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Monday, September 21, 2020

The Best High Quality Wooden Toy Brands for Open Ended Play

Are you looking to invest in wooden toys for your playroom or daycare but want to make sure you get the best bang for your buck? The key is to invest in high quality open ended toys that will last for years and won't get boring as your children get older. Toys of heirloom quality that grow with your child as their skills and imagination develop. I've put together a list of the best high quality hand made wooden toy brands available here in Australia and worldwide.

little boy playing with wooden loose parts tray

WHAT ARE OPEN ENDED TOYS?


Open ended toys are toys that can be played with in multiple ways that also have no "correct" way to play with them. They're usually very neutral in design so children can use their imagination to bring them to life any way they want. Open ended toys aren't always wooden {think play silks, dolls, magnetic tiles} however, the majority of wooden toys are open ended. For example a simple wooden block can be just a block, or it can be a car, house, tree, person, rocket etc. The possibilities are endless and as your child's imagination and skills develop, the way they play with their toys will too.

THE BEST WOODEN TOY BRANDS


The following brands are all widely popular around the world and hand made by highly skilled artisans. Whether you're looking for building blocks, loose parts, small world props, vehicles or items for a home corner for your own children or daycare centre, there's a brand on this list that will have what you want. There's wooden rainbows, trees, animals, cars, castles, tree houses and lots more. If you're new to the world of wooden toys then these brands are the best place to start.

It's important to remember that because wood is a natural resource there will be variations to wood grains and may also be some knots in some items. These are not imperfections but rather naturally occurring marks that make each piece unique and add to the charm of wooden toys.

As each item is handmade there may be long wait times and limited supply which tends to fuel the demand for these toys even more. While it may cause some disappointment on restock nights, it does also mean they hold their value for resale and can often be sold second hand for almost retail price. Therefore, if for some reason your children don't like some pieces, or you simply want to on-sell them once your children have grown up, it's easy to do so and recoup a lot of your initial outlay.



GRIMMS SPIEL & HOLTZ DESIGN


Without a doubt one of the most popular and well known wooden toy brands is Grimms. Grimms Spiel & Holtz Design {more commonly known as Grimms} is a world renowned family owned toy company in Germany. They've been designing, manufacturing and selling wooden toys since 1978. What started out as a small family owned business has grown in popularity exponentially and they're now stocked in boutique toy stores all over the world.

They're most famous for their iconic Grimms wooden rainbow which comes in multiple sizes and colours. However, they actually have a catalogue of hundreds of different Waldorf and Montessori inspired toys, including element stackers, blocks, friends, cars, hearts, large block sets and the extremely popular weather set and large stepped pyramid. Grimms toys are made from sustainably sourced alder, lime, beech and maple wood and dip dyed in non toxic water based stains which allow the natural wood grain to remain visible. Because they're made from solid pieces of wood, Grimms items can contain strong grain lines, knots, mineral deposits {dark circles} and pith tubes {black lines} which are all naturally occurring marks within the wood.

Grimms rainbow, hearts, sparkling mandala, weather set, large stepped pyramid and more


As Grimm's have become more and more popular there are now a lot more online boutiques stocking the brand, which is great news for customers as they usually only restock every 3 months on average throughout the year and are subject to geofencing restrictions {you can only buy from within your own country}. In Australia some of our favourite stockists are The Creative Toy Shop, Lime Tree Kids, Growing Kind, Entropy Toys and Tiny Paper Co. For a full list of all Grimms stockists in all countries click here. Be warned, once you start collecting Grimms pieces it's easy to get addicted!

GRAPAT


Grapat is a family run business based in Catalonia, Spain. Casiana and Jordi were inspired to start Grapat after watching their own daughter use everyday objects for imaginary play. Open ended play is very much at the heart of Grapat and because of this they specialise in Waldorf inspired loose parts sets that can become anything your child wants them to be.

Grapat has something to offer all age groups from babies right through to adults. Their most popular items are nins, rings, coins, mandala pieces, seasons sets and the coveted lola set and the highly anticipated limited edition hope and joy sets {soon to be released in Australia}. Grapat pieces are made from sustainably sourced wood, hand painted with water based non-toxic dyes and finished with vegetable based waxes and oils. The dye is absorbed into the wood which means it leaves the wood grain visible and it won't flake or peel off during play {although some minor colour transfer may happen if pieces are knocked together}.

grapat wooden toys - magos, palos, lola, rings, tomtems, nins

As Grapat are handmade production times can be quite long so there can be a few months between restocks. Grapat is also subject to geofencing so can only be purchased from within your own country. In Australia our favourite stockists are The Creative Toy Shop, Growing Kind, Entropy Toys and Tiny Paper Co. A full list of worldwide Grapat stockists can be found here.


