Surprise Toys & Sustainability

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

So let’s talk about surprise toys. Those itty bitty plastic toys, maybe with some chocolate thrown in, encapsulated in hard plastic that the kids go nuts over. The thrill of unboxing a bit of plastic wrapped in many other bits of plastic! Or even watching videos of other kids opening little packets of plastic (seriously my kid could watch that stuff for hours!). They can't seem to get enough of these little plastic hits of joy. In fact according to the DreamList issued by the Toy Retailers Association, 3 out of 12 ‘must-have toys’ fall under the category of ‘surprise toys’.

You know what, I get it. I loved them too when I was little. It’s exciting, it’s the anticipation, something to break the boredom of a trip to the supermarket, or a little treat. Which one will I get? Can I collect them all? The desire to collect things and the whole lottery of it is fun & exciting.

But if you’re trying to live a more sustainable life, these things are a freaking nightmare! When you’re in the supermarket looking at those pleading puppy dog eyes, do you trade shopping in relative peace (sans meltdown) with a chunk of plastic? You know the novelty won’t last and it’ll be in the bin by tea time, but at that moment it’s what everyone needs right?! Yep, I’ve been there many times and have the non-descript bits of plastic at the bottom of the toy box to prove it!

But on the darker side, the desire to collect them, or snare a rare toy leads kids to want to consume more & more. This inevitably leads to toy duplications, more waste and the cycle continues. This seems at odds with raising our kids to value and respect our world’s resources and not add the problem.

There's no 'surprise' where they'll end up!

Where do these things go when the novelty has worn off? We know hard plastic pretty much never goes away and lingers in all corners of the globe, like for ever. These cheap factory run-offs have very limited play value and are often breakable. It’s very difficult to ‘donate’ these to other parents who are also playing their own game of ‘crappy toy hot potato’!! Most kerbside & local recycling facilities do not take mixed or hard plastics either. If they do find their way into the recycling bag they just clog and contaminate the system. Sadly this means one thing, they’ll inevitably end up in landfill and in our oceans.

I’m no zero-waste goddess, I’m a normal mum just trying to do better. This is the very reason that I created Eco Surprise™, the sustainable wooden surprise toy. I just figured that there must be another way to keep the fun & excitement of surprise toys but without the plastic and waste. I designed them so that they could be collected into play sets to create even more play value. I’m pretty sure that another parent would be delighted to receive a duplication of an Eco Surprise™ as a swap too, in contrast to the plasticky-kind! But as I’ve based them all on nature a duplication is actually a good thing, you can have one sheep or a whole flock for your playset!

We're so used to buying cheap plastic toys that initially wooden toys seem expensive, but this is quite deceptive when you look at the bigger picture. It was recently revealed by toy expert, Peter Jenkinson, that to collect the entire range of a popular surprise toy (mentioning no names) parents would have to pay a staggering £900!! Wooden toys also last for centuries, they’re timeless and can be passed on through the generations. When you compare how much is spent on plastic toys that were binned, then wooden toys seem like a great investment.

Eco Surprise™ toys are made from sustainable wood. If you’re interested in checking them out please head over to our shop Quirky Earth™ We’re a tiny business at the moment, unashamedly so, trying to forge our way in the midst of a pandemic! But I’m designing more and more and it's a great feeling to be putting my idea into action. I’m really excited about the possibilities for the future.

Image taken by Ruth Joy Photography.

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