know where to find them. Dr. Toy helps them by identifying the best choices for each age. It is an honor to be selected as a 2011 winner”, says Charlene Smith, co-founder of Young Minds At Play.

Dr. Auerbach is a national expert on play and children’s products. She approved the first proposal for “Sesame Street” and has authored 15 books and hundreds of articles on toys and play. She holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and has over 40 years of experience evaluating toys/children’s products.

What makes a toy green? Materials matter. Toys made from renewable, natural materials are the best. The less processed a material, the less impact it will have on the environment. Recycled materials are a second option. Finishes and glues should be eco-friendly. Look for reusable or recycled packaging. Toys and packaging should be biodegradable or be able to be recycled. Locally made is best as it minimizes the fuel used and emissions generated to get a product to your door. Look for longevity – can it be handed down to another child to use?

For example, the First Jigsaw Puzzle –Square is made from biodegradable, locally-sourced, sustainably-harvested solid maple and cherry wood and hand-finished with a beeswax/oil. No glues are used. The 100% recycled packaging is biodegradable. It is made in Weston, Missouri, from American materials and its packaging is American made. The puzzle has timeless appeal and is built to last generations. “Being green is a mindset. If you ask yourself is there a greener choice available, you’ll be surprised at how often you can say, yes, there is.”, says Smith.

Young Minds At Play’s chunky First Jigsaw Puzzle – Square for 1-3 year olds has the unique twist of interchangeable pieces and multiple solutions. It promotes spatial skills, language and mathematical development, eye-hand coordination, and motor skills. “Most wood puzzles are made of plywood or pressed wood, both of which contain adhesives, and they are covered with paint or glued-on pictures. The thought of our son putting one of these puzzles in his mouth made us cringe. We wanted a puzzle where we didn’t have to worry, so we make ours out of 100% solid maple and cherry woods and finish it with a safe, food-grade beeswax/oil - like what is used on wooden kitchen cutting boards.”, says Smith. It retails for $40 at and

About Young Minds At Play
Young Minds At Play specializes in crafting and selling mind-stimulating, eco-friendly, wooden toys for ages 1+. Frustrated that they could not find the safe, natural, educational toys they wanted for their infant son, Jeff and Charlene Smith started Young Minds At Play in 2010. They craft all of their toys from locally sourced, sustainably harvested solid maple and cherry wood and hand-finish them with a beeswax/oil. Packaging is 100% recycled material or reusable cotton bags. Everything is made in Weston, Missouri, from American materials and all packaging is American-made. For more information, visit

Photos are available at:

Dr. Toy links:
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Direct links to puzzle:
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On Young Minds At Play:
Dr. Toy Best Vacation Product:
Dr. Toy Best Green Product:

Media Contact:
Charlene Smith
Young Minds at Play
PO Box 352 Weston, MO 64098
Tel: 888-484-8094 x 802 / Fax: 888-484-8094