SECTOR GUIDE: Wooden toys

Wooden toys continue to sell well, even in challenging financial times. The sector tends to be a favourite with parents and other gift givers and offers a range of traditional, interactive and licensed products. ToyNews found out what's new within the sector.
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DKL 01604 678780

Wonderworld produces an extensive range of quality wooden toys including nursery and pre-school toys, mini vehicles, educational products and role-play ranges.
For every tree used in the manufacture of a Wonderworld toy, another two are planted and packaging is made from over 70 per cent recycled material.
This eco theme also extends to the range of products in the Eco series, which are specifically designed to encourage children to learn about the environment and ways to save energy.
The Eco House is a dolls house complete with furniture and a family, as well as eco features such as solar panels, a wind turbine, recycling bins and electric bike. The Eco House was recently recognised for its unique design, winning Junior magazine’s Best Eco Toy award. Other products in the Eco Series include Penguin Rescuer, Eco Town and Recycling Memo games.
A highlight of the Wonderworld range is Mini World, a collection of Mini Vehicles and play-sets. Suitable from 18-months, with rubber wheels and driver, Mini Vehicles are available in a variety of designs from Fire Engine and Police Car through to Racing Car and Helicopter. Mini Vehicles can also be used with the Mini Garage, Airport, Fire Station and Tower Crane play-sets.
Wonderworld is designed for role-play and the Neo Kitchen range remains a bestseller. Each of the appliances comes with an accessory for added play value. The Cash Register features a till roll, barcode scanner, credit card, money and a working calculator.
The range of Wonderworld wood and plush mix toys, Softwood, includes pull-a-longs such as Flibbo and Pullalong Tortoise, as well as rattles and baby toys suitable from birth. The Hopping Bunny Walker has a brake feature that helps babies to pull themselves up and can be loosened as they become more confident with walking.

Tomy Europe (formerly Learning Curve) 020 8722 7300

Tomy Europe has held the Thomas & Friends licence for 18 years and the company continues to develop its Thomas Wooden Railway System throughout 2011.
Fully compatible and including reversible tracks with roadside markings for extra play value, the range encourages traditional role-play for toddlers aged two years and up. New for autumn/winter are four collectable engines from the new DVD adventure Day of the Diesels (released in September) that sees the Steamies take on the Diesels in a fun packed adventure. Den, Dart, Belle and fire engine Flynn join Tomy Europe’s existing collectable engines portfolio, which includes Arthur, Toad, Scruff, Duncan, Fergus, Skarloey, and Devious Diesel.
A new addition to the Thomas Wooden Railway System range is the Battery Powered Figure Eight Set with Sir Topham Hatt. Retailing at around £50, this 28-piece hero product sees a battery powered Thomas going around the track and up over the bridge – all from the push of a button. With a turn of the exclusive Sir Topham Hatt signal piece, Thomas can be stopped in his tracks and re-assigned to do a different task.
Also joining Tomy Europe’s wooden toys portfolio is the Chuggington Wooden Railway range. The new line is fully compatible with other wooden train systems and features unique two-in-one stackable buildings and magnetic couplings. With almost 30 different products available, the collection features a number of iconic engines and destinations.
Speaking of the new range, European marketing manager, Nikki Jeffrey said: ”Tomy are committed to the continued investment in the Chuggington product portfolio. We are delighted with the introduction of Chuggington Wooden Railway and will sit perfectly beside our Chuggington Die-cast and Chuggington Interactive ranges. Chuggington Wooden Railway is hugely innovative and totally in keeping with our trainplay plus consumer experience.”


