The texture of wooden toys is reassuring and solid in a way that plastic never manages to be. It its warm and feels alive—its inviting. They ask to be handled and played with, and are delightful to hold. Even the adults who come over and don’t intend to play can’t help but pick up a few pieces. Sometimes they play is limited to a little rearranging—but no one can help it—in the best way.
Recently (but before Covid became a concern) we had a large gathering of family at our house, and before long everyone from age 5-78 was on the floor building, coordinating, and planning a city. (and I can assure you it was not from a sense of obligation to entertain the kids ? when the kids asked “may I have that piece” and the great uncle says “well I was going to use it for…” then gets nudged… (and no I don’t remember who actually got the piece in the long run—one or the other of them found an alternate piece and it all worked out)…you know its an engaging toy!
Another perk with wooden toys is that they age gracefully. They seem to soften with age and play, and while, like any toy they do show play marks with time, the aging is graceful–the grain of the wood starts to show, and they take on an appealing feeling of being loved. Even after 5 years of play, that set on the right still has some of the most-in-demand pieces we have (those big green arches!). How many other toys can keep the same kids entertained from ages 1-8?
Another draw is the extent to which they can be repaired if they do break. Most breaks can be fixed as good as new with a bit of wood glue and a clamp. I’ve never had to throw out a wood toy for a break.
Even if you really did have to trash a wood toy, its lovely that it would eventually decompose and it doesn’t become landfill filler. When you pick a wood toy, you can intentionally shop toys made from sustainably sourced wood and child-safe colors. You can pick toys made by adults who are paid a living wage working in comfortable working conditions*.
In addition to the texture and eco-friendly component of wooden toys, they look beautiful too. Maybe it sounds superficial (maybe it is?) but it does a lot for me that every time I see the toys it makes me feel good—they’re even beautiful when spread out on the floor in complete chaos. The colors and visual textures make them look good all the time. And when they’re put away, having them visible is really just like having playable art. Instead of a decoration that I have to tell the kids to be careful around, they are allowed to use everything, and it looks lovely when its
*Please note that not all wood toys are created equal. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned–please feel free to ask if you have questions. And keep an eye out for a forth-coming run-down of some of the brands we love.