Meet the Maker of Munchy Play Plates
Picky eating is a common complaint that nearly half of all parents with a child under two experience. Sophia was one of those parents, until she stumbled across an idea that would change they way children eat forever.
In this exclusive interview, we speak to the female founder of Munchy Play about her fun plate collection and the latest Thomas and Friends ™ plate set collection.
What inspired you to launch the first-ever kids’ plate with a built-in track?
Not long after returning from maternity leave to my job in communications, I found myself facing the possibility of redundancy. At the same time, I was struggling with a fussy eater toddler who had lost all interest in mealtimes. To add to this, I had mum guilt for being apart from my son (he was at nursery while I worked), so always made it a priority to try and cook him a meal when I came home from work.
Launching a business was never in my life plan, but this was such an amazing opportunity to create something that would make a difference to the world. In that moment, I knew what I had to do.
That’s when I started to experiment with ways to bring my son to the table. One day I fashioned a train track around his plate, brought his trains to the table, and in that moment everything changed.
How did the Thomas & Friends™ partnership come about?
As a toddler my son was a huge fan of anything with an engine, especially Thomas the Tank Engine. I must have watched every episode of the TV series, and bought every Thomas train set on the market! From the get-go, it was my dream to create an exclusive Thomas train plate, that brought this much-loved character to life.
Munchy Play initially launched with our own non-branded train and car plates, which proved to be an instant hit. From there I approached the Mattel team who were really into it, and could see the potential to create something new and exciting for young children. It has been an absolute dream to work with them and such a fun journey to get here. I’m beyond excited to launch our new train plate collection.
How did you start the creative process for the Thomas train plate collection?
I really love the creative side, and fully immerse myself in the process. I go back to what it’s like to be a child, observe children eating and playing, and try and bring that altogether. The Thomas assets are fun, bright and colourful, something we wanted to integrate in the design.
I worked with my designer and the team at Mattel to create something visually impactful and fun, that works on a practical level too. I just love the illustrated tunnels on the plate, which look so realistic and remind me of how much my son like to use his imagination when he was a toddler.
We experimented with a few different colours for the plates, but always came back to the bold blue, green and red, based on the Thomas, Percy and James colours. There’s a reason children love bright colours, and we wanted to speak to them.
How do you find the balance between making mealtimes fun with toys, but not a distraction?
It’s important to remember that for young children, mealtimes are just as much about the sensory and social experience as dining. I’ve spoken to many child nutritionists and consultants about this, and they all say that making mealtimes enjoyable is the best way to get kids to the table, and keep them there. This can be anything from involving kids in meal preparation, through to use fun tableware like our fun kids’ plates.
Testament to this – we’ve had incredible feedback from parents – 93% tell us that our plates have improved toddler mealtimes.
Your plates are Made in Britain – is this important to you?
Yes. Back in 2017 when I first came up with the idea for the kids' plate and track, I knew I wanted them to be made in the UK. I’ve always felt it’s important to support British enterprise where you can, and I know how much parents trust products made in the UK.
But it was a challenge to make this happen, as so much of this type of work is outsourced abroad. It took many many months and lots of rejection before I found the right team. I can fully understand why so many businesses go overseas, but I was lucky enough to find a UK manufacturer that could make this work.
What were your favourite TV shows and characters as a child?
I had so many and was your typical child of the 80s. I loved; Care Bears, Scooby Doo, Minnie & Mickey, He-Man, Dungeons and Dragons, and of course Thomas & Friends! My mum said when I’d come home from school I’d watch Thomas on TV while she prepared my dinner, I only learnt this recently – it’s amazing how life goes full circle!
What’s your favourite part about running your own business?
When you receive messages from parents telling you how your product has transformed dining, or that their kids ask for your plates every day – it really is the most rewarding feeling.
Do you have a favourite Thomas train?
Oh, I love them all, but I am especially fond of Thomas because he strikes the perfect balance of fun and cheekiness, I also love Bertie the Bus - he reminds me of my childhood growing up, especially in London.
Do you think it’s important for toys today to be gender universal?
Yes, absolutely – this is so important. Children should be able to play with toys without limitations or labels. Growing up, I remember that one of my favourite toys was a Scalextric car track. My nan used to call me a tomboy, but thankfully my parents encouraged me to play with a wide variety of toys – something I do with my own son. Our kids’ plates are gender universal and we do our very best to ensure they are marketed to both girls and boys.
What has been the highlight of launching your own business?
Going from the germ of an idea to having a physical product in your hands is such a long journey, and I’m immensely proud of what I’ve achieved. The press coverage, the awards, the partnerships – these are all wonderful, but the reason why we do this is to help other families and to make a difference.
Finally, tell us a fun fact about you
Well, I’m a supertaster. That means that I have more taste buds than most people and experience bitter taste more strongly. I’m often called a fussy eater myself because there's a number of foods I'm not fond of, but I suspect it could be because I taste food more intensely!?
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Are you a big Thomas the Tank Engine fan? Find out how to become a toy collector here.