The Best Wooden Toys for Kids

Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on April 19th, 2023

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Every kid loves a wooden toy, and every parent feels better giving a wooden toy than a plastic one. Properly made, these can last through families of children, and each kid will enjoy the experience.

How to pick the best wooden toys

Kids’ wooden toys are classics. Grandpas and dads began whittling toys for little ones hundreds of years ago. Wooden baby toys, and those for older children, have held a real historical place in our culture.

Why wooden toys instead of plastic or metal?

Safety is the number one reason. If you ensure that the wooden toy is sanded smoothly, without rough edges or cracks, your teether can have a go at it and the toy will last for years.

There’s no worrying about cuts, easy breaking, or fading. Wood toys are made for the long haul and not just for one season.

How do you pick the best?

Wooden toys have one drawback. The surface and sides must be smooth to protect children so just have a piece of sandpaper handy when you open the box. Some sand their toys, others have a varnish finish, while the rest are decorated with paint.

It’s common for a wood toy to have paper decorations glued to the surface. These could be chewed off or damaged. Inspect your toys after washing or wiping them down.

When manufacturers suggest age levels for toys, these are likely based on levels of maturity and physical skill rather than actual months and years and are only estimates. 1Smart Toys for Every Age – kidshealth

You’ll know what your child can handle now, and which toys can wait for a few months.

Make sure that toys don’t have parts that can become a choking hazard for babies and toddlers. How do you do this? It’s easy, and it’s free. Take an empty toilet roll and try to pass the part through it to the other end. If the thing goes through, it’s a hazard for children less than two years old.

How do you arrange for the older kids to play uninterrupted with a toy while keeping the baby or toddler safe?

Ordinarily, dads or moms might place the young one into a playpen or place a toddler door gate to keep the tiny one inside their room.

Why not switch this up?

Put the gate on the door leading to the room where the older kids are playing. Rather than trapping the little one alone, she can have the run of the house. She will be able to see what the big kids are doing without bothering them or harming herself. Everyone is happy.

Our top picks of the best wooden toys for kids in 2022

Wooden toys are classics enjoyed by every child. Whether the child is a year old or 18 years old, there is an excellent toy waiting for their next gift-receiving occasion. The following are 9 of the best examples we could find.

Best for Balance

Our opinion

What wooden toy lets a kid play on a seesaw, a balance board, a building piece for living room forts, or even watch their parents play on it? The Wobble Balance Board (check price on Amazon) is one of the best toys for balance.

Your kid’s imagination takes this simple curved piece of wood and engineers countless ways to play. Now that they spend more time in their homes, physical activity is hard to come by. This toy is an excellent choice for developing toddlers on up to their parents. Yes, it will take an adult’s weight.

What we love
  • Develops core strength
  • Great for balance
  • Imagination friendly
Watch for
  • Some noted construction issues

Best Wooden Car

Our opinion

Baby Stork presents this line of wooden cars (check price on Amazon) and other vehicles. In this line there are six vehicles, a racing car, a pull-along dog, an excavator, and two kinds of helicopters, each sold separately. The vehicles are good choices when you want to encourage open-ended play.

Imagination takes control of the play experience rather than a predetermined script from a toymaker. If the child wants sounds, he makes them himself, not with an electronic gadget.

What we love
  • Natural finish
  • Rounded edges smoothly ground
  • No paint; color variations by tree species
Watch for
  • Tung oil glossy finish

Best for Babies

Our opinion

When parents rated this toy, more than half admitted they were huge fans themselves. There’s something about squishing the wooden pieces hooked together with bungee cords that appeal. No matter what baby does to the toy, Skwish Rattle & Teether (check price on Amazon) bounces right back into its original shape.

Many parents reported this toy is excellent for their babies. Mom and dad win too because there are no irritating sounds like so many electronic toys, just the soft click of real wood. The finish is non-toxic, water-based, and is child safe.