John Crane 01604 774949

Earlier this year at Toy Fair, John Crane launched its newly re-branded Tidlo Collection, with new packaging and point of sale material designed to give the brand more consumer appeal.
The Tidlo Collection provides a host of ride-on toys for Christmas. The Red Scooter and Motorbike is suitable for boys, while the Lemon Scooter is aimed at girls. Each ride-on vehicle comes in high gloss paint with detailing; the easy grip handlebars and pneumatic tyres are designed to give kids a more comfortable ride.
The new Kitchen Station has red cupboards and checkerboard tiling with a cooker, hob, sink and roomy cupboard. The set is completed by the addition of accessories including pans, spoons and salt and pepper shakers.
The Nativity Set comprises all the figures required for a depiction of the holy scene. The toy will encourage new vocabulary and learning about the Christmas story.
John Crane is also the UK distributor for the wooden Pintoy portfolio, along with the educational GoGo Toys collection.
A consumer advertising campaign is planned to run from September until Christmas, with additional promotions and full social media support, including a John Crane Advent Calendar which will run on the blog from December 1st to 21st to support retailers in this crucial sales period.


Marbel 01208 873123

Marbel strives to bring fun, educational, environmentally friendly and innovative wooden toys to the UK market. The company is distributor for nine exclusive wooden toy brands in the UK, including Brio, Plan Toys, Hope, Educe, I’M Toy, George Luck, Animals and more.
Brio continues in the wooden railway market, developing products packed with play value. The Central Station uses an LCD display screen and sound recording function. Launching this autumn, the Metro Railway Set allows children to add an underground railway to their Brio collection. The Metro train creates sound and its headlights light up as it moves around the track.
The recently revamped Educe range of classic wooden toys with an innovative twist has proved to be a big hit. Since 1983 Educe toys have earned international distinction for quality craftsmanship and educational value. The Chef Kitchen is a stand out Christmas present in the range; the kitchen allows children to create their own mealtime with this oven, cupboard and sink station. For clean-up there is the sink and towel rack. The cupboard can be used to store dinnerware, pots and pans, or can be turned into a refrigerator instead. The Chef Kitchen has a simple, classic design and natural colours.
Plan Toys, producer of rubberwood toys, maintains the ethos of pushing the boundaries of environmentally friendly toy production. The new Fire Engine with Fireman features an extendable ladder, turntable and hose reels. The classic Victorian Doll House has a timeless Victorian design and is a key product for Christmas.

Green Board Games 01494 538999

Green Board Games’ very first game in 1991 – The Alpha Animals Game – used hand-carved wooden animals sourced from workers co-operatives in Africa. It still does, and has lasted over 20 years in a competitive sector.
New for 2011 is a number of games that use wood as a major part of the playing experience.
Qwirkle, winner of the 2011 Spiel des Jahres, Germany’s game of the year, has 102 wooden squares to arrange in rows and columns of colours and shapes as players try to make an elusive Qwirkle.
Qbitz is a visual perception game where players race to replicate an abstract pattern using wooden cubes.
Dizios is a domino style game with a twist and again uses the feel and texture of wood.
In the construction category there are also two new games from Mindware. Contraptions contains 50 identical wooden planks and can be used to build ball track structures. Players can create ramps, funnels, chutes and contraptions like the Black Hole and Bounce Plate.
Catapult is what it says on the box. The construction set allows an authentic catapult to be built with planks, a little glue and the help of easy, step-by-step instructions. Everything that’s needed is in the box – then all that’s left to do is find a target, take aim and fire.


The Puppet Company 01462 446040

The Puppet Company is now offering Wooden Puppet Theatres. For the last few years customers have been asking for both table top and floor standing theatres, so the firm has been working with wooden toy manufacturers to produce a good value product that is well-made and decorative. A small family run firm was chosen to build the toys, designed by The Puppet Company’s UK team.
The Floor Standing Theatre combines functional features, such as the side fabric panels which both have a large pocket to keep the puppets in. The optional ‘play shelf’ at the front provides a place for the puppet to perform on and a place for their props to enhance performance. The back curtain is on a strong pole, which locks into place giving rigidity to the whole structure and the side legs prevent the theatre from falling forward. The decorative front and top panels are made to be easy to clean.
The red and yellow harlequin designs are supplied ready assembled – all the user needs to do is fold out the sides and lock them in place with the ‘play shelf.’
The theatre is perfect for all types of small and medium size glove puppets and works particularly well with finger puppet characters such as in the Traditional Story sets. Folds flat for convenient storage.