GLUCKSKAFER


Gluckskafer is a family run wooden toy brand from Germany. Gluckskafer toys are made from sustainably sourced wood and finished with non-toxic water based dyes that allow the wood grain to show through. They're Waldorf inspired and designed to spark imagination.

Gluckskafer are most famous for their colourful building slats and puzzles. They also have a range of larger home corner pieces including a doll cradle, kitchen furniture, washing line and ironing board. They also make wooden playdough tools and scoops and some baby toys.

gluckskafer wooden toys

Gluckskafer is available in Australia at The Creative Toy Shop, Growing Kind, Entropy Toys and other selected toy stores.

RADUGA GREZ


Raduga Grez is a family run toy business in Russia that has gained immense popularity over the past few years. Inna, an interior designer and her engineer husband as well as a team of 20 including carpenters, joiners, painters and packers hand make the toys from start to finish. Raduga Grez translates to rainbow of dreams which is what they're trying to create with their toys. They celebrate creativity and the joy of imaginary play.

Raduga Grez toys are made from solid pieces of wood and dip dyed in non toxic water based paint. The paint leaves a matt finish with a velvety texture and visible wood grain. Just like wrinkles, blemishes and even stretch marks are part of life and signs of growth, knots and wood grains are natural signs of growth in Raduga Grez toys. Their toy range includes forest trees, apartment and building block sets, wooden vegetables and fruits, tea sets and numerous stackers. The latest collection is based on flowers with new flower arches, stackers and cars available soon.

raduga grez wooden toy tea set, stackers, forest sets and apartment blocks

Raduga Grez add new collections of toys each year and do small production batches so certain toys do sell out quite quickly. As they've gained popularity worldwide their stockist list continues to increase in more countries, for a full list of stockists click here. Here in Australia Growing Kind have recently added Raduga Grez as well as a few other online toy stores.


OCAMORA


Ocamora is a family business based in Córdoba, Spain. Laura and Gregorio started Ocamora in 2016 to combine their passions for nature and conservation with being able to work from home with their family. Ocamora products are influenced by nature and how natural resources can be transformed into anything with a little imagination.

Ocamora toys are made from sustainably sourced wood from Spain and Europe and finished with vibrant natural non-toxic water based dyes. Like other wooden toy brands, knots, grain lines and blemishes will be visible, making each piece unique. Ocamora products are Montessori and Waldorf inspired. They're most famous for their tenique wooden blocks, bright trees and new bonsais, building blocks and many colourful 6 and 12 piece rainbow arches.

ocamora wooden rainbows, trees, bonsais, houses and teniques

Ocamora toys can be purchased directly from Ocamora or from selected boutique toy stores. Ocamora was released in Australian stores in 2020 and is currently available from Growing Kind, Tiny Paper Co and a few other select toy stores.

SKANDICO


Skandico is a family run toy brand based in Moscow, Russia. They started out selling on Etsy in 2018 and have since expanded to also be stocked in boutique toy stores around the world. Natalie designs toys that have a soul and warmth to them, using bright colours to inspire imagination. The toys are then handmade by carpenters in Russia who have been making toys for generations.

Skandico toys have a velvety, grippy texture and are hand painted using water based paints. Skandico are most well known for their bright fruit and vegetable stackers, castle black set and puzzles. They also have a range of cars, peg people and forest trees.


Skandico toys still ship to a number of countries directly from their Etsy store. They're also stocked in Australia by a few online toy stores including Hurley Burley Toys, Rejoice Toys and Nesk Kids. 


BAUSPIEL


Bauspiel make both wooden and acrylic toys in Germany. Bauspiel translates to build and play. Their wooden blocks are made from beech, alder or lime wood. Bauspiel are most well known for their use of acrylic gems in the colour street blocks and windows and their lucite blocks which allow colour refractions that you don't get with normal blocks. They also have a giant wooden rainbow which is wider and taller than the Grimm's large rainbow.

Some stores only sell full sets of Bauspiel, but there are some Australian stores that will sell each block type in sets of 5 or 10 so you can try them out before investing in a full set. Each of the different building sets are made with 2.5cm sizing so all the pieces will interlock and work together with each other. The gems in the colour street set are inset into the wood so they're not transparent, however do create a sparkle in light. The gems in the individual square window pieces are completely transparent and held in place with small dowel pieces.

Bauspiel wooden blocks, rainbow, colour street and lucite blocks

Bauspiel is available in Australia from Entropy Toys, Growing Kind, Tiny Paper Co and a number of select online toy stores.

