Plastic Free Gift Guide

A guest post by Plastic Free Home.

“What is the name of Gunther's roommate..?” It seems that the Friends trivia game we were given a couple of Christmases ago is more testing than we first imagined. When it comes to buying puzzles and games, the challenge of avoiding plastic can also leave us all stumped.

Yet, from chess pieces to dice, letter tiles to houses and hotels, it wasn’t always this way. Dating back nearly 5,000 years, the earliest known games were of course made from natural materials, including wood, stone, clay and various fabrics. 

While board games as we know them today first emerged in the 1820s, they really took off around a century later with the introduction of ever-popular games like Monopoly and Scrabble. Fast forward to 2021 and between them the two games have sold a total of 400 million sets worldwide, with the global puzzles and games market valued at over £10 billion.

In the UK, the toy market as a whole was worth a whopping £3.3 billion in 2020, having enjoyed a bumper year, in part due to people spending much more time at home. Puzzles and games represented the highest area of growth, generating a 19% increase in annual sales. 

Despite the industry going from strength to strength, not every change has represented a forward step. In the UK, it is estimated that over 200 tonnes of plastic are used in toys and games every year. And you only have to take a quick browse online or a stroll around a toy shop to be reminded that many brands have been rather slow to act when it comes to reducing or removing the plastic used in their puzzles and games. Where progress is being made, it generally tends to be smaller and independently owned companies leading the way, as opposed to the major players who clearly have the resources but perhaps not the will to address things.

With Christmas unsurprisingly the busiest time of year for game and puzzle makers (also known as Santa’s elves), to help you out we’ve picked out our top ten plastic free puzzles and games for adults and kids.

So next time you are shopping, whether you are choosing something out for yourself or as a gift for family and friends, see if you can avoid plastic – both in terms of any packaging but also when it comes to what’s inside the box.

For Adults

Weird Things Humans Search For - £20 - Big Potato Games

 A hilarious look at some of the strange things people search for online. For example, “has a monkey ever…” And you simply have to guess what came next. Entertaining and a little different. There is also a mini version for £10. You can read more about Big Potato Games’ plans to remove plastic from its entire range here. An excellent effort.

Folding Chess Draughts & Backgammon Set - £20.99 – Jaques London

 

Beautifully handcrafted, from 100% FSC approved wood, this folding chess set comprises three classic games and is easy to pack up and take with you anywhere.

Wooden Solitaire Game - £12.50 - John Lewis & Partners

 

If you have never played Solitaire, where have you been? But, be warned, once you start you won’t be able to stop. Made from 100% FSC approved wood.

Snakesss - £25 - Big Potato Games

You have two minutes to discuss a slippery multiple choice question but watch out, hidden snakes are lurking! Never trust a player with all the answers; the snake’s aim is to mislead you. Great fun and guaranteed laughs for up to eight players. Made from card with wooden playing pieces.

 

Raft & Scupper - £29 - ET Games

 

A higher price point than some but it's an elegant looking strategy game created by Californian philosophy professor David Vander Laan. Two pirate crews battle to dominate the high seas and raft together their ships while scuppering their opponents'. Handmade from wood by a Fairtrade supplier.

Mind the Gap Card Game - £14 - Gibsons

 

A fast and fun family card game featuring well-known London tube stations. Match tube line colours and avoid the wild cards in a race to get rid of all your cards. Made from card with a metal tin.

Colourbrain - £25 - Big Potato Games

All the answers you need in Colourbrain are in your hand. And as you may have deduced they’re all colours! What colour is a Sharon fruit? What colour were Dorothy's shoes? Which two colours make purple? And so on. Made from card.

Bridget - £26 - ET Games

 A second helping from ET Games. Created by Swiss inventor Stefan Kogl, this strategy game sees you battling your opponent to cross the board, building and blocking as you aim to be the first to bridge the gap. Handmade from wood by a Fairtrade supplier.

1,000 Piece Rainforest Puzzle - £14 - Eeboo

This one is our favourite but Eeboo produces a beautiful range of jigsaw puzzles for all ages, made from recycled board and using non-toxic, vegetable based inks. Bonus points for effort.


Muffin Time - £22 - Big Potato Games

Last but not least, it’s a final one from Big Potato Games. Muffin time is a card game based on the irreverent YouTube  series ‘asdfmovie’ (Go check it out — several hundred million viewers can’t be wrong?). Weird… in a good way. And highly playable. Made from card.

 

For Kids

Sproutword - £15 - Sprout & Gherkin

One of two enjoyable and eco-friendly games made by this company (the other being Hedgeways), it’s a word strategy game for anyone who likes word games (think Scrabble). Shortlisted for Best Literacy Game at the Imagination Gaming Awards 2020. Made from wood, recycled paper and card and comes in a metal tin. For kids aged 11+.

Junior Colourbrain - £10 - Big Potato Games

A junior version of the adult quiz game mentioned above. All of the answers are colours; for example, what colour are Spongebob Squarepants' shorts or what colour is Emmet’s hair in The Lego Movie? Cards made from… you’ve guessed it (card). For kids aged 6+.

Wooden Topple Blocks Game - £10 - John Lewis & Partners

More commonly known by a name that rhymes with Benga (which incidentally is a form of popular Kenyan music), this classic game, made from 100% FSC approved wood, never gets old. For kids aged 5+.

Four in a Row - £12.99 - Jaques London

Another classic game often known by another name, this more eye-catching and sustainable version is made from 100% FSC approved wood. For kids aged 5+.

Brainbox: Nature - £9.99 - The Green Board Game Company

This one is among our favourites but there is a large range of Brainbox games, from dinosaurs and space to football and languages, all made from a minimum of 70% recycled materials. There are games for kids aged 3+ to adults.

Creativity Battle - £20 - Londji  

Similar to another well-known drawing game but with a fun twist. Test your creativity by turning an existing photograph of an object (for example, a lemon) into whatever is shown on your card (for example a submarine). Made from FSC approved paper and recycled card. Win Win Winter is another eco-friendly game from Londji. 

The Muddles - £10 - Big Potato Games

Another fun offering from the eco-friendly Big Potato Games, this one challenges players to collect two real animals and combine them to make a brand new one. The rarer the muddle, the more points you collect. The best is a Bellyfish (half bee, half jellyfish). For kids aged 5+.

Space Master - £22.99 - Vatos

Like Tetris minus the Game Boy (move on if that means nothing to you…) and made from wood, this brain-teasing building game requires patience and concentration. It ticks STEM and educational boxes too. For ages 5+.

100 Piece 3 in 1 Jungle Jigsaw - £10 - Floss & Rock

Another company that sells a large and lovely range of plastic free puzzles, including this Noah's Ark themed set of three jigsaws for kids aged 5+.

Bus Stop Board Game - £10.75 - Orchard Toys

 

If you’ve ever bought a present for a little one, somewhere along the line you’ve probably picked up a game from Orchard Toys. A huge range of games that are fun, educational and sustainable. There are games for kids aged 18 months+.

Plastic Free Home is an online community that aims to seek and share ideas on how we can all live more sustainably. Follow Plastic Free Home on Facebook.

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