Ostheimer Wooden Animals

  • Date: May 10, 2022
  • Time to read: 11 min.

Discover the natural beauty of Ostheimer animals

There is something undeniably beautiful and truly unique about each and every Ostheimer animal. Handcrafted at every stage of their production Ostheimer animals retain the beauty of the responsibly sourced hardwood they are made from allowing children a tactile connection to this warm natural material.

Ostheimer focus on giving the best to our children, through the natural beauty of their toys, through their commitment to handcrafting and sustainable production, and through their wider commitment to fostering community and social change.

Simple toys that allow your child’s imagination to take the lead

Ostheimer toys are specifically designed to be simple. The form and colours of the figures and animals have been deliberately minimalised to allow children’s own sense of fantasy to breath life into their toys. And yet despite this simplicity, each figure is full of character.

When children are not presented with a fixed concept there is more space for their imagination to take the lead. The simple, tactile forms allow their own creativity and fantasies to breath life into the figures.

When children are allowed to create their own scenes and scenarios their imaginations run wild. Children’s minds are unlimited by the constraints of reality. They can create a world in which people and animals are living side by side, the lion and the deer become friends.

The beauty of using natural materials

Ostheimer have been handmaking wooden toys for generations with the intention of giving children “A good and lovely image of the world around them”, making them from wood just adds to the magic.

Trees are a living part of the world we live in. They provide shelter and shade, they give food, they give us clean air to breathe and they capture and store carbon. Treating the wood with respect retains this sense of life, vitality and abundance. Ostheimer even use the offcuts of wood to heat the buildings where they make the toys.

The toys are made by hand from start to finish. A handmade template is used to stamp the basic outline of the figure or animal onto a sustainably sourced piece of hardwood. They are then hand-sawn to give the basic shape.

Next up the toys are shaped and sanded, given natural contours that make them both comfortable to hold and gives the figures a more lifelike form. Once sanded to a smooth finish they are painted, by hand, with transparent colours that allow the beauty and warmth of the wood to shine through.

Giving children access to wooden toys, toys that are tactile and chunky, gives them access to nature even when they are playing indoors. It keeps them connected to the natural world in a very real way, allowing them to experience nature with all their senses while they play.

Where are Ostheimer toys made?

Where are Ostheimer toys made?

All Ostheimer toys are handcrafted at their workshop in Germany, using responsibly sourced wood from sustainably managed forests.

The story began back in 1939 when Walter and Adeline Ostheimer first started making wooden toys creating a company that employed up to 30 employees but was eventually shut down in 1950 as they were unable to compete with modern plastic toys.

Luckily Walter and Adeline restarted toy production in 1958 working with people with mental disabilities, and employing those with disabilities is still part of their ethos today. During the 1970’s Germany saw a revival in the popularity of wooden toys.

Both Margarete and Klaus (Walter and Adeline’s children) have been fully involved with the company and Margarete’s nephew is the current CEO, meaning this is still a family-run company that has kept the same principles it started with decades ago.

How are Ostheimer toys made?

Each toy is shaped by many hands in a multi-stage process that takes a consciously sourced tree and turns the wood into a child-centred toy designed to delight and engage young hands and minds.

Once the toys have been designed a template is made and the design transferred onto the block of wood that will become the toy. The outline shape of the toy is then cut by hand and the edges contoured and smoothed by skilled craftsmen.

This sanding and contouring give the animals and figures a unique form. They gain softness and character from this process as well as rounded edges making them nicer for small hands to hold and a smooth surface so no risk of splinters.

After the final sanding the animals and figures are ready to paint. Again this is done by hand with the features requiring a steady hand and a fine paintbrush. Ostheimer use transparent non-toxic stains that give soft colours and allow the natural grain and beauty of the wood to shine through.

Some animals, like the wild boar, are even made with a different wood with a more pronounced grain that gives a rougher texture more like the animal’s corse hair.

The minimal design is deliberate and there to encourage children to breathe their own life into the toys.

Want to see how and where Ostheimer toys are made?

If you ever happen to find yourself nearby you can visit the Ostheimer workshop and see the toys being made. Watching in real-time how a block of wood is transformed with love, care and attention to detail into a horse or fawn. You can even have a go at painting them yourselves and experience the magic with a fairy tale.

Buying Ostheimer toys

Because Ostheimer toys are all made by hand the popular lines often sell out quickly so there’s fun to be had building a collection of your favourites over time.

And because of the nature of wooden toys, their beautiful animals and wooden figures will be loved for generations. Children should always be shown a beautiful picture of the world and be given an opportunity to explore, develop and run free, both in their physical and imaginary worlds.

And when your children aren’t playing with them they make a beautiful display in your home.

How to Care for Ostheimer Toys

Ostheimer wooden toys and animals are beautiful and Ostheimer is about as ethical as it comes, from their employment practices and the fact they are a not for profit, the fact that every toy is made by hand from sustainably sourced wood, the remnants of which are used to heat their buildings.

Ostheimer employ people who work from home, mostly mothers, as well as people with disabilities who are fully integrated into the daily life of the workshop.

How to care for Ostheimer toys

Wooden toys need to be treated differently to plastic toys. They can, of course, be played with outside, but they won’t like being left there overnight, and if they get wet you need to make sure you dry them out fully without too much heat.

Changes in temperature and humidity can also affect the wood so it’s a good idea to make sure you are storing them in a dry area with good ventilation.

Wood absorbs water and as Ostheimer do not varnish the toys they recommend cleaning with a dry cloth or a brush.

If you feel you need something more than a dry cloth then just be sure to avoid bleach, harsh detergents or abrasive cleaners as these will damage the wood. Harsh cleaners dry out the wood which can lead to cracking, and bleach will lighten the colours. A gentle soap like Castile soap, mild dish soap or a solution of white vinegar are good options.

