An Interview With PlanToys
You Asked, We Answered: The PlanToys Sustainable Way
As PlanToys enters its 40th year of business, it's important that our Sustainable Way be tightly knitted into our brand awareness and company story. In an effort to highlight our eco-friendly methods in a meaningful way, we asked our customers for their help. Below, you'll find 40 questions asked by families from all over the world. Responses from our team members have been recorded and shared in hopes that our Sustainable Way will be well known, cherished and valued by communities and families worldwide. Let's take a look together!
1. What was the inspiration behind starting a toy company?
Back in 1981, seven university graduates came together with a shared desire to infuse the world with positivity. Vitool Viraponsavan, one of the strongest voices of the group, went on to establish PlanToys and has been inspiring children and families worldwide ever since.
To this day, PlanToys operates with the belief that it’s our job to help educate and inspire society to prioritize environmental preservation, child safety and development. By raising children who are self-aware, environmentally-conscious and imaginative, it’s our hope that they will become individuals who understand the value of life, cherish nature, connection and play. If one small wooden toy can help one small child become a moral person who values the world around them, then we have proudly done our job!
2. How does PlanToys accomplish its mission of creating “Better Kids, Better World”?
The PlanToys mission is defined by our Sustainable Way, which encompasses the three pillars of our business model – sustainable material, sustainable manufacturing, and sustainable mind. With these three pillars in place, we strive to nurture kids for a better world.
Sustainable Material: We ensure the use of sustainable, natural resources and create minimum to zero waste throughout our production process.
Sustainable Manufacturing: We manufacture children’s toys with love using eco-friendly processes in every single step of production.
Sustainable Mind: We strive to give back to society and the environment through special environmental and educational campaigns that help make the world a better place for everyone.
3. Why should parents opt for PlanToys instead of other brands?
There are 3 main reasons why we believe PlanToys is the best selection for children:
We're passionate about child safety.
We pay close attention to safety standards associated with our production process. All of our materials are non-toxic and environmentally friendly, so parents can let their children play without a worry.
We help children develop through play.
Every parent wants to see their child successfully grow and develop. We believe that creative and educational play can help them do so! By playing with our educational toys, children learn and evolve in nearly every way.
We deeply care about the environment.
We believe that a quality environment will give rise to quality of individuals. At PlanToys, we use water-based colors that are chemical free, E-Zero glue that doesn’t contain formaldehyde, and we maximize resource utilization by using sawdust to create a unique sustainable material called PlanWood. These examples of our Sustainable Way protect mother earth and bring children closer to nature.
4. Where can PlanToys be found online?
You can follow us on www.plantoys.com and the following social media channels;
Official social media
5. How are PlanToys products designed?
First, our toys are designed by working with a child specialist to determine age appropriateness of each toy alongside its developmental-aid potential. Then we move forward with eco-design principles that help anticipate and minimize negative environmental impacts from manufacturing (this includes things like sustainable materials and green production practices). As a result, parents can be assured that PlanToys items are child-safe, and intentionally-made of the highest quality.
6. What awards has PlanToys received?
7. Does PlanToys have toys for all ages?
Although PlanMini is designed primarily for preschoolers but we can also apply PlanMini toys to all ages. These playthings are the ideal travel companion for the whole family to enjoy! They fit snuggly in your pocket, easily slip into a small bag and don’t take up significant space in your luggage. They’re the perfect toy to bring along with you anywhere!
8. What toys and types of play would PlanToys recommend for the first 3 years of a child's life?
Great question! Let's take a look at the early developmental stages of a child's life and talk about the types of play that can support them as they hit various milestones.
Disclaimer: Below, we are simply aiming to provide guidance for parents. We do not claim to have medical expertise and believe you should always consult with your child's physician if you have questions or concerns regarding your child's development.
