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Why we LOVE wooden toys

The best toy I’ve ever bought the children? Without a doubt, the Grimm’s large rainbow. Wooden toys have a longevity that makes them particularly appealing to me, a mum of three children.

When my eight-year-old son was small, I fell into all of the parenting toy traps possible. Our house had turned into a plastic city, full of noisy, garish toys that he would lose interest in almost immediately. By the time Zoey was born six years later, there was nothing left from Harrison’s baby and toddler years to pass down.

That’s when I knew things had to change…

I resolutely refused to go down the same pathway with Zoey (now 2). I hated the waste and the short-lived play-ability, so I made it my mission to seek out good quality toys that lasted longer than a few moments. This is really where wooden toys come in: I think it speaks volumes that wooden toys have been around for centuries.

Thanks to the wonderful world of Instagram, I found out that good quality wooden toys still existed, particularly in fact, from German toy makers. It made my teacher heart really happy to know that traditional style toys were still loved by children in different parts of the world.

After only choosing quality toys for the last few years, I can thoroughly attest that wooden toys are worth it in every sense. Here are just a few reasons why you should consider them over their plastic counterparts:

Wooden toys are value for money:

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Wooden toys make excellent Christmas presents. They are also likely to be played with far longer than the latest ‘fad’ toy.

Okay, so on the surface, yes wooden toys look way more expensive. Initially I had my doubts over whether they would be worth the initial outlay. However, after starting off the wooden toy collection with building blocks and a medium Grimm’s rainbow two years ago, I can definitely confirm that they are worth every cent.

They aren’t toys that you buy everyday, but carefully considered purchases. Personally, and speaking from experience here, I’d much rather than have fewer, good quality toys in the play room over a stash of ‘trendy’ toys any day.

Young children cannot cope with a mass of toys surrounding them on a daily basis. They get overwhelmed by choice. This is part of the reason why we re-organised our play space and established the Discovery Table series.

Wooden toys are great for imaginative play:

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The blue and purple elements of the large Grimm’s rainbow made wonderful ocean waves.

When is a rainbow not a rainbow?

Well, when it is a bridge, bird, slide or even a musical instrument! Wooden toys have endless play-ability. The child is doing the thinking rather than the toy itself. Featured above is an ocean theme where a Grimm’s rainbow and miniature cave was used by the children.

Children aren’t stifled by the same barriers as us. Whereas you and I might just think, ‘ well that’s a gigantic rainbow,’ they will transform it into a whole range of other items. Besides, If you’re genuinely stuck for ideas, you only need look at Instagram. I am always in awe of the ideas I see there!

Wooden toys are gender neutral:

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Wooden toys are designed to be played with by everyone. Both my son and daughter love using them in their play.

‘Gender neutral’ has become a popular term in recent years. Take a trip down any of the major toy-store aisles and you will see why: the majority of toys on offer are specifically aimed at either boys and girls. With a boy, girl and another boy on the way, I’m constantly searching for toys that are gender neutral. This is a matter of practicality for us as well as a desire not to stereotype.

Whilst I am by no means a staunch feminist, now that I have a daughter I have a heightened awareness of toys that have been designed in a certain way. She does love the doll she picked out herself; but she’s also a huge fan of toy trains and trucks. Wooden blocks or rainbow people can belong to anyone.

In the photo above, we had spent an entire weekend building a zoo from cardboard and other scrap materials. Both children were really engaged with the process and as you can see, Grimm’s building blocks, houses and rainbow people complimented the activity perfectly. You can read more about that activity here.

Wooden toys are environmentally friendly:

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Magical Moments: A wooden rainbow village under the tree in our backyard

Watching those scenes of plastics pollution in Blue Planet 2 brought home the environmental issues in such a vivid way. We can`t eliminate all plastics from our life, but I’ve become more aware of the purchases we make and I’m on a mission to reduce, reuse and recycle wherever possible.

Recently the eldest (9) asked for the latest fad toy that: ‘all the children have in school.’ However, after he showed me a clip on YouTube, I could see the limitations. It was a single-purpose toy that would be discarded at the bottom of his cupboard within a week. Thankfully Harrison also understands this and knew that he only really wanted the toy because everyone else did! The recent Jurassic Plastic art installation at the 2018 Sydney Festival would’ve given anyone food for thought on this subject matter.

