It’s a sad fact that our children are being entertained by things that do not look like toys at all. From tablets and smartphones to hoverboards, the things kids play with today are increasingly computerized, electrical, and I must say, expensive. This makes many parents yearn for the simpler, wooden toys of the past, they used to play with. But not because of nostalgia. In fact, wooden toys are great for children’s’ cognitive development.
Because they are rather simple, wooden toys for babies and toddlers inspire the use of imagination and help develop abstract thinking skills. Moreover, since they consist of very few parts and are less prone to breaking, wooden toys are also a lot safer than plastic toys which often include tiny, detachable pieces that can become a choking hazard. Here are some interesting facts about wooden toys.
The Earliest Toys
Wooden toys have been around longer than any other toy. In fact, they are thought to be the earliest toys in existence. According to archaeological research, the oldest toys ever found originate from Africa and date from the Stone Age (2.9 million years ago – 2030 BC). They were simple wooden objects resembling axes and bows, clubs, as well as dolls, which are thought to have been built not to entertain children, but to teach them essential survival and family skills.
The Enlightening Concept of Educational Toys
John Lock, the great philosopher of the Enlightenment, was the first to introduce the concept of the educational toy. In his 1693 book Some Thoughts Concerning Education, he proposed the revolutionary idea that the way a child turned out in life has nothing to do with “God’s intentions”, and everything to do with education and upbringing. As part of their upbringing, he argued, kids should not be hindered from being children and from playing. More specifically, they should play with educational, wooden objects, like dices and letters that can teach them the alphabet. He went so far as to suggest that alphabet blocks can motivate young children to become literate and that teachers should include them in their classrooms.
Wooden Toys in Modern Times
Up until the 20th century, wooden toys for babies and toddlers were the standard. Then, in the 1950s plastic toys first appeared and they soon became much more popular because they were cheaper. The digital age of the ’80s introduced Nintendo games and children’s play made its way onto the screen, where it currently still is. Since the invention of the smartphone, children are being entertained by the touch of a screen. This poses a huge problem since there’s no 100% efficient way to regulate what our children are exposed to. The way toys have evolved means there’s less open-ended play and use of imagination.
Many parents and toy manufacturers soon became aware of this problem, and as a solution try to revive the wooden toy. Since 2013 there’s a noticeable growth in the popularity of wooden toys for babies and toddlers. Since then, Google searches for “wooden toys” increased over 400%, and wooden baking kits and musical instruments became one of the most commonly sold play items. In this digital day and age, I sure hope more children will get to experience playing with these charming and simple toy structures which offer an endless amount of imaginative possibilities.