Newborn – 6 months
Visual and auditory stimulation as well as motor skill development are crucial during this time! Encourage your baby to focus on objects with their eyes by stimulating them visually with the PlanToys Play Gym or Mobile. Toys that rattle, jingle and make gentle sounds can stimulate a baby’s auditory cortex; and toys that encourage motor skill development — encouraging babies to reach, grasp and kick — can help strengthen them physically. As a newborn progresses, start looking at colorful pictures and reading stories together; look into mirrors and start to explore sensory play!
6 – 12 months
At this stage, babies start to further develop fine and gross motor skills — sitting up and starting to walk on their own! Sensory toys like the PlanToys Sensory Tumbling encourage sensory development and also improve fine motor skills. Movable toys like the Baby Car encourage vocalization and concentration. And, as your baby starts to take their first steps, the Walk N Roll or Bird Walker can support their mobility! Finally, simple puzzles, floating bath toys and active free-play toys invite babies to begin their journey of learning through play.
12 – 18 months
During this stage, little ones are developing their muscles and listening skills quickly. They are now able to hold themselves up and balance on their own, so push-and-pull toys are great options! Encourage your baby to practice hammering or pounding with the Hammer Balls; and also stimulate their senses through musical toys with the Oval Xylophone or Clatter! During this time, children are also starting to further develop social, emotional and intellectual skills, so toys that introduce them to different shapes, colors, sizes and patterns are beneficial. Explore the Chicken Nesting or Stacking Wheels, our wooden block sets, My First Camera or My First Phone!
18 months – 2 years
Support children as they strengthen their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination during this stage with toys that invite them to grab, stack, sort, push and pull. Additionally, toys that emotionally stimulate — like the Solid Drum or Concertina — help children express themselves creatively. This is also a crucial time to introduce educational toys like the Stacking Ring or Sort N Count Cups as these playthings intellectually stimulate little ones and help them develop basic math and language skills early on.
2 – 3 years
At this stage, challenging a child’s gross motor skills, social and emotional development, and creativity are extra important! Toys that stimulate a child intellectually like the Geometric Sorting Board, Shape Sorter, Alphabet A-Z and Gears & Puzzle invite them to learn through play. Furthermore, pretend play toys like the Kitchen Set or Stand Mixer Set can assist children in their creativity and imaginative thinking. All of these toys also invite children to play actively!
9. Does PlanToys have any toys that require batteries?
No, our toys do not require batteries. Our toy design concept focuses on nurturing physical, emotional, social and intellectual development in children. We encourage kids to use their imagination to play and interact with our toys instead of relying on a toy’s function to provide entertainment or stimulation. As a result, children experience the full potential of play and learn how to better navigate the world and their relationships authentically.
10. Does PlanToys sell Montessori toys?
Our toys are not marked as “Montessori toys”, but we design and manufacture our toys with the Montessori method at top of mind. As a Montessori-inspired toy manufacturer, we believe that children should have the freedom to self-direct while playing — using their creativity, imagination and bodies to express themselves. This gives children the freedom to both learn and develop while making mistakes, problem solving and learning along the way.
11. What makes PlanToys' items unique?
We believe that what sets us apart most from other brands is our attention to detail. We intentionally consider every single step in our design, production and shipment process. By doing so, families around the world can see and feel the quality of our toys while also feeling good about the passion behind our sustainable mission.
• Our craftspeople are experts in woodworking- creating unique toy designs that can't be found anywhere else!
• Simple designs make our toys classic, durable and timeless.
• We use non-toxic, water-based dyes that maintain the texture of our wooden toys — keeping them as close to their original nature as possible.
• Premium-grade materials result in quality toys that don’t harm the environment.
12. Does PlanToys cut down trees in order to produce toys?
We have never cut down a single tree for production! Instead, we add value to rubber trees by using them to their fullest potential. Typically, when rubber trees no longer produce latex, they are cut down and burned. This is where we come in! We take these rubber trees and use the rubberwood for our wooden toys. In 1981, we became the first company to do so. Let’s take a look at the lifespan of a rubber tree for a little more clarity:
The lifespan of a rubber tree:
0-5 years: Seedlings grow into small rubber trees.