Use a damp soft cloth rather than submerging the toys and go over again with a dry cloth to remove any excess moisture. Vinegar also has the benefit of being anti-bacterial although the wood itself is naturally anti-bacterial so you have to worry less about germs than you might with plastic toys.

Wood is also a natural material that needs nourishing to stay in the best condition. Ostheimer recommends feeding the wood with linseed oil. Beeswax is also good for protecting and nourishing wooden toys, and it smells lovely too which only adds to the sensory benefits of wooden toys..

Storing Ostheimer toys for future generations

So much love and consideration go into the design and creation of Ostheimer’s wooden toys that it would be criminal for them not to be played with for generations. These are heirloom toys and certainly not toys that will go out of fashion and end up broken in the landfill.

They are designed to inspire children in a timeless way that speaks to their natural curiosity and creativity rather than following the latest trends. And they are made with respect for the earth by people who care.

While of course, it is possible for wooden toys to break, the beauty of wood is that more often than not you can fix it, and if not you can simply smooth off the broken edges and you have a toy with more individuality and character than it had before.

So if you’re going to be keeping these beautiful animals and figures for your grandchildren how should they be stored?

Basically wooden toys need to be kept dry and ideally to avoid extremes of cold and heat. It’s a good idea to give them a clean before storing and a nourishing coat of beeswax or organic oil to feed the wood. You can also store wooden toys with silica gel bags to absorb moisture and stop toys from going mouldy.

Fantastic Toys for Kids

Fantastic Toys for Kids

Ostheimer wooden animals have been very much designed for children. They are chunky and tactile with contoured edges that are perfect for little hands to feel and hold.

All the animals are made of wood, painted with non-toxic stains and finished with organic oils so they are perfectly safe for children, even if they end up in their mouths.

The range includes a huge variety of animals so you can pick a theme like a farmyard, woodland, or safari animals. Or just pick the ones you think your child will love the most.

Creating story sacks is a great place to start if you are not sure which animals to buy. A Squash and a Squeeze is great for toddlers, and Ostheimer does a ready-made stackable set of The Town Musicians of Bremen. Dear Zoo is another popular choice and gives a great variety of animals. And if you just want to start with one why not choose we’re going on a bear hunt.

One thing to consider is that some of the animals, like the duckling, chick and mouse, are really dinky and so not recommended for children under 3 years, and there are others such as the unicorn and dragon that could be easily damaged and so are better left until children are a bit older.

Another key feature of Ostheimer animals is that they are made to be as simple as possible. They have minimal features meaning that it is up to your child to inject personality and life into the characters.

Again this is a conscious choice by Ostheimer as it means that the toys are not dictating how they are being played with but instead, a child’s imagination can run free. This is a stark contrast to many modern plastic toys that are designed for one purpose. They have lights, noises and buttons that entertain children but do not encourage free thought, creativity and imagination in the same way that simple wooden toys do.

The lack of distraction allows children to keep their mind clear as they imagine new scenarios and solve problems. These might be simple problems such as the horse it hungry, what can I use as hay for it to eat? But thinking in this way builds vital pathways in the brain that will help them with bigger problems in later life.

Wooden toys are both durable and timeless

Although you may buy Ostheimer animals for your toddlers part of their beauty is that they will be loved and played with for years. As your child’s narrative ability grows they will be incorporated into ever more elaborate stories, and they make the most stunning decorative displays.

Wooden toys are also generally far more durable. These animals are handcrafted from solid hardwood, and even if they do get broken most of the time they can be glued back together or simply have the rough edges sanded down.

They are also timeless, animals are animals and will always have a fascination for children, making them the perfect heirloom toy to keep for future generations.

Discover the magical world of Ostheimer castle and fairytale figures

Ostheimers range of castle pieces and fairytale figures will inspire your children to explore a magical world of fantasy, myth and legend, letting their imaginations run free and their creativity blossom.

These gorgeous toys are made with love and a real desire to create toys that will enrich children’s world and make them more beautiful. They also provide a natural beauty that is a wonderful connection to the natural world, from the texture and grain of the wood that is both tactile and visible, to the simple forms of the animals and figures themselves.

The castle pieces are large, solid, individual elements that can really be used to bring fairytales and children’s fantasies to life. Start with a tower for a princess, a portcullis to defend or a wishing well in the forest and build your collection as much or as little as you desire.

Or if you like you can buy the basic castle starter set and have a whole castle ready for your knights to defend. Because the elements are all separate the castle can be built in multiple ways and you can add in additional elements any time you wish.

There’s a magical unicorn, a frog king, seven dwarfs, fairies, a fire breathing dragon, little red riding hood to name but a few. As well as wolves, deer, badgers, and other woodland animals.

You can use these fairytale figures to make story sacks of your favourite tales as a great starting point for imaginative play and watch as your children dive into a world of magic, whimsy and delight.

We love adding play silks, coloured blankets, wooden trees, and items from nature such as pebbles and pinecones. And of course, you can mix and match with other brands such as Holztiger and Grimms.

This video gives a wonderful look at a good range of the Ostheimer fairytale figures and castle pieces which, as you can see are really big and chunky.

Beautiful heirloom toys

Ostheimer have been making wooden toys, by hand, for over 70 years and they are more popular now than ever before as more and more people discover the natural beauty of such thoughtfully designed toys.

These are more expensive than mass-produced items and they have an individuality and magic that just can’t be compared to more mass-produced items. And because fairytales don’t change from one generation to the next these really are toys that will be loved for years and years.

And because they are so beautiful these are toys that you’ll love having in your home. They deserve to be displayed, and we think you’ll probably have just as much fun setting them up at the end of the day as your children will have while they play with them.