The Complete Guide To Wooden Toys For Children
The Montessori approach to educating a child focuses on independence and curiosity. Toys play an essential role in encouraging these principles and overall child development. Most Montessori toys are open-ended, made of basic shapes, and almost always constructed of wood.
Avenlur is proud to provide a wide variety of quality wooden toys. Whether you’re looking for the perfect set of wooden play food to large wooden numbers, we have exactly what you need. Read on to learn the benefits of wooden toys for children.
What are wooden Montessori toys?
Montessori toys are designed with specific intent. They’re created to help a child with many things, including cognitive development, hand-eye coordination, creative thinking, and fine motor skills.
Unlike generic toys sold in big box stores, wooden Montessori toys are simple in design with no sharp edges. Yes, they’re made of wood (but not always), but they usually don’t have the bells and whistles (sometimes literally and figuratively) of conventional toys.
Why do Montessori educators use wooden toys?
It’s important to distinguish that not all wooden toys are Montessori and vice versa.
When you look at a Montessori classroom, its selection of toys or materials (as they’re known) is different than a traditional daycare or public school classroom. Montessori considers the children’s perspective. They don’t want them overwhelmed when walking into a room with many colorful and noisy toys throughout a play area.
Quality wooden toys are more tranquil in design and function than plastic or metal counterparts. In turn, this calms a child and allows them ample time to think creatively and problem-solve. That’s why the simplicity of natural wooden toys is so popular with Montessori schools.
Children naturally tend to play with the toy they pick for much more extended periods and can stay focused.
The Montessori classroom encourages children to a tremendous level of autonomy, and quality wooden toys allow this to happen. Wooden toys are made of durable materials and foster skill mastery, unlike plastic ones. In the Montessori setting, open-ended play is not permitted but encouraged, and wooden toys are ideal.
Why are wooden toys better than plastic toys?
First and foremost, wooden toys for kids are made from a renewable resource - trees. Over the past 70 years, plastic, especially in toys, has gained enormous popularity because it’s cheap to produce, making them highly affordable. However, plastic toys require fossil fuels to be created, which is extremely harmful to the environment.
Plastic toys are made of BHT, which contains formaldehyde and phthalates. Additionally, after the toy has been scrapped, they contribute an even more significant amount of toxic fumes to the environment as they incinerate after use.
Montessori educators prefer toys made of wood and similar natural materials because they’re organic, naturally antibacterial, and free of harmful chemicals. The dyes and paints used for wooden materials, including Avenlur’s wooden toys, are 100% natural. When a wood toy reaches the end of its life, it does not need to be incinerated like plastic.
What are the benefits of wooden toys for kids?
Wooden toys have tremendous benefits for children. Apart from being aesthetically attractive, they reinforce many Montessori-based values and principles.
1. They encourage sensory development.
Unlike many plastic toys, which are often unrealistically dense or hollowed-out versions of an item’s actual design, wooden toys are different. Toys made of natural materials such as wood provide an organic experience by touching and sensing the object's shape, surface, volume, and weight. Discovering the world through touch allows children to become skilled at recognizing crucial attributes of the world around them, including rough, rigid or soft, hot or cold, and rough or sticky. Unlike plastic, wood can be heated and remain warm; it also has a natural smell. This is particularly important for younger kids, who typically explore toys by smelling and putting items in their mouths. Therefore, toddlers playing with wooden blocks can enjoy a genuinely organic experience by delighting their senses and mind.
2. Wooden toys promote language development.
Sensory play is one of the most effective ways for kids to learn about the world around them. This activity supports language development and encourages them to communicate with their friends while playing. When you couple sensory play with the minimalistic wooden toys used in Montessori classrooms, the result is children who can express new ideas and their emotions more freely.
3. They help with cognitive growth.
Toys of sustainable wood can support a child’s cognitive development, reasoning skills, thought process, and logic. When a kid grabs, balances, stacks, lifts, combines, or separates wooden building blocks, they are developing an understanding of the physical attributes of an object’s dynamics, volume, and geometry. They’re also able to draw logical conclusions based on these activities.
4. Toys made of durable materials are safer.
Parents always look for safe toys to play with that are free from harmful materials and substances. Toys not made of natural materials are often coated in toxic chemicals.
Wooden toys are made of durable materials. They usually don’t come with small pieces that might easily be broken and swallowed by a child. Wood toys are so durable that they can last for years, passed from generation to generation.
5. Toys made of wood are better for the environment.
In 2021, Americans generated 40 million tons of plastic waste. Yes, most of that comes from plastic bottles and packaging, but a portion is plastic toys. Why not invest in toys for toddlers made of sustainable materials such as wood? They are an excellent way to help the environment by not adding to the considerable amount of plastic that goes into our landfills annually.
Many wood toys can be purchased second-hand too. From wooden beads to wooden building blocks, all you have to do is sanitize them with warm water and soap. Then when your child has outgrown it, this biodegradable material can be recycled or donated.
6. Quality wooden toys reduce anxiety.
Whether it’s wooden beads or a wooden balance board, research indicates that a toy made of sustainable wood is both soothing and appealing to a kid’s sense of touch. It also fosters a more tranquil and favorable quality of play. Children slow down and explore the possibilities and quality of play. Metal and plastic toys have been shown to overstimulate, stress, and often tire the child. This is compared to wood toys' smooth lines, minimalistic appearance, and non-intrusive nature.
7. These toys promote teamwork skills.
As your child reaches preschool age, they’ll soon be heading off into an environment where teamwork and cooperation will be expected of them. Whether they’re working on an art project together or playing sports, for many children learning about teamwork can be quite the learning process.
Wooden toys can promote teamwork abilities in children. For example, working on a wooden puzzle at home can illustrate to your kids the importance of asking for help when they get stuck. Or it can show them how much quicker it is to assemble one when more than one person is working on it. By working together, children will learn crucial social skills that will help them throughout their lives, all while playing and making new friends.
What should I look for when buying wooden toys?
First and foremost, does the wooden toy have a safety and quality seal? All of Avenlur’s toys, including its wooden ones, are certified by ASTM (American Society for Testing Materials and CPSIA). This means they are rigorously tested according to standardized toy functionality and certified safe to use.
Secondly, when selecting toys for kids, they should be suitable. Not only does it need to be the right proportions (i.e., height, width, depth), but it needs to be age-appropriate. Wooden toys made of smaller parts aren’t age appropriate for a child under one year who puts everything in their mouth. If you purchase a wooden balance beam with stepping stones, but your little one is still crawling, perhaps you need to find something more age-appropriate.
Thirdly, ask yourself, will this toy be of interest to them? If your child is a massive toy car fan and you buy them a dollhouse, you should reconsider your purchase. You know your child best. If you think it’s a purchase they may grow into at some point, you can buy it now, store it, and present it later. You know your child best.
Fourthly, has the wooden toy been well-reviewed? It may be the hottest wooden item on the current toy market, but if parents complain about broken parts or paint peeling, you may want to reconsider your purchase. Additionally, don’t forget to review the toy manufacturer’s warranty and return policy if anything goes awry with the item.
Wooden Toys for Children and Avenlur
With so many choices of available toys, wooden or otherwise, currently on the market, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. Take your time when researching and making purchases. At Avenlur, we’re here to answer questions about our wooden toy inventory and its advantages over plastic ones. What are you waiting for?