Bigjigs 01303 250400

Bigjigs Toys has specialised in wooden toys for 26 years and now has over 1,200 products ranging from puzzles and traditional toys to balance bikes.
A recent addition is a range of space-themed wooden room accessories including a three dimensional mobile, a coat hook, book ends and a height chart, which are all illustrated with brightly coloured graphics.
Also new are two mobiles, a Ballerina and Football design, as well as a farm mobile to join the existing range of farm-themed accessories.
Bigjigs’ modern versions of the wooden trapeze have brightly coloured graphics with Ballerina and Pirate designs. There are two ballerina designs and two pirate designs, which are available in assorted packs of three selling units.
Bigjigs has also introduced a range of stocking fillers from racing cars to spinning tops.
The pull-back racing animals and pull-back racing cars each come in a display box of 12 units. The new wooden kaleidoscopes, also available in a display box of 12 pieces, have a contemporary colour palette of soft pinks, purples, greens and blues combined with natural wood. At 70mm tall they will fit into stockings.
The spinning tops are decorated with five brightly coloured patterned designs. Available in a display box of 24 pieces, the stocking fillers are in the pocket money price range.

RMS 0161 727 8182

Grafix is expanding its wooden toy collection for 2012. Dedicated to creating new products, the brand has been developed to inspire creativity and hands on play.
The products are designed to encourage interaction, imaginative play and developmental learning. Grafix tailors its products to suit the educational needs of children at different stages. With over 30 years success in the market, the firm is now looking at wood as a resource worth exploring.
The wooden play range consists of seven products suitable for both boys and girls aged 18 months and up. Each product is made to encourage hand-eye co-ordination and problem solving at an early age. Moving toys the Play Truck and Play Train have features that can be interpreted differently depending on the level of play and age of the child. All the products in the range, such as Play Bugs and Play People, require shape and colour recognition.


Gibsons Games 020 8661 8866

Gibsons has been making games since 1919 and the range includes a wide selection of deluxe game sets including wooden Backgammon and Chess, which are inlaid with walnut and maple. The chess sets come in faux leather cases and contain weighted Staunton pieces made from Kariwood and Boxwood, with a choice of King heights. Presented in metallic silver packaging, they are aimed at both the novice and more serious game player.
Gibsons also produces a range of traditional games made from re-forested hardwoods. Using only fine materials and traditional craftsmanship, they are harvested with minimal cost to the environment. Each product goes through an exhaustive hand finishing process resulting in a smooth, polished finish. In the range are classics such as Shut the Box and Chinese Chequers, as well as other classics including Dominoes & Cribbage, as well as more exotic games such as Mancala, which is believed to be one of the oldest games in the world. There are also four mini Eclipse travel games – Solitaire, Shut the Box, Tiddlywinks and Chinese Chequers. Each game also acts as storage for the pieces and is presented in classic, but contemporary packaging.


Asobi 01628 200077

Boikido offers classic wooden game play – from stacking blocks and puzzles to activity tables and ride-ons, Boikido toys are built to be passed down from generation to generation. The Boikido Shapes Train Play-set encourages learning through play, with shapes that must be stacked to complete the puzzles. The Boikido Musical Building Blocks are brightly coloured wooden blocks that make different musical sounds when shaken.
Uncle Goose is a range of hand crafted wooden blocks including nursery rhyme, ABC and number sets and the latest addition to the collection is the Alphabet Block Wagon set.
New to Asobi’s portfolio for autumn/winter is Sledges, fold flat wooden sledges.


Interplay 01628 619100

Interplay’s Technokits apply the tradition of wood to the world of technology.
Technokits include a range of vehicles such as the electric Stunt Buggy and Dragster. Featuring a timber-slot assembly with pre-cut wood, the cars can be built with no glue and no mess.
Alternatively, there is the Trebuchet – a scale model of the infamous Warwolf – a devastating siege machine from the 13th century that could batter down castle walls. As with the vehicles, all pieces are pre-cut ready for assembly.
With Technokits, both young and old can enjoy creating technology projects designed to stimulate a practical knowledge of technology through play.


