Plastic toys can be awesome. But many modern parents are seeking out wooden toys, which tend to be more thoughtfully made, with fewer materials and better design. The real benefit of wooden toys is that they do that thing that plastic toys — with their lights and sounds and fart noises — do not: They encourage kids to fill in the gaps by using their own imaginations. While open-ended imaginative play can sound like a meaningless buzzword, wooden toy blocks or wooden animal toys can encourage kids to make up their own stories and use their imagination really do encourage more learning.
Wooden toys also tend to feel more personal than their plastic counterparts. In a world filled with plastic — some 33 million tons dumped just in 2014, according to the Environmental Protection Agency — wooden toy for kids feel novel, old-fashioned, and more eco-friendly. But don’t be fooled by their Instagram aesthetic and popularity, wooden toys are generally no more sustainable than their plastic counterparts. Unless those wooden toy blocks are hand-carved, unpainted driftwood that originated in your backyard instead of being shipped transcontinentally, your wooden block will have an environmental impact (and while, yes, it will biodegrade, thanks to the poor construction of your landfill, it will take decades to do so).
So, you might not lighten your carbon footprint with these wooden toys, but you’ll appreciate their more subdued aesthetic, and encourage your kid to use their imagination. Here are some of the best wooden toys for babies, toddlers, and kids.
The Best Wooden Toy Blocks
These next-level wood blocks encourage exploration and discovery, all good things that all parents want.
Your budding engineer or architect will dig this 14-piece set of magnetic wooden blocks. Open-ended play? Here you go.
Blocks that teach geography and musical appreciation? Score. You get 50 blocks. One side of the block shows an image of an embossed record, while the other side shows the name of the state. When they're finished, kids can put it together as a puzzle. Win win.
The goal here is simple: Stack the wood blocks and balance them as long as possible. Kids build their own post-modern wooden masterpieces by stacking these blocks, thus also working on their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
When kids stack and balance wood blocks to build cities, forts, or mythical creatures, they develop their coordination and motor skills. And because this set includes 100 pieces, it's great for multiple kids to use together.
The Best Wooden Baby Toys
The perfect wood toy for the aspiring musician. Toddlers can pound this gorgeous wooden bench or pull out the keyboard and xylophone and play a solo. Regardless, this wooden toy helps babies 12 months and older with their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Maybe even musical appreciation, too.
This sweet baby toy has beads that move around, and encourages babies to work on their reaching and clutching skills.
Because the wood pieces are threaded through an elastic, babies can bend, move, and grab them.
One ball is full of three smaller balls that rattle. Another one has a mirror inside. And the third has soft padding. Kids learn about sounds and textures while they play.
This adorable set will help develop baby's fine motor skills as they push and pull the pair back and forth.
This beautiful sensory toy helps babies develop fine motor skills.
The Best Wooden Toys for Toddlers
Whimsical, colorful, and vibrant, these wood grasping toys have smooth edges and lots of very cool details. Kids can spin the lion's mane, bend the giraffe, and watch the zebra's belly wobble. It's a sensory feast.
Babies can push this elephant around, sure, but toddlers and beginner walkers pull the cord and take the pachyderm for a walk.
This portable stable slash barn is great for the animal lover on the go. While technically a stable, this fully assembled wooden playhouse is as great for horses as it is for pigs, sheep, and other farm critters. There are bars over the windows, holes over the stalls, and a hayloft.
One of the coolest tool kits on the block. Kids love to play with real world toys, which help them make sense of the adult world around them. And they love to bang on stuff. Combine the two with these dope tool kit.
Get your little chef properly prepped with this wooden pasta set. It will hold pride of place in any play kitchen.
From a walker to a wagon to a DIY baby carriage, this is several toys in one. Kids will love this because there are just so many things you can do with it (which means fewer things for parents to buy and replace). The clean design is the perfect blank slate for imagining new ways to play.
The Best Wooden Toy Cars
Fine, so technically this is a plane but it has wheels and it teaches kids about motion, so there you have it. And the wings move up and down.
A (mostly) wood car that's also a showpiece of design. The seven-inch long car has real tires, ABS plastic rims, and metal axles that give its wooden body extra oomph. By playing with toy cars, kids exercise gross and fine motor skills by, simply, moving them around.
This wooden toy car is sturdy enough for little hands to wheel it around. This wooden toy car is made from beechwood and has articulated doors and hatches. It's made from one solid block of wood, so it's durable and hardy.
The aesthetically pleasing alternative to Hot Wheels, this pre-assembled race track will encourage hand-eye coordination and open-ended play. You could even argue it introduces kids to concepts like gravity and inertia if you want to go there.
The Best Wooden Dollhouse
Pretend play is crucial to helping kids learn to solve problems. Plus, pretending to be someone else sparks their imagination. This dollhouse is four feet tall and has three levels. It has a wheeled base for easy mobility, plus two moveable staircases that can be clipped onto any floor.
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