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25 Aug

Playful Factory: Safety Tips for Wooden Toys

Wood is a great material to build toys out of for many reasons; durable, low cost, accessible, repairable, and I could go on. With this being said, there are also some safety concerns that must be addressed in order to maximize enjoyment and minimize disappointment. To design the best possible toy, you must ask the best possible questions. Here are some questions that might help you design your own pull-along toy:

Who is this toy for?

Pull-along toys are made for boys and girls, ages 19 months and up. Interest for this toy will peak once children are able to control their walking and start experimenting with running. Clearly it is not limited to this age group. Crawling babies like them just as much as older kids do.

What is the main purpose/function of this toy?

To be pulled around and to motivate toddlers to learn to walk. There is often other functions such as movement, stacking, transporting, etc…

What is not working well with existing pull-along toys?

  • Some pull-along toys have a narrow base and tend to get a little top heavy, causing the toy to fall over. At which point the toy gets dragged around on its side.
  • Some pull-along toys have multiple connecting parts, like a train with multiple cars. The attachment points between the pieces is not secure enough and parts get left behind.
  • Some wheels do not get enough grip on smooth surfaces to spin.

What is working well with existing pull-along toys?

  • As mentioned before, some pull-along toys have secondary functionality. These seem to keep kids interested in the toy even after they are exhausted from pulling the toy around.
  • The pull-along toys that take advantage of the mechanical movement provided by the child moving the toy across the floor seem to really excel!

What is something fun and unique that would improve pull-along toys?

Being able to customize the pull-along toy would be fun… Having interchangeable parts or an ability to decorate your own.

What should my pull-along toy look like?

Whatever you would like!

What safety concerns should be taken into consideration?

Small Pieces: Beware of small pieces, especially with homemade toys. This includes the pull string. This is a real choke and strangle hazard. I would suggest a thicker pull string, about bungee cord thickness. Also, in areas that you have a material change ensure they are fastened together securely. Wood Finish: Ensure the surface is smooth and the corners are rounded. Treating wood products is important because their finishes often wear out over time. Treating them with a natural oil helps to prevent splintering. Even painted finishes will wear out over time. In addition to this, keep in mind that some finishes, even natural ones, may be toxic if toddlers ingest them, so pick a finish that you feel comfortable with. Make Baby Stuff shares some very valuable information about the best natural oils to use as a finish for your wood toys. "Normal use and cleaning can dry out surfaces on wooden toys. This can allow bacterial growth in the cracks and pits that are a natural part of wood construction. Periodic oiling of wooden toys fills the cracks and pits and helps to prevent the growth of bacteria." Oils: Beeswax, tung oil, almond oil, walnut oil, linseed oil, orange oil, and lemon oil are all great natural oil finishes. Paints: Acrylic (AP non-toxic seal), milk paint, water colors, food coloring Please comment with any design or safety tips you may have. What do you like or dislike about certain pull-along toys? What wood finishes do you prefer? What other questions will help us design better wooden pull-along toys?

  1. February 6th, 2011 at 20:04 | #1

    Very nice. I am always a fan of the wooden toys and just feel that they are safer for my children. My children love their wooden blocks more so than their electronic toys. We have a favorite store in Sydney, Forever Blocks, who make handcrafted wooden blocks and the intricacies and details are astonishing.

    Thank you for the information, you guys are good!


  • August 26th, 2010 at 11:43 | #2

    @Tassi Smith
    That is a great idea for a new pull-along toy Tassi. You should do a little sketch of the concept and share it with everyone. The next post will be all about coming up with new pull-along toy ideas. You could add yours to it.

    Thanks for checking out Playful Factory, you guys rock!

  • Tassi Smith
    August 26th, 2010 at 11:23 | #3

    I agree with Kylee about the tipping. It can be very frustrating for kids. I think a cool idea for a pull along toy would be similar to the penguins but have it be a person that represents each member of your family. It can also be made to have interchangeable shirts and heads. So if the child pulling the toy wants their person as the leader they can swap heads. That is all.

  • kylee
    August 25th, 2010 at 12:22 | #4

    Loyal to my childhood, I love the telephone pull along. He even made it into Toy Story 3!
    I agree that tipping is a real problem and can be so frustrating for a child.

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