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.
Future walkers (and shoppers) will have fun with this little pushable stroller that doubles as a shopping cart. The wheels are rubber padded, and the paint is nontoxic. When it’s not in use (or even when it is), the basket can double as storage for other playthings.
These German-made beechwood blocks squeak, clack, and rattle when twisted, pressed, and shaken. They are colored with a nontoxic, water-based stain and help kids practice fine-motor skills while encouraging memory through cause and effect.
Toddlers will get a kick out of the challenge of using the wooden tongs to remove these wooden bees and put them back in their hive. Matching the bees to their hives also helps foster color recognition.
Pull toys are extra fun for toddlers who can walk. This baby and mama duck also encourage talking about family and putting things inside other things — two favorite toddler pastimes.
Toddlers love musical toys and this wooden drum has a pleasant sound and allows toddlers to experiment and find different notes.
Though it’s not only made of wood — there are some plastic parts — Baby Einstein’s Magic Touch Piano has made it on the Strategist best sellers top ten list at least seven times. (That’s a lot.) It comes recommended by child-development expert Dr. Sarah Roseberry Lytle who says it’s a good pick for kids as young as 1 because “young kids love making music and exploring things, like, Can I make it softer? Can I make it louder? What happens when I hit it harder? That’s a really interesting learning process.” If it’s between this and a junkier-looking toy that makes louder, more aggressive sounds, we’d go with this wood-plastic hybrid toy piano.
Wooden toys for pretend play
Each wooden apple, pomegranate, lime, banana, and avocado in this set is realistically painted with eco-friendly paint and can be cut in half for serving using a wooden knife (then put back together with magnets).
This rattan basket comes filled with 15 wooden mushrooms, allowing kids to simulate foraging in a forest (enchanted or otherwise).
Melissa & Doug is known for making high-quality toys that encourage child development. This garage and service station is no different and offers tons of scenarios to stretch children’s imaginations.
If you’re looking for more cars to park in the garage, here’s a sweet set of utility vehicles to add to the party.
Featureless wooden peg people are a favorite among Montessori families. They fit perfectly in little hands, and because they are so simple, children can use their imaginations to create endless pretend play story lines. Kids can play with them as is or dress them up with ribbon and other craft supplies.
Kids can set up their very own brick-and-mortar shop with this sweet wooden cash register. It includes play cash, coins, credit cards, a notes clip, bar-code scanner, and credit-card swiper.
Wooden toys for stacking and balancing
Hape’s all-wooden balance bike increases children’s strength and motor skills.
This cactus game is a fun way for kids and adults to play together and a nice first plant for a child’s bedroom.
For older children, this simple curved wooden balance board can be used in myriad ways: as a car track, a balance beam, a bridge, a table, or a step stool. It pushes children’s creativity and increases muscle strength.
Wooden STEM toys
Tangram puzzles are based on a centuries-old Chinese brain game wherein the player has to arrange seven geometric pieces into a single shape — of which there are hundreds of possibilities and multiple ways to arrive at each configuration. According to Beth Beckman, a co-founder of FOMOFeed Kids, it’s a hit with 7- and 8-year-olds.
If they’re still learning their numbers, this set of 30 blocks includes numbers one through ten as well as corresponding characters that interlock with them like puzzle pieces. Each figurine is made from walnut and beechwood and is finished with water-based paints. (If you’re looking to teach the ABCs, the company also makes an alphabet set, which we wrote about in our guide for gifts for 2-year-olds.)
A comprehensive set of wooden tools, screws, and nails for kids who love to build things and take things apart.
Tegu’s set of magnetic wooden blocks comes recommended by the child-development experts we spoke to for our gift guide for one-year-olds, but would make a great gift for kids of all ages.
If your kid already owns a set of Tegu building blocks, they might like this boat-themed travel set. It comes with six magnetic wooden blocks and a card that shows you how to create 49 different shapes.
For older kids who like building 3-D models, this tarantula will provide hours of entertainment. If they’re not into spiders, the brand also makes a helicopter, airplane, owl, and dolphin.
Marble runs are classic STEM toys that get kids thinking about cause and effect, balance, and gravity. They’re also really fun to play with. This marble run offers endless building combinations and is much nicer looking than its plastic counterparts.
Glass marbles may present a choking hazard to the littlest learners. This cascading ramp comes with larger wooden balls that they can’t accidentally swallow and includes attention-getting features like a spinning flower and a jolly clown.
With additional reporting by Lauren Ro.
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