Hippychick 01278 434440

Distributed by Hippychick, Moover Toys is a Danish range of ride-on and push-along toys which come in both a warm natural and a vibrant cherry red wood.
The design mixes contemporary lines and classic styling and there are five to choose from – Baby Walker, Baby Truck, Dump Truck, Doll’s Pram and Rocking Horse. Four of the styles are delivered in a self-assemble form and come in packaging designed to make a visually striking display.
Moover Toys are assembled easily and quickly with a click key system, removing the need for any tools. The building of the toys is intended to be a fun, educational and bonding experience between parent and child.
The Moover Doll’s Pram won Best Classic Toy in the Junior Design Awards 2011. This toy looks to bring high-end contemporary design to the girls’ classic – the pram – creating a toy to inspire imaginative play.


Little Tikes 01908 8979 2036

Established in the toy industry for over 40 years, Little Tikes boasts a range of high quality wooden toys.
Designed for parents who prefer the option of more traditional wooden toys, the smart Cooking Creations Premium Wood Kitchen is designed for children aged two to six.
The deluxe kitchen features a granite-look worktop, double sink, shelves and a telephone. With plenty of moving parts, the kitchen encompasses a double stove, oven with window door and a dishwasher, along with a microwave, a clock and a fridge with an ice dispenser.
The appliances have clicking knobs and the kitchen also comes complete with pots and pans, accessories and spice jars. For added home role-play activity for children, the kitchen’s laundry centre includes a washer/dryer and timer along with a laundry basket.


Red Toolbox +353 (0)91 521857

Red Toolbox offers sets of carpentry tools complemented by a selection of original and real wooden carpentry kits. The tools are specially designed to suit a child’s grip while doing the same job as the adult version. The wooden kits are ideal for teaching and applying various skills.
The step-by-step level system is made for helping kids develop and gain skills as they go, while working with and enjoying the support from their parent.
Each level increases in difficulty and the level of precision required, while aiding the improvement of hand-eye co-ordination and motor skills.
The wooden carpentry kits enable children to make items such as a Soccer Table, Catapult Set, Go Cart, Birdhouse, Toolbox and Treasure Chest. Kits are available individually or as part of a combo set, which includes all the tools required for the job. The tools are also sold in sets so that a child can build a collection of tools and kits.
Following on from the success of the existing range for the eight-plus age group, comes the launch of the Red Toolbox Junior Range for the five and up age group in January 2012.


Le Toy Van 020 8979 2036

Cherry Tree Hall is the latest addition to the extensive Le Toy Van doll’s house range. At 92cm high and 66cm wide, it is the largest doll’s house that Le Toy Van have ever produced.
The painted wooden three-storey doll house features opening shutters and windows, removable roof panels and chimney stacks, which reveal a spacious loft area and staircases that double as room dividers.
Finished in magnolia with pink and blue detailing, Cherry Tree Hall is scaled for Le Toy Van’s existing range of dolls and furniture, all of which are available to buy separately.
2011 also saw the launch of many other new Le Toy Van products including Appleby House, another addition to the doll’s house range. Other new products include Emerald Castle, which features an angled tower structure; a re-designed Camelot Castle and two new Budkin knight characters.
The London Bus is a new Budkins vehicle set, with a Budkin Bus Driver character included.
Le Toy Van’s wildlife range saw the launch of a new farm play-set – Pippin Farm – and two new painted wooden wild animal sets. The Honeybake range has been joined by a three-tiered cake stand and a sliceable chocolate cake.
Other new products include a range of new Budkins characters including fairytale, wedding and pirate ranges along with a re-designed Phantom Ghost Pirate Ship.


