Aug 3, 2011

Collecting: Wooden Toys

I love toys. I (of course) loved them as a child. I love them as an adult. And as a collector, I adore them. The world of collecting toys is quite vast. There are dollhouse miniatures, Barbies, View masters, paper dolls, comic books, Fisher Price, wind-up toys, music boxes, mechanical banks and Tonka Trucks to name a few. I'm sure I will end up talking about toys many more times, but I thought I'd start with a personal favorite,  wooden toys

I'm sure it's safe to say that wood was one of the first materials used in crafting toys. A hundred some years ago, hand carved, one of a kind toys were it..The first wooden toys sold in the United States were largely from Germany. They were made with water powered drills; water wheels moved by flowing rivers sent power to the drills. Each toy was slightly different than the next, not like today's assembly line toys.

During the 19th century wooden toys were the standard. Children were playing with wooden trains and tracks, toys soldiers, tea sets, wooden food, alphabet blocks, pull-behinds, dolls, and jigsaw puzzles. Many children were only allowed to play with toys on Sundays, making many wooden toys available, of a biblical nature e.g. Noah's Arc.

After World War II the manufacturing of wooden toys declined. The plastic business was booming. Though you could still find wooden toys or hybrid wooden/plastic toys. Wooden toys had fallen out of fashion. They seem to be making a comeback these days, with spiking interest in Waldorf education and a desire to return to simpler times. 

There are a few good manufactures making quality wooden toys these days. Melissa & Doug are quite popular and can be found a number of places. I really love the German company Haba and have invested in some great Haba toys for my daughter. The site Mookla offers the largest selection of modern wooden toys I've ever seen. But I prefer antique and vintage wooden toys. My daughter loves the springy tail with the wooden tip on her Lil Snoopy Dog pull-behind (the same Lil Snoopy Dog I drooled all over.) Wooden toys last much longer than plastic and can be heirlooms, shared between generations. 

If you are interested in learning more about collecting wooden toys there are many books available on toy collecting, which you may have to scan through to find wooden specialties. It is always helpful to ask your friendly librarian. The Wonder Of American Toys 1920-1950 is available for only $13.95 on Old Wood Toys.Com  is a very helpful website, full of links and answers to questions. And Wooden Toy Museum has a good list of links available too.

Remeber to care for and clean your wooden toys to insure their lifespan. gives us this helpful adivce: 
*Direct sun can also damage a toy over time, particularly those that are unfinished or oil preserved.
*Wood that is overly dry is prone to cracking and splitting.
*Rough or splintered edges should be smoothed with fine sandpaper.
*The character of your wood can change with humidity, therefore it is essential that you routinely inspect the toy for parts that may have loosened.
*DO NOT use furniture polish on wooden is toxic to children. It is helpful to know what type of finish is used on your toy; this will determine the maintenance required. 
If you follow the link you will also find information regarding stains, finishes, glues and assembly.  

Reminder: Not all wooden toys are safe for children, especially vintage wooden toys with their lead based paints and their small parts. Always use caution and supervision where necessary.

All of the wooden toys you see here are available for purchase on Etsy. Thank you Etsy sellers for the use of your spectacular photographs!

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