Go wooden or go home.
If you reside in Thailand like we do, this place is a mecca for affordable, locally-made, wooden toys. The best wooden toys are durable, chemical-free, inspire imagination, and evoke a sense of nostalgia in those of us who grew up with wooden toys ourselves. Other than the Melissa and Doug brand, it is a rarity to find wooden toys in the U.S. anymore. Specialty stores like The Land of Nod and Pottery Barn Kids sell beautiful wooden toys (many of which are made in Thailand), but charge exorbitant prices for them. For example, the snail pull toy pictured below will put you out USD 21.95 plus tax and shipping if you order it in the U.S. (Land of Nod). I bought the same toy this Christmas in Thailand for 345 baht, approximately USD 11.50. If there is ever a time to start your child’s collection of wooden toys, Thailand is the place!
Plan Toys (http://www.plantoys.com/home.php), PINTOY (http://www.pintoys.com/), and Wonderworld (http://www.wonderworldtoy.com/) are the most popular and reputable Thai wooden toy brands. All of the brands are featured at upscale toy fairs across the U.S. and Europe. Most major department stores in Bangkok, like Central Chitlom, Isetan, and the Emporium, carry the brands.
The Plan Toy Factory Store is located on Sathorn, Soi 10. Although prices at the Factory store generally parallel prices at the major department stores (a strange concept for those us from the U.S.), beautifully-made dollhouses, farm houses, train sets, drums, and trucks can be bought at a 50-70 percent discount at the Factory Store throughout the month of December every year. Now that is an awesome sale! The sale isn’t well advertised, but is definitely well-worth hitting in order to buy for Christmas or stock up for birthday parties. Although we haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit, the Plan Toy Factory, which I have been told offers excellent discounts, is located in Trang. As a plus, street-side vendors in Trang also sell wooden toys at deep discounts. Pair a family trip to the beaches of Krabi or Trang with a drive to the Plan Toy Factory and your kids will love you for it!
While our home certainly has its fair share of plastic toys to go along with the locally-made wooden ones, Thailand raises the bar when it comes to the availability and affordability of what now seem to be vintage relics in the U.S. Yet one more score for those of us fortunate enough to live in the land of Smiles!