While some people think that wooden toys are a little old-school compared to the high-flying, tech-savvy modern ones available today, wooden toys are actually far better than plastic ones for the environment, your child’s safety and your bank account.
And these are just three of the most basic reasons why wooden toys are better than plastic, as there’s a whole host of others – from making sure that toys are created under ethical working conditions to simply the aesthetic design of the toy itself.
This is precisely why over the last few years, wooden toys have made a comeback in a big way with the likes of John Lewis, Argos and The White Company being just some of the major retailers who have all hopped on board the wooden toy train.
So why are wooden toys better than plastic ones?
1. Safer for your child
When you’re buying a toy, whether it’s for your child or as a present for someone else’s, one of the first questions that probably comes to mind is, “Is this toy safe?”. Small parts that come away easily are a choking hazard and if the toy breaks for any reason, the sharp bits of plastic could cause injury.
Wooden toys on the other hand are well-made on the whole, rarely come with pieces that could easily be broken by a child and even adults would find them difficult to break.
This means that on the whole, they’re a much safer go-to for a child’s toy, especially if the little one is under five years old.
2. Better for the environment
In the UK, we produce around 5 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. While the majority of this comes from plastic bottles, broken and wasted plastic materials from other things like toys make up some of that percentage.
So why not reduce, reuse and recycle? Wooden toys are a great way to do your bit for the environment, without even having to do much at all.
By purchasing a wooden toy that’s sustainably sourced and made from certified wood, you’re playing a small part in reducing the amount of plastic waste. Many wooden toys can be bought second hand and sanitised, so you’re reusing materials, and then when the toy has had its day – often a few generations down the line – they can be recycled easily as they’re made from natural materials.
3. They last longer
Every toy gets a bit of a run around from children, as they fling them out of pushchairs and highchairs, cots and off the sofa, so it’s best to have a toy that can withstand a little bit of damage.
Plastic toys, even if they’re made from durable material, have the potential to shatter or if they have a mechanical element, to malfunction – just have a look at all the toys from the 90s that never made it! Whereas wooden toys can withstand children’s energetic playing, however it happens, as they’re quite simply made from stronger materials.
4. Enhances early education
While plastic toys might offer sound effects and flashing lights, studies show that wooden toys can actually improve children’s numerical, literary, spatial awareness and problem solving abilities.
This is because many wooden toys come in the form of puzzles and building blocks, where little ones have to build patterns or are encouraged to create something new.
Even just stacking blocks one on top of the other can help children to develop their motor skills as they begin to find out how gravity and other forces work against them. This is especially great for children that have just turned one and over.
5. Encourages creative play
Much like how wooden toys can help children develop their educational skills, they can also help them to fire up their creative thinking and playing habits more than with plastic toys.
Whether it’s a wooden horse and they’re imagining galloping through the forest, aka the back garden, or they’re playing architect extraordinaire with a range of colourful building blocks, simple wooden toys help to fire up kids’ imagination and get them thinking outside the box.
As plastic toys often come with sound effects and movements, wooden toys also help children to develop their own listening, verbal and other sensory skills as they create sounds to go with their playing.
After all, you only have to see how much fun a child can have with a wooden stick to see how whole new worlds can be created with just a small piece of wood.
6. Promotes teamwork skills
When little ones head off to school, they’ll have to engage in some teamwork at some point. Whether that’s playing sports in the playground or in a classroom activity, so it’s best to get them thinking about working with others from an early age.
Wooden toys help to promote teamwork abilities as other kids, as well as parents and carers, get involved in helping children to create their structural building block-masterpieces or fit the pieces into their puzzle.
From before the age of three, which is the age most wooden toys are suitable for, children can start to learn essential social skills that will help them throughout their life while playing and having fun.
7. Cheaper in the long run
That’s right! While they might be more expensive upfront, wooden toys end up actually being cheaper than plastic ones.
Wooden toys are durable and pretty much unbreakable if they’re made from good wood materials, so there’s no need to keep forking out on new ones like with plastic toys. They also don’t require any batteries or light bulbs, so you’ll definitely save money on those over the years.
Also, as much as they can be cheaper in the short term, plastic toys are also notoriously expensive, especially if it’s a sought-after or popular toy that’s just come out. Whereas wooden toys have been staples in toy boxes for centuries, meaning that some of them will actually be cheaper than the newest plastic toy at the check out too.
8. Easy to adapt as children get older
Everybody knows that kids grow out of toys almost as quickly as they grow out of school uniform, so it’s always good to be prepared for when you need to level up on the toy game.
As wooden toys can be stripped of colour, repainted and varnished without losing the quality or structure of the material, wooden toys can be adapted to suit the age and interests of the child.
Have they suddenly become obsessed with unicorns? It’s easy to adapt a child’s rocking horse to create their very own unicorn, with just a wooden horn and a lick of rainbow paint. Instead of buying a new toy altogether, you can adapt and reimagine the toys they already have.
The same goes for the classic wooden building blocks. Colourful blocks will help very little children begin to develop their imagination and creativity, but as they get older you could repaint the blocks for them to look like red bricks or concrete blocks, so your child can create their own real-life city in their bedroom.
9. They look better
Every family who has young children knows that the living room will be covered with toys almost 24/7 and some plastic ones can be a real eye-sore – let alone painful if you step on them by accident.
Wooden toys are famously nicer to have around because they’re better to look at and rarely come with uncomfortable edges.
With their aesthetically pleasing designs and colour palettes, you’re less likely to notice wooden toys in your home while your child still gets to run around and play as much as they like.