MAGIC WOOD


Magic Wood have over 25 years experience hand making toys in Poland from sustainably sourced timbers. They are most famous for their natural bark covered toys like the classic tree house and castles {although the castles aren't as widely available in Australia}. Their toys are made from a combination of alder, hazel, beech and pine and surface oiled with linseed oil. The bark is left natural so will loosen and flake off over time. The toys featuring natural bark edges are only made from reclaimed branches and not from felled trees.

The best selling Magic Wood products in Australia are the marble trees, large and classic tree houses. The tree houses are very neutral in design and can be configured in many different ways to inspire children's imagination. They can be a tree house, doll house, fairy village, woodland cave, or anything else your child imagines.

magic wood tree houses and marble tree

Magic wood toys can be purchased in Australia from The Creative Toy Shop, Entropy Toys, Growing Kind, Tiny Paper Co, Oskars Wooden Ark and selected other toy stores.

DREWART


Drewart was established in 1982 by Jerzy Muszynski in Poland. Drewart now employ approximately 30 people who hand craft their toys from European alder wood. The toys are then finished with natural plant oils or non toxic paints. Drewart are most famous for their buildings, especially their castles, doll houses and stables.

drewart wooden toy doll house, castle and barn



Drewart is available in many countries throughout the world, for all worldwide distributor details click here. In Australia Drewart is available from The Creative Toy Shop, Oskars Wooden Ark, Kidstuff and selected online toy stores.


DEBRESK


Desbresk is a a Swedish brand founded in 1987 by Joris Dekkers, Konrad Breidenstein and Anders Skanberg. The name Debresk comes from combining the first few initials of each of their last names. Dekkers, Breidenstein and Skanberg went to the same Waldorf school in Sweden and their toys are now popular staples in Steiner schools.

Debresk toys are heirloom quality and designed to withstand play and be loved for years. They're most famous for their vehicles, which are functional with moveable ladders, tow lines and tip trays. Their toys are made from solid pine and beech wood and finished with a light coat of linseed oil.

desbresk wooden toy vehicles


Debresk toys can be purchased worldwide from a number of online stockists and toy stores. In Australia they can be purchased from Growing Kind, Entropy Toys, Oskars Wooden Ark and other selected boutique toy stores. Find all international Debresk stockists here.

FAGUS


Fagus have been manufacturing toys using beech wood since 1981. Fagus are big supporters of the special needs community and are committed to providing meaningful employment for people with disabilities. Their toys are produced in Germany by people with various disabilities under the guidance of trained professionals.

Fagus are most well known for their wooden vehicle toys, especially the tractor, trucks, diggers, cranes and cars, however they also have marble runs which are becoming popular in their own right. Fagus toys are heirloom quality and designed to be kept and passed down through generations. Their toys are not nailed or screwed together, but rather interlocked, dowelled and glued together. All of their toys are kept natural and finished with a non-toxic transparent lacquer.

fagus wooden toy cars and marble run

Fagus are available from toy stores all over the world. In Australia they're stocked at The Creative Toy Shop, Entropy Toys, Oskars Wooden Ark and other selected toy stores. You can look up all Fagus stockists here.


HOLZTIGER


Holztiger wooden animals are individually handcrafted from maple or beech wood in Europe. The surfaces and all edges are sanded smooth and then they're hand painted with non-toxic water based paint. Holztiger have a huge range of animal figurines including aquatic animals, farm animals, wild animals, dinosaurs and mythical creatures. They also have a range of wooden people and trees.

holztiger wooden animals

Holztiger animals have almost cartoon like facial expressions. Many of the animals have rope tails, while the dinosaurs have wooden tails. Holztiger are available in Australia from Growing Kind, Lime Tree Kids, Mini Zoo and other selected toy stores.

OSTEIMER


Ostheimer have been handcrafting wooden figurines in Germany for more than 75 years. Ostheimer toys are made from hardwoods like maple, elm and ash from sustainable local forests. The toys are hand designed then cut, sanded and painted by hand using non-toxic stains.

Margarete Ostheimer was influenced by her Waldorf studies to create a collection of toys that inspire imagination. Ostheimer figurines have a deliberately minimalist design to allow children to bring them to life through their own imaginary play. As they pass through many different hands throughout production slight variances, in painting especially, are expected and add to the uniqueness of each individual Ostheimer piece.

ostheimer wooden toys on a world map

Ostheimer toys are stocked in toy stores all over the world and are arguably the leading wooden figurine brand worldwide. In Australia Ostheimer is available from The Creative Toy Shop, Entropy Toys, Oskars Wooden Ark and other selected toy stores. Find international Ostheimer stockists here.


the best wooden toy brands for open ended play


MORE OPEN ENDED TOYS FOR TODDLERS & PRESCHOOLERS



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