5-25 years: During this time, farmers harvest latex. A rubber tree is typically valued because of its latex, which is priced higher than rubberwood.
25 years and beyond: Three years prior to removing rubber trees, farmers will stop adding fertilizer to the soil in order to save cost. This procedure naturally cleans up chemicals in the rubberwood before it is used for our toy production.
13. Do we meet the requirements of FSC standards?
Since 70% of Trang province is made up of rubber plantations, we don’t have to artificially invade forests to grow rubber trees. Instead, the rubber trees that we use originate from village plantations on private property; and because of this, we are not utilizing rubber plantations within the forestry. So, technically, this process does not directly match the FSC criteria verbatim. However, PlanToys always intentionally considers every single step of production and manufacturing. We are extremely passionate about minimizing our environmental impact and incorporate sustainable practices like eco-design principals, carbon footprint calculation, the use of non-toxic materials, green energy production, environmental volunteer programs and much more.
As a toy manufacturer, in addition to designing toys that help enhance a child’s development, we also feel as though it’s our duty to take care of the environment and contribute to society in a positive way. We’ve been doing this for nearly 40 years and promise to continue to do so!
14. What is the purpose of ASTM and EN71 safety standards?
Since 1982, all PlanToys products have exceeded international safety standards — including ASTM (USA) and EN71 (Europe) — to ensure that our toys are safe for children worldwide.
15. If a child has a rubber allergy, can they play with PlanToys?
Typically, a rubber allergy is triggered by a protein that’s found in latex. And, because latex is not present in the rubber wood that we use as material, children with a rubber allergy can safely play with PlanToys items without concern.
As for PlanToys items that use 100% natural rubber for material, latex remains present — which could trigger an allergic reaction. It is recommended that parents consult with their child’s pediatrician before purchasing a rubber toy for them.
16. Is it okay for children to put PlanToys toys in their mouths?
At PlanToys, we‘re creating toys with unique signature designs while always keeping the environment at top of mind. We also feel passionate about child safety and continue to exceed safety standard requirements. Because we know that children like to put toys in their mouths, we use pigments and materials that are safe for children to come in contact with. Examples of these include safe water-based colors and organic pigments in PlanWood products, and a nontoxic adhesive called E-Zero glue.
17. How are counterfeit products different from genuine PlanToys products?
We have been manufacturing wooden toys for nearly 40 years with the intention of promoting child development, environmental action and child safety. Unfortunately, we’ve recently noticed that there are many toy manufacturers who are imitating PlanToys products and selling them openly. For safety reasons, we would like to remind our customers to check these products carefully for quality (look at the quality of the wood, any paint chipping or abnormal smell, etc.) These products also do not meet the same safety standards that PlanToys items do.
As a company that values honesty, community and product quality, we want to encourage our customers to beware of these toy and company imitations. From the outside, these toys may seem very similar to PlanToys products. However, we can assure you that our materials, production process, devotion to the environment, child development and safety will forever set us apart!
18. Is the glue used in PlanWood toy production toxic?
Even though we use glue in the process of making PlanWood, the extrusion process with heat resulted in the hazardous volatiles contaminated with glue evaporate completely. This makes PlanWood products safe from harmful chemicals. Children can play with PlanWood toys without any worry!
19. Can PlanWood products be played with in water?
Not every PlanWood product is waterproof! Our toys that are waterproof and safe for submerging in liquid are categorized into our Water Play category. Customers can look for the icon pictured above on their PlanToys package to determine if the toy is waterproof or not. If the icon is not present, then the toy should not be submerged in water. Only PlanToys items with the shown icon are safe for water play! Furthermore, even if the toy is a product in the Water Play category, it should not soak in water for more than 24 hours. Take care of your toys to maintain their quality!
Here are a few tips:
- Dry your toys. When finished playing, wipe your toys down and let them dry out completely before storing them away to avoid bacteria growth.
