The simple joy of a wooden toy could be Christmas’s greatest find

Wooden toys are the antidote to a multi-billion plastic toy global market that has flooded the world

In a world thrown into self-doubt by pandemic calls for ‘resets’ or the need to transition away from intense economic activity, even at Christmas, a rediscovery of simpler times beckons.

Like wooden toys: the antidote, perhaps, to a multi-billion plastic toy global market that has flooded the world. But unlike the fads that drive the toy market, wooden toys have enjoyed a timeless allure, a robustness that inspires nostalgia and authenticity.

Wooden toys never go out of style. While the commercial market may be flooded with plastic toys and gadgets, they’ve been enjoyed for generations and are still going strong. Unlike other toys, that can easily be reduced to fads; wooden toys are healthy and timeless.

“Wooden toys are a classic. They are beautiful, typically last longer and – in most cases, are much more environmentally sustainable,” Emma Diacono, the owner of My Favourite Things, said.  Her retail outlet in Naxxar stocks a delightful array of pastel-coloured and natural wood gifts that stand out as demure alternatives to the shock of plastic toys.

“Let’s face it: children go through ‘crazes’ with their toys. I found myself putting toys away and then bringing them out again later. With wooden toys, they do not bother me seeing them out and about; they are also decorative, which from an adult’s perspective never hurts,” Diacono said.

Janica Galea, whose store Wooden Toys Malta almost replicates everyday life and the world into wooden gifts, pays tribute to the uniqueness and versatility of the crafted wooden toy. “The benefits for our children are many, they promote creativity and imagination, the development of cognitive abilities and fine motor skills through reasoning, role-play, numeracy and coordination.”

Galea highlighted the fact that wooden toys allow children to use their imagination and reasoning skills to figure out what activities fit in with their play. She said children typically are more geared to developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, instead of just pressing buttons and watching.  “Imaginative play is so crucial, and with many toys today, play has become so structured that children become accustomed to simply following the instructions or pressing buttons as opposed to exploring or using their imagination.”

Diacono added that wooden toys “force” the child to actively play and get more engaged in the game.

But there is also an environmental aspect. Galea said wooden toys are usually better than plastic toys as they are mostly biodegradable and recyclable. “At Wooden Toys Malta our toys all carry the FCS seal that ensures environmental and social responsibility. All wood used is sustainably grown within strict regulations,” Galea said.

Galea said that wooden toys tend to stand the test of time and as such can easily be passed down from one child to the other through the generations. “For this reason, they make a wonderful Christmas present, that will enchant the child but also serve as an investment for the parents,” Galea said.

A price for everyone

As with any market, Diacono points out, the craft of the finished product comes with a price tag although she says there’s something to fit everyone’s budget. “As with any other market, there are brands and brands… certain details, finishes, certifications, which may add to the price point, but I would not say they are a luxury. If you want a wooden toy, you will find something to fit your budget. Obviously, there are always cheaper options.”

Likewise, Galea said the prices vary according to items, but there is certainly something for everyone’s budget. “It is true that usually eco-friendly means more expensive, however, this might not be the case with wooden toys as they are certainly more durable and offer more value for money in terms of play and longevity. We may want to look at them as an investment instead of a luxury.”

Both owners said the response to wooden toys had been nothing but positive on the island.  “They are one of our best sellers. We do tend to focus on more sustainable products, products that are a little bit more special or better for our children and the environment,” Diacono said.

Even the brands themselves are part of a philosophy that inspires their uniqueness. “They are brands that do things differently and want to make a difference, from Plan Toys to Little Dutch, Tegu.. each and everyone has something absolutely beautiful about them,” Diacono said.

“Buyers today come to the shop looking for new gift ideas for their own children or as presents for friends and family,” Galea said. “The general public may still look for the usual toys, but slowly the concept of wooden toys is picking up, and we look forward to catering more options for our clients.”