In the first of a series of articles exploring and celebrating the homegrown British toy design and production scene across all stages of its development, ToyNews dives into the thorny issue of maintaining structure at home through the country’s most chaotic chapter. We talk to the team helping make it happen for parents and families with its new launch, Reward a Routine
With pressures mounting for working-from-home families facing down home-schooling and the still open-ended reprieve of the ongoing lockdown measures, it stands to reason that the topic of mental health has made its way back to the forefront of the national narrative.
Burnout – the real and physical exhaustion brought on by sustained periods of stress and unrest – has become a rising concern among both employers and employees as across the country, workers’ daily routines have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic.
And then there’s the impact that the past year of Covid-19 uncertainty has had, is having, and will continue to have on the UK’s children, themselves facing disruption to key stages in their development and social interactivity, through the stop-start nature of a year’s worth of education.
Without the support, escapism, or developmental engagement that the UK’s toy industry has offered to families and children throughout one of the country’s most challenging times in history, the picture could have been a whole lot bleaker.
One British outfit to have undertaken the task of softening the impact is Five Wild Ones, a fledgling toy design duo that has, in the last few months alone, made strong headway into offering families some respite amid the disorganised chaos of modern living.
Five Wild Ones is in the earliest stages of launching its flagship product, Reward a Routine, a children’s game that teaches and encourages kids how to carry out their daily routine independently, while earning themselves a reward for a job well done. Initially developed almost three years ago as a personal project to help with changes to their own daily routines, the emergence of Five Wild Ones onto the UK toy scene could not have been better timed.
“Routines play such an important part in mental health, as they help to manage stress and anxiety; something both adults and children struggle with during uncertain times. Creating a routine adds structure and consistency to your day, particularly when outside factors are unpredictable and uncertain,” Five Wild One’s co-founder, Jodie Gerret, tells ToyNews.
“We started developing our idea to gamify daily routine life for children in order to make it fun and help parents and families to bring that structure to chaotic lives,” adds co-founder Rosie Dwan.
Reward a Routine offers parents and children a selection of picture cards representing tasks that need to be carried out as part of their daily routine. On completion of the task, the child can then post their action card through the postbox. Once the day’s routines have all been posted, the child receives their reward.
“The reward acts as an incentive for children to carry out what normally would be quite mundane tasks with little in it for them,” continues Dwan. “By turning it into a game with a little something at the end is what keeps them engaged.”
“With life being so unsettled at the moment, and the second closure of schools ongoing with no fixed end in sight, there’s no better time to be implementing daily routine into our children’s lives,” says Gerret.
“When a child knows what they need to do and then do it all by themselves, it builds self-reliance, independence, and confidence which is very beneficial to their mental health.”
Here, ToyNews catches up with Five Wild Ones’ Gerret and Dwan to learn more about the development plans for Reward a Routine, and what the bigger picture for this Great British start-up looks like.
Can you talk us through Five Wild Ones and the Reward a Routine product? How is this tackling important milestones in child development?
We are Jodie and Rosie, two mummy friends with five very energetic children between us and are the co-founders of Five Wild Ones.
We released our first product Reward a Routine in December 2020; a fun children’s game teaching them how to carry out their daily routine independently all while having lots of fun and earning themselves a reward for a job well done at the end.
The game involves 30 fun illustrated routine cards, a reward card and a cute little post box. The idea is to lay out your routine cards to suit the time of day, deciding with a parent on a preferred reward and then posting their cards in the box after each task is done, each time working closer to the reward.
We hear so often from parents about the struggles with getting kids to cooperate with their daily routines, and there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re constantly nagging at your children to do things. Having both used a homemade version of the game we decided to embark on a journey and to take it one step further and turn it into a product that we could share with others.
Research has shown that routines play an important part in mental health as it helps to manage stress and anxiety something which both adults and children struggle with during uncertain times. Creating a routine helps to add structure and consistency to your day. Even if you don’t typically thrive on a strict schedule, having a routine can be helpful in times of unpredictability, uncertainty and stress.
Two of the many milestones in a child’s development is learning independence and being able to undertake basic daily routine tasks i.e. getting dressed, brushing teeth. Children love and thrive off learning through play so what better way to do this then to have Reward a Routine in your home.
