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Plastic Toys vs. Wooden Toys - Safari Ltd®

Plastic Toys vs. Wooden Toys

Plastic Toys or Wooden Toys?

There are many choices you must confront when deciding which toys to buy for your children. You want something that will last a long time, stand up to rigorous use, and allow them to be creative so that they can learn while they play. You also want something that is safe for them to use.

Many today make the argument that wooden toys fulfill these needs, while most plastic toys do not. The truth is far less black and white. Not all wooden toys are created equal, and the same is true of plastic - there are benefits and drawbacks of both types of toys, and at Safari Ltd, we thought we’d take a look at this ongoing debate and provide our take on it, and let you decide.


Do Wooden Toys Allow for More Creative Play?

A common argument is that wooden toys typically are more generalized in their structure, which allows for more creativity among children who play with them, since children need to use their imagination, rather than being directed by the toy itself.

It is true that many toys these days seem to take all the imagination out of playing. There may be a play feature - it may launch a projectile or spin around when a button is pressed. Or, the toy may be part of a licensed property, from a movie, cartoon, or video game, with a predetermined backstory that pushes a child to relive an existing plotline instead of creating their own. However, not all plastic toys fall into these categories. Some plastic toys are just as open to a child’s interpretation as their wooden counterparts, and are just as able to spark a child’s imagination and encourage them to explore their own narrative.

At Safari Ltd, our figure ideas are pulled from nature, history and mythology, rather than an existing, established fictional universe, so children are free to write their own stories and build their own worlds. Our toys also aren’t loaded with play features – no buttons or switches that trigger flashing lights or distracting sounds. The play value is generated by the imagination of the child using the toy.


Are Wooden Toys More Durable?

This is another question that comes up a lot in the great debate of Wood vs. Plastic. And there really is no universal correct answer. Some wooden toys are more durable than others, and the same can be said for plastic toys. Cheap wooden toys may break or wear down over time, or paint may flake or chip off during use, just like poor quality plastic toys.

However, there are some general points in plastic’s favor here. Plastic tends to be easier to clean and wipe down than wood. Wood is more susceptible to the elements, and more likely to be damaged by water, or common cleaning products.

Another factor to consider is cost. While there are quality toys that stand up to rigorous play made of both wood and plastic, the higher quality wooden toys tend to be much more expensive than plastic counterparts of similar durability and resilience. Though it is often said that a good wooden toy can be passed down through generations, the same is also true for a high quality plastic toy that’s been well cared for.

At Safari Ltd, we hear from many adult SafariFans who grew up with our toys, and are excited to pass on their Safari Ltd animals and dinosaurs to their children, and hopefully their grandchildren. It’s not at all uncommon to find children playing with early Safari Ltd figures from 20 or even 30 years ago, still bringing just as much joy as they did back then.


Are Wooden Toys Safer than Plastic Toys?

This is another question that depends on quality. It is true that many plastic toys can potentially contain harmful elements that aren’t healthy for children. The industrial chemical bisphenol A (BPA), as well as harmful phthalates and even lead can sometimes find their way into plastic toys.

Wooden toys are not immune to this either, as some have been known to contain heavy metals including lead or cadmium. You should always make sure that a company takes steps to ensure that harmful materials do not find their way into their toys, be they wood or plastic. At Safari Ltd, safety is one of our top priorities, which is why our toys are tested by certified third parties and ensured to be BPA, phthalate and lead free.

Wooden toys and plastic toys are both susceptible to breakage; again, this depends largely on the quality of the toys. When wooden toys break, however, there is often the potential for splinters, which can cause irritation and pain in children, as well as more serious issues if swallowed. Plastic toys may break as well, but at Safari Ltd our toys are stress tested to make sure they can’t be easily broken.


Are Wooden Toys Better for the Environment?

There are many environmental issues to consider with toys, including the resources used in creating toys, and the waste created when the packaging or toy itself is discarded. Wooden toys are usually assumed to be better for the environment, but they have their own ecological issues. The processing and manufacturing of both plastic and wood consumes energy and resources that can be harmful to the environment. Wood products can also contribute to deforestation, which can harm the environment and endanger animals, if it is done in an unsustainable way.

Packaging is another facet to consider. Both wood and plastic toys that include excessive packaging can create waste that can harm the environment if disposed of improperly. Safari Ltd is committed to minimal packaging, consisting of biodegradable polybags and recyclable plastic trays to minimize our contribution to wasteful packaging.

Many types of plastic toys are designed to be used for a short period of time and discarded. Party favors and cheap, dollar-store type toys are usually not kept for more than a few days or weeks, at which point they’re thrown out after being broken or having exhausted their perceived play value. If you do choose to use plastic toys, focusing on a higher quality, longer lasting product can help prevent the cycle of purchasing cheap toys, discarding them after a short period of time, and replacing them with more cheap toys that are soon discarded themselves. Whether your choice is wooden or plastic, the key is choosing toys that will last, so they’re less likely to end up in the trash.


So What’s the Verdict?

Ultimately, the choice of whether or not wooden or plastic toys are right for you or your children is yours to make. At Safari Ltd, we aren’t perfect, but our goal is to make a high quality, long-lasting product that is safe for children, while taking steps to minimize our impact on the environment

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