MOTHERHOOD INTERVIEW: The business launched by mums helping tots to ‘think outside the bag’

totbag – short for ‘think outside the bag’ – is an outdoor activity bag for children aged three and up. Dreamt up at a girlie catch up, totbag is brainchild of three busy mums with a friendship spanning over twenty years and 10 children aged between 12 months and 15 years between them.

Totbag outdoor activities was born out of their shared passion for being outdoors with their own families children and teaching them about the world around them. Thirty-eight year old mum of four, Sophie and mum of three, Tessa, also 38, are jointly responsible for the creative aspects of the brand, drawing on their experience as both parents and teachers. Both based in Cheshire, Tessa is a primary school teacher with experience teaching children with a range of additional educational needs, while Sophie’s background is in teaching secondary school art. The company’s communications lead is 36-year-old Claire, a Liverpool-based social worker with years of experience looking after young people with a diverse range of needs.

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The brand has come some way since the seed of the idea was sown, with totbag now providing parents with an easy, fun, cost-effective and educational experience, allowing them to spend less time searching for activities and sourcing materials and more time with the kids.

Totbag’s retail website went live earlier this year, offering a number of one-off purchase and subscription packages to suit all budgets and the girls even have a number of successful launch events under their belt. The ParentFolk Weekender ‘The Outdoorsy One’ will see the summer totbag revealed to visitors and there will be plenty of free nature-inspired activities to get involved with.

We catch up with the totbag team to  find out more:

What made you come together to launch totbag?

Claire: “Meeting at university, we’ve known each other a long time. As we’ve started our own families we naturally shared our own thoughts and concerns about the kind of activities and toys available for our children and we’ve also looked back at the simple pleasures of our own childhoods that sometimes seem to have been cast aside in favour of screen-based entertainment. We’re not against technology at all, but in moderation. We set out to design an alternative, screen-free activity that would get kids back to nature, spark their imagination, encourage creativity, support kids’ education and enhance family time too. We also wanted to create something that takes into account busy lives and budgets, as we all know how tricky it can be to find the time to identify and prepare exciting and engaging kids activities, while also sticking to a household budget.”

What’s different about the totbag experience?

Sophie: “We believe that the benefits of being outdoors can be endless and what makes totbag so wonderfully unique is that link with the natural world. The whole family can be part of the totbag adventure, facilitating screen free, quality time together. As qualified teachers with a love of art and the outdoors we strive to maintain a holistic approach to all activities aimed at developing sensory awareness in children. Unlike other products that we found during our market research, we have ensured that each totbag is a pick up and go resource and contains everything you need to create five exciting pieces of art/craft using all the resources provided and a few collected treasures from the natural environment. We also make sure that every element of the totbag experience – from the bags to its contents – is as environmentally friendly as possible, as we want to ensure that we are protecting the environment we are encouraging families to enjoy.”

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Who does totbag appeal to?

Tessa: “Our customers and their little totbag explorers come from all walks of life and locations across the country. The nature of our activities mean that they have wide appeal and we’ve seen with our own families and from customer feedback that kids of very different ages love getting stuck into a totbag activity. We love it when we see the results and different interpretations of the crafts and the simplicity of the activities means that the adventure can take place in a rural setting or a city centre park. People also love sharing totbag as a unique gift too, as it’s a little bit different and creates a memory for the recipients, rather than being just another toy to add to the pile.”

Why do children enjoy receiving totbag?

Sophie: “The arrival of a new totbag means the beginning of a adventure in the new season and the chance to investigate the changes in nature. Each season has a different focus and reflects what is happening in the natural world around little explorers. Every booklet also has a list of nature treasures for your children to find to help complete their craft projects, everything else you will need will be in the bag so you could get creative outdoors on your adventure or back at home.”

What’s the vision for the brand going forward, how will it evolve?

Claire: “At totbag our passion is to create hands on and inspiring activities for children, encouraging outdoor family play in any way we can. Right now our focus is on our retail website and attendance at events like The ParentFolk Weekender ‘The Outdoorsy One’ to spread the word about totbag and our mission. We have also started a private Facebook group for Totbag customers where we are encourage people to share ideas, resources and – of course – their totbag creations. We hope that eventually this will grow to be an active, supportive and environmentally-aware community.”

You’ll be launching  totbag to The ParentFolk Weekender ‘The Outdoorsy One’ – what will you be offering at the event?

Tessa: “We’re really looking forward to giving families at the ParentFolk Weekender ‘The Outdoorsy One’ the full totbag experience. We will be offering free craft sessions for children (and adults) aged three and up, so they can get hands on and learn what totbag is all about. As all of our creative ideas are inspired by nature visitors should look out for nutty bird feeders, beautifully painted rocks, nature collages to catch the sun and much more. There will also be an exclusive discount on all totbags purchased at the Claremont Farm event, so we invite people to pop down and make, create and have fun with us!” 

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