Ah, Fuzzy Felt, perhaps the most simple toy every made. It’s basically tiny bits of flimsy material that stick onto other flimsy bits of material to make a picture that resembles nothing like what’s on the front of the box.
Back in the 80s I had a couple of Fuzzy Felt sets, and, partially because of this nostalgia, Joni now has about six different sets. Evan isn’t allowed to play with them because he thinks these furry bits of dayglow material are actually tiny snacks.
Joni’s Fuzzy Felt sets are all from charity shops – the circus, house, ballarina, beach sets – you name it, I bought it second hand. But I’ve bought her two new sets for Christmas as it’s a cheap present that I know she’ll play with for ages, whilst fending off snack-obsessed Evan.
I was feeling pretty smug about the eco-friendly credentials of Fuzzy Felt, especially as I’d got so many sets secondhand. I then realised that I didn’t even know what it was made of. The clue’s in the title you might say but I didn’t even know what felt was.
Felt was originally made from wool or animal fur but is now mainly made from synthetic fibres, so derived from oil. All of this was new to me and it brings up the same old question of which is worse? Something made from dead animals (or animal product) or felt made from a fossil fuel that will never biodegrade?
Early Learning Centre sell sets of Fuzzy Felt so I emailed them to find out for sure what toy felt is made of. Clearly it’s not a question they get asked very often as they emailed to say they’d have to investigate and then got back to me a few days later. Jamie from customer services confirmed that Fuzzy Felt is indeed made of synthetic fibres.
Synthetic fibres are also difficult to recycle so double blow on the eco friendliness there.
I was all for giving up hope on Fuzzy Felt and lumping it in the ‘plastic toy’ category, but then I checked the box of this retro beauty and discovered it was made in 1967!
This toy is 51 years old. It was first played with by a kid who’s probably in his or her late forties now. It was the same year Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band came out and beer was 20p a pint. These tiny beach-goers never had it so good.
This set of Fuzzy Felt could have been played with by 10, 20, 30 children – who knows? It could of course been played with once and then sat in an attic for 50 years. But who cares? This set of Fuzzy Felt has made me realise that, when looked after properly, toys can last for more than half a century.
If synthetic fibres are going to last forever anyway, then why not get as much use out of them as possible?
Fuzzy Felt maybe synthetic and may never decompose, but not many toys can stand up to over 50 years of play time.