Wooden toys are timeless classics to keep around your house, or so it seems until they begin to chip, flake or generally become discoloured over time. Luckily for those who want to keep their children's precious wooden toys looking fresh, there are ways to prolong their lives. Here is some advice on whether it is a good idea to varnish, paint or stain your wooden toys.

Varnishing Wooden Toys: Is it a No Go?

Painting wooden toys for babies or toddlers can make you feel very uneasy, as trying to find out which products are safe for those exploring mouths is a minefield. Since it is so hard to find definitive answers or instructions on how to treat your wooden toys, we have gathered some information that offers advice and guidance on the types of products that are safe to use.

Varnish is usually made up of drying oils mixed with acrylic or polyurethane resins which all bond to seal the treated area of wood. Parents will no doubt want to keep away from anything oil-based, so the next best thing is a water-based product that can offer a similar finish. Non-toxic varnishes do exist and are said to be safe, child-friendly alternatives.

Which Types of Products are Classed as Safe?

Perhaps you or your child's grandparents have found some old toys in your loft, or you have bought a second-hand toy to 'do up' for the kids. Either way, the best way of putting your own personal touch on a plain or faded wooden toy is to bring it back to life with paint and/or varnish. The easy part is finding the toy, the harder part is then making your vision come to life!

Non-toxic varnishes such as Acrylic Polymer Varnish (can be non-toxic only if the acrylic is pure), Plastic or Polyurethane Varnish and Natural Resin Varnish all fall into this category and do not offer harmful chemicals that could easily be ingested. However, there is an even newer group of varnishes on the market which supposedly have low or no VOCs, which makes them safer for little ones. Note that fumes can still be strong though, even if the product is non-toxic, so be sure to complete your upcycling or personalisation project far away from any young children.

Things to Bear in Mind

Hobbyists have explained that by applying varnish to wood, especially non oil-based ones, this raises the grain of the wood. Some say that to avoid this happening, you should dampen the surface slightly, towel dry it and then repeat the process a further two or three times to effectively prime the toy for varnish application.

Remember that you will likely need a set of different sized paintbrushes to complete your DIY task, since you will want to get an even coverage and may need to access hard to reach areas on the toy.