Wooden toys

In Croatia, only three populated areas have methodically manufactured children's toys - in Zelovo settlement in Dalmatian hinterland, in Vidovec in Prigorje and in Zagorje region. Unlike in Zelovo and Vidovec where this tradition became extinct, in Zagorje it is preserved to this day. Wooden toys have been made in Zagorje since the 19th century. It is part of the tradition associated with the pilgrims' route to the international Marian shrine in Marija Bistrica. Namely, the places where such wooden toys are still made today are Bistrički Laz, Stubički Laz, Upper Stubica, Tugonica, Turnišće and Marija Bistrica - places through which pilgrims walk in prayer to reach the shrine. It is therefore understandable that the residents in those days realized that selling these toys at the religious festivals would make their difficult peasant life a little easier.

First of the toys that can be classified in a group of musical instruments were a simple reeds called žveglice, whistle with one pipe (jedinke) or with two pipes (dvojnice). Later there were also a so-called rooster, bird, hammer, violoncello, trumpet and tamburitza. The pilgrims were most impressed with the so-called “batina sa sekiricom” (about half a meter long stick they could use to help to walk to the shrine, and on the top of the stick had a carved reed you could play) and bird or butterfly klepetaljka (a toy with a wings tied to a long stick which produces dreary sound when a child runs it). Such toys also served for a musical education of the children of these rural families.

They also made toys such as dolls' furniture (tables, chairs, wardrobes, beds and cradles of various sizes), then washboards (predecessors of today's washing machines), various domestic animals (mostly horses), chariots and similar things. There were also toys with moving parts like dancers who turned around or danced, carousels, horses that jumped or produced different sounds. Those were also the toys that their children used to play daily, simultaneously developing their imagination and personality.

During the most productive period, the number of different wooden toys has risen to as many as 120, while today only about fifty types are manufactured. Traditionally, these wooden toys were made by men from various soft woods they found in their surroundings, such as lime, willow, maple and beech. The wood was treated with various sharp blades, while electrically powered tools are sometimes used. Women decorated toys with floral or geometric patterns using red, blue and yellow. They began to use black, white and green later. Over the time, they modified production for urban children, and cars, trains, aircraft, tractors, pistols were also manufactured. Toys are made in accordance with contemporary standards and laws, so ecological colours that are not harmful for the children are used.

The art of making traditional wooden toys from Hrvatsko Zagorje was included in the UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009.