If you're familiar with my aesthetic at all, I don't think it will come as a surprise that I prefer well-crafted wooden toys over pretty much anything else when it comes to play products for children. I've learned a lot about how kids play in the years I've spent as an early childhood educator and in my opinion, the simple truths are these:
Simplistic design breeds creativity.
Incorporating natural elements influences a calming environment.
Less is more.
Quality will never go out of style (and will stand the test of time and sticky preschool fingers).
I've slowly begun collecting items for my own daughter and am doing my best to remain attuned to the aforementioned beliefs as I make purchases (or plan for future purchases). I've put together a list of favorites below, including individual items and high-quality shops & brands I've come to love and trust when it comes to baby and children's toys. Asterisks indicate items I own or items I've included on my baby registry.
First, the resources in the above college (from top to bottom, left to right):
Rolling Elephant; Stacking Hearts*; Wooden Bowl & Spoon Set*; Play Kitchen; Alphabet Blocks; Ostheimer Wooden Animals*; Rainbow Stacker*; Xylophone*; Natural Teething Sticks*; Shape Sorter; Bird Rattle*; Paint Storage Jars; Toddler Push Wagon; Alphabet Puzzle; Moon Houses Stacking Game; Rocking Horse; Rainbow Arches; Baby Teether Ring; Modern Dollhouse
Next, my go-to online stores that stock quality wooden toys for all ages:
Nova Natural (probably my fave)
Bella Luna Toys
The Wooden Wagon
Etsy is also a wonderful resource. Some favorite shops:
Smiling Tree Toys
The Wooden Horse
Little Sapling Toys
A Summer Afternoon
And last, some top brands:
One more thing: I fully recognize that many of these brands are more expensive than mass-market options and understand that for many people, investing in wooden toys is exactly that: an investment. However, I one hundred percent stand behind my points outlined above. Quality will always be worth it for me (and my children, our home, the environment, etc.).
Also, if you're willing to search and shop around a bit, you can often find an awesome deal. Case in point: This wooden rocking horse retails for $175. (Steep!). This one is nearly identical for only $50 + shipping.