14 wooden toys your kids will actually play with

With so many loud, flashy plastic items filling the shelves, it can be hard for wooden toys to stack up. But wood definitely doesn't equal boring.

By Kirsten Clodfelter

14 wooden toys your kids will actually play with

Photo: iStockphoto

These classic toys aren’t just for the ‘gram. Often more durable and safer, wooden toys encourage creative play, promote sensory development, and give kids a tie to the natural world. Our child-tested list of the best wooden toys kids:

kids wooden toy Photo: Hape

1. Rainbow bead abacus

How many ways can your little one count with ten rows of ten beads? This brightly coloured abacus is a great tactile toy for a toddler, an introduction to counting and grouping for a preschooler, and even a fun way for older kids to solve simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems. $32,

kids wooden rock toy Photo: Rock Blocks

2. Rock blocks

Wooden blocks may seem obvious, but these eco-friendly, naturally dyed (using cranberries, blueberries, wild indigo and beans) wooden blocks come in organic shapes that are perfect for building, balancing, stacking, and sorting. Choose from an array of palettes like rainbow, blue, pink & green, and natural, or mix and match your favorite sets to create your own multicolour collection of handcrafted "stones." Set of 8 in Rainbow, $39,

wooden kids toy Photo: Julie Morton, Stepping Stones

3. Customizable wooden family

Two moms? Single dad? Triplets? Young kids will love seeing their family reflected in their own unique wooden family set. These adorable peg dolls are built to last, with woodburned faces and a beeswax finish. Choose natural wood or coloured (non-toxic acrylic) for a keepsake item that's plenty of fun to play with, too.  Colourful (family of 5), $24,

kids wooden toy Photo: Melissa and Doug

4. Stack & Sort board

This pretty peg board with stackable shapes is ideal for supporting the development of your little one's fine motor skills, in addition to helping them practice sorting, shape identification, and counting. $13,

Kids wooden toy Photo: Amazon

5. My Busy Town activity cube

This 5-sided wooden activity center from AlexBrands is designed for toddlers 12 months and older, but it can easily engage preschoolers and kids in early elementary with its turn and learn ABC, 123 and  first word tiles, curvy wire bead trains, peek-a-boo doors, and spin-and-match animal characters. This toy grows with your little one for a worthwhile return on investment, providing smiles year after year. $130,

Wooden kids toy Photo: Hape

6. Chunky clock puzzle

Versatility is the biggest draw of this cute puzzle from Hape. Preschool-age kids learn shapes, numbers, and colors as they grow familiar with the practice of telling time. $19,

kids wooden toy Photo: Julie Morton, Stepping Stones

7. Tree slice alphabet tiles

Word play is the most fun when it's tactile and sensory. To craft these beautiful, all-natural letter sets, small birch tree slices are kiln dried and lightly sanded, then woodburned with a matching upper and lowercase letter on each side. Each set is handcrafted by a Keswick-based kindergarten teacher and toymaker. $65,

Kids wooden toy Photo: Melissa and Doug

8. Farm cube puzzle

If you're worried about the short shelf-life of some puzzles, this 16-piece cube set keeps boredom at bay with six different farm animals. The shape adds a tactile element and means this puzzle can double as a set of blocks, too. $17,

Kids wooden toy Photo: Nest

9. Grimm's stacking rainbow

Let imaginations run wild with this beloved and iconic open-ended wooden toy. The arches can be stacked, flipped, and rearranged to create towers, bridges, car ramps, fairy houses—you name it. Hand it over without any instructions and watch the magic happen. 6-piece set, $40,

Kids wooden toy Photo: Amazon

10. Kinderboard

Promote physical play with a durable balance board made from beech plywood. With a little creativity, watch as this Waldorf toy easily doubles as a slide, extra seat, step stool, seesaw, pirate boat, or rocket ship. Kids love it, but it's sturdy enough that even grownups can take a turn.  $230,

Kids wooden toy Photo: Hape

11. Fantasia blocks castle

This set of 22 uniquely shaped blocks can be arranged to create a whimsical castle straight out of a fairy tale. Kids love matching, stacking, and designing while working on their fine motor skills.  $44,

Kids wooden toy Photo: Plan Toys

12. Oval xylophone

The gift of music keeps on giving as it grows with your child. This cute wooden xylophone from Plan Toys engages kids through sound and colour, and it's made from recycled rubbertree wood and child-safe, water-based dyes for extra peace of mind. $30,

Kids wooden toy Photo: Ava's Appletree

13. Grimm's Wankel stacking tower

Introduce your little one to colours and shapes or help an older toddler develop spatial awareness and fine motor skills with this stacking tower from Grimm's, the lauded Germany-based natural and sustainable wooden toy company. $45,

Kids wooden toy Photo: Melissa and Doug

14. Pattern blocks and boards

Little artists everywhere will love this set of coloured wooden tiles. Ten template boards let kids design their own bunnies, butterflies, flowers, and suns by mixing and matching 120 wooden tiles in six different shapes. Tired of the templates? Craft a one-of-a-kind, freestyle mosaic instead. $25,

This article was originally published on Mar 12, 2020