Wood toys

Wood toys

It didn’t take long for me to decide that I seriously disliked modern children’s toys. They were all made with cheap plastic, most were battery operated, they were loud and obnoxious and seemed to leave little to the imagination, and they broke easily. What happened to good old toys that were simple and required creativity and effort from the child for the most enjoyment? Now all my son had to do was sit there and push a button and he could be endlessly entertained. I was getting tired of buying so many batteries and replacing them so frequently. And I was getting tired of all the noise! The final straw for me was when I learned that many of the plastics these toys were made of contained chemicals that I didn’t think belonged anywhere near children (see Dangers of Plastics post).

Since then, I have fallen in love with natural, wood toys. I enjoy watching my child’s imagination at work. I like hearing him make the siren noise. I like the classic look and feel of the toys. The heirloom quality makes me want to keep them for future generations, rather than unload them in a few years at a garage sale, or even worse, throw them away because they have broken. We absolutely still have many non-wood toys in our house. They have their place; they certainly are more affordable. My son adores his battery-operated microwave, coffee-maker, and vacuum. But we tend to lean towards simpler toys when we can, especially in light of all the lead scares. Now that we’re expecting a second son in less than two months, the plastic baby toys have all been replaced with wood ones (none of which were made in China).

There are may great companies that produce quality wood toys. Many of these toys come from European makers, such as Haba, Selecta, Djeco, etc. But one of the toy companies I like best is called Plan Toys. The company began in 1981 and has been making natural wood toys ever since. The wood they use comes from Rubberwood trees in Thailand. After 25 years, these trees cease to produce natural latex, at which point they become practically useless to the farmer. Plan Toys then takes these non-latex producing trees and uses their wood to make toys. The wood is kiln-dried to prevent bacterial and pest growth and thus is naturally preservative free. It is then colored with non-toxic paints and finishes. And all the paper used in their packaging is recycled and made without polyvinyl chloride (PVC, or plastic #3).

All of this is nice, but it really doesn’t mean much if the toys are fantastic themselves. Well, in my opinion, they are! The company has four lines of toys–PlanPreschool (blocks, instruments, push and pull toys, baby toys), PlanActivity (play kitchens and supplies, games, vehicles), PlanDollhouse (houses, furniture, and dolls), and PlanCity (everything you need to build a real city–roads, vehicles, trees, lights, and buildings). We have purchased many of their products and are very happy with them.

If you’re interested in buying natural, wood toys, the best place is online. Several websites feature battery-less European wood and cloth toys exclusively. My personal favorite is Oompa, but there is also Moolka and Maukilo. It’s been a bit more challenging to find Plan Toys online, but you can look at what Plan Toys has to offer on their site, and then search for distributors of the specific toy you want. MyToyBox has a good selection of PlanCity toys with quick, cheap shipping.

Just a quick tip–if you’re interested in buying some wood toys, Oompa is having a sale through Oct 31, 2007 with the coupon code 2007FALL. It will get you 10% off a purchase of $25 or more, and any order over $65 ships for free.

Sites worth visiting: