Play, Toy Safety, Waldorf Toys, Wooden Toys

The Care and Feeding of Wooden Toys


We love wooden toys because they are safe, natural, and durable, but also because they are nourishing to a young child’s senses. They feel good and, with their variety of natural colors and grains, are beautiful to behold! Not only will wooden toys provide many years of play for your children, but with proper care, they will also be enjoyed by your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Wooden Toy Cement Truck

But how should one care for wooden toys to make them last? Because they are made from a natural, living material, they need special care and loving attention.

Simple cleaning with a mild solution of soap and water (I like Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap) or a vinegar solution will keep your wooden toys safe and germ-free. Vinegar has mild disinfectant properties. Be sure to avoid bleach, detergents or abrasive cleansers, which will dry out the wood, leading to cracks and breakage, and will also lighten the surface. Use a damp cloth, soft brush or a sponge to wipe clean. It is best not to submerge wood in water (and never put it in the dishwasher).

Wooden Toy Dish Set

Wood needs to have its natural moisture replenished in order to prevent it from drying out, warping or cracking. The best way to keep your wooden toys hydrated and well-nourished is with a natural oil or wax, like plain mineral oil or beeswax polish, like Bee Luna Natural Beeswax Polish. Beeswax polish is not only completely non-toxic and safe for children, but it also smells like honey, further adding to the sensory deliciousness of wooden toys!

Bee Luna Natural Beeswax Polish

Like all wood, wooden toys can be affected by changes in temperature and humidity. Be careful not to leave them outside overnight or for extended periods of time. Heat, sun and humidity can all affect the appearance and shape of wooden toys, and worse, lead to cracking, swelling or breakage.

With proper care and feeding, the wooden toys you purchase for your child today will be enjoyed for generations, delighting other children and families decades after the plastic toys end up sitting in the bottom of a landfill for all time.

What are your favorite wooden toys? Leave a comment and let me know!

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  • Reply Jay Jay April 6, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Thank you for this great little tutorial on how to care for wood! It is so helpful!

  • Reply BarefootEmily April 6, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Thank you for posting this info! I spend a lot of time cleaning our wooden toys while the children play at my feet at our little Waldorf inspired preschool. I’ll see about getting some Three Beautiful Bees for our room.

  • Reply Sarah April 7, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Thanks, Emily. While I was teaching, Friday was always our cleaning and polishing day. As soon as the children arrived, after greeting them I would hand each a soft rag with beeswax polish. We would polish our tables, the cutting boards, wooden bowls, playstands and wooden furniture until everything was shining and glowing!

  • Reply Liz April 7, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    I love wooden toys too and the funny thing is – my daughter Riley (she’s 3) LOVES to play with them almost more than any other toy – and there are a lot of toys to pick from! I’m now following…can’t wait to see more! ~~Liz

  • Reply Healing Hillary April 8, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Love the Dr. Bonner’s idea…thanks for that.

    Our favorite wooden toys right now are stacking and nesting toys!

  • Reply Mayya @ Sew Chic and Unique April 10, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Great info thanks for sharing…its been a while since i saw wooden toys around…shame really..

    Stopping by for SITS

  • Reply UmmSophia April 10, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Is the polish only for unfinished wood toys?

  • Reply becca April 10, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    congratulations on being debt free! isn’t it the best feeling ever?! we are on baby step three, and it is taking for-ev-er. i can’t wait to be done so we can kick murphy out for good. thanks for visiting my blog. i LOVE yours. a friend of mine teaches at a waldorf school, so i know just a little bit about it. my husband makes wooden toys, specifically the little walking ducks on sticks. we are fans of natural kid toys, getting rid of the lame plastic stuff. keep up the great blogging! come back by on monday for a giveaway.

  • Reply Sarah April 11, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    To UmmSophia,

    Good question! The beeswax polish is best for either unfinished wood, or on the many Waldorf toys which are stained with vegetable dyes, like the toys from Grimm’s Spiel und Holz (like the Rainbow Nesting Bowls, and Tunnel from Bella Luna Toys), Kinderkram, Ostheimer and others. These toys have a natural, matte finish.

    I wouldn’t use the beeswax polish on painted wooden toys, or wood finished with polyurethane or any other kind of hard, glossy finish. Those kinds of chemical finishes are designed to seal the wood, eliminating the need for oils or waxes, but of course, they can add toxic chemicals or heavy metals, which could be dangerous for children.

    • Reply Michele January 12, 2011 at 9:02 pm

      I was just going to ask about the Grimms! We have a stacking set that I recently discovered had some banana and such on it and I wanted to clean it up. I didn’t realize that I could also use the beeswax on it too.

  • Reply Kimara April 11, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Polishing our wooden toys is one of our favorite past times. We love how it feels. I do a lot of crafting with wood, and I joke that it is the only craft I do that actually improves my hands because of the oils and waxes I use to seal the wood.

  • Reply Kimara April 11, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    BTW… I’m going to link on Facebook :)

  • Reply Nina April 20, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    well my son’s is his hammer…where he pretends to be a dwarf mining diamonds…or a construction worker. I think I like his little men I just got last week that are actual construction workers. I wonder if you could use grapefruit seed extract to disinfect? I use that for my wooden cutting boards.

  • Reply Knock on Wood Toys July 15, 2014 at 4:05 am

    If your wooden toys have a polish over them, you can just use normal polish cleaner with a microfiber cloth. This always makes the toys super clean.

  • Reply Brian January 1, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    Hi, was looking at your wooden train set advertised for all ages? The people appear to be small in size. Could they pose a choking hazzard?

    Do your products conform to the new testing required by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act 2008? (finishes, materials and construction)

    I was thinking of using a clear polyurethane to seal the wood. You mention in another post that polyurethanes can add toxic chemicals or heavy metals. As a clear coat, it is my understanding that it is totally inert when dry and totally safe. It is used routinely on wooden highchair trays, baby cribs etc.

    Thanks for any help/feedback!

  • Reply Saani Bennetts October 2, 2016 at 6:43 am

    What lovely toys. Great tips for caring for wooden toys too, which is something people often forget about.

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