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15 of the best wooden toys

Playhouses, tool boxes, activity cube and stacking trains: we've found the best wooden toys for toddlers and preschoolers

best wooden toys

There's something quite special about a beautifully crafted wooden toy. True, they often cost a little more than their plastic equivalents but they're way more environmentally friendly, and they look gorgeous and feel so appealing to little (and big!) hands. And they'll withstand lots of rough-and-ready play – often from a whole succession of siblings.

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We've been finding and rating loads of wooden toys and, with the help of our child testers, have picked out the most beautifully made ones that are also the most fun to play with...

Here's our pick of the best wooden toys, as tested by children and rated by their parents

1. Peppa Pig's Wooden Playhouse, £79.99

– Great for social skills and imaginative play

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: 5 x AG13 (included)
Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: 65cm x 50cm 3-storey playhouse, with 7 painted rooms and a hallway, themed around the home of every small child's favourite cartoon pig. Made from FSC-certified wood and comes with wooden Peppa and George figures, and a selection of accessories and furniture including a bath, a light-up cooker and a bedside table that plays lullabies. Some self-assembly required.

Why we love it: It's such a brilliant replication of Peppa's house from the TV series – right down to Mr Skinny Legs in the attic and muddy puddles on the floor. And we love the 3 interactive pieces of furniture: how excellent that Mummy Pig’s computer lights up with the Happy Mrs Chicken game! Our child tester Finley, who's just turned 4, said, "Look, look, it’s just like Peppa’s house! And George has left his scooter on the floor! Wow, a telescope to look at the stars! Peppa, George! Your bath is ready!" Do note that there are no Mummy and Daddy Pig figures (thought these can be bought separately) but, as Finley's mum Donna said, "This is such a fantastic toy – well worth the money.

Available at: Character Online, Smyths Toys and Very

2. Woody Treasures Wooden Tumbling Tower, £13.99

– Great for hand-eye coordination

Age suitability: 4+ | Best for age: 5+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A set of colourful polished-wood building blocks, featuring a range of animal characters, with which you can play 4 different games. Comes with dice and animal cards.

Why we love it: With its vibrant colours and friendly animal faces, this is a lovely, small-child-friendly twist on the popular Jenga game (and offers other ways to play, too). "It is much more fun and interactive to play," says Oana, mum of our child tester Andy, 6. "Andy loves it and has played all the games with us and with his friends. Everyone really enjoyed it, no matter their age!" As for Andy himself? "I love the characters and the colours," he said. "It's exciting waiting to see which character is next and trying to find the best block to take out!"

Available at: Amazon and Woody Treasures

3. Melissa & Doug Scoop & Serve Ice Cream Counter, £42.99

– Great for 'customer service' role play

Melissa & Doug Scoop & Serve Ice Cream Counter

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 22cm x 34cm x 20cm wooden ice cream counter playset that comes with 8 scoops of ice cream, 6 toppings and 2 cones. Also included are tongs, an ice cream scoop, spoon, paper cup, play money and a menu card.

Why we love it: We love the traditional feel and beautiful quality of this wooden toy, and the scoop is wonderful – it picks up the ice creams beautifully and lets you stack 'flavour' upon 'flavour' in the little cones. Out child tester Herbie, 5, really got into role playing, passing around the menu, taking orders from Mum and Dad and making everyone their favourite ice cream combo: "I always get the chocolate cone, chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce because I love chocolate!" His mum Rachel would have liked a little cash drawer to keep the play money in but was really impressed by the toy's universal appeal, adding, "Herbie's cousins, ranging from 3 to 11, came to visit and all of them played with this toy for nearly an hour together – wow!"

Available at: Smyths Toys and Amazon

4. Early Learning Centre Wooden Stacking Train, £25

– Great for number and letter recognition

Age suitability: 12 to 36 months | Best for age: 18 months+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A ‎10cm x 45cm x 16 cm wooden train, made from FSC-certified wood, that comes with 15 stacking blocks to build into the engine and carriages. Six of the blocks have numbers on one side and letters on the other.

Why we love it: It’s sturdy and bright and well designed and with all the colours and numbers and letters, offers lots of stacking and learning opportunities on top of simple pushalong train play. Meghan, mum of our child Ava, 2, said her daughter adored the train. "She plays with it a least once a day," she said, "building the bricks into a tower or pushing it around and going ‘choo choo’. She laughs and giggles the whole time,"

Available at: Early Learning Centre, Boots and Amazon

5. Woody Treasures Cookie Time!, £19.99

– Great for pretend tea parties

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: An 18cm x 14cm 18-piece wooden cookie set that comes in a brightly coloured wooden biscuit box with lid. The cookies are all different designs and shapes and include 2 gingerbread men, wafers and heart-shaped jammy dodgers.

