Wooden toys, in contrast to their plastic counterparts, last longer and biodegrade faster. They’re also generally less flashy, making them popular among parents with more minimalist taste who’d rather not have their home overrun with stuff that looks like this. In fact, a lot of wooden toys can pass for Danish design objects (and wouldn’t look out of place next to a succulent atop a mantle) when not in the hands of a toddler. And because of their long history in the world (the first written reference to a wooden toy dates back to 500 BC) and their popularity in Montessori and Waldorf classrooms, they exude a comforting folksiness and proximity to the natural world. Take it from me, a former Waldorf-school teacher and current Strat reporter who’s spent hours in conversation with child-development experts, toy-trend forecasters, and stylish parents: Wooden toys will not only make your home more stylish, they’ll foster curiosity, creativity, hand-eye coordination, and so much more in your child.
To further guide you, we scoured the internet for the cream of the crop and curated a list of the best wooden toys we could find, including wooden toys for teething babies, ones for toddlers working on their fine motor skills, toys that encourage pretend play, and even some STEM toys made out of wood.
Wooden toys for babies
The Homi organic wooden rattle is made in the U.S. and painted with environmentally friendly, nontoxic milk paint before being sealed with organic virgin coconut oil. So it’s safe for teething babies and even your pets.
Squishy rattles, like this one from Manhattan Toy, are great for developing a baby’s gross motor skills. This rattle is made using sustainable wood and nontoxic finish.
Wooden toys for toddlers
Toys that make noise or play music are typically bigger hits with toddlers. This chubby wooden bee on wheels makes beeping sounds when kids press down on its back. It’s made with wood from responsibly managed forests and nontoxic paint. It’s also great for fine motor skills and encouraging memory through cause and effect.
Wooden toys for pretend play
Each wooden apple, pomegranate, lime, banana, and avocado in this set is realistically painted with eco-friendly paint and can be cut in half for serving using a wooden knife and then put back together with magnets.
If you’re looking for more cars to park in the garage, here’s a sweet set of utility vehicles to add to the party.
For the true minimalist, this black and white wooden spaceship would look nice on any bookshelf and can be assembled in several different configurations before being “shot” into space.
Like a flat, wooden Mr. Potato Head, this facial expression and mood puzzle helps children with social-emotional development and encourages healthy communication around moods and feelings.
Wooden toys for stacking and balancing
This set of Areaware-esque faceted natural wood blocks comes with idea cards for different stacking combinations.
The aGreatLife cactus game is a fun way for kids and adults to play together. Even the packaging, which is made of cardboard and a muslin bag, is eco-friendly.
We featured this a similar colorful Waldorf stacking toy in our gift guide for one-year-olds. These beautifully crafted toys are interactive and encourage babies and toddlers to experiment with building and gravity.
For older children, this simple curved wooden balance board can be used in myriad ways: as a car track, a balance beam, a bridge, a table, or a step stool. It pushes children’s creativity and increases muscle strength.
Wooden STEM toys
Tegu’s set of magnetic wooden blocks comes recommended by the child-development experts we spoke to for our gift guide for one-year-olds, but would make a great gift for kids of all ages.
For older kids who like building 3-D models, this wooden T. rex will provide hours of entertainment.
Though it’s not only made of wood, Baby Einstein’s Magic Touch Piano has made it on the Strategist best sellers top ten list seven times — that’s a lot. It comes recommended by child-development expert Dr. Sarah Roseberry Lytle who says it’s a good pick because “young kids love making music and exploring things, like, Can I make it softer? Can I make it louder? What happens when I hit it harder? That’s a really interesting learning process.” If it’s between this and a junkier-looking toy that makes louder, more aggressive sounds, we’d go with this wood-plastic hybrid toy piano.
Slate has relationships with various online retailers. If you buy something through our links, Slate may earn an affiliate commission. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change. All prices were up to date at the time of publication.