What we love
  • Helps infant development
  • Good for visual stimulation
  • Always pops into shape
Watch for
  • Some kids love it right away; others, not so much

Best Building Blocks

Our opinion

This 14-piece starter set is an introduction to the Tegu Building Block (check price on Amazon) brand, Magnetic Wooden World. Magnets are hidden in the joints of wooden shapes. The shapes click together to build almost anything. This way of building is an excellent introduction to more complex construction toys like Lego.

If you think your three-year-old will be one of those kids who build anything they can when they’re older, this is an excellent place to start. The block set is limited though. There won’t be endless things to build from just 14 pieces, but the point is the introduction to the concept of construction.

Tegu has its factory in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, supporting the local economy and providing jobs. For every tree cut for its blocks, Tegu plants 100 new trees.

What we love
  • Imaginative designs
  • Ecologically sound
  • Third-world eco support
Watch for
  • The block set is limited so you may be keen to add to it in the future

Best Preschool

Our opinion

If you have a sensory bin in your home, daycare, or preschool, here are implements that kids will enjoy using. Unlike their plastic counterparts, these natural wood tools will last. They will also be less prone to breaking with heavy use by a lot of kids. The Sensory Bin Tools (check price on Amazon) include scoops, tongs, pots, and cups for children ages three and up. The items come sanded in a cotton bag for storage

What we love
  • Good for open-ended play
  • Builds fine motor skills
  • Good for Montessori tables
Watch for
  • This set only includes the tools; you will need to source the bin and sensory materials separately

Best for Toddlers

Our opinion

Manhattan Toy designed this activity cube for kids ages 12 months and older. With a treetop theme, this Tree Top Activity Center toy (check price on Amazon) has a complete set of motor skill building and eye-hand coordination activities. The collection has flaps, dials, beads, and gliders. Toddler kids will explore the versatility of this toy often.

What we love
  • Good for motor skills
  • Water-based, non-toxic finish
  • Many pieces of interest
Watch for
  • A bit tricky to assemble

Best Alpha/Number Set

Our opinion

Parents have long known Melissa & Doug (check price on Walmart) for making some of the best wooden toys for children. This piece features both numbers and letters.  There are 36 tiles in six rows. Each block has double-sided letters and numbers. Illustrations and words decorate the other two sides.

All the wooden blocks are firmly attached to the toy, so kids can’t lose them. The item is a learning device than can help kids count, recognize letters and words, and fill their learning play with fun.

What we love
  • Pieces can’t be lost
  • More ways to play
  • Good for preschoolers
Watch for
  • Beware of the kid’s hand is small enough to fit through the spaces

Best Push Toy

Our opinion

Do you know all those pull toy gadgets we buy for toddlers? We are making a crucial error. To enjoy their train of followers, the toddler needs to try to walk ahead while looking backward. Something isn’t right.

Long ago, there were push toys instead. The child takes the control stick and pushes Duck Runner (check price on Walmart) out ahead. She can see the moving figure and watch where she is going at the same time. Of course, pulling works as well.

What we love
  • For balance and coordination
  • Northwest pine wood, non-toxic
  • Won’t scratch floors
Watch for
  • Works best for gentler kids

Best Classic Toy

Our opinion

The iconic Radio Flyer wagon is a great wooden toy for kids from 1 through 4. New walkers and toddlers can also use the wooden wagon (check price on Sears). The two side rails detach so that you can pull the child around while she’s sitting on the wagon. The front of the wagon acts as a built-in furniture bumper so you can use it around furniture without worry.

Best of all? Someone thought of providing a resistance mechanism that acts as a speed governor. You can rest assured that the wagon won’t get away from the toddler. The mechanism is easily adjustable with plastic screws on the wagon.

What we love
  • Resistance screws govern speed
  • Removable side panels
  • Furniture guard
Watch for
  • Possible quality problem with rails

The bottom line

It’s been a real challenge to choose only one of these fantastic wooden toys. However, for superior engineering, detail, construction, and play value, the Tree Top Activity Center (check price on Amazon) is my hands-down favorite wooden play item for the year.

Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on April 19th, 2023

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