Norm Marshall's creative toys stimulate the imagination
Boats, however, are real hard to make. Unless you tell them differently, children expect boats to float in the water without listing or dipping. That requires a lot of testing and experimentation. I prefer to tell the children who get my boats that they're for the sandbox or the rug only. You have to be sensitive to children and what they expect. Don't ever disappoint them.
I've also noticed that kids like wheels. The more wheels on a toy truck, the better! But...they all have to touch the ground. They all have to roll together. They can be a little out of round, but the child will always be disappointed if there are one or two 'short wheels' that don't roll with the others.
Don't make 'naked' toys, either. Find some scraps of dowel or thick twigs for the dump trucks and logging trucks to carry. Give children something to stretch the range of their imaginations.
Stretch the range of your own imagination, as well. If the toy is simply 'block-on-block', you'll get bored making it. I always try to make mine with pleasant angles and bevels. They're not hard to build, just interesting. I try to make full use of the potential of my MARK V and Bandsaw. Instead of square cuts all around, I'll tilt the table for some 30-degree cuts. That adds some interest for the woodworker and child, alike. A little suggestion of a detail goes a long way.
I use my MARK V in the saw mode for basic cuts...in the disc sanding mode for smoothing...and as a drill press to drill wheels, axle openings and to add detail. I really like its movable table. Most drill press tables only move up-and-down. But on the MARK V, it also moves in-and-out and tilts, too. The self-adjusting Fence and adjustable Depth Stop on the Quill feed make it easy to keep decorative dowels all exposed at the same height.
I use #2 pine, 3/4" thick for all of my toys. Some of the toymaking books tell you to buy special stock, but I disagree. Once I get 3/4" stock resawn on the Bandsaw, I get the basic parts cut quickly.
To make wheels, I start with close-grained stock. I use a 2-3/8" dia. hole saw to cut half-way through...just until the pilot bit punches through the back side. Then, I switch to a 2-1/8" dia. hole saw and insert it into the same pilot hole. This saw makes a 1/8" deep concentric kerf in the wheel to help define the 'tire' from the 'hub'. Then, I turn the stock over and complete the wheel cutout with the 2-3/8" hole saw...again, in the same pilot hole. Larger wheels can be made easily on a Bandsaw or Scroll Saw, then sanded down on a Disc or Belt Sander.