Wooden children's toys have classic appeal while offering durability and high quality. Most people have fond memories of playing with wooden building blocks in their own childhoods, but there are many other types of wooden toys. What should you look for and where should you go to buy wooden toys for children?
- Age Appropriate: As with any toys, make sure the wooden toys you select are appropriate for the kids' ages. Choose toys that your child is developmentally ready to handle. Can he operate any moving parts? Is it too heavy for him to lift without dropping it? Does he understand the goals or concepts? It can be unsafe to give a great wooden toy to a child if she is not ready for it yet. For example, wooden bead sets with small pieces that are perfect for four- or five-year-olds are potential choking hazards for two-year-olds. Wooden toy suggestions for various ages:
- 18 months-3 years: Wooden nesting boxes, building blocks, puzzles, riding toys and stacking rings.
- 3-5 years: Wooden train sets, other wooden vehicles, toy food, wagons, lacing animals and beads, Tinker Toys, learning clocks, rhyming and spelling games.
- 6+ years: Lincoln Logs, wooden board games, rubber stamp kits, mazes, stencils, wooden models, such as those of dinosaur skeletons or vehicles, craft kits, Tangrams.
- Craftsmanship: When you select wooden toys, look at the workmanship that has gone into crafting the toy. Is the wood well-sanded and smooth or are there rough spots? Have sharp corners been beveled or curved to reduce potential injuries? If the wood is layered, such as veneer, is it peeling or nice and solidly constructed? Does the paint seem well-adhered or is it peeling or scratched? Make sure the toy looks well designed and constructed and meets your personal standards.
- Caution About Antique Wooden Toys: While antique wooden toys can be very charming, they should be considered collectibles and not playthings. Why? Some of them may have been made with chemicals--such as lead-based paint--that are not safe for children. Also, antique toys were not subject to the same safety inspections and ratings that we use today. Certainly, you do not want to risk your toddler putting lead or a small part in his mouth from an unsafe antique toy. These cautions apply to toys purchased in other countries as well, since some nations do not have as stringent of regulations as those in the United States.
- Selecting Wooden Toys: So, now you know what to look for in a wooden toy, but what kind should you buy? Nearly any kind of toy can be found in a wooden version. Of course some classics are puzzles, building toys, pull-toys, ride-on toys, and trains. Your child's interests will drive your toy purchases, of course. Have a budding chef? You can find beautiful wooden toy kitchen sets. If your little one likes to play with dolls, you could not go wrong with a wooden doll house and furnishings. Or, pick a magnetic wooden "paper doll" set that has dolls your child can dress and accessorize to her heart's content. Want to give your Lego fan a taste of your childhood? Try a set of Tinker Toys or Lincoln Logs for classic building fun. You can also find educational wooden toys for counting, learning letters and for manipulative play.