What was your favorite toy when you were a kid? Was it an action figure, or a stuffed animal? Maybe you were into blocks, and the possibilities they presented. But what if, suddenly, you had the ability to make your new favorite toy out of anything?
That’s the concept behind Toyi, the Turkey-based toy brand co-founded by Ögeday Uçurum and Elif Atmaca. The Toyi Creative Play Kit includes sticks, flexible connectors, joints, wheels, hands, feet and eyes that kids can use to turn found objects, like plastic bottles or empty boxes, into everything from robots to rocket ships.
“We wanted to create something that would allow children to transform everyday objects,” Uçurum says. “Children’s imaginations are unlimited, but they are being limited by the current toy offerings.”
The goal is to promote free play. Each kit includes a diagram that explains the experience, but there are no instructions on how to create specific toys.
“When you buy an action figure, for example, it already has a name and a story. This doesn’t leave room for children’s expression.”
In addition to encouraging kids to dream up new characters and toys, Uçurum says the brand also seeks to inspire children to explore and engage with their environments.
“If they want to build a robot, they have to find the materials, and only then can they start to make what they have imagined,” he says. “We want children to make toys with simple materials they can find, so the focus is on play rather than on owning products.”
Toyi is available for purchase with retailers in Turkey and, since December, through the MoMA Design Store. Moving forward, the team aims to expand into Europe and eventually the US. Uçurum says Toyi is open to a distribution deal, and to work directly with more retailers globally. By partnering with mass retailers in as many territories as possible, Uçurum hopes Toyi and its expression- and exploration-based play will become available to children around the world.
In an effort to ensure as many kids as possible can afford Toyi, the starter kits are available for US$22. And for its 2018 Kickstarter campaign, Toyi committed to delivering one kit to disadvantaged children for every product ordered by a consumer. Since achieving its initial US$23,778 funding goal, the company has made donations to organizations in Turkey, Greece, India, Lebanon and Somalia, with more than 1,000 kits provided to date.
“A lot of the NGOs we work with focus on refugees. In a crisis situation, play and education are compromised. Without play, children cannot express themselves and cannot process what is happening,” Uçurum says. “[With Toyi], they are making and unmaking. They are problem-solving. The possibilities are unlimited when you allow a child to define their own toy.”