Malaysian Handmade Wooden Kid’s Toys & Playground Sets
While looking for a caregiver for their first child, Jon Ming and his wife, Q-Pei discovered a different way of raising children.
This is called the game exploration method, and after further research Q-Pei stumbled upon the Montessori approach.
Dictionary time: The Montessori method stimulates children’s learning by encouraging them to experiment and develop their fine motor skills. The toy should also give them the opportunity to work independently at their own pace and to use their creativity.
Child care facilities or schools that use this method tend to be very expensive because the toys provided are usually imported and difficult to maintain.
So they decided to go into full-time carpentry and quit their position as financial auditors at PwC to launch Modle.play, where they built their own open-ended games and furniture.
“Plus, it’s a good way to promote local carpentry skills, which are still underestimated today,” Jon told Vulcan Post.
Stack the blocks
As neither Q-Pei nor Jon are from design, they are mainly inspired by European toy makers and Pinterest when creating Modle.play products.
Jon’s carpentry skills came from his grandfather and father who were passionate about repairing and building things.
As a back-to-school Scout, building camping equipment and crafting reconnaissance gadgets at district competitions had nurtured his building skills.
The couple’s production process begins with a rough prototype of the toys which are then tested by their own children.
It then returns to the drawing board for further adjustments and inspection for potential hazards such as loose pieces of wood and sharp shards before putting it on the market.
Modle.play currently uses nyatoh and meranti plywood for its durability, but hopes to find more sustainable, FSC-certified source wood.
Dictionary time: FSC Certified means that the wood used in the product and the manufacturer who made it met Forest Stewardship Council requirements.
“But currently in Malaysia, such material will have a premium and is not readily available anywhere,” he said.
Toys and play sets should also be safe and have structural integrity, as they are intended for children as young as 6 months old.
To do this, food grade finishes are used in the wooden parts.
It is also coated with oil and non-toxic polyurethane / acrylic finish to prevent absorption by wood.
So if any food or drink is spilled on them (like they do with children), everything can be wiped off with a damp cloth.
A good learning investment
To me the toys seem quite expensive. The bigger ones like Klymb and Kiub – a collapsible play set – are priced at RM560 and RM350 respectively.
While Blokks (building blocks) costs RM199 and RM349 for its Junior and Large sets.
This led me to assume that the customers of Modle.play are mostly daycare centers with a large influx of young children who would always play with the toys.
It would be a bad ROI for parents buying it for their kids to play at home, to leave them sloppy once they get older in a few years.
But Jon told Vulcan Post it was the opposite, in fact. Most of their clients are stay-at-home moms who believe in open learning.
He explained, “On the one hand, open learning requires early counseling when playing with the child, not for the child.
Gradually, children also learn that there is more than one way to play and they will begin to expand their play materials with other accessories like minifigures.
“This makes open toys like building blocks last for years because they’re open enough for different stages of play,” he said.
“So if you compare with other toys, the payback is definitely worth it.”
The playset is also collapsible and can be taken from home to the park if a family wants to organize a picnic, for example.
This makes it more practical than an ordinary plastic playground on the market.
But Jon also isn’t ostracizing daycare centers. In the future, the couple hope to make Modle.play affordable for daycares and moms at home.
“Most importantly, we hope to continue using this platform to provide employment opportunities for local Malaysians and inspire them to work with their hands and bring their ideas to life,” he said.
- You can read more about Modle.play here.
- You can read more about other Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Q-Pei and Jon Ming, Co-Founders of Modle.play
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