Why we love it: It’s a nicely designed, durable toy that presents all sorts of play-cooking and tea-party-hosting possibilities. And as Tenisha, mum of our child tester Kady, 3, pointed out, "you can match the shapes when putting the biscuits away in the box, too." Lady herself is a big fan: "I love these cookies. My teddies think they are amazing!"

Available at: Woody Treasures and Amazon

6. Hape Fire Station, £69.99

– Great for action-packed imaginative play

Hape fire station

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: 2 x AAA (not included)
Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 60cm x 30cm x 48cm 3-storey wooden fire station with rooftop helipad, helicopter, fire engine, furniture, fireman’s pole, bell, light and a pullstring to open the doors and launch the engine from the garage. Comes with a firefighter figure and other accessories, including a little rescue dog. Some self-assembly required.

Why we love it: It’s a really good size and we love the attention to detail – there’s even a treadmill to keep the firefighters fit when they are not putting out fires! We do wish, though, that there was more than 1 firefighter figure. "There are so many features and details in this set," said Hayley, mum of our child tester Niko, 3, "that even after 3 days of having it, Niko hasn’t spotted them all yet! His favourite thing is definitely the alarm and lights on the roof. It’s a brilliant playset."

Available at: Wooden Toy Shop, Toy Street and Smyths Toys

7. My 1st Years Wooden Animal Ark, £45

– Great for animal recognition

Age suitability: 12 months+ | Best for age: 18 months+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 29cm x 15cm x 30cm wooden ark with animals that come in pairs including zebras, elephants, parrots, tortoises, crocodiles, lions, giraffes and monkeys. There's a rainbow handle attached to the ark for carrying, plus you can choose to have your child's name painted on a plaque on the roof.

Why we love it: This beautifully made wooden playset was a hit with our testers who loved playing with all the different animals and moving them up the drawbridge into the ark. As Abbey, mum of Lilah, 1, found, it's a great way to help your toddler recognise different animals, names, numbers and pairs thanks to the labels on the back of each piece. "She loves showing me all the different animals as well as telling me what noises they make," she said. The painted personalisation adds a lovely extra touch, especially if you’re gifting for Christmas or birthdays.

Available at: My 1st Years

8. Jaques of London Wooden London Bus, £21.99

– Great for travel-themed imaginative play

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A red wooden London bus with working wheels and 9 painted passenger figures that fit into the seat slots inside. You can take off the top deck to play between both levels (and store the figures safely inside).

Why we love it: It's sturdy and moves smoothly and is just a lovely, simple traditional wooden toy. With its diverse mix of figures and lots of different seating options, it's also brilliant for encouraging imaginative play – which is exactly what our child tester Beth, 4, plunged straight into. "I like this toy as it go everywhere and it has seats in it," she said. "It can go to the bus stop in London and some people will go to football and some people to Snow World and some people to work and some people to builder work and some to the farm."

Available at: Amazon and Jacques of London

9. Gift in a Tin Ocean Adventures Wooden Play Set, £11.99

– Great for developing understanding of the natural world

ocean adventures wooden play set

Age suitability: 4+ | Best for age: 4+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A little metal tin (14cm x 10cm) containing 17 wooden sea-creature play pieces (roughly 5cm each), including a blue whale, narwhal, polar bear family, penguins, seal, turtle, octopus, dolphins, puffins, shark and stingray. Comes with 3 blue felt mats, paper fish and seahorses, an information sheet about ocean animals and a colouring sheet.

Why we love it: This sweet playset has plenty to keep your child busy on a rainy day or a trip to relatives – and moving around all the different sea creatures on the felt 'sea' can lead to lots of lovely, open-ended play. The information sheet is great, too. Our child tester, Scarlett-Sionna, 5, loved learning facts about all of the different animals, as well as using the colouring sheet included, adding, "I like to take this toy on days out in my backpack, and I like that all the animals fit in he tin, so they don’t get lost. I like the octopus best because it can change colours – and I didn't know that!"

