Classic, beautiful and inspiring, wooden toys are a staple for a reason! The simplicity of their design allows a child’s imagination to engage in imaginative and open-ended play, which can enhance their critical thinking skills. They provide a sensory experience for little ones and peace of mind to parents looking for a safe, eco-friendly, non-toxic option. These simple, time-honored toys provide loads of fun! Here are a few of our favorites.
A classic option designed for children from 9 to 12 months of age and up (depending on each child’s ability), this toy is fantastic for encouraging little ones to develop their walking skills, be active and explore their environment.
This is a Montessori / RIE friendly triangular climbing frame invented by Hungarian Pediatrician, Emmi Pikler. Exceptionally simple in its design, it was originally recommended for children 10 months and up, many manufacturers create varying sizes so children can continue play with this through 6 years of age in some cases. (Fun tip—many toy manufacturers specially design Pikler Triangles to be combined with other types of wooden climbing structures and even detachable wooden slides to create an indoor play set!)
Ask any experienced nanny, and they’ll tell you that wooden train sets are an absolutely cherished classic. This toy is fantastic, because the tracks can be arranged in so many different ways that play can almost seem endless! It’s also great for encouraging problem solving, developing spatial awareness, imagination, hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills. Toy trains can be enjoyed by children 2 years and up.
Simply put, this is a glorified, extra safe stepstool. It’s a great option for those who are excited to start safely incorporating little ones in the kitchen. Encouraging confidence and independence, learning towers are tons of fun. Primarily used by children 2 to 6 years of age, it can also be used as a climbing structure (some can be combined with Pikler Triangles to make a play set), and some learning towers have chalk boards attached.
Stacking Rings/Rainbow Arch
A perfect toy for children 3 months and up, stacking rings and rainbow arches provide a broader education than you might expect. Attractive, colorful and easy to grasp, they can support teaching colors, comparing size, and coordination.
In addition to being a whimsical statement piece in a child’s playroom, rocking horses actually develop gross motor skills in babies and toddlers. It’s also a great way to get out excess energy before engaging a child in a more focused task. Depending on the child (and the size of the rocking horse) it can be used by children from 1 to 6 years of age.
Have you ever noticed how children hop from brick to brick? “Stepping stones” are a fun way to harness that natural inclination of hopping from one spot to the next and developing gross motor skills along the way. You can build an obstacle course, make it interesting, and get those little ones up and exploring with this simple, fun little toy.
Not to be confused with a balance beam for gymnastics, this is a simpler version meant to be used for toddlers. Low to the ground and often adjustable in terms of the way it can be arranged, it pairs nicely with wooden stepping stones! Similarly, it develops gross motor skills and more specifically, it develops agility, confidence and of course, balance.
Another Montessori-inspired toy, the rocker arch is great because it is accessible at the child’s level, suitable for children 6 months to 7 years old. It encourages children to follow their natural rhythms. It can also be a really cozy nook when paired with a pillow. Many rocker arch manufacturers sell specially designed pillows to match.
Ideal for children from 3 to 6 years of age, storytelling through puppetry has a lot of benefits for children from developing language skills, empathy and establishing social norms to encouraging listening skills. Plus, they come in varied sizes, adaptable to any NYC apartment from portable finger puppet theaters to large playhouse-sized stands complete with storage and a backstage area.
One of the great things about wooden toys is that they’re pretty durable. When you’re done with them, consider donating them to another family, a local preschool or even back to the manufacturer so they can clean and rehome them. Maybe even keep them for the next generation.
While you’re making the investment in toys that will withstand the test of time, consider also investing in an open shelf or storage area for the toys that is on the child’s level. It’s a great way to nurture independence in little ones as they’ll naturally be more inclined to engage with toys if they are at eye level and have access to them independently.
Choosing wooden toys is a little thing we can do to provide children with a safe and timeless way to play and learn. It may also be helpful to note that some wood toy manufacturers have a UL Greenguard Gold Certification which is a standard that regulates low VOCs. Promoting imagination, problem-solving, spatial awareness and more, investing in wooden toys is a great way to set your little ones up for success.