Guide to Wooden Activity Center
Picture this: you’re sitting at a doctor's office, waiting for your appointment, and your kid goes to play with the toys in the corner. What toy are you imagining there? We bet you were thinking of a wooden activity center or wooden block activity cube! It is not a coincidence either- kids’ activity centers are often recommended and used by doctors. This is music to parents’ ears!
So, doctors recommend activity cubes, but which activity cube is best? Keep reading to find out which activity cubes are the best and what you need to know before purchasing one.
Before getting into how to choose one, we would just like to clarify that sometimes activity cubes go by different names but are all the same toy! They can be called wooden activity center, activity box, or even wooden bead activity center -- don’t let the variety of names confuse you, they all refer to the same type of play toy!
Now that we have that confusion sorted, you’ll need to ask yourself six questions when picking out an activity cube-- the first of which being:
1. Do you need a small, large, or giant activity cube/center?
Wooden Activity Center comes in all shapes and sizes, so which size is best for you? To figure this out, you might want to consider some of these factors first: How much space do I have to store it? How old is my child? How many different activities am I looking for? What type of activities am I looking for?
When you’re wondering what type of activities you’re looking for, kids’ activity cubes tend to include very similar activities, just with different designs and sizes. For example, wooden activity centers can be recognized by their iconic bead maze on the top-- Is it even an activity center if it doesn’t include one?!
Along with the wooden bead maze on the top, two other sides that are classically included are shape sorters and a bead sorter. The other two sides are up to the producer's creativity!
These details and questions should help guide you in a good direction to determine your best size!
Next, ask yourself...
2. Would you like a wooden or plastic activity center?
This question comes down to personal preference, but if you’re looking for our recommendation, we are team ‘Wooden Toys’ all the way! We can’t get enough of them! Wooden activity centers (and wooden toys in general) are so much more durable than plastic, thus extending it’s play life. In addition to being more durable, they also visually fit better into our homes-- their natural materials are more pleasing to the eye and blend better with our homes.
Did we mention they are also better for the environment?!
As for plastic activity cubes, they do the job, we suppose! While plastic lasts forever in landfills, it doesn’t hold up as well during play time. Plastic toys have been known to crack and break during play, creating dangerously sharp edges for your kids.
Another factor about plastic activity cubes to consider is that they are typically battery operated to generate lights and sounds. If you prefer a quieter, more minimalistic toy, this might be challenging for you to enjoy. Check out our blog post on wood vs. plastic to learn more!
Note to gift givers: Are you conflicted on which to choose? Just know that gifting a wooden toy is considered a better option because they are more durable, sustainable, open-ended, and quiet. They are especially great for those minimalistic households and parents who believe the ‘Less Toys is More’ philosophy!
Again we find ourselves asking about the age of your child-- this time we are considering their stage of life!
3. Is it for a baby, toddler, or older kids?
Wooden activity centers are fun for kids of all ages! However, they do offer different features based on age, so make sure you’re selecting the best one for you!
To break it down, baby activity cubes are typically more simplistic and are designed for beginning to develop fine motor skills. For example, they focus on activities like grasping, moving, and manipulating objects.
In contrast, activity cubes designed for older kids target skills such as sorting, teaching colors, number recognition, counting, and simple story telling. (Who knew it could teach so much?!)
When purchasing your activity cube, it is best to buy one that will grow with your child but also can help fit their current needs. If you buy one for your baby and decide to purchase a more advanced one when they get older, hold on to the first one-- you might want it for your babies in the future. If you’re all done having kids, consider donating it to a friend!
When it comes to the number of pieces and activities offered, a good rule of thumb is that the more expensive a wooden activity cube is, the more activities it will offer. This does not stand true for all circumstances though so make sure you do your research!
Hence, another question you may want to ask yourself is…
4. Do they come in one piece or 2 pieces?
Did you know that small and medium size activity cubes don’t come in one piece? It is because they do not offer the mechanism that keeps the top and the bottom of the toy together. One cool thing about this though, is that while one kiddo is playing with the top of the activity cube, another kid can simultaneously play with the bottom!
If you’re looking for a wooden block activity center that is attached, you may need to invest a bit more money into it. They typically range between $50-$120.
5. Safety First!
All parents want their kiddo to be safe, especially when there are potential choking hazards around! To ensure your child’s safety, ALWAYS check for an age grade! They can be found on the outside of the box and typically looks like this:
Baby play cubes are typically labeled 6month + or 12 months +. If the play cube is larger and includes more activities with small parts, they will typically be labeled 3 years+.
WARNING: If you order a toy online and it arrives without an age grade, DO NOT give it to your child! It means that the toy manufacturer did not complete a full safety testing and is violating US Toy Safety laws.
Lastly, you will want to consider...
6. Storage & Portability
How much room do you have available in your play space/storage? Do you plan on bringing it places with you often?
Small and medium size activity cubes store really well in most settings, whether it be displaying on your little one’s play shelf or packing it up in the car for a trip to grandma’s! Most smaller activity cubes can transform shape as well by being able to flip the top into the bottom for more compact storage abilities.
For large and giant size activity cubes, storage is a little bit more tricky! They tend to be heavy in weight and bulky. However, if you are not planning on moving it around very much and would like to have it as a staple, stationary piece in your playroom, this size might be perfect for you!
There are many things to take into consideration when choosing a wooden activity center. Hopefully we have helped you get a better idea of what you are looking for! Wooden activity cubes are a great choice to enhance your baby or toddler's development and will last them for years to come. You can learn more about play ideas with toddler activity cube here!