What has the journey been like in testing, developing and prototyping the idea? How have you moved from the idea stage to where you are with product development now?
We began researching children’s brands which we had always been drawn to and felt our children engaged with the most. We really wanted to build a brand rather than just design a product, so we set about brainstorming images and design styles that inspired us and determined elements which we knew we wanted to incorporate when designing our product.
We found an illustrator called Emma Hales who we had followed for a while, we really loved the fun bright designs she had used on past projects of hers. Once we had Emma on board, we began designing the cards. Using fun imagery on each of the tasks cards was very important to us as it would firstly make it interesting for children to look at and secondly be easily understood for children that weren’t yet able to read.
At the same time, we were meeting with UK suppliers and packaging manufacturers to see how we could get our concept into production. For the post box we had an idea of what we wanted to design but getting it made on mass in the UK was proving really difficult. Because of it being a new product and working to a restricted budget it was very hard to find a UK supplier who could manufacture what we needed without the costs sky rocketing and making our end product too expensive for sale. We eventually looked further afield and found a great manufacturer in China who could produce the box and cards for us.
We very much hope to bring manufacture back to the UK with some of our future designs when we are hopefully able to place orders for larger quantities. We have worked so hard to make the products affordable and accessible to everyone whatever their budget might be.
What has response been like to the product so far?
We have been blown away with the feedback, from the quality of the box – the cards being wipeable for all those sticky fingers, the fun bright colours, the illustrations being easy to follow for non-readers, right down to the fact that the box is pretty enough to have lying around in their homes.
What are the wider plans for Five Wild Ones? How will you build on the concept and have you got more in development?
When we started developing our idea, we soon realised that our intention was to gamify daily routine life for children in order to make it fun. The reward acts as an incentive for children to carry out what normally would be quite mundane tasks with little in it for them.
By turning it into a game with a little something at the end for their achievement is what keeps them engaged and therefore our future products will be grown from this concept.
We have many ideas in the pipeline and will be starting to work with our illustrator in the next couple of weeks on something exciting which we hope to be able to launch later this year. We are also working on our website which again will be going live in the next few months.
We have had lots of great feedback so far from some very influential people on Instagram who have used ‘Reward a Routine’ with their own children and have really loved it. Our aim is to keep building on our social media presence and continue to market it through this avenue while we continue to work on getting the product onto store shelves.
What conversations are you guys having with retailers? What’s the strategy in getting Reward a Routine onto store shelves?
We experienced huge delays last year as many businesses did with Covid-19 so our plans to reach out to retailers were moved to this year.
Because of the delays, we weren’t able to start selling our product until December which meant that a lot of our marketing plans had to change. We have started to reach out to some small independent retailers and our plan is to suggest a series of ‘Reward a Routine’ pop-up shops at keys times in the year where we can showcase our product to a wider audience and gauge the market a bit better.
Why is now the right time for retailers to work with Five Wild Ones? With schools closed and the nation in another lockdown – it seems to be an opportune moment to put Five Wild Ones in the spotlight?
With life being so unsettled at the moment and the second closure of schools which came into effect this week there is no better time to be implementing daily routine into our children’s lives. Routine provides a secure and consistent structure for them to rely on when everything else is a bit uncertain.
When your child knows what they need to do and then do it all by themselves it builds self-reliance, independence and confidence which is very beneficial to their mental health.
We are currently using “reward a routine’ with our children in a way that gives them a similar structure to what they are used to at school – the great thing about it is that it can be adapted to suit all routines however different they may be at different times of the day so it really is suited to anyone who wants to try adding as little or as much routine into their children’s lives.
Having some key tasks to do daily with a few chores to carry out ‘thrown in for good measure’ really helps us all have more purpose in our daily lives and let’s face it, who doesn’t love a reward at the end of their day…we know we do!
Thanks Five Wild Ones, is there anything you’d like to shout about?
We are just at the beginning of our journey but hope to be able to continue bringing fun, practical and useful products to the market. We started out as two mummy’s passionate about making routines fun and are looking forward to not only sharing with other families, but bringing new products to our line and also sharing our journey along the way.