Have you heard