This brings us neatly back to wooden toys. Brands such as Grimm’s use natural dyes to colour their products. They are handmade with love and care. The visible quality of the toys also means that:

A. They are unlikely to be left broken at the bottom of the toy box.

B. You’ll want to keep them as an heirloom for your children to pass down to future generations.

Wooden toys don’t have an age limit:

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Harrison (9) and Zoey (2) playing side-by-side on our ‘city’ discovery table

Santa Clause very kindly gave Zoey a range of Grimm’s goodies on Christmas Day. The whole family spent the morning building structures with them. Surely toys that appeal to both a nine-year-old and a two-year-old have got to have a good thing going on? There aren’t in fact many toys that Harrison would willingly share with his sister, but wooden toys are an exception.

Each week I create a new discovery table designed to capture the interests of my eldest two. Tables that feature our wooden toy collection sustain the interest of both for far longer.

Have I persuaded you to try wooden toys?

Don’t hesitate to contact me here or via my social media pages if you have any questions about starting you own collection.

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Want more?

If you liked this post, please check out the following:

Discovery Table Week 8: Zoo!

Discovery Table Week 5: Rainbow

Discovery Table Week 6: Nature

Discovery Table Week 4: The Ocean Waves

Before you throw that away…

Nature Walk Activity Guide

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Discovery Table Week 10: Our City

We made it to week 10! At the time of writing this, still no baby but hopefully it wont be long now! This is the final post in the Discovery Table Series on the website, however if you follow us on Instagram and Facebook, we will still be changing the table each week.

This time around, we’ve chosen the city as our theme. Zoey has taken a real interest in both building and cars recently so we decided to combine the two!

 

What’s on the table this week?

This rather futuristic cityscape was another weekend project of ours. Both kids loved being involved with making this out of old IKEA boxes – there’s a separate blog post on the process coming soon.

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As you can see, this table is slightly on the sparse side in comparison to previous tables, however this is kind of the point of the discovery series. We’re always just using what we have rather than buying brand new resources! You might’ve noticed that Grimm’s products have featured rather heavily throughout and that’s because they have so much playability!

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Grimm’s building blocks and rainbow people have regularly featured in the discovery table series. They are well worth the investment in my opinion!

We don’t have many books based on cities, but ‘Lots’ by Marc Martin more than makes up for it. Ordinarily, I would also squeeze in a library visit too but I haven’t been able to drive as much recently due to pregnancy related issues. If you have a local library near you, I would heartily suggest you support it!

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This wooden car garage play-set from Tiger Tribe is a big hit with the kids and we often take it on holiday. For our cityscape, it’s been placed on the play-mat – so far its been the most played with item!

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Finally, we added in some of Harrison’s massive toy vehicle selection to complete the table!

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Want more?

So that’s it – the end of the 10 week discovery table series! I’ll be sad not to write about it every week, but my time will be rather taken up with a brand new baby for the next few weeks. Rest assured they will continue in real life and you will be able to see our progress and get inspiration from our Instagram and Facebook posts instead.

In the meantime if you missed past posts, check out the following:

Discovery Table Week 1: Baby Clinic

Discovery Table Week 2: The Alphabet

Discovery Table Week 3: The Tiger Who Came to Tea

Discovery Table Week 4: The Ocean Waves

Discovery Table Week 5: Rainbow

Discovery Table Week 6: Nature

Discovery Table Week 7: Music

Discovery Table Week 8: Zoo!

Discovery Table Week 9: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

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We built a zoo…

Inspiration often strikes when we have a billion tonnes of recycling to use up! After so many trips to IKEA recently, we have a serious surplus of cardboard. Whilst we always recycle, it seemed like a shame for these huge canvases to be immediately consigned to the yellow bin.

With another baby on the way, I’m not as up for massive messy projects (literally really, since I can no longer hoist myself off of the floor!) so we made use of the dining room table to make ourselves a zoo. This project was inspired byDiscovery Table Week 8: Zoo!

Here’s a photo diary of the process:

On Saturday we set about mapping out the zoo. My 8 year was eager to do this, drawing roads and animal enclosures with the help of a Posca pen.

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Posca pens are well worth an investment. We LOVE ours!

By the end of day one, we had a basic outline of the zoo. As you can see, my 2 year old also made her contribution! When creating with very young children, I think it’s really important not to be too precious about the end result. I would much rather have Zoey involved and exploring materials than have perfect colouring!

