When my grandson was first born, he got a lot of plastic toys as gifts. They were bright and colorful, made noises and blinked lights. I thought they were terrific until the sound of one more electronic voice chirping in my ear started to drive me crazy when I watched the baby. I also realized when I really examined them, that they did everything for my grandson. They sang, they counted, they beeped. Where was imagination, or quiet play with these toys? My kids had a lot of wooden toys when they were little and I started to research wooden toys today.
I found a whole new world. There are a lot of mothers and grandparents who are totally against plastic toys and will only allow wooden toys around their children. I also learned that not all wooden toys are created equal. Here is a summary of what I found.
- Wooden toys are simple and classic and appeal to the imagination
- Plastic toys are cheaper but don’t last as long
- Wooden toys are made of organic material and dyed with natural dyes most of the time
- Unfinished wooden toys are the safest unless you know what they have used to finish them.
- Milk paints and non toxic dyes are ok for painted wooden toys
That’s the good news. The bad news is that not all wooden toys are really wood. Some are made with MDF which can be toxic. MDF is Medium Density Fiberboard which is particles of wood put together with formaldehyde glue. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen and is definitely not safe for a baby to be around. Look for pieces of wood glued together at edges of toys to determine if this is a problem MDF is usually used in bigger items like play kitchens. Even though a child won’t be chewing the back of a play kitchen, formaldehyde is not safe to have in your home.
Some wooden toys are made from plywood and some plywoods are ok for toys. Baltic Birch plywood is made from solid birch veneer, cross-banded, and laminated with exterior grade adhesive. Exterior grade adhesive is less toxic than interior grade. You can recognize plywood at the edge of toys if you see layers of wood.
The finishes on wood are equally important. Look for unfinished wood, non-toxic clear finishes (beeswax or food-grade oils are best), or solvent-free, water-based paints. Opt for solid wood over engineered wood when you can (as less glue is required), and look specifically for non-toxic (non-formaldehyde-based) glues.
Look for toys that have an American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) label. This means that the toy meets US safety standards and it isn’t likely to contain anything toxic.
Some of the top wood toy manufacturers are :
- Camden Rose produces toys that are made out of only all-natural materials, including wood, silk, wool and cotton, and are all certified non-toxic. Their wooden toys are minimalist, naturally colored, and derived from high quality woods such as cherry, maple and walnut. They are produced in the US and Peru, where they support two fair trade, non-profit organizations.
- Hape: Their wood and bamboo toys feature clean, colorful design and are produced using renewable materials. They are manufactured in China.
- Haba: They use primarily maple and beech woods derived from sustainable forestry; their wooden toys are colored with non-toxic, water-based paints; and they hold several safety certifications. Most of the wooden toys are made in Germany.
- Janod: This French company offers classic wooden toys and games that are premium quality and feature modern, distinctively French design. Their products are designed in France, and primarily manufactured in China and Romania.
- Maple Landmark: produces a wide range of wooden toys, including their very popular name trains, in a range of finishes. Their products are made in Vermont.
- Plan Toys uses recycled, organic rubberwood trees, formaldehyde free glue and water based dyes and inks for its toys. Their toys are made in Thailand.
- There are also a number of wonderful shops featuring handmade wooden toys on Etsy, including these favorites:
Some of my grandson’s favorite toys are:
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