It's a pity that toddles and young children can't play with most old fashioned mechanical toys. Small parts, chocking hazards, you know. You just can't give a cool wind-up bird to a 2 years old and expect everything to be fine. If by any chance the kid does not hurt itself, it will at least break the toy, or just not understand it at all - and this is the best case.
But don't worry, there are still some smart toys that can be entirely mechanical and still appropriate for little kids - push an pull toys and ride ons.
What Are Push, Pull and Ride on Toys?
As their name suggests, these toys are created to be pushed or pulled, or ridden by the kids. Pull toys typically have some kind of lead which the kid uses to pull the toy with him or her. Push toys have a hard handle used for pushing. Both types have wheels to allow moving easy on the ground.
These toys are typically designed for little kids - up to 3-4 years old - with the idea to enhance child's motor activities. And obviously the creativity of the toys is limited to what a little child can understand - animals or vehicles, nothing too abstract.
Ride ons don't have a handle but rather a seat. They are usually more durable and have a
allowing the kid to ride them. Some ride ons can be static and installed in the garden - you already know about them, the spring toys. Some ride ons may be kind of two-wheelers, therefore more complex for riding which makes them appropriate for older kids. In such case they should be even more durable of course.
In some more advanced pull and push toys the movement of the wheels also powers some other kind of motion - for example a duck can open and close it's neb, a pull drummer
can beat his drum
and so on. Kids love this kind of toys, but be careful when choosing ones whose motions makes noise (like the drummer) - with those child's play can easily turn into your nightmare.
Wooden, Mechanical or Powered?
Nowadays a lot of these toys have some electronics playing music, making some other noise, switching lamps and so on. Some would even have an engine to help moving when pulled like the kid couldn't do it on its own. My preference not surprisingly is to mechanical pull and push toys. Pulling and pushing is an easy operation, it's OK even for a very little kid to drag a toy that's barely 2 pounds / 1 kg heavy. These toys don't break as fast and are easier to fix if they ever break. So it's better to stick to pure mechanics.
There are all kind of plastic pull, push and ride on toys, but wood is always available and good option. We have discussed before why wooden toys are better and I believe these reasons are more than enough to choose wood.
How To Make Push and Pull Toys Yourself
And the good thing about wooden pull and push toys, and ride ons, is that you can easily make them yourself. It's not much different than making any other wooden toys. You just have to pay more attention to the moving parts. If everything is made of wood you need to ensure they are well greased. If you are using wooden wheels with wooden spindle you may want to glue scotch tape on it, this will reduce the friction on the wheels. It might be wise to use steel at least for the spindles.
When making ride ons make sure they are stable enough. Not that it's too dangerous for the kid to fall on the ground from a feet but this will surely cause disappointment and doubts in your craftsman skills.