- Avoid storing your toys in high temperatures or direct sunlight. Keep them in good shape and maintain their quality so that when your child has outgrown the toys, you can pass them down to another little one for them to enjoy!
20. What are some tips for taking care of PlanToys playthings?
Our wooden toys should be cleaned often and stored in safe spaces to ensure quality. If you take proper care of them, they can last a lifetime! Here are a few tips and tricks:
• Every time your child finishes playing, use a damp cloth to wipe their toys down. Use a dry cloth to completely dry the toys off.
• Avoid using cleaning products that contain chemicals and artificial fragrances. Instead, use natural cleaning agents like apple cider vinegar combined with water and your favorite essential oil. Keep a spray bottle filled with this mixture and use whenever needed!
• Avoid storing your toys in high temperatures or direct sunlight.
• Regularly check your toys for cracks or damages.
• Water play toys should not be soaked in water for more than 24 hours. Use a clean cloth to wipe them dry after playing and then set them in a neutral environment to dry completely before storing away.
21. How has PlanToys adapted its safety measures to COVID-19?
It's very important to us that our shop and Forest of Play Museum items are kept optimally clean — especially during this season of COVID-19. Currently, daily disinfectant is sprayed on every toy and item in the Forest of Play Museum and PlanToys Toy Library. Additionally, staffs and customers are required to take their temperature measured and sanitize their hands upon entry at the shop. Masks must be worn at all times by everyone, and we encourage shoppers to use credit / debit cards or QR codes for payment instead of cash to avoid cross-handling. Just like you, we’re doing our very best to prevent the spread of the illness. We are all in this together!
22. Are PlanToys items biodegradable?
Because PlanToys playthings are made from rubberwood, they are primarily biodegradable. Although it would take many years for a wooden toy to decompose, it is the natural process! We use non-toxic dyes and zero chemicals, so the wood is safe for the Earth in the end.
However, tiny parts in some of our toys are made from metal or plastic in order to ensure a toy's durability. These pieces are not biodegradable. We're still looking for better materials to replace these small metal and plastic pieces!
23. Are all parts in PlanToys’ products safe and non-toxic?
Although there are some toy parts that cannot be produced at our factory because of their unique properties but we are still concern about safety. Every now and then, we source other materials externally and ensure that they have matched our safety standards and are free from harmful chemicals. There should be no concern about these pieces as they are absolutely safe, non-toxic and child friendly!
24. Why does PlanToys include a carbon footprint icon on its packaging?
Our passion for sustainability is something that we like to be transparent and vocal about. This is why we calculate our carbon footprint and share it on each PlanToys package! By reducing the amount of greenhouse gas produced during toy production, we hold ourselves accountable to our sustainable business operations and eco-friendly manufacturing methods. Sharing company facts like our carbon footprint with customers is in an effort to inspire them to live sustainably, too!
25. How does PlanToys calculate its carbon footprint?
At PlanToys, we calculate the amount of greenhouse gas that is released from the arrival of our raw materials at the factory to the final packaging of our toys for shipment (from gate to gate). We hope to better represent our passion for sustainability and set a standard for environmentally-friendly practices by doing so.
Reference to the principle of carbon footprint calculation of Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organization (Public Organization)
The Boundaries of a Carbon Footprint Calculation
"From cradle to gate": This boundary considers all activities — starting with raw material extraction, the transfer of materials to the factory, through production and ending with the product ready to leave the factory gate.
"From gate to gate": This calculation includes the amount of greenhouse gas that is released from the arrival of the raw materials at the factory, through production and ending with the product ready to leave the factory gate.
"From cradle to grave": This method covers the whole life cycle of a product — from raw material extraction and transfer to the factory, through production and consumption, to waste or discard.
26. How is PlanToys' new packaging different from the old one?
In addition to the carbon footprint icon that specifies the amount of greenhouse gas that is released from our production process, product placement is now more organized inside each PlanToys package. You’ll find that there are now dividers in between pieces so each part can fit inside properly. We have also taken a deeper look at our use of paper resources. In order to reduce waste, we now take paper from old packaging boxes that haven’t been manufactured and use it for new packages. We are continuing to develop our production methods and products based on our business philosophy of sustainability and hope that you find these environmental changes encouraging for the future of your children!