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On Sunday, the project really started to come together. Everyone had got over their colouring in fatigue from the previous day and using a range of crayons, pens and paints helped get the job done quicker. We started to add signs (using cut-off pieces of cardboard) and trees made from paper towel rolls and green foam.

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All we really needed to do then was play! Our Grimm’s rainbow people became the tourist and the minature animal collection we had was also put to good use! If you follow us on Instagram, do check out the story we made on this project – I absolutely love the conversations Zoey was having between the animals and people!

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Key Learning

  • Creativity: drawing, colouring and making all feature in this project.
  • Writing: my eldest wrote and spelled all of the words himself. On this point, let them spell words themselves – again this isn’t supposed to be about perfection!
  • Fine motor skills: drawing, cutting and writing.
  • Imagination: visualising what the zoo might look like, role play with the final results!
  • Language development: learning names, acting out roles, making animal sounds.
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An invitation to play: muddy farmyard

You might’ve guessed by now that I HATE wasting materials! I recently used coco powder as a writing tray for one of my students and since it was then destined for the bin immediately after, I decided to turn it into mud instead!

Here’s the oobleck farm we made with it:

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This went down an absolute storm with Zoey! She played with it for an hour at least. She made the animals muddy, scopped the mud into different containers and finally washed them clean with water. In toddler terms, i’m sure that you can all agree than one hour of engaged play is HUGE!

What is oobleck?

Oobleck is a fabulous introduction to STEAM. Mixed together, the combination of cornflour and water has some really interesting properties. If you were to prod it with a spoon or your fingers, it would act as a solid, but try to pick it up and its liquid like in consistency! This is activity I tend to do with my youngest (2) as a safe alternative to slime.

You will need:

  • Cornflour
  • Coco powder
  • Water
  • Farm animals or similar
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Large tray
  • Container for the ‘mud’

I’m not going to give you quantities for each ingredient since this will depend on the size of the container you use. My advice is to add each ingredient gradually!

 

Invitation to Play:

I set up the container, utensils and farm animals as an ‘invitation to play’ so that Zoey could choose the direction of play herself. We’re constantly doing sensory activities so she knows exactly what she wants to do HOWEVER if this is the first time you’ve ever tried something like this, you may want to help out a little!

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The little scoops found in washing powders are a fabulous way for young children to practice hand-eye coordination. Zoey enjoyed moving the mud from one to another then ‘feeding’ her farm animals with it.

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Once the novelty factor of the mud had worn off, we extended the play session by adding water in squirty bottles (the one in the photo is an old honey bottle) to wash the mud off!

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Then we just keep adding water with the introduction of warm, soapy water in a bowl. I actually think that Zoey loved this part the most and it also saved me the job of cleaning up – win!

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Discovery Table Week 9: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

This is the penultimate week in our discovery table series and I couldn’t finish without featuring another of our favourite books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle! We have LOVED sharing the tables on the blog each week but with a new baby on the way, these posts will finish after 10 weeks. Not to worry though, as we will be keeping them going in real life – just keep an eye out on our Instagram and Facebook pages!

 

First look:

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This week’s table features a lot of play food! At the recommendation of my insta-buddy Julie Curtin, I decided to feature Eating the Alphabet alongside The Very Hungry Caterpillar as a way to explore healthy eating and occasional foods.

The inspiration:

The very lovely Johanna from Hello Pear sent me these gorgeous story stones and they’ve already proved a massive hit with both my children and one of my students too:

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Story stones are a fabulous way of helping children to retell stories in their own words. With my student we combined the stones with these days of the week blocks – both are available from Hello Pear. 

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Food glorious food!

For the rest of the set-up, I simply gathered together a range of play food into a felt IKEA shopping basket that would fit the  ‘healthy’ and ‘occasional’ categories for the children to sort:

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Want more? 

Check out the rest of the discovery table series by clicking on the links!

Discovery Table Week 1: Baby Clinic

Discovery Table Week 2: The Alphabet

Discovery Table Week 3: The Tiger Who Came to Tea

Discovery Table Week 4: The Ocean Waves

Discovery Table Week 5: Rainbow

Discovery Table Week 6: Nature

Discovery Table Week 7: Music

Discovery Table Week 8: Zoo!