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Wooden toys – History and relevance

Jun 08, 2020

Wooden toys – History and relevance - Ariro Toys


Toys from earlier eras can be found primarily in stone, terracotta, wood and sometimes, metal. Roman and Greek toys are dolls, horses and chariots. Toys found at an earlier African heritage site were miniatures tools made of wood and metal. Egyptian children once played with toys that had wigs and movable limbs. The detail which goes into the making of those toys is wondrous.

Traditional hand-made toys have long been available across India, especially in Rajasthan, Gujarat and pockets in South India. Monkey on a string, wood and cloth puppets, paper mache dolls, colorful wooden animals and innovative terracotta bird whistles; these are just a few of the ancestral toys our older generations have grown with.

The making of these toys was an effort of love, labor and exquisite craftsmanship. Each toy was hand-made and could be tailored to choice. In fact, custom pre-orders could be taken for major holidays or other notable occasions. The more complex toys were truly admirable; the miniature moving parts that came together to make a tiny, but superb toy, such as a movable doll or car/chariot and all its parts.

After Industrialization and World War II, plastic infused itself into the toy trade. Not only was mass production a possibility, with moulds, it was also more affordable for the lay man. Good quality toys, up until then, were an item of luxury and hand-made by certain artisans only. At the time, arguably, these were even considered safer, as the older wooden toys were more flammable.

While the concept of play, as a means to develop as child understands of the world, really flourished under the wide spread manufacturing and sale of factory made toys, it hit the wooden toy trade quite badly. For quite a while, demand for wooden toys hit a low, even forcing some niche artisan families to forego the business altogether and turn to other means of income.

Fortunately, as more recent generations are becoming more aware of their choices and the consequences, the traditional toy trades are picking up again. This can primarily be attributed to the urge to reuse more and waste less. Most wooden toys can last through generations of play, thanks to their sturdiness. The amount of chemicals that go into the making of cheap plastic toys makes for an abhorrent set-up.

At Ariro Toys, we aim to provide toys that are made with lots of love and care using authentically sourced wood and nature-derived colors. The goal is to provide timeless toys that can be played with and loved across generations.