27. Does PlanToys use renewable energy at the factory?
We try to use alternative clean energy as often as possible. Solid biomass (like surplus wood pieces from production) is burned to produce a bio-fuel that produces the heat we use in PlanWood creation. We also use solar energy and food waste from the factory produce biogas, a renewable energy used for cooking in our canteen.
28. Where does PlanToys source its materials from?
73% of the materials we use to produce our toys are taken from a 30-kilometer radius surrounding our factory in Southern Thailand's province of Trang. We source materials from areas nearby to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint from transportation.
29. Are PlanToys items plastic-free?
Recyclable plastic parts are used less than 10% of the time during our toy production. And, when they are, it's because there are some parts that are much better off as plastic than wood. For example, rubber wheels are used in some toys because they are more durable and transparent than wood, and acrylic sheets are used for our Water Blocks because they are see-through and allow children to see the colors of the water inside. We believe that using plastic to improve a toy's functionality is appropriate and doesn't go against our sustainable mission. After all, each step of PlanToys' toy design and production is done intentionally, carefully and safely!
30. What happens to leftover materials and waste in the factory?
We deeply value the natural resources that we use throughout production, so we don't let leftover resources go to waste. We use rubberwood sawdust to create PlanWood, while larger pieces are used as fuel to produce heat energy for production in our factory. And even food waste from the cafeteria is used to make biogas and feed our company compost.
Additionally, we have measures in place to reduce the use of foam and single-use plastics. The utensils we use in our cafeteria and co-operative shop are all reusable; and we recently distributed portable water bottles and tote bags to support employees in their sustainable lifestyles. After focusing on these sustainable methods for over a year, the amount of waste in the factory has decreased significantly. More importantly, the overall environment in our factory has become healthier!
31. Does PlanToys repair customers' broken toys?
We currently have a toy clinic located at our headquarters in Thailand that provides customers with an outlet for toy maintenance and repair. We know how important it is to parents to maintain toy quality and care for their children! This is why we design toys that are intended to last a lifetime when cared for properly.
If a customer need a PlanToys item repaired, they can bring it to the PlanToys Shop in Bangkok. Here, we repair it free of charge! If a replacement piece is needed, we only charge for the part(s). If you aren't located in Thailand, you can always contact our customer care team for assistance at www.plantoys.com/contact-us.
32. How does PlanToys contribute to the community?
By purchasing rubber trees from nearby plantations, PlanToys directly supports the local economy in Trang province. Additionally, we hire locals to help us complete some of the features on our toys — like our doll clothing, for example. Regularly, we host volunteer activities to collect waste and keep surrounding neighborhoods clean. In cooperation with the Yan Ta Khao District and police station, these activities are reinforced and encouraged throughout the community — inviting locals and other community members to participate and join in on our efforts. We recognize that these actions may seem small or simple, but we believe that, over time, they impact the environment and community in a big way!
33. What does PlanToys do to ensure employee satisfaction?
We believe that our employees’ happiness is partially our responsibility. After all, they are practically family! Whether it's implementing the use of chemical-free materials, practicing safer manufacturing methods, offering support through a credit union, creating more job opportunities via a cooperative shop or encouraging employees in their financial and mental wellness, we see everything that we do internally as a chance to build our employees up and add to the quality of their lives. This is why we've implemented various activities to nourish the bodies and minds of our employees — including rice planting, vegetable cultivation, and gardening for consumption of clean and nutritious foods. This helps raise awareness about the value of resources within our community while also supporting sustainable living through a shared cultivation space.
By supporting our employees in their health, we know that we can play a role in their happiness; and ultimately, that's what we care about most. Happy employees lead to happy families and children, which result in a happier, healthier world!
