Toys have been an important part of childhood since early civilization and while children today are much different than those thousands of years ago, many of their favorite toys are similar to those that have been around for centuries. As long ago as the ancient Greek and Roman empires, children are known to have played with dolls, horses, and chariots. The earliest toys discovered by archaeologists were all made of wood.
Wooden toys continued to be a common part of childhood for thousands of years. By the 1700’s, German toymakers began to craft a variety of toys from wood to sell to the general public. Salesmen would travel around Europe to market the popular wooden toys, taking advance orders for special occasions and often for custom made wooden toys. Almost life-like dolls and animals were becoming favorite playthings for children all over Europe.
Over the next century, toymakers became more elaborate and detailed with their wooden creations. Wooden miniatures like dollhouses and theaters became popular during the 19th century, as well as wooden toy soldiers. Many wooden toys, like the classic Jack in a box, were hand painted with bright, vivid colors. Wooden trains, along with their wooden tracks, were one of the best selling toys during this time period.
By the end of World War II, a number of new materials had been introduced to the manufacturing industry including still popular plastic. The production of wooden toys steadily declined as more and more toymakers opted for cheaper and more modern materials. Plastic toys were much easier for mass production and were more affordable to families with children.
Today, wooden toys are rarely seen on the shelves of traditional toy stores but the charm and appeal of these childhood classics has kept a number of wooden toy manufacturers in business. A variety of wooden toys can be purchased online, from miniature appliances to small novelty gifts and games.
Wooden toys are typically simple playthings that encourage a child to use their imaginations. Wooden puzzles encourage children to develop cognitively as well as develop fine motor skills. Wooden ride-on toys and pedal cars enhance physical skills and gross motor development. Whether it is a fire station or a farmhouse, miniature wooden play sets aid in social and emotional development. Wooden toys hold great educational value because of their simplicity.
Plastic toys are still generally less expensive than wooden toys and are considered safer by some because of the flammability of older wooden toys and possible injuries from thrown or falling wooden objects, but wooden toys do not contain toxic PVC like plastic toys do. Wooden toys are the most durable toys and can usually last through generations of play.
Today’s wooden toys are just as innovative, if not more so, than modern, electronic toys. Cars, trucks, and wooden wind-ups make wonderful gifts and wooden pull along toys delight toddlers. Quiet games like chess and checkers, and even tic-tac-toe can be found made of wood, as well as physical games like ring toss. For toys that provide educational benefits and last for decades, choose the toys that have been tested by time, wooden toys.