Rainbow Designs 01329 227300

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is brought to life in Rainbow Designs’ wooden toy range. The Wooden Peg Puzzle features individual pegs numbered from one to five and under each peg are illustrations of the food from The Very Hungry Caterpillar story – starting with one green apple and ending with five oranges. The toy is designed to encourage and help young children to get to grips with numbers and hand-eye co-ordination.
Rainbow’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar Wooden Dominoes features 17 individual dominoes each illustrated with the distinctive, colourful imagery from the classic tale. The traditional game is packaged in a wooden presentation box and helps with counting, interaction and play.
The Wooden Pull-along is a 30cm long toy which features a green, red and blue caterpillar that wiggles when pulled along. It has purple felt ears and comes packaged and presented in an illustrated box.
Also available is Rainbow’s The Gruffalo collection, which features a Peg Puzzle, Dominoes Set, Woodland Creature Cabin, Gruffalo Catcher, Plant Press and Gruffalo Magnifier.


Papo 01564 784969

Papo UK is expanding its Environment collection of toys with the introduction of Castle in the Clouds, which is designed to complement the Tales and Legends category of the Papo collectable figurines. The item will be released in autumn.
The Castle in the Clouds is set on a pink cloud and comes with a set of guests to celebrate the wedding of the princess and prince including the Elf Ballerina, wearing a tutu and ballerina shoes on a Unicorn. Also included is a Blue Elf Child with pony, a dragon and the Lilac Princess.
The play-set is in line with Papo’s mission to deliver realism, imagination, creativity and interactivity.


Halilit 01254 872454

Designed to encourage a love of music from a young age, the Halilit range includes a Wooden Tone Drum, which is made of replenished rubberwood and has three distinct tones for a great sound.
Suitable from two years, the Wooden Tone Drum comes with a rubber tipped wooden mallet and the drum is approximately 16cm in diameter. The range of high quality musical instruments are safe for babies from three months and help parents to introduce their children to music making and all the developmental benefits that music can bring.
All the instruments are designed to be held by little hands and inspire babies and toddlers to create their own music.


Haba 0161 304 9555

All made from sustainable beech or maple wood, coloured with ecological, solvent-free lacquers, Haba has toys which aim to please children of all ages from birth to pre-teens and are made to last.
Voted as top baby toy in the Independent Toy Awards 2010 from Toy Shop UK, Haba’s clutching and rattling baby toys are ideal as a first toy and each has bright colours and different features designed to keep little ones entertained. For example, Clutching Toy Pixie includes a bell and mirror foils as well as a pixie, a toadstool and a tree.
The range of wooden pushing vehicles is suited to toddlers on the move. Animal Scooters features characters such as Crocodile Chris, Cow Caro and Horse Paulina. There are also pulling and stacking toys with different activities designed to develop hand-eye co-ordination such as Stacking Toy Zoolino and Convoi.
Haba’s numerous wooden construction toys incorporate a range of activities to foster spatial thinking, perseverance and fine motor skills. Colourful Building Blocks Maxi are compatible with all of the company’s building blocks and play value grows with the addition of themed sets from Kaleidoscopic Blocks and Moulded Columns to Mirror Blocks. The Ball Track Construction Sets provide the challenge of making an obstacle course to send a marble racing to its destination, with the latest Ball Track Sounds Set incorporating acoustic effects.

Revell 01442 890285

One of the most important men of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci, drew numerous plans for machines representing the technology of his time.
Revell, the global model maker, is commemorating Leonardo da Vinci by recreating many of his inventions as fully functional, wooden models with designs based on original sketches and his museum collection. Each kit features moving parts, an authentic sketch and a guide booklet, offering model enthusiasts the chance to get inside the mind of ‘the man who wanted to know everything’.
New additions to the Leonardo da Vinci wooden kit range for 2011 include the Catapult in 1:72 scale; one of the world’s most important industrial inventions is bought to life with the Printing Press in 1:12 scale; the Parachute in 1:32 scale and Leonardo’s famous Vitruvian Man in 1:16 scale, which is an example of the way Da Vinci’s studies fused art with science.
The current Leonardo da Vinci wooden kit range includes the Aerial Screw which laid the foundation for the helicopter propeller; the Giant Crossbow; the Glider, with moveable wings; the Hydraulic Saw, which enhances the age-old tradition of working machines; the Parabolic Swing Bridge and the Rotatable Crane.

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