Montessori - A Parent's Guide

The benefits of wooden toys

Why we have chosen to use wooden toys in our home and the benefits we have observed as a result.

The benefits of wooden toys
Having worked with children for nearly a decade I’ve long learnt to appreciate the learning and play opportunities that are offered by wooden toys. Despite this, when a friend recently asked me why I preferred them I had no concrete answer, years of anecdotal evidence fell away and left me without a list of reasons! I was horrified by myself and considered running straight down to Argos and ordering a crate of Vtech!

However when I came home and started to recall specific instances of observed play I realised I could very easily categorise the anecdotes into a list of definitive reasons. Phew!

Imaginative Play

Wooden toys do not have a set function, there are no alarms or lights that direct the child in how to use a toy and so each item is completely open to interpretation. This gives a child much greater freedom when using a toy. They must create a scenario and then choose and adapt the correct item to suit their needs. Their imagination is completely independent of the toy and they may play in whatever way they choose, I have found that when plastic toys are used things are the other way round and the child must accommodate the toy.

Understanding their world

When presented with opportunity for imaginative play children tend towards creating real world scenarios with familiar characters and situations. When reenacting these scenarios they will begin to process their emotions and think through challenges, gaining control over the real life situation as they go. This is particularly important for children who are experiencing difficulties in their personal lives, I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen  children ‘playing’ a game about Mummy’s illness or granny in heaven etc. All children need opportunity to explore their lives in a safe way and to practice how to live, the freedom of wooden toys allows them to do that.

Increased collaboration 

Toys with their own voices tend to encourage solo-play whereas wooden toys tend to encourage children to work together. “Interactive” toys (I hate that description) are all well and good if you want your child interacting with a recording! When using wooden or natural toys children will seek a partner for company as the toy isn’t distracting them from their social needs. They will also seek a coworker as the challenge of the toys is greater meaning they will need the capabilities and ideas of another person.

Supportive of developmental objectives. 

Of course a child has no conscious developmental goals but the creators of wooden toys tend to be more accommodating of children’s inherent, unconscious need for upskilling. Generally they provide one simple challenge that isolates a specific skill. Consider the difference between building a tower with smooth wooden blocks or with interconnecting plastic like Duplo, which would require more deliberate movements?

Beautiful, durable, quiet. 

Wooden toys are infinitely prettier than garishly colour plastic toys. It also stays cleaner for longer and doesn’t break half as easily so you’ll get two generations of use for the price of one! I’ve often heard it said that they’re more expensive but I don’t think they are considering you will buy less toys that will see more use. Lastly they won’t wreck your head with constant high pitched piercing singing.

All things considered, whether you’re using plastic or wood, the very best thing for your child is that YOU play with them! NOTHING brings greater benefit than a parent sitting on the floor.

Vygotsky quote. The importance of play

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PS In the interest of honesty I must admit that we have do have one all singing, all spinning, all flashing plastic toy! I call it my Bathroom Buddy as whenever I need to leave Alfie alone for 5 minutes I whip it out and he’ll be in a trance until I’m back! So far I’ve seen no negative side effects from this minor exposure! Honestly I don’t mind it as I don’t want Alfie to be the ‘weird’ kid with the home cut hair who doesn’t know how to use a phone and thinks Peppa Pig is a lunch meat, this toy is my insurance!

Hello and welcome! I’m Ted, a Mother, a Reader and a Montessori Believer! Here you'll find how we're using Montessori at home and all the ways that we try to celebrate the joy in every day (mostly with books, labdradoodles and chickens).

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