Having been born in the early noughties (sorry if that makes some of you feel old!), my exposure to wooden toys as a child was fairly limited. Conscious consumption was yet to blow up in mainstream public discourse, so my toybox was pretty plastic-packed. There was however one exception - my mother's old train track set. It was made of wood, and it was fantastic. Something about it always just felt so special. It was durable, pleasing to look at and each piece fitted together so satisfyingly! It's one of only a few toys to have survived the subsequent two decades of attic clear-outs, jumble sales and trips to the tip that have gradually passed my old belongings into new hands.
For today's toddlers on the other hand, things are very different. Awareness of the harmful effects that plastic is having on our environment is now widespread, with many looking for as many ways to avoid it as possible. Wooden toys are no longer twee relics from bygone years, but a fashionable, in-demand trend, lining the shelves of major retailers.
Today we're taking a closer look at the resurgence of wooden toys, and why they are so much better than their polluting, plastic counterparts.
Wooden Toys Look a Lot Nicer
We're going to cut straight to the point here. Call me biased, but wooden toys are just so much more pleasing on the eye - and I don't think I'm alone in thinking this either! So many of our customers have remarked on how much they prefer the look and design of our wooden toys compared to some of the plastic ones available elsewhere - especially our fantastic Lanka Kade wooden animal collection.
Sure, in some cases it's difficult to replicate the same level of detail on wood as it is with plastic, but wooden toys have such a unique, timeless quality that just isn't achievable with plastic.
Wooden Toys Last Longer
Part of the reason my mum's old train track outlasted many of my other, plastic toys, was because unlike them, it didn't break. Wood is, on the whole, a much stronger, more resistant material than most plastics used for modern toys. Less likely to shatter, snap or fall apart, wooden toys will often have much longer lifespans, and are generally less likely to show their age as the years go by.
Wooden Toys are better for your child's development
We didn't see this one coming. But it is true! The simplicity of wooden toys compared to their more complicated plastic counterparts - with flashing lights, sounds and other electronic bells and whistles, the simplicity is great for stimulating cognitive development in young children. Research has shown that simpler toys, that encourage children to use their imagination more can help to support their mental development by improving problem solving, lateral thinking and numeracy skills.
Wooden Toys are Better for the Environment
This one sounds like a no-brainer. But it is actually a little bit more complicated. Wooden toys are fantastic in that they can be recycled and composted, whereas plastic toys tend to go straight to landfill. How much better wooden toys are for the environment however, depends greatly upon where and how the wood has been sourced. At The Friendly Eco, we are very careful to ensure that all the brands we stock have ethical and sustainable guarantees for the sourcing of their materials, so always be sure to ask for the details when buying a toy if you are unsure. Sustainably sourced wood is much better for the environment than plastic. Wood sourced from the careless destruction of our forests, is not.
Is plastic all bad then?
It is worth mentioning at this point, that though we think that sustainably sourced wooden toys are fantastic, it is possible to find well-made, long lasting plastic toys, that are made in an environmentally conscious way. Green Toys and Waytoplay are two brilliant brands that we stock. Green Toys use recycled plastic milk bottles to make wonderful, exciting plastic toys that are bound to last longer than those found elsewhere. They are much sturdier and thicker than your average beach or vehicle toy and made to withstand plenty of rough play. Our WayToPlay sets, on the other hand, are made from a durable, flexible plastic which is designed to last a lifetime. No brittle pieces, they can be washed, played with and stored again, with plans for future sets to be made with bio-based materials too!
While wooden toys offer a range of benefits, a well made plastic toy made from recycled materials could be better than a cheap wooden one made from unsustainably sourced wood. At the Friendly Eco, we try to cover all bases - with beautiful, eco-conscious toys made from both wood, and durable plastic.