The history of wooden toys in Russia dated back hundreds of years ago. In winter, agricultural activity goes into a halt. In turn, people pass the time making wooden toys as a form of folk art. Russia is a country whose area is covered with forests. Wood is one of their natural resources. Hence it’s easy to find materials.
Russian wooden toys are unique because they use string and lever as the mechanic. Mostly, wooden toys in Russia take the form of Russian popular animals such as a bear. They also use characters from fairytale and folklore, such as princesses and Russian Santa. One of the centers of this wooden art is the village of Bogorodskoe near Moscow whose residents has been making toys for over 600 years.
The benefit of wooden toys
In days where you can put all your children entertainment into one device, reality and entertainment become a bit blurry. Let’s agree putting kids on electronics all the time is no way healthy. Hence wooden toys, a toy you can touch, smell, and actually interact with, is a much healthier alternative.
Since wooden toys are made from, well, wood, it’s friendly for nature. Recyclable, biodegradable, and cost wise, it’s quite cheap. Unlike plastic toys, wooden toys will not pollute the earth especially our ocean. Wooden toys are also more durable. You can donate it once your kids grow up.
In general, there are two kinds of wooden toys. The carved toys such as the bear toys mentioned earlier, and of course, the popular Russian nesting doll matryoshka. You can easily find Russian toys in souvenir shops across the country, along with other unique and awesome souvenirs you should bring home.
1. Bear wooden toys
Bear wooden toys are one of the most popular wooden toys in Russia. Wood carved into the shape of a bear doing a certain activity. These toys can move with the help of pendulum, string, and simple yet intriguing mechanic. You can find the bear with doing something with its hand. There are bears playing music, from drums, guitar, to piano. There’s even a version when the bear washing her little baby and a bear with a computer.
The world famous Matryoshka is a nice wooden toy for your children. Although these days, Matryoshka, especially authentic Matryoshka, is more of an artist work than a product of a toymaker. The nesting dolls are consist of several smaller dolls inside. Matryoshka is painted with a woman figure wearing a traditional costume. Usually, the biggest one is the mother and the smaller ones are the children (with the smallest one is the baby). These dolls make a perfect companion for your children when having a pretend tea party.
You can learn more facts about Matryoshka.
3. Pecking hens wooden toys
The second most popular carved wooden toy after the bear is the pecking hens wooden toy. It shows a group of hens circling around and pecking food on the ground. Just like the bear, if you move the toy in a circular motion, you’ll see the chicken’s head bobble up and down demonstrating a pecking movement. It’s fun to see. If bear wooden toys are usually plain without any painting, pecking hen wooden toy is painted with colorful patterns. It can serve as a beautiful decoration when no one is playing with it.
4. Wooden Father Frost dolls
Father Frost is the Santa of Russia. He’s depicted as an older man with beards and carry a gift for children during the new year. (Back in Soviet days, there were no Christmas). You can buy a wooden father frost doll for your children so he doesn’t need to wait the end of the year for Santa because wooden father frost is by their side all year round.
5. Wooden blacksmith toy
Wooden blacksmith is one of the most traditional designs of Russian wooden toys. The carving shows a blacksmith hammering on the anvil. Like the bear and the pecking chicken toys, the toy can move with the help of strings. In some version of the toy, the blacksmith is accompanied by a bear. It’s so cute and what a lovable toy.
6. Kremlin stacking Toy
Stacking toys is especially suitable for toddlers. It’s easy and educational for them. A pyramid stacking toy usually made from donut-shaped rings with different colors. They usually are made from plastic. Kremlin stacking toys are made from wood instead, a more environmentally-friendly choice. It’s also shaped like one of the Kremlin towers, complete with a star at its very top.
7. Wooden birds
Another variation of Russian wooden toys after the bear, the blacksmith, and the pecking hens. Can you guess what’s moving in this carved bird toys? Yes! The wings. If you play around with this type of toys, the birds will flap their wings up and down. Compared to others, wooden birds are probably the most elegant and beautiful.
Unleash the musical talents of your kids by giving them a Russian flute. A toy and musical instrument at one device, Russian wooden flutes can be entertaining and educating toys for your children. The flutes are also painted with a colorful folk pattern. It’s nice to see, nice to hold, and with a little practice, they can produce some nice music too.
9. Semenovo doll
Coming from the Semenovo village, Semenovo doll is the oldest form of the nesting dolls matryoshka. Their history can be traced back to 100 years ago. You can read more about the history of Matryoshka here. Semenovo doll is smaller than matryoshka, being only 3 inches tall. It can be a nice present for your kids. Although beware, the smaller dolls can be too small and dangerous for toddlers.