You want the best for your babies.
The best nutrition through a well-balanced diet. The best education for their brain to grow and learn. The best tools for their development.
And yes, the best toys.
You want toys that inspire creativity and challenge their thinking. Toys that transport them to far-off lands, and ones that encourage them to solve problems. Toys that light up their brain instead of just lighting up in their hands.
Why are wooden toys better for your child?
Wooden toys boast many advantages over plastic toys. Wooden toys lack the chemicals used in plastic toy production that can carry into the final product, making wooden toys a safer choice for your family.
Wooden toys also encourage more open-ended play. Open-ended play grows your child’s imagination and allows them to explore their varied interests. There are endless ways these toys can be used, and it’s amazing to watch what your child creates!
Wooden toys are also more sustainable. Rough and tumble play is no match for wooden toys. These toys can last for years and years instead of heading to the landfill after a couple of months.
And because they’re not easily broken, they can be passed from one child to the next, and even from one generation to the next. Beautiful wooden toys can become cherished family heirlooms carried through the family for years.
So in a sea of options, what are the best wooden toys for your toddler or preschooler?
The 7 best wooden toys for play and learning
If you’re looking to build your child’s gross motor skills, coordination, and imagination, try an indoor climber. Your child’s muscles will grow as they climb up one side, balancing and turning before heading back down the other way.
You or your child can use blankets or a cover to transform an indoor climber into a tent, fort, or hideout. Their imagination can run wild as they play with this versatile piece of play furniture in a new way every day.
Add even more play possibilities to an indoor climber with a ramp or slide! No longer is your child just climbing, they are sliding — wheeeee! Many options for ramps and slides are reversible so you get both options at once, saving space while increasing the fun.
A rocker is another versatile play structure your child can use from age one to twelve. Before they’re even walking, they can climb in and comfortably rock. And as they grow, the rocker can be flipped over to become another climbing challenge.
Your child can pretend that their rocker is a bridge or a tunnel. They can wiggle themselves under it or race cars through it. It can be a hidden cavern in the mountains or a cozy spot for a movie. The possibilities are endless.
Psst, those ramps mentioned above also make great bridges between an indoor climber and a rocker!
“I want to help!”
We’ve all heard that from our toddlers. Even though their version of helping may mean spilling flour or accidentally spilling a cup of water, this ‘help’ is growing their skills.
As they work through tasks with you, their little brains are learning so many things — from how things look mixing dry and wet ingredients to how much flour equals half a cup.
Little hands helping in the kitchen is made much easier with the addition of a learning tower. With this safer option, you no longer have to worry that they’re going to topple off the step stool. And when cooking time is over, the tower can be moved to the playroom and used as a castle or a climber.
Loose parts for open-ended play
Open-ended play is touted by many child experts as the most important kind of play. This style of play nurtures a child’s imagination and creativity. And wooden toys are the best for open-ended play because they can be used in so many ways.
Wooden peg people are great pieces for open-ended play. These figures can be painted to resemble a variety of people, promoting diversity. Or leave them unpainted and watch them transform from firefighter to princess (or maybe a firefighting princess)!
Wooden animal figures are another wonderful option for open-ended play. These pieces can be farm animals, forest animals, or sea creatures. Choose whatever your child loves! Then watch them go on adventures with their favorite animals, from fish looking for lunar lakes to dinosaurs stomping through ancient forests.
Vehicles, like trains or cars, are another favorite for open-ended play. Without ever realizing it, your child will be learning physics concepts like momentum and acceleration as they race their cars side-by-side. They’ll discover textures and friction as they chug their trains across different surfaces, from the kitchen floor to the living room carpet.
Wooden puzzles are fantastic tools for teaching children about spatial awareness and matching. Most early puzzles have pictures on the board behind where the pieces go. Even before your child has the fine motor skills to maneuver the pieces in the right position, they’ll be learning to match the piece to the picture.
For younger toddlers, look for puzzles with large knobs for grasping. As they master those and develop their pincer grasp, offer them smaller knob puzzles. Your child will have to work their little fingers to grasp the small knobs, building their fine motor muscles. And they’ll use these same skills later on for writing and drawing.
Once your child is in preschool, start working on more classic puzzles. Start with basic puzzles that have large pieces. A 24 piece, large floor puzzle is great for early puzzle practice. As these become easier go up in the number of pieces or try a puzzle with smaller pieces. The more they practice, the better their problem-solving skills will become.
One, two, three..uh-oh it fell!
Learning how to stack and then watching towers fall creates another fun and early exposure to physics. Your child’s brain is whirring as they begin to understand how they can stack a tower high with square blocks but not with triangles.
And why is my tower leaning? What happens if I put this last block on really fast? They are experimenting and learning so many important concepts through play.
Most of our minds go to building blocks when we think of building a tower with our child. But blocks aren’t the only options.
Arches open up a whole new way to stack. And many of these arched wooden toys look like rainbows, presenting another learning opportunity — discovering colors and the order of the rainbow.
Shape sorters help your child practice many of the same skills as puzzles, but with a three dimensional twist. Your child will develop their fine motor skills as they learn to grasp the pieces in the right way. Then they have to twist and turn them to fit in the correct hole.
Playing with these 3D shapes can also help you teach rote counting. Count the numbers of sides on each piece together as you name the shapes. Your child can also learn which shapes are stackable and which roll.
Wooden toys create simple learning moments
Toys in the hands of a child become learning tools. They foster your child’s development while teaching them about abstract concepts. And toys can help them develop their motor skills and their understanding of the world.
Give your child the best start possible by providing toys that promote learning and open-ended play. Then watch the learning happen naturally. When you give your child the right toys and plenty of time to play, you help them create connections that will last a lifetime.