Plastic toys seem to be ubiquitous these days. Not only are they much easier to find, they are also usually a bit cheaper making them a very tempting buy. However, parents should be aware that there are many benefits to classic wooden toys that make them worth the extra effort to find and expense (although thanks to the Internet this is much less of a problem for today’s parents). Here are just a few of the reasons why wooden toys are the best:
1. Wooden toys are timeless. Unlike many plastic toys that closely follow trends and currently popular characters from television, most wooden toy manufacturers stick with the classics. Not only does this make them more suitable for being passed down, they can also help parents who are wary of making their children vulnerable to commercialism.
Children are more free to make up their own stories and adventures when their toys aren’t based on television show characters. Instead of imitating story lines that they’ve seen on television, they can take their dolls, trains and other toy on journeys straight from their own imagination. This allows for a richer internal dialogue and more communication with playmates.
Wood is a very durable and easy to clean so that most wooden toys can be passed down from child to child for decades. Look for wooden toys that have been painted with non-toxic pains and that have quality construction. Steer clear of toys from unknown manufacturers or those with poorly finished, rough edges.
2. Wooden toys make the child do the work. Instead of pushing a few buttons or imitating storylines that they’ve seen on television, children who play with wooden toys have to figure out the story themselves from their own imagination. This helps them develop strong verbal skills, encourages creativity and keeps the child involved in their own entertainment.
Electronic toys and video games allow a child to be more passive and don’t engage the full range of senses. Children learn by doing and electronic toys take most of the “work” out of playing. Contrast the activity of pushing a train down a wooden track and using your voice as the soundtrack with pushing a button and watching as the train moves around in a circle.
While not all electronic toys are actively harmful, it’s best to give children as many opportunities as possible to play using all of their senses and supplying their own imaginations. Children will have their entire lifetimes to sit in front of screens and operate electronics so why not hold off as long as possible?
3. Wooden toys are durable and versatile. Plastic can be brittle and fades easily. Electronic toys can be fragile and require expensive (and environmentally unfriendly!) batteries. In contrast, well made wooden toys can easily last a lifetime and can often be repaired if broken. Many wooden toys can even be sanded down and given a fresh coat of paint before being passed down to the next generation.
Because most wooden toys are simply decorated, they don’t scream “boy” or “girl” as loudly as garish pink and blue toys. This helps encourage children to play with a wide variety of toys without being tied down to traditional gender roles. Simple decorations also help wooden toys stay timeless so that they appeal to many generations.
Many parents find that wooden toys hold their appeal for much longer than plastic ones as they aren’t so obviously tied to a certain age group. Children can play with the same wooden dollhouse, kitchen or set of blocks for years before deciding that they are too babyish to play with.
Because of their universal appeal and durability, wooden toys can easily be resold, donated or stored away for the next generation without having to worry about them becoming out of date. This helps make the extra upfront cost negligible as wooden toys provide great long-term value for money.
Authors Jacob and Carol Maslow are the proud parents of five preteen children who have learned from experience that real toys don’t require batteries. Carol works as a therapist, specializing in integrating developmentally delayed preschoolers with their classmates. Jacob works at online retailer Today’s Concept, where parents can find the classic Melissa and Doug Toys.