The Wonder Filled Worlds of Wood for the Early Years

By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. 

What worlds to discover does wood hold for children? Made by nature, wood has so many benefits when offered to children. During the time of COVID, in group settings, there may be restrictions on the use of wooden toys and blocks, but I am confident in a post-COVID world that wood will be prominently featured in every early learning environment. The world of wood is filled with wonder for children and adults. Wood speaks to the senses. Wood speaks to the imagination. Wood speaks to nature and to heritage. I have always loved blocks and wooden toys. As a child, as a parent of young children, as an early childhood educator and now grandparent, I am a lover of wood. I put together a small collection of open-ended wooden loose parts for my granddaughter recently, and with the addition of fabric and baskets her attention was immediately captured.

While I have collected wood toys for decades, it has only been recently that I have entered the rabbit hole that is the world of wooden toys. I have found and joined multiple Facebook groups made up of wooden toy devotees. I have learned about different brands of wood toys that are highly coveted and collected. I can relate when someone posts a photo of a recent addition to their collection and wonders whether they are actually more excited than their children. I was over the moon when I received this treasure bag of sparkling gem and brightly coloured translucent blocks in a beautiful velvet bag from Louise Kool and Galt. I will be sharing these with my grandchildren. I am not sure that they will gasp in awe the way I do every time I look at them!

I admit it, I love bling in my blocks. The treasure blocks were exactly what I needed to add to my collection that includes many types blocks, all of which bring me joy! I am so excited to share my joy in my next webinar, Why Wood? The Many Benefits of Blocks and Wooden Toys for Children and their Families! Perhaps you can join me! We will be discussing blocks types, block stages of development and the multitude of benefits of these toys.

While down the rabbit hole of wooden blocks and toys, an unexpected outcome has been the expansion of knowledge! I am in the sunset of my professional career and there is still so much that I don’t know! Now, I know about Montessori learning towers and Pikler triangles! I had never heard of them before! A learning tower is a raised platform designed specifically to lift a child up to counter height, encouraging independence and participation in cooking activities. It is equipped with safety rails to prevent the child from falling. It is designed in the Montessori tradition to have children participate in a world which would otherwise be out of their reach. It is for children to gain independence and take responsibility in everyday activities like cooking! My grandson, Griffen loves to record our cooking shows perched on his tower and the experience has supported his learning (math, science and language) as well as increased his confidence in the kitchen!

I was thrilled when my daughter won another learning tower in an Instagram giveaway! Now my granddaughter can participate in all of her mom’s cooking adventures! I was inspired by the maker of the learning tower, Rooted Creations to do my own giveaway on Instagram! Of course, it had to be blocks with bling! Head over to Instagram for you chance to win these 12 amazing beechwood blocks with inserted plastic jewels from Louise Kool and Galt.

I know you have heard of Maria Montessori and you may know of her contributions to the wonderful worlds of wood but have you heard about Emmi Pikler? In the rabbit hole of wooden toys, I discovered something called a Pikler triangle! The triangle is named after Dr Emmi Pikler, a family pediatrician, who was asked to create a program to care for children in post war Budapest, Hungary (Gonzalez-Mena, Chahin & Briley, 2005). While I knew about the Montessori Approach to early childhood education, I had not heard about the Pikler Approach! Three main elements make up the Pikler Approach: freedom of movement, free play, and strong relationships between children and their caregivers. Looking at the tenets of the approach, it is clear that Dr. Emmi Pikler was ahead of her time and there is much we can learn from her. I am grateful to the world of wooden toys as they have led me to Pikler! Of course, I had to have a triangle!

I am always on the lookout for local makers of wooden blocks and toys. I am grateful to a local maker, Lumberone Creations for my foldable triangle and two-sided ramp which is sure to engage my grandchildren for many years to come. In this world of wood, I have discovered that there are many local makers of wooden toys and blocks. I am inspired by two early childhood educators in my province who make the most extraordinary wooden blocks for children. I encourage you to support local and visit their Facebook pages – Tree Nuggets and Right-Brained Mom. For all those who engage with children, I hope you will join me in the wonderful worlds of wood! See you down the rabbit hole!

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