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The 4 Things to Look for in Wooden Toys

12.15.11 The 4 Things to Look for in Wooden Toys


These days it seems that every toy manufacturer is making their own version of a classic wooden toy. Because of this, we often get asked what the difference is between a $5 wooden toy and a $15 wooden toy? Or, is there any real difference? Good question! The answer is yes, there is a difference.

There are several components to consider when selecting wooden toys – the wood itself, the glue used to connect pieces together, the sealant and/or paint and any other pieces/components of the toy such as metal pins, cotton cords, etc.


For the wood, we always look for toys that are made from solid wood, as opposed to pressed wood, plywood or MDF, which are much cheaper materials but require the use of toxic glue during production. This type of glue contains formaldehyde, a volatile organic chemical (VOC) which will off-gas (emit this chemical as a vapor for a long time) and is ultimately linked to several health issues including leukemia and cancer.


During production, glue may also be used to hold several components of a toy together so it is best to find toys made with formaldehyde-free glue. Formaldehyde has finally made it onto the US List of Carcinogens, even after decades of pressure to call attention to it's toxicity.


When it comes to the sealant and/or paint, we recommend looking for water-based or food-grade dyes, paints and sealants.  You have to be careful because conventional sealants and paints can include lead and other heavy metals which can cause serious impairments in the developing brains of babies and children. When buying wood toys that are not painted, you'll want to look for finishes made with food-grade plant based oils (for example beeswax, jojoba oil) instead of polyurethane lacquers.

Other Components

And finally, the other components.  Similar to researching the wood, sealants and paints, you want to make sure that any additional components are also free of harmful materials and chemicals such as lead, formaldehyde, PVC, etc. which are more of the norm when handmade by a skilled craftsman, able to make intricate (but long-lasting) joints, without the use of any adhesives.

The good news is that with the increasing number of healthy and safe toys around nowadays, you don’t have to sacrifice safety for fun, beauty or durability.  The even better news is that what is good for our kids and family is usually also better for the planet, which is always a good thing!

More information on what to avoid in toys


  • Start by checking to see if any of your existing toys have been recalled using the Government Database
  • Check HealthyToys.org for a database of toys tested for lead and other heavy metals.
  • When buying new toys:
  • Look for products made with solid wood (not pressed wood), wool, organic cotton, or stainless steel and that are colored with water-based dyes or non-toxic paints.
  • Find out where toys are made, and what safety standards they meet.
  • Quality over quantity. One of the unfortunate realities is that toys that are made with safer materials are typically more expensive. However, they’re also usually higher quality so they last much longer and can even be passed on to future generations.

At MightyNest, we strive to take the guess work out of finding healthy, safe natural toys for your kiddies. All of our toys are BPA, Phthalate, PVC, formaldehyde and lead free. You can have peace of mind when you see your child put a MightyNest toy in her/his mouth that we’ve done the homework for you and you’re all good.

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