Like most babies, my son puts everything in his mouth, so giving him toys coated with potentially noxious chemicals is not an option. As someone with PCOS who had to do multiple rounds of IVF to conceive, I know all too well about hormone disrupting chemicals and I’m not about to introduce those to my son – at least not knowingly; it’s impossible to shield from all exposure (or even close to all…).
This is where wood toys come in.
I try to follow many of the Montessori principles and one of them is to opt for toys made of natural materials, like wood, as they better allow for exploration/imaginative play and are safer since they’re more likely to be free from chemicals – and certainly they will have less chemicals than you’ll find with your run-of-the-mill plastic toys.
To dive deeper into what makes wooden toys worth the investment – as they are almost always pricier than their plastic counterparts – I spoke with Kaz Shiomi, the founder and creative director of kiko+ & gg*.
The Benefits of Wooden Toys for Babies & Kids
Wood is made from nature
“We all want the best for our little ones and that means choosing safe and natural toys for them to play with. The use of a pure, raw material allows children to see what we can create from nature. The natural grains and textures are visible in our toys such as the tsumiki house blockset, so that children can see and feel how they were made. Kids are very tactile and we want to keep polluting elements or chemicals far away from them.”
Simple is best
“Devices and battery-operated toys can be entertaining but also noisy and overwhelming. They seem great while keeping the kids occupied, but longer-term they may become accustomed to constant stimulation. Old-fashioned playtime like retro water games without screens and imaginary phone conversations can be just as fun. And it teaches us to slow down and enjoy the little things, just like back in the good old days.”
No batteries needed.
“A common complaint about wooden toys is that they’re “pretty but boring”. There may be a kernel of truth to this! That’s why kiko+gg toys are always designed with a surprise “twist” in mind, proving that toys can be fun and interactive – without batteries. Creating function within a wooden object does require some scientific thinking during the designing process though. That’s why the kiko+ kuruma and hikoki series were cleverly crafted with hidden friction boxes and rubber bands. Pull them back and watch them whiz along. Just as fun as a battery-operated vehicle, but using all-natural power!”
Encourage imaginative play
“The first thing most adults ask when opening a new box is “where are the instructions?” Kids don’t think that way. When presented with open-ended wooden toy sets like the machi tiny town series, children will come up with their own rules and creative ways to play.”
Timeless and longer-lasting
“’Look at this nice heirloom plastic toy!’….said nobody ever. We’ve all been there where our kids convinced us to buy fad toys like that slime kit or pop-it that were later found under the couch. But investing in beautifully-crafted toys is a conscious choice that will pay off more in the longer-term. Wooden toys are durable and less likely to break, meaning they can be passed down to siblings and kept for many years. And even left out as decorative objects for everyone to enjoy!”