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DESIGN
Wood Toys
Four sustainably-made playthings that teach more than fun
by Karen Day
on 21 February 2011
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Automoblox

An update to classic wooden cars, Automoblox double as imaginative educational tools for car enthusiasts big and small. The modular vehicles ignite creative thinking and cognitive learning by mixing and matching the "building block" components, which fit together like puzzles for open-ended play and teach visuospatial processing in the process.

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Made from renewable European beech, premium polycarbonate roofs, tires and connectors in bright colors accent the natural material beautifully. Each year Automoblox adds a new range of classic toy cars to their collection, which now spans hot rods to sport utility vehicles. Cars sell online from Automoblox, with prices ranging from $10-120.

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Early Rider

Designed to teach bike riding without training wheels, the Early Rider series is the upshot of a parent frustrated by the lack of options on the market. The three styles—Lite, Classic and Evolution—each cater to a little one's body size and practical capabilities, beginning with a bike for someone at 20 months to finally a five-year-old. With simple, easy-to-repair design, the solid birch bikes are likely to be passed on for generations. Available in natural as well as pink or blue, prices span $160-200 and sell from local dealers and online from Early Rider to countries around the world.

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Wishbone Bikes

Like Early Rider, Wishbone is a parent-driven idea—in this case, dreamed up by a couple who wanted to provide their children with an exciting reason to spend time outdoors. After prototyping the bikes in an NYC bathroom, the design duo relocated to New Zealand, where they continue to pursue their sustainable project. The bikes are actually a 3-in-1 system, taking the ride from a tricycle style to a bicycle, with a two-wheel "balance bike" in between. Made from kiln-dried, preservative-free birch and ash, the bikes sell online for $230 from Wishbone.

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Walachia

Czech-based Amazon and a host of specialty toy stores, with prices starting at $20 for simpler models and going up to $250.

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