Updated: Mar 11
Even if you have not been fully lured into the wonderful world of wooden toys, you have still possibly seen or heard about the stacking rainbow which has become synonymous with the concept of open-ended play and the staple of any playroom - indeed this was the reason it was chosen for the Timeless Toys shop logo. The toy was first manufactured in the 1970s by Grimms Wooden Toys, inspired by the Waldorf educational pedagogy of the Austrian Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), which is influenced by Fröebel pedagogy and Goethe Colour Theory.
It was Goethe in 1810 who first suggested that colour impacts our moods and emotions. Waldorf took a strong interest in Goethe's work especially the way colours interact in relationship to each other and the feeling they inspire, which is at the heart of Steiner's theory. The vibrant use of rainbow colours in Grimms Wooden Toys reflects this.
Friedrich Froebel created the first kindergarten in 1837, a place where children could grow and develop at their own pace. He believed in education and learning through activity, enquiry and guidance rather than adult-led direction; a radical concept of the time. Froebel developed a set of materials known as the Froebel Gifts and Occupations, which consists of six exploratory 'gifts': wooden blocks of different shapes. Whilst "occupations" were used to support children in their play such as sand, shells, stones, sticks, clay and paper folding much like we use sensory play materials and a curiosity approach today.
Having the freedom to build, create or imagine what you want with open-ended toys is great, not only for developing problem solving skills, creativity and cognitive skills, but also it is cost effective long-term because they can work with whatever your child is interested in at any given time, without having to continually buy those items and Grimms Wooden Toys are carefully designed to work with your child's growing skills and imagination so are not limited to toddler tower building!
Whilst my son is lucky enough to have the space to spread out his constructions, open-play can be ideal for small spaces too, because large bulky toys like castles can be built and then dismantled, the blocks can be put back in their tray or basket, the rainbow can be re-stacked.
So what can be made. At home we own the Grimms Large Pyramid, Large Rainbow, Semi-circles and Building Boards. Here are all the things my son has made over the years. I hope this offers some inspiration and demonstrates just how versatile these open-play sets are. Hopefully this also shows how different toys, like plastic figures and Lego can be combined together with wooden toys and all the Grimms Wooden Toys featured can be viewed here:
*All plastic toys shown were bought or given to us second hand. We also own a Grimms Double Trapezoid Set shown in the castle making. This set is now discontinued.