Here are some of the best SA-made toys and games for the festive season
- South Africa imports a large number of toys and games each year - many of them cheaply and of subpar quality.
- And as the SA economy struggles to come to grips with the fallout from Covid-19, government is urging South Africans to buy local.
- Fortunately, there are plenty of high quality options available if you're looking for thoughtful gifts for younger members of your family.
- Many of them come attached with stories of family business, or make meaningful social impacts on surrounding communities.
- These are some of the best local toys we could find.
- Fore more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
South Africa imports a massive number of toys each year. In 2019, the value of toys, scale models and puzzles imported from China - the world’s biggest net exporter of toys - totalled more than a billion rand, according to the United Nations Comtrade database on international trade.
China's toy, game and sports exports are largely unbeatable on price. Economies of scale and the expense of tooling, wages, and manufacturing on a local level mean it’s often cheaper to purchase toys imported from abroad than to buy local.
But relying on cheap imports comes at a cost to local industrial development and the economy - which is why president Cyril Ramaphosa last month called on South Africans to "buy local" this festive season, with a particular call to support women-owned enterprises, small businesses and township enterprises.
The hope is that this could help save livelihoods in the pandemic-hit economy.
“By buying local we retain and may even re-create some of the jobs that have been shed over the last few months and put South Africa and South Africans back to work,” Proudly South Africa said in a statement.
Here are some companies that are producing local gifts that are primarily targeting younger members of the family - many of which have sound social enterprise angles to their operations as well.
Toy Project is a community-based initiative that husband and wife team Renee and Paul Leger started in 2011, in order to help unemployed women in the Groenfontein Valley outside Calitzdorp. It now also operates in Wittedrift, outside Plettenberg Bay. The company has a strong focus on up-skilling women in these communities in order to enable them to manufacture high-end handmade toys. Among the various options on offer are charms, key rings, dolls, and a variety of plush stuffed African animals, all handmade in shweshwe.
Little Pine Tree
Little Pine Tree is another a social enterprise that aims to teach practical skills to women. The programme started in Johannesburg in 2015 to offer women a four-week course in creating safari-themed plush toys and dolls, that the company sells in stores and via its website.
Stumped is a family-run toy business founded in Knysna. The company’s aim is to introduce children to a wide range of wooden kits and toys that offer a throwback to timber crafts of an often forgotten era. Aside from some pre-assembled toys and games, many of their products walk children and young adults through a variety of steps to create something unique - like DIY kits for bird feeders and picture frames.
Pips & Moo
Pips & Moo is a company founded in order to counteract the prevalence of plastic toys which are not made to last. The family-run business, named after the founding couple's two daughters, sells wooden items that are practical and will appeal to the sensibility of youngsters. Seesaw rockers shaped like a monkey, various themed bookends, balance boards, blocks, and colourful chair and table sets for various ages are all available to purchase on the Pips & Moo website.
Shongololo sells handcrafted toys made in Cape Town by a small team of women. The toys, all made from colourful shweshwe, include an animal range and two types of dolls. They also make and sell colourful animal-themed bibs for younger members of the family. The products are sold in stores at the V&A Waterfront and the Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill in Cape Town, as well as online.
Africars creates a range of quintessentially South African wire car toys from their headquarters in Bloemfontein. According to the company’s website, the business started to help ease unemployment on a family farm. Products are based on the traditional wire car found commonly throughout the country. The retail version has been souped up and refined and sold in stores. They now also create a variety of wire toys - from Landrover Defenders and an Isuzu bakkie, to a helicopter and a tractor.
MyEcoSprout offers green-thumbed parents an ideal way to hand down their passion to the younger members of their family. The company’s goal is help children sow and grow their own plants, with a particular focus on edible plants. Alongside various growing kits they also sell basic tools and implements that will allow children to tend to their gardens.
Colour Me Kids
Colour Me Kids is a company founded by an early childhood teacher who was frustrated that children were unable to express who they were when they drew themselves, and so, with her husband, they created their own range of crayons that better represent the complexions of children in South Africa. The result is a box of 12 non-toxic triangular crayons, that they call “stationery for the skin you’re in”.
Paint by Numbers
Paint by Numbers is a local company that offers a variety of paint-by-number sets to both adults and children. The kids' sets are simple yet striking, and aim to ignite a passion for creativity. Among the various options are simple landscapes, rainbows, and vehicles - but for older children there are more advanced sets that would be suitable for the slightly more accomplished painters yet to venture into their own creations. They also come as all in one art kits that have everything needed to get started.
Kidbuddie has been manufacturing playground equipment locally since 1993. They supply jungle gym equipment to hotels, schools and shopping centres, as well as private homes. Kidbuddie prides itself on creating equipment that inspires children to play outdoors, and their range includes rockers and seesaws, obstacle courses, and swings, manufactured mostly out of Cape Pine.
Apps and Games
South Africa's gaming industry has grown significantly in recent years, and several developers have released titles that have received both local and international acclaim. Although many may not be suitable for younger members of the family, there are several titles that tick boxes of supporting local businesses and are still broadly family friendly.
Semblance, developed by Nyamakop in Johannesburg, is a 2Dgame set in a beautifully designed minimalist world. Players must move the purple character Squish through this world and solve several puzzles.
Desktop Dungeons is a 2D game developed by Cape Town-based QFC Design originally released in 2013. It's a quick-play puzzle game that requires players to make their way through a variety of random dungeons, which culminates in a traditional boss fight. It's received a rating of "very positive" on Steam after close to 1000 reviews.
Beautiful Desolation was released in February this year by local adventure games studio The Brotherhood. In the game, players explore a post-apocalyptic landscape and solve various puzzles to learn more about the world unravelling around them
BroForce is one of the most successful locally developed games. It's a side-scrolling action game released by Free Lives in 2014, and its earned a perfect 10/10 score on Steam.
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