The History of Wooden Toys

wooden toys

Research suggests that the earliest wooden toys date from sometime during the Stone Age (2.9 million years ago-2030 BC) in Africa and were simple models of useful implements such as clubs, axes and bows as well as dolls, intended to teach children critical survival and family skills and as a secondary intention to entertain them. Egyptian and Grecian cultural studies show evidence of the creation of less practical and more entertaining toys - from basic playthings fashioned by craftspeople for family members to extraordinary artisanal examples commissioned by the wealthier members of society for privileged children. Commercial manufacture of wooden toys on a small scale began during the Middle Ages in small shops, with industrial manufacture commencing in the 1800's especially in Germany and Northern Europe.

Make Your Own Toys Rather Than Buy Them

Commercially-available wooden toys are available from cheap throw-aways to handsomely-manufactured (and expensive) ones. Whatever the toys' quality and cost, your personal investment in them is a bit of time spent shopping online or at your local merchandiser. That is admirable, but imagine the return on your personal investment if you build your kids a toy yourself! Building toys is a satisfying endeavor - not nearly as difficult as it might seem at first! - and offers rich rewards that will outlast any enjoyment of purchased toys for you and the children. Even the simplest of handmade wooden toys can become heirlooms in the family, passed down through the years, remembered and cherished.

Examples of Classic Toy Planswooden toys

My classic wooden toy plans are based on my extensive research into vintage toys, their history and their construction, inspired by my own classic toys collection. A simple, easy-to-build plan I offer is for building my Ramblin' Rabbit, a wheeled pull toy featuring a comical wooden bunny with jointed arms, legs and ears - and a pair of carrots for the road. One of my medium-difficulty plans is Rope Walker, a goofy balancing acrobat who performs his dazzling high-wire act above an admiring audience. A more difficult plan is my Cozy Cottage, a full-scale heirloom timber playhouse offering lots of charm and challenging details for woodworkers with advanced skills. Whatever your skill level, my unique plans for wooden toys are great fun!

Why Making Wooden Toys is so Satisfying and Fun

In my long career in woodworking as an entrepreneur and shop owner - producing architectural trim, cabinetwork, engineering products and furniture - nothing tops my lifelong affection for classic wooden toys. I'm fascinated by their mechanics from simple to very complex, which challenge my abilities; by their history and culture which enrich my understanding of our world; and of course their amazing beauty, which everyone can appreciate. Most of all, creating my unique plans for wooden toys keeps me connected to the joy and excitement of children, who are the real experts in this lifetime adventure that we call "play!”

Read more articles from Playful Plans:

Beginner and Advanced Plans for Wood Toys
Vintage Toys
How to Use Wooden Toy Plans
Create Unique Gifts with Simple Woodworking Plans
Handmade Wooden Pull Toys
Woodworking Projects for Women
Woodworking Safety 101