Traditional Manufacturing of Children’s Wooden Toys in Hrvatsko Zagorje

Traditional Manufacturing of Children’s Wooden Toys in Hrvatsko Zagorje

Traditional wooden toys in the Hrvatsko zagorje region are a perfect representation of home life and entertainment at a time when there were no computers or Internet. Made from locally sourced wood – primarily softwood such as lime, maple, willow or beech – these toys were made entirely by hand, using craftsmanship that is now a protected skill and a highly valued piece of heritage. The toy-making tradition dates back to the 19th century, to the municipalities of Laz Bistrički, Laz Stubički, Tugonica, Turnišće, Gornja Stubica and Marija Bistrica in the Hrvatsko zagorje region, which still have the largest number of craftsmen carrying on the tradition in Croatia.

 

Traditional toys used to be made with simple hand tools, exclusively by men, and some families preserved and passed down the craft from generation to generation. The skilful craftsmen used patterns to whittle toys that made music and clapping noises, animals, cars, doll houses – all in all, over 120 different types of toys. The toys would undergo a real transformation after the women painted them in bright red, yellow and blue colours, and decorated them with floral or geometric patterns. They would then be brought to life in the little hands of children, whose imaginations created entire worlds around them. Due to the fine craftsmanship that went into making it, if properly cared for, a traditional toy often brought joy to several generations of children and created memories that were shared among family members.

 

Today, around fifty types of toys are being made, available for purchase mostly at local fairs and church celebrations, especially in the famous Marian shrine of Marija Bistrica, and there is also a centre dedicated to the toy-making craft in the village of Kumrovec. This tradition is not only important for preserving intangible cultural heritage, but also for providing an alternative to the bland and low-quality plastic toys offered at every corner. Thanks to the effort and skills of the makers, ecologically sustainable, beautiful and well-made toys can be produced in one’s own backyard. Sounds good, right?