34. Does PlanToys have playthings for children with special needs?
We live in a diverse society that encompasses a range of personalities, interests, hobbies and strengths. Because of this, we produce toys that encourage ALL children to learn and develop in a variety of ways.
In 2010, we established the Mom-Made Toys Project as a way to give back to society. In collaboration with Lowe Thailand and mothers of children with special needs, PlanToys designed and produced a series of toys to help enhance the development of children with cerebral palsy, autism and visual impairment. The following year, we released the Build-a-Robot to specifically support the needs of children with autism. The robot invites children to explore their emotions through sensory development and communication practice. This toy is still on sale today!
35. What projects have been completed in the past year that benefit society?
Forest of Play
What started as a playable museum in 2019 has transformed into a full exhibition at PlanNeramit building at Sathorn 10. Today, this play space is known as the Forest of Play Museum, a quality play area that promotes child development and invites families to spend intentional time together.
Sharing toys is a wonderful way to encourage sustainable living within a community, and this is exactly why we launched the PlanToys Toy Library! PlanNeramit hosts this online platform to encourage families to borrow and swap PlanToys playthings. All toys are thoroughly cleaned with food-grade sanitizers and examined for wear and tear after each borrowing — ensuring child safety. This helps families save money and also inspires environmentally-conscious living.
36. Where is the Forest of Play located?
The Forest of Play can be found in both Bangkok at PlanNeramit Building at Soi Sathorn 10. We're also currently expanding the Forest of Play by nearly 64,000 square meters (around 15 acres) in Trang Province! We've intentionally designed the new play experience to feel like a real forest atmosphere.
37. Does PlanToys have special projects that related to the toy dedicated to its mission of "Better Kids, Better World"?
In 2018, we partnered with Kromkommer, a Dutch social enterprise, to launch the Wonky Fruit & Vegetables set in hopes that we could help children better understand the importance of conscious consumption and minimizing food waste. For every Wonky Fruit & Vegetables set purchased, €1 is distributed to Kromkommer for participation in activities surrounding food waste. This year, we'll be distributing a total of € 3,014 (3,684 USD)! We hope that special projects like this one encourage families and children to join us in living more intentionally and understanding diversity.
38. As PlanToys enters its 40th year of business, what projects are on the horizon?
Celebrating Year 40 Through Creativity
In celebration of our anniversary, we developed several creative projects under the vision and mission that we've always cherished. Let's explore them below!
The Toy Library
A sustainable way for parents to support their children's play environment without over-spending or purchasing toys that their children will quickly outgrow.
Forest of Play, the New Green Play Space in Trang
64,000 square meters of nature-inspired developmental play space
40th Anniversary Online Campaign: “Share Your Sustainable Play”
You share, we plant! Share your moments of Sustainable Play with us and tag #PlanToys40thBirthday and #SustainablePlay on Facebook and Instagram. For every person that participates, we'll plant a tree at the Forest of Play in your honor!
The PlanToys Book
We'll be releasing the first-ever book dedicated to PlanToys' memorable story in 2022! Stay tuned for details.
PlanToys Play for ALL Projects
Several projects that are supporting appropriate development through hands-on activities and playthings that can be played by all ages.
39. What does the concept "learning through play" mean?
Play is a child's work; they gain so much by exploring life through it! By playing creatively and freely, children develop physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually and imaginatively. There isn't a single aspect of a child's learning that isn't impacted by free play. Our toys are designed to help kids develop at every stage. So, "learning through play" implies that children can further develop and grow with PlanToys playthings in front of them.
40. What is "Sustainable Play"?
We define Sustainable Play as "a way of improving life through play and fostering positivity in oneself, society and environment."
Play that is beneficial to oneself is play that helps one develop emotionally, physically, socially and intellectually.
Play that is beneficial to society is play that encourages people to better themselves through volunteer work, nature and relationship.
Play that is beneficial to the environment is play that nurtures one's relationship with nature — encouraging them to live in an eco-friendly and positive way.