Wood is one of the most traditional materials used in the history of toys. But in the case of this material tradition is not necessarily incompatible with innovation. Today, wood is being chosen to develop some of the most avant-garde toys in the market. In this article, I will point out beautiful examples of the use of wood in toys created by both entrepreneurs and well-established companies.
Modern aesthetic with traditional wood
The aesthetics of wood, a classic material, is being exploited at the moment to design a new generation of innovative toys, that have simple shapes and colors but the end result is a well-done, even sophisticated product. An example is the hand-crafted wooden toy VaiKai, which are toy characters that combine technology with free in-door and outdoor games. They have a very simple, elegant and appealing design.
Other companies that stand out with its contemporary wooden toys are kipod and Susha. The first one, with their claim “I wood like to play”, offers a range of toys to build a variety of lovely funny creatures and animals. They have also created interesting toys to build an own wooden table or chair. The second company, Shusha has amazing artistically well-designed toys that I would even consider to decorate my house! They are authentically beautiful standing-out things.
Another high quality design example is Hörbert, a modern mp3 player with the look of an old radio. Thanks to its artistic value, the product was presented in the last Spielwarenmesse in the Trend Gallery under the trend “Design to Play”, a trend related to toys that stand out through their sophisticated design and have a high artistic standard.
At the last Spielwarenmesse we could also see how relevant companies are that have been consistently working with wood such as Janod, Hape, Brio, Melissa and Doug or Haba. And even big companies that have been manufacturing plastic toys for years are launching lines of products made partially or totally made of wood to the market. That is the case of Fisher price with its line “Wooden toys”, with very elegant and original designs.
Infantino is another example. Even if their baby toys Go Gaga! have only a few pieces made of wood (most of the toys is made with textile), they take advantage of the aesthetical characteristics of wood applying its patterns to their packaging, making it very unique and different from its competitors.
Besides from using of wood for a products’ aesthetics, it is also being chosen as a more ecological option than plastic and other materials. Some companies are clearly selecting wood to manufacture and then advertise toys under a more eco-friendly brand.
I can name the Italian based company Milaniwood that manufactures toys with wood coming from eco-friendly forestry. For example, they promote its Makemaki game, a toy to build sushi while learning fractions. Makemaki is made with safe, environmentally-friendly, and nontoxic materials.
Plan toys with their claim “Sustainable play” is also a great example of ecologically conscious company that uses wood as one of the main materials to manufacture their toys. They have gorgeous products from musical instruments to all sorts of pretend play toys. Their design is so successful that they are being sold not only in toy stores but in stores related to lifestyle. They are even expanding their product line to other baby and children’s products as well.
Awards and recognition for innovative wooden toys
It is interesting to point out the increasing number of awards that wooden toys are receiving. In this article I will only give a few, but relevant examples.
Each year, the Spielwarenmesse gives a recognition to well-developed toys with the ToyAward. In 2016, there were two wooden toys among the nominees: Pat Bells Station by PlayMe Toys and Quadrilla Space City by Hape. The first one is described as a product that elevates the traditional xylophone to a new, stylish and practical level. The design is very appealing and the game proposal is greatly original. The other one combines wood with glow-in-the dark materials, presenting a great innovative way of playing with building toys and marbles.
Also worth mentioning is the company Tegu, finalist of the TOTY awards 2015 with its Magnetron. Tegu has an interesting range of building toys that are based on simple shapes and colors that can be combined in wonderful ways. The company also offers a possibility to create your own customized stylish wooden robot toy on-demand with their line myBlockhead.
It is also becoming more common to see toys that have been awarded with the Red Dot Design Award. In 2016 the Baby Gym by Sebra or the Jumping Acrobat Springender Akrobat by Plan Toys are two examples of wooden toys being awarded by this prestigious organization. Another example is from Manufacturer Wodibow, a company that makes its toys with beech wood coated with an olive oil and beeswax finish so they are free from plastic, paint, varnish and glue. They have been awarded both in 2015 with Mastodonts and in 2016 with Cwic-The Four Seasons Tree.
A classic toy material, still modern
Wooden toys are becoming trendy and more innovative both aesthetically and functionally. Beyond traditional concepts, companies are using wood to create differentiated modern play items. Furthermore, they have the reputation to be more eco-friendly. Some wooden toys are so well-designed that they are gaining awards and recognition internationally, therefore become very appealing for the current generation of children and their families.