Wooden toys have grown in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic due to an increase in preschooling at home. However, wooden toys are significantly different to plastic toys in terms of costs, durability, and functionality.
In this beginner’s guide, we will look at some key facts about wooden toys to help you decide if you should buy wooden toys for your kids.
Wooden Toys vs Plastic Toys
Many wooden toys like blocks and puzzles can also be made with plastic, so rather than discuss the play benefits of wooden toys (which is not that different from open-ended plastic toys), let’s look at their differences in terms of materials.
Benefits of wooden toys
High strength and durability
The biggest benefit of wooden toys is their ability to hold up during rough play. If you were to compare the strength of a block of solid wood to a slab of plastic, the wooden block will be harder to break.
The strength of wooden toys also come largely from the fact that they almost never contain moving parts, electronics, springs, or hinges. These little components are what make plastic toys fragile, especially with rougher play.
Great for early years development
The fact that most wooden toys are just shapes and blocks makes them great for play-based learning because they encourage imagination and creativity.
Wooden blocks and stacking shapes are perfect for ages 6 months and up. Babies and toddlers will generally chew, stack, or throw them around, but from around 3 years old, they will start to create more complex structures and use imaginative play with their wooden toys.
Unlike plastic toys that are often stimulative through lights, music and sounds, wooden toys are passive in nature and require active input from kids.
This process of experimentation in itself develops cognitive thinking and nurtures independent play.
Disadvantages of wooden toys
Superficially, wooden toys can easily be scratched, chipped or stained, so they are more difficult to maintain than plastic toys.
Wooden toys also take more effort to clean and sterilise as they cannot be washed with soap and water, so it takes more effort to maintain them.
Unless you are buying an expensive, limited supply brand like Grimms, the resell value for secondhand wooden toys is generally lower than plastic ones because it’s harder to maintain a nice-looking appearance.
The cost of wooden toys are generally 20-50% more expensive than plastic ones due to the complexity of production and limited supply.
Unlike plastic, which is synthetic and can be mass-produced at a very low cost, timber is a limited natural resource and even more so if it is to be used sustainably.
You can often find cheap wooden toys at large retail shops or online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, but you get what you pay for because these toys may contain harmful chemicals, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
Are wooden toys safe for babies?
Wooden toys are generally safer for babies than plastic, especially if you buy from certified wooden toy brands, because harmful chemicals are mostly absorbed through ingestion and babies tend to put everything in their mouths.
Toxins in toys are not as prevalent as they used to be, but it is still something to take note of, and this applies to all types of toys, not just wooden ones.
The most common toxic chemical used in wooden toys is formaldehyde, most often found in the glues used to bond wooden parts.
The paint used on wooden toys can also contain lead, which poses a far greater danger than formaldehyde, and wasn’t strictly regulated in many countries including Australia until the 90s.
Regardless of wooden or plastic toys, it’s important to check its safety disclaimers and material specifications before purchasing.
Are wooden toys better for the environment?
Wooden toys that are made from sustainably sourced materials are better for the environment. Being biodegradable, wooden toys are also eco-friendly at the end of its life cycle.
If you want to ensure your choice of wooden toys are produced sustainably, choose FSC certified products.
Why are Montessori toys wooden?
Wooden toys are more weighted than plastic ones and have a natural tactile feel, which encourages sensory exploration, an important element of Montessori learning.
The open-endness of wooden toys also align with the Montessori philosophy of learning through self-discovery, experimentation and creativity.
With a deep love for nature, the founder of Montessori herself preferred wooden toys as they are more “real” and offers a connection to the earth and natural environment through play.
List of certified safe wooden toy brands
This is not a full list of safe brands, but these are the biggest and most internationally recognised brands that are known for their safety standards, sustainability, and ethical production methods.
Our S.T.E.M Balancing Blocks are made from high-grade MDF that is free of harmful chemicals and safe for little ones.
Get 10% Off + Free Shipping
You may also be interested in 8 Best Toys For Toddlers Who Have Everything