Korean toy company Soopsori has created some nice products, to be sure. I knew immediately that these toys were something special, just from the nice whimsical packaging. The logo is a gorgeous yet simple one by master printmaker Lee Chul Soo from his painting "Two Become One: United". The toys each come in a cardboard box that fits the toy perfectly, though some of the lids fit their bottoms a little too well. The toys are all made from naturally finished wood in a variety of naturally occurring colors, from tan to green to brown to red.
The first Soopsori toy we evaluated was the wood bear, with magnetic head, arms and legs. It comes in a variety of colors, and comes apart like a puzzle. You can put it back together in a variety of ways, including adding other magnetic items to create your own Frankenstein’s monster (a favorite activity for my almost five year old son). The bear is very cute, but it is definitely best for a very young child. It has limited replayability, though my son enjoyed playing with it to try out all the possibilities. The magnets are strong enough to hold on the appendages, but not so strong that you could pick the toy up by the arm or leg. The movable parts are posable, but one of our arms was a bit lazy and would not stay in a posed position.
A quick note on the magnets – There has been a lot of coverage in the news about the dangers posed by swallowing magnets. This does not seem to be a problem with Soopsori toys, as the magnets are inside the wood toys themselves. Holes have been drilled out for the magnets, then wood plugs cover the magnets with their surface flush with the surface of the toy. Nothing to swallow!
My favorite toy that we reviewed was the sewing tree. My son did not take to it, but my daughter did. It is the nicest sewing toy I have ever seen. The tree is two different colors, and the beads that you sew are also a variety of colors. The "needle" is a rounded wood dowel attached to a string which has a bead attached to the other end, so you can’t sew too far. There are two of these needle/thread combinations, one with a flower on the end and one with a wood ball. Additionally, there are a few flowers and wood balls to sew onto the tree. There were no magnetic aspects to this toy.
The third toy was a fishing set. The rod has a reel with string you can wind up and cast. This is a very tough rod and reel, as my two year old nephew can attest to after he played very roughly with it. The string is very securely attached to the fishing pole. It looked like Soopsori had a fun time deciding what animals to put in this set. There is an octopus, a snake, several fish, even a whale. The sea creatures all have one side with no magnet and one with a magnet (as indicated by the wood plug). The exception is the fish with fins on each side. The magnet is underneath one of the fins, so the magnetic "hook" on the rod doesn’t hold on to the fish very well. I guess that’s the one that got away!
Soopsori’s head office is in Korea with their factory in China. They use 20 types of wood for their toys, and all of their toys are recyclable. Also, they recycle the sawdust and other remnants of the manufacturing process. They share their profits with environmental NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations). More from Soopsori:
Every Soopsori product has its own color, pattern, texture and smell absorbed from the distinctive weather conditions and soil where it was planted. In addition, Soopsori products are exclusively hand-made, and the result of human, not mass, labor.
Their entire catalog of toys looked very fun, and they have toys for a variety of ages from birth to at least five (though there were plenty of toys that interested my almost eight year old daughter). Some other available toys include food play sets, trains, blocks, rattles, multi-cultural people and number/letter domino sets.
Soopsori has not yet set retail prices for their items.
Wired: Sturdy, back to basics toys with very high quality and visually appealing materials, hidden magnets, friendly company with good practices.
Tired: Still no prices set, some magnets may not be strong enough for ideal play.