Wooden toys, in contrast to their plastic counterparts, last longer and biodegrade faster. They’re also generally less flashy, making them popular among parents with more minimalist taste who’d rather not have their home overrun with stuff that looks like this. In fact, a lot of wooden toys can pass for Danish design objects (and wouldn’t look out of place next to a succulent atop a mantle) when not in the hands of a toddler. Wooden toys’ long history in the world (the first written reference to a wooden toy dates back to 500 BC) and popularity in Montessori and Waldorf classrooms also give them both a comforting folksiness and closer proximity to the natural world. Take it from me, a former Waldorf-school teacher and current Strategist reporter who’s spent hours in conversation with child-development experts, toy-trend forecasters, and stylish parents: Wooden toys will not only make your home more stylish, they’ll foster curiosity, creativity, hand-eye coordination, and so much more in your child.
To help you find the right wooden toy, we scoured the internet (and our archives) to curate a list of the best ones we could find, including wooden toys for teething babies, ones for toddlers working on their fine motor skills, toys that encourage pretend play, and even some STEM toys made out of wood. Most things on this list are available on Amazon, but we also found some elsewhere, too, in case you like to shop around.
Wooden toys for babies
The Homi organic wooden rattle is made in the U.S. and painted with environmentally friendly, nontoxic milk paint before being sealed with organic virgin coconut oil. So it’s safe for teething babies and even your pets.
Squishy rattles, like this one from Manhattan Toy, are great for developing a baby’s gross motor skills. This rattle is made using sustainable wood and nontoxic finish.
For something a bit more colorful, try these wooden beads, which are connected by an elastic cord and can be manipulated into a number of configurations. The toy is painted with nontoxic water-based finishes.
This handsome set of wooden cars has contrasting colors to draw children’s attention, and the large car windows fit tiny hands just learning to grasp. Since they’re made of raw beechwood with no paint or wax on the surface, babies can also use them as teething toys.
Wooden toys for toddlers
Lacing toys like this wooden apple and worm challenge a toddler’s fine motor skills and can keep children busy for long periods of time — a godsend on car rides, airplanes, or grocery-store lines.
This set of six lock boxes is irresistible to toddlers, who love anything that resembles real-world, adults-only objects. Each box has a different latch that tiny hands can work to open, revealing a wooden block that fits the hole at the top of the box. They then remove the blocks, close the latch, and start the process over again.