Children love wooden toys as much today as they ever have. There’s something about polished wood that appeals to everyone, whether it’s the colour, the pattern or the feel. Wood is a very tactile substance and blocks make a pleasing KLONK sound when banged together. Many wooden toys show the abstract of the subject they represent — people don’t seem to get the appreciation for fine details until later in life. A wooden toy that’s the essence of a locomotive without all those fine details allows a child to use his or her imagination in their playtime. A virtual world offers nothing tangible — it’s simply a pleasure to touch and hold a wooden block.
Wooden toys are both contemporary and classic. We’ve seen both rocket ships and horse carts in wood and children enjoy both. Wooden blocks inspire a child to experiment and build. In the process of playing with blocks, children improve their hand/eye coordination, develop finer motor skills and build strength in their hands and fingers. There’s more shapes to wooden blocks than cubes — a full set of geometrical shapes helps a child learn the names of a whole range of geometry. And blocks in color help a child learn the spectrum and see how even they can build beautiful designs with just a few simple objects.
Children learn to count with blocks and math skills blossom when it’s time to gather blocks together and figure out how many are need to build a wall that will keep out that plush dragon. Children learn science as they begin to understand how balance and gravity can affect their creations.
Playing with wooden blocks can be a social activity, especially when there are hundreds of blocks, plenty of space and many minds coming together to build an imposing construction project. Every child loves building a castle and when a dozen playmates come together, the result can be quite stupendous. Working together on a common goal teaches children not only teamwork and cooperation, but also the ways in which creativity can become a group effort.
Besides blocks, wooden toys include such wonderful things as rings and stackers, peg and ball games, and pull-along versions of grown-up vehicles. That brings us to wooden toy trains. Both the trains and the tracks are wood, and there’s such a pleasing sound as the wheels roll along with the little wheels fitting into the little grooves of the track. Trains can be realistically painted or simply a silhouette that trundles along. The most famous wooden train set in England is, of course, Thomas the Tank Engine, constructed into an innumerable variety of sets by the Swedish toymaker BRIO.
Puzzles of all sorts are also made of wood. The joy of solving the puzzle is enhanced by the tactile feel of moving the wooden parts this way and that. Did you know that the LEGO corporation, known for those interlocking plastic blocks, began in 1932 as a woodworking shop that made wooden toys for children, such as cars, pull toys, piggy banks, trucks and yo-yos?
Let’s not forget the ultimate wooden toy: the yo-yo. It’s such a simple toy, yet a skilled artist can do wonders with it. Every child loves learning how to use a yo-yo and how to do all those amazing tricks with only a spinning wheel on a string.
Wooden toys give us a link to our far-distant past when wood was all we had. Take a step away from the virtual world and immerse yourself and your child in the very real world of wooden toys.