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March 1, 2020

Maker of the Month: kiko+ & gg*

Based in Osaka, Japan, kiko+ & gg* is a modern, minimalist toy brand led by designers Kaz* and Novi* with the purpose of creating toys that are beautiful, durable and fun. The kiko+ collection is comprised of colorful, quirky toys with “surprise functions, while the gg* collection features classic toys with an educational spin, often in softer, muted colors. We love the intentional, timeless design and honest materials in our kiko+ and gg* collection—trust us when we say they are fun and entertaining for kids of all ages (yes, kids at heart included).

What sets wooden toys apart from their plastic counterparts?

There is something very pure and satisfying about the touch and feel of wooden toys. We like the idea of children interacting and playing with something made from nature.

Our founder Kaz’s grandfather was a carpenter. She grew up with the smell and feel of wood so there is special significance working with this particular material as well.

There is a purity and solid feeling that you just don’t find in plastics. You can feel the difference when you hold a wooden item in your hand versus something plastic—wooden toys are meant to last.

 What inspires your whimsical, vintage-inspired designs?

While we find inspiration everywhere—our pets, favorite cars, travel and kids—we’ve always been drawn to the simplicity of basic and traditional items.

We find ideas everywhere, some in our native Japan (such as our Aloha Pineapple topple game, which is a modern version of a traditional Japanese toy). Sometimes ideas come from toys or objects we loved as kids ourselves, and we are inspired to bring them back in a cooler and more durable form.

kiko+ & gg* wooden airplane kid's toykiko+ & gg* wooden airplane kid's toy

kiko+ & gg* wooden hamburger and french fries kid's toykiko+ & gg* wooden hamburger and french fries kid's toy
“In our experience, kids are very creative and imaginative—they constantly find new ways of playing that are unique.”
Wooden handleld game kid's toy by kiko+ & gg*Wooden handleld game kid's toy by kiko+ & gg*

Wooden gumball machine kid's toy by kiko+ & gg*Wooden gumball machine kid's toy by kiko+ & gg*

Wooden magical drawing board kid's toy by kiko+ & gg*Wooden magical drawing board kid's toy by kiko+ & gg*

Many of your toys have “surprise functions” not typically found in traditional wooden toys. What does this element of surprise add to your toys?

In this busy age of screens and noisy plastic toys, it’s hard to compete! Many wooden toys look nice on a nursery shelf, but it’s questionable how much kids actually enjoy playing with them. 

The surprise element brings the toy to life, and sets it apart from something that is simply a nice-looking object. We always like to go the extra mile to find that “certain something” that will delight the child. And it’s quite amazing what kinds of mechanisms and functions you can build into a fully wooden toy!

But the best part of the element of surprise is seeing kids react to them—often parents and adults don't even notice them. The kids always find those elements, and their happy reactions and smiles are priceless!

 We’re in love with the bright, quirky color palette you incorporate in your products. What role does color play in your toys’ designs?

Thank you! We're so happy to hear this. When we first chose the basic color palette for kiko+, we loved the idea of bright and neon colors because they created such a contrast to natural wood.

We also found that many wooden toy brands used very muted, neutral colors only—and let’s face it, kids love colors! We wanted to be different and figured there is no reason why we couldn’t use a combination of natural wood and pops of color. 

 How can toys be used as communication tools for kids and parents?

The majority of our toys don’t come with instructions or “how to play” manuals. This is a conscious choice. We find that having instructions written down actually limits how kids and families play with our toys. For example, traditionally adults will read the instructions and “teach” the children “how to play.”

But in our experience, kids are very creative and imaginative—they constantly find unique new ways of playing. Kids can communicate with their parents through toys by showing and teaching them new ways of interaction and play.   

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