Wooden toys have been enjoyed by children for centuries. Archeological digs have even found evidence that they existed in ancient Egypt. In early Greece and Rome dolls and horses made of wood were popular amongst youngsters. Later children played with puppets and trains. This interest continued until the end of WWII when plastic became an acceptable replacement for toy making. With the new technology on the market, many manufacturers stopped production of such items. Today, there are fewer wooden toys displayed on store shelves, but their educational value has never declined.
According to many studies toys that are made of wood encourage children to employ imaginative play. Without the aid of electronic sounds, they are forced to think about what animals and vehicles would sound like and imitate those sounds. They can also manipulate the pieces in any way they like without the aid of predetermined automated movement. A simple, painted piece of wood can become anything the child can picture in their mind. For example: a rectangle block can be a car, a train, or a bus. For the youngster, a wide variety of options open up to play with all the different shapes, sizes, and colors.
The simplicity of the wooden toy is the key to its learning value. Stackable blocks, for instance, assist with fine motor skills. Gross motor skills are developed by larger items such as pedal cars. The absence of electronics allows room for more self-expression. A child may erect and tower and then tear it down to build a city. They are a multi-use tool for extended play, and most children do not even realize that they are learning while having fun on such a basic level.
The puzzles are particularly easy for a very young child to put together. The pieces are cut into shapes and typically have a handle attached to one side. The shape for each puzzle section is cut out of the backing board so that the pieces just have to be matched to their corresponding holes. This seemingly simple design element can assist the child with learning to sort shapes and develop reasoning skills. Depending on the theme of the puzzle, they may also learn to count, memorize the alphabet, or even find the location of states or countries. The possibilities are essentially endless.
Math skills can be taught easily using this versatile medium. The colors and shapes simplify such topics as grouping, counting, and basic geometry. Ratios can be learned using two colors of blocks. Several sets can be found that come with all the typical geometric shapes in a three-dimensional format. These items have the ability to provide the students with a hands-on approach to arithmetic that may assist in reinforcement of skills.
Another educational use for wooden toys is in the science classroom. Many simple machines such as levers, wheels, and pivots can be represented using pieces made of wood. Kits to build the structure of various dinosaurs and other animals can be found in science supply catalogs. There are also dioramas that show atoms, DNA coils, the solar system, and even the periodic table of elements. They are interactive in the sense that these are items that can be manipulated by the children. They can look at them and feel them in their hands. The children can move parts around and see how everything fits together.
In art wooden pieces have multiple jobs. The three-dimensional shapes can be utilized to teach drawing and shading of objects. They can also teach the student to build the base structure for a sketch or painting. For example: a circle and two triangles would be the basic shapes used to draw the head of a cat. A popular item that is often found in art classes is the wooden figure of a human being. It is usually small and can be placed in any pose the body can form. It is there to assist with properly drawing a person in movement.
Through the ages, from ancient Egypt up to today, wooden toys have been enjoyed by children around the world. Whether it is in the classroom or the living room, these simple items are important tools for teaching children of all ages. They can learn about everything from developing fine motor skills to the basics of science, math, and art. Coming in many forms, from stackable blocks to puzzles and a range of classroom manipulative items specially geared toward each subject. They encourage imagination and creative thinking. The often brightly painted wooden pieces remain a favorite of parents, teachers, and children. Their educational value has been proven time and again.