Toymakers have used wood to construct toys throughout history. Though less common today, children's toys made of wood include rocking horses, puzzles, doll houses and spinning tops. Dolls and moving toy vehicles were also once commonly made from wood.
There is a long history of wood used in children's toys. Wooden toys have been found that date back as far as 1100 B.C. Archaeologists have found dolls, chariots and model horses, and even a crocodile with moving jaws from this period. Wooden dolls have been found dating from the time of the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. Mass production of wooden toys began in the 1500s in Germany, with travelling salesmen employed to sell the toymakers' wares.
Types of Wooden Toys
Russian dolls, train sets, toy planes and nutcrackers are all toys frequently made from wood. While wooden dolls are not popular in the current age, doll houses are still a popular item for little girls. While plastic versions are available on the market, a wooden version provides the most realism while also being the more durable of the two. Rocking horses and jigsaw puzzles are still often made from wood. While jigsaws are more often cardboard-based, wooden puzzles are more suitable for smaller children as they are more easily held and can withstand damage.
Educational and Entertaining Wooden Toys
The wooden toy has a place in education as well as in fun. Jigsaw puzzles, abacuses and art easels are commonly made from wood and are more hard-wearing than their counterparts made of other materials. Wooden musical instruments are useful in education, and items like maracas, castanets and drums are popular with children. The wooden puppet has also long been used to educate and delight children. Marionette dolls can be used to put on plays for the education and entertainment of children.
Advantages of Wooden Toys
Wooden toys have advantages over toys made of plastic or other materials. The thickness of the wood means that wooden toys are less likely to snap or break like plastic, and they withstand being dropped or knocked better than other toys. The longevity of wooden toys means that they can be kept for generations and become long-lasting heirlooms. Wooden toys are also better for the environment. They can be crafted on discarded wood or from wood from managed forests. The production of wooden toys creates less pollution than the production of other toys.
Ideas for Crafting Wooden Toys
If you are skilled in woodwork, there is no end to the number of toys that you can craft from wood, from the tiny to the huge. Designs are available and relatively cheap on the Internet, or for free from most libraries. Starting small may mean crafting a doll's crib or whittling a figurine. Alternatively, tree houses and wooden play areas are popular larger items that children will enjoy.