The holidays are in full swing and, if you’re anything like me, you’re making the mad dash for last-minute gifts. If your list includes children–your own, your friends’, nieces and nephews, etc.–you’ll be confronted by a plethora of toy options. Having worked with children for the past 12 years I know a thing or two about toys: how to distinguish the naughty from the nice, the disposable from the durable, the trendy from the timeless. Some toys are just creepy and become possessed at the most random times, turning on by themselves. (Few things are more unnerving than hearing “I love you, you love me” coming from the Barney trapped in the trunk.) This phenomenon is almost exclusive to plastic toys, which is one of the many reasons why I stay away from them. Do your friends and family a favor this year and pick up some wooden ones! Here are some reasons why you should consider buying wooden over plastic toys.
My motto: Wood is Good.
1. Wooden toys develop more meaningful cognitive and play skills. Many plastic electronic toys are loud, obnoxious and overstimulating. The bells and whistles of these toys stifle the child’s creativity and imaginative thinking. The toy does all of the thinking and speaking for the child. Often flashy toys are cast aside in favor of playing with the box it came in. Wooden toys are novel in our plastic world. Every kid has a singing Elmo but how many have a really cool wooden train set? Wooden toys facilitate imaginative play, stimulating the child’s mind. They also foster family play as Mom and Dad will need to help get the kid interested. Get on the floor and play!! It’s too easy to lose your kid to the babysitter, i.e. the television. Help kids see what an imagination can do!
2. Wooden toys often support local small businesses. They are often handcrafted by local artisans in your community or can be found on Etsy. Support local small business rather than buying poorly made toys from China. Studies have shown that when you buy from a locally owned business it strengthens the economic base of the community.
3. Wooden toys are timeless. They evoke a feeling of nostalgia. They may cost more initially which is why many people choose plastic but in the long run the wooden toys are often passed down for generations. They are more charming and aesthetically pleasing so you won’t mind them lying around the house. Wooden toys are more also durable and are also easier to fix and repaint.
4. Wooden toys are often safer. Plastic toys tend to contain toxic chemicals like Bisphenol A and phthalate, that are known endocrine disrupters associated with birth defects, autoimmune disease, neurological and reproductive damage. Children explore their worlds by mouthing everything. Do you want your child mouthing toys that leach chemicals into their bloodstreams? Plastic toys, particularly those imported, may contain toxic lead paint. When choosing wooden toys be careful to choose ones painted with non-toxic paint.
5. Wooden toys have less impact on the environment. Children are fickle and lose interest in toys quickly and then they are discarded. Landfills are full of plastic toys that take hundreds of years to degrade all the while leaching toxic chemicals into the soil. Wood is a renewable, biodegradable resource and the toys are often made of wood from sustainable tree farms.
When choosing wooden toys you can feel good about reducing your carbon footprint and instilling the values of sustainable living in future generations at an early age.Photo Credit: FriendlyToys