5 Amazing Advantages of Wooden Toys over Plastic Toys
Updated: Jan 9
I absolutely adore wooden toys! My baby girl maybe has a little bit too much of them but there are just so many benefits of wooden toys over plastic toys. Not only when it comes to resources used, but also about durability and safety. Here I have listed several advantages of wooden toys over plastic toys.
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In my opinion, the biggest advantage of wooden toys is that they are made from a renewable resource while plastic toys are not. Over the past 50 years, plastic is gaining popularity due to its cheap production process making them very affordable. However, the big downside of plastic is that it requires fossil fuels for production. Not only is the production process of plastic toys very harmful for the environment, but also after the lifespan of the toy, but they also contribute even more toxic fumes to the environment as they will in incinerated after use.
Plastic toys are made from standard issued BHT and may contain phthalates and formaldehyde. The paint used on plastic toys is toxic for your health and, in general, not very environmentally friendly. Phthalates are chemicals present in plastic toys which are added to make PVC soft and flexible. Phthalates are not chemically bound to PVC, so they can “leak". When kids put toys in their mouths, they could ingest these chemicals which could affect their health.
Wood, on the other hand, is organic, non-toxic, and naturally antibacterial. Also, the dyes used to color wooden toys are 100% natural and water-based. The adhesives for these toys are certified as E0 (E-Zero), which is considered one of the safest types of glue that could be used on wood.
When wooden toys have reached the end of their lifetime, they can be composted and don’t have to be incinerated like plastic toys. A recent study shows that in 2019 as much as 80% of all toys end up in landfills, incinerators, or the ocean. Many of them still working fine.
If wooden toys might also end up in landfills, however, they won’t still be there after 100 years.
On average, plastic toys end up in landfills after just 6 months of playtime. Either due to poor quality and breakage or because the child no longer has an interest in the toy. Wooden toys, on the other hand, have much greater durability. My baby girl is currently playing with a wooden cart with blocks that is probably over 50 years old. It has been handed down from generation to generation and I will do the same with it. Because wooden toys are not designed with trends in mind but with functionality and quality, wooden toys last much longer compared to plastic toys.
Wooden toys inspire creative and imaginative play in children. These toys tend to be more ‘passive’. This means that kids need to be more involved while playing which stimulates the imagination. These so-called ‘open-ended' toys have no one purpose of playing with them meaning kids can play with them in more than one way while plastic toys often have a purpose. This could be pushing a button or turning a wheel, which limits the imaginative use of the toy for other purposes.
Playing is essential for a child to optimally develop because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of kids.
Wooden toys have natural textures which stimulate the child’s senses to invite them to touch, feel and explore each surface area of the toys while the basic shapes of the toys help the development of your kid's hand-eye coordination.
Wooden toys stimulate children to interact and collaborate with others. They not only learn for each other by seeing others play with toys, by playing with wooden building blocks with someone, but they also begin to share their ideas, build relationships, learn to listen and understand, as well as develop empathy for others.
Wooden toys also support a child’s cognitive growth, enhancing their thought-process, reasoning, and logic. It can help in this area for the child by grabbing and lifting, balancing and stacking, merging, and categorizing wooden blocks and toys. This way, children learn to make logical conclusions and develop an understanding of the physical attributes and basic rules of physics (weights, volumes, geometry, etc.)
Playing with wooden toys can reduce anxiety. Research has shown that children experience a more quiet and advantageous quality play through wooden toys than from any other material (like plastic). Wooden toys are less distracting. They have no sound or flashing lights to distract kids playing with them like plastic toys often have. In a room with natural toys, you will find it is quieter, more peaceful, and inviting, and you will likely find your child calmer because of this.
Please purchase your wooden toys from a respectable brand. I understand that these are rather pricy and ordering from China is very tempting due to the price but please don’t. Kids till about 3 years of put everything in their mouths, it is how they sense new shapes and textures. This is completely normal behavior. However, you want your kids to only put things in their mouths that are safe. Meaning not choking hazard and no hazard for their health. This research looked at the intake of chemicals by kids in wooden objects. Wood preservatives, such as chlorophenols and lindane, are used to protect the wood against insects and fungi and increase the lifespan of the wooden toy. As wood is very porous, these chemicals end up not only on the toy but also within the toys. Chlorophenols and lindane are very toxic chemicals that are listed as not safe by the European Union and the U.S. However, the regulations in China differ therefore these chemicals could be present on wooden toys purchased from China and your child's health may suffer if these toys end up in their mouths. So please don’t purchase your wooding toys directly from China but purchase from a respectable brand in the EU or US.
If, by now you are convinced that you should add a few wooden toys to your kids' (or niece or nephew) toy collection please also consider secondhand toys from either online stores or your local thrift shop. As mentioned in this post, wooden toys last a lifetime and are not sensitive to trends so finding a new toy for your little loved one secondhand is not as challenging as your might think.