Woodly started as a weekend art and crafts project my oldest daughter and I set out to complete! The goal was to make some homemade wooden building blocks! What seemed like a super simple, quick, and easy project, turned out to be a little more complex than we originally anticipated. Don’t all great parent/child projects!
While researching the best ways to create these simple little building blocks, we quickly found out that you want to use all natural, untreated wood. You also want to use non-toxic, paint or dye to color the wood. This made me think: I wonder how many kids toys are actually made in America and openly say their toys are made using natural wood and non-toxic coloring. To my disappointment, but not to my surprise, almost none of the big toy companies fit this mold!
As I continued my research, I was shocked to learn details concerning “non-toxic” paints. Just like many other “regulated” materials and substances, non-toxic paint has to be non-toxic “enough” to pass a standard and be labeled as non-toxic. Does this even make sense? Non-toxic should mean zero right? They should call it, a little toxic if it passes the standards, but is still a little toxic right? So instead of buying “non-toxic” acrylic paint to create our building blocks, I bought food coloring and food gels that were editable and food safe. I figured you couldn’t get any safer than that and I knew my little kids (I have 4) would be munching on these blocks or at least holding them and possibly eating afterwards. So food coloring was great and safe, BUT when the blocks got wet, the coloring bled EVERYWHERE and stained EVERYTHING! Yikes! So then I discovered milk paint! Whoa! A milk based, all-natural paint that’s been used for thousands of years even before acrylic paints existed! Awesome! Sign me up. Well, I quickly discovered that even milk paint can be toxic when combined with certain solvents and additives. So all milk paint is not created equal! You also have a major issue similar to food coloring when it comes to milk paint. It bleeds when it’s wet!
So all of this research and the education I was receiving made me start to think back to my childhood and simple days of woodworking and building wooden toys!
Woodworking has been a passion of mine since the days when I was a child in my grandfathers workshop. I can still clearly see myself standing there, mesmerized by all of tools perfectly organized hanging on the walls, as he would help me build my pinewood derby cars for Boy Scouts amongst many other crafts and projects we completed together. I will always cherish those memories. Being a former football player and graduate at Yale, a decorated fighter pilot in World War II, and during his retired years a renowned woodworker and collector, my grandfather was a phenomenal role model and passed tons of knowledge and passion down to me, especially in the way of woodworking and using your hands to create and solve problems.
As my research continued, I began discover a new world of wooden toys and the demand for what I like to call the “good ol days” when things were just simpler. I began to ask myself, where are the basic, all-natural, non-toxic, wooden toys of yesterday? The ones that aid children in using their imagination to play. The ones that encourage children to get outside and to run around and connect with one another in person? You can find them online if you look hard enough. They do exist. But most are made by artisans and smaller shops and to my disappointment many, if not most, are made using paints, dyes, wooden parts, and small choking hazard type of materials and parts that are toxic to your children and sourced from places like China.
Go look on amazon and even if a company says something like “made of XYZ wood” that makes it sound like a toy is made in America, do some fact checking. I can almost guarantee the toy is made in china. it’s the only way for most brands to compete nowadays. Did you know that even certified and tested items that are made in china are only audited every once in a while? let’s say out of every 10,000 toys made, 1 is audited. Not to say it’s safe for your child in the first place in my opinion, but this assumption leaves 9,999 other toys coming off the assembly line that are not audited or tested! Do you think all Chinese factories care about your child’s safety or their profit more? Sadly, that question is very easy to answer in my opinion. So what stops them from turning up the dial a little on that “non-toxic” paint so it includes a lot of Formaldehyde instead of just a little like the “non-toxic” standard allows for in their guidelines? Assumptions nonetheless, but if you do your homework you’ll see what I’m saying. go to cancer.org and read a little bit about the side effects or prolonged exposure to formaldehyde! it can cause cancer!! It’s also one of the base ingredients of acrylic paints, even non-toxic variations of these paints. Yikes!
You should also go read about VOC’s (volatile organic chemicals) that almost all paints and wood sealers give off for months or years, even after the paint has dried! Yep, you and your child (especially your child) are inhaling those all day long while they play with their “non-toxic” toys. It’s sad. VOC’s are known to permanently weaken your immune system!
Even though small toy balls are the second leading cause of children choking to death, why do you think most companies still include balls that are within the choking hazard size of ball which is 1.15 – 1.5″? It’s probably a safe assumption that it would cost them close to double to make balls that were 2 – 2.5″. We’re totally ok with it costing more to create balls that are larger than your child’s throat because we truly don’t want your child to choke. Wow, what a ground breaking concept!
I can honestly say that I am FAR from the “super organic, green, all-natural” type of person, but after my research, I was disappointed and disgusted! I know that my number one priority in life is the safety and well-being of my family and children in particular. My research was sparking this soul churning desire to create 100% all-natural wooden toys that are completely non-toxic, completely renewable and organic, and produce zero VOC’s.
So Woodly was born. Our goal is simple: Do the right thing. Make toys that aren’t harmful and inspire children to use their imaginations. We are thrilled to wake up and work on this little, family-owned company every day!