On the invitation of my firstborn’s baby shower, it actually read ‘please, only wooden toys.’ Our friends and family delivered on our instruction, giving us some of the coolest presents including wooden rattles, old-fashioned wooden instruments, an abacus, beautiful nesting babushka dolls, and ABC blocks.
Shortly after her first shower, my eldest received her first plastic toy at a family Christmas party, she was around 18 months. It was a grocery cart with fake foods and — SHE ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! It was the biggest hit. At the time, I thought, “Oh, it makes her so happy and all her other toys are wooden, there’s no real harm.” The grocery cart stayed for awhile and she has since received many plastic toys, even of the crazy, over-stimulating kind. Although to keep our sanity, these types of toys have conveniently “disappeared” or required “special batteries” that we unfortunately just can’t acquire.
Looking back, it’s hard not to laugh at my idealism of a wooden-only toy chest. Yet, even though plastic toys have made their way into our kids’ lives, they are not necessarily their preferred toy and they definitely don’t stand the test of time.
Even with all that is on the market, here’s my argument as to why wooden toys are timeless and superior even in 2021:
Wooden Toys Appeal to All
Recently, I pulled out some nesting wooden shapes and put them on a side table for my one-year-old. However, all the kids loved them and I don’t think my one-year-old got a chance to play with them. Even a friend’s 10-year-old was captivated by taking them apart and putting them back together. This makes sense to me. It reflects humans’ — of all ages — innate desire to be challenged and to overcome challenges.
Wooden Toys Grow With Us
Even as adults, think about Jenga, corn hole, baseball, bowling, billiards, and bocce ball. Each of these wooden games/toys still provide joy in the present moment while simultaneously taking us back to our childhoods.
Wooden Toys Rarely Break
If they do, they can be fixed, sanded, or wood glued. They can last literally forever: virtually indestructible! If you’ve invested in wooden toys for your children, they might still be around and just as loved by your grandchildren.
Wooden Toys Activate Imagination
Take a simple wooden block for instance: in a child’s mind it could be anything. My daughter used to fill a bag with wooden blocks and pull them out, naming each block. “This is an apple, I’m at the grocery store, these are all my cars, this is my doctor’s bag, etc.”
Wooden Toys Promote Natural Development
Unlike phones or video games, these types of toys have no boundaries or locking mechanisms, forcing children to problem solve, explore, and promote spatial awareness. Many progressive educational philosophies like Montessori and Waldorf encourage this type of self-discovery play.
Wooden Toys Are Non-Toxic
Babies and little kids put everything in their mouths. Plastics are all around us. From food packaging, water bottles, toys, and beyond. So much that plastic particles can be detected in our bloodstreams and organs. Not only do beautiful wooden toys prevent toxins, they also make great natural non-toxic teethers.
To summarize, when given the opportunity I choose toys made from natural fibers and materials. Yet the truth is that after three children, I’ve alse lightened up over the years. Now, I am accepting of most toys and tend to not put stipulations on gifts from family and friends. It’s nice for kids to have a wide variety of toys in their collection but wooden toys still remain the most special. On that note, one piece of advice: keep a close eye on handmade or meaningful toys. Kids lose stuff. They will toss wooden blocks from strollers, leave their Jenga set at friends’ houses, parks, and stores. In our home, special toys get played with and go back in the special box — that is stored up high to avoid both toys and hearts breaking if something were to happen. If you haven’t any wooden toys already, why not add a few into your kids toy box and see if these ageless pieces resonate with their ever-creative minds?
Buttery Queen (and yes that is her real name) is an educator, writer, and mother of 3 living in Ojai, CA. She has a master’s degree in science and has worked as a biologist, in food safety, as a private chef, and a café owner. She is passionate about food, adventure, and nature. When she is not with her family, she enjoys SCUBA diving at the Channel Islands.