Available at: Present Mill

10. Melissa & Doug Cutting Food Wooden Playset, £15.99

– Great for role play

a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Melissa-Doug-Attractive-Introduces-Concepts/dp/B00272N8OY" rel="nofollow">

Melissa and Doug Cutting Food Wooden Playset

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 17-piece set of wooden play food with a knife. The whole set comes with a 30cm x28cm wooden crate to store the pieces in. Each 'slice' of food has Velcro on it, so the pieces can stick together and can be easily cut.

Why we love it: We love how beautifully made this set is. The detail on the wooden food looks pretty realistic, too, they 'chop' very satisfactorily – and we like how they divide differently, giving children an opportunity to learn about quarters and halves and thirds and slices. Natasha, mum of our child tester Ethan, 4, pretty much summed up our child-testers' verdict with: "My son said, 'I like chop-chopping it. The melon is my favourite, because it's my shop and I sell all the food. And I make sandwiches for Daddy'."

Available at: Amazon and Bright Minds.

11. Fishing Around Wooden Fishing Game, £25

– Great for hand-eye coordination

Fishing Around Wooden Fishing Game

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4+ | Batteries: None

What it is: This brightly coloured fishing game comes with 10 10cm-long wooden fish with elastic loops, 2 fishing rods, a dice, and instructions. Everything is coloured with non-toxic inks, and made from FSC-certified wood.

Why we love it: The rods are nice and chunky and the colours are beautifully vibrant. We love that there are a variety of different ways to play this game, meaning you can adjust the difficulty levels as your child grows. You can roll the dice to see which fish needs to be caught next, or simply use it as a simple fishing game. It is quite tricky to hook the fish on, though – some of our 4-year-old child testers did struggle a bit– so it's a game to accompany with plenty of encouragement.

Available at: Amazon

12. Le Toy Van Honeybake Cafe Machine, £30

– Great for role play

le toy van honeybake cafe machine

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A brightly-painted mini (19cm x 11cm x 21cm) replica coffee machine, with 2 wooden cups, spoon, 'milk frother' and a selection of coloured pods to place inside the removable filter.

Why we love it: This toy has the most gorgeous (water-based-paint) detailing and is perfect for old-school role-play. Our child testers loved choosing which colour pods to slot in to make a flavoured latte for their parents. Only downside for us is: the coffee's not real!

Available at: Amazon

13. Le Toy Van Petit Activity Cube, £29

– Great for multi-sensory entertainment

Age suitability: 12 months+ | Best for age: 12 months+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 13cm wooden activity cube with 6 different activities on its sides, including sliding birds, spinning wheels and cogs, a door to open, ABC/123 flaps, and a xylophone.

Why we love it: This dinky little cube is proper multi-sensory adventure toy, with something to turn or push or open or tap on whichever way you turn it. Our child testers were enthralled – particularly by the brightly coloured flower cogs you can turn around and the fox door you can open and close. Lovely.

Available at: Kidly

14. Tender Leaf Toys Weather Watch, £47.50

– Great for learning about the natural world

tender-leaf-weather

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4 | Batteries: None

What is it: A 43cm x 31cm wooden picture board with moveable features so you can display the season, temperature, rainfall, phases of the moon and how windy it is. Comes with 2 double-sided season cards, 9 magnetic weather symbols and a drawstring bag to keep them in.

Why we love it: It's both educational and beautiful to look at. We love that it include moon phases and also that it displays yesterday's and tomorrow's weather, as well as today's. Our child testers' parents were particularly charmed by the windiness indicator which lifts the hat further off the little boy the windier it gets.

Available at: JoJo Maman Bebe and The Toy Centre

15. Classic World Carpenter Box, £25

– Great for motor skills

tool set

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 4 | Batteries: None

What it is: A 24cm x 13cm x 13cm tool set, made of sustainable wood, containing a hammer, spanner, screws, bolts, wood pieces and screwdriver.

Why we love it: We really like the range of tools in this box – the stuff of great carpentry imaginings. And there's loads of nice fine-finger skill development to be had tightening and undoing bolts and screws. Our child testers' parents were particularly impressed with the holes in the sides where you can attach the bolts and screws – genius idea!

Available at: Kidly

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About the author

Helen is Deputy Editor of MadeForMums, the author of Parenting for Dummies (Wiley, £17.99) and the Head Tester for our MadeForMums Toy Awards. She has written about parenting for Mumsnet, Pregnancy & Birth, Prima Baby, Boots Parenting Club and She Magazine and she's also been Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby. She has 3 boys and a heavy-duty washing machine.

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