Are there really any good reasons for parents to make the effort to find high quality wooden educational toys for their children to play with when plastic toys are so easy to find and affordable? Can relatively simple toys really hold a candle to sophisticated, brightly colored toys that can sing, dance, teach Spanish and perform elaborate stunts? For many parents and educators of young children the answer is a resounding yes.
One of the primary advantages that wooden toys have is that in general, they require the child to use their own imagination and muscle power to play. Instead of watching the toy perform, the child uses their own creativity to come up with story lines and exercises their fine motor skills and coordination to make the toy move.
While children can and do use their plastic toys in creative and novel ways, more often they are content to watch. Well meaning parents and caregivers can exacerbate the problem by “helpfully” encouraging the child to play with the toy in the “right way” to cause it to perform in the manner prescribed by the manufacturer.
This openness makes wooden toys very versatile and allows them to be played by many children in a number of different ways. A simple wooden cook set or doll house can be passed on from sibling to sibling without worrying that it is dated or obsolete. While plastic is a generally a very durable material, the dyes and stickers used in many plastic toys can quickly become faded or torn. Cared for properly, wooden toys are just as durable and can be sanded down and refinished or repainted to look like new. This makes them environmentally friendly and can more than make up for the slightly higher upfront cost.
Many parents are also very attracted to the timeless look and feel of classic wooden toys. Most have relatively simple designs which allow the child to fill in the details using their own imagination. Few wooden toys are based on popular characters from cartoons or videos games which keeps them from being dated.
It’s harder and harder to find plastic toys that aren’t clearly designed to be masculine or feminine. Simple wooden play kitchens, train sets, puppet theaters or doll houses don’t scream out boy or girl with pink or blue color schemes. This makes it much easier for children to play with what suits them instead of worrying about if it’s a girl toy or boy toy.
Toys without batteries and electric components are much easier and cheaper to maintain. Classic wooden puzzles, alphabet sets, slates and bead sets are just as educational as electronic toys without requiring expensive and environmentally unfriendly batteries. Children also get the added benefit of having to exercise their fine motor skills and hand eye coordination with these traditional educational toys instead of just pressing buttons.
Plastic toys can have their place in your child’s toy box; however it’s a good idea to evaluate toys for durability, creative play value and educational value before purchasing. Keeping these things in mind, most parents will find that the scales tip towards wooden toys more often than not!
Jacob Maslow prefers buying classic wooden toys for his five wonderful children. He worked for Today’s Concept prior to making Aliyah but much to his children’s disappointment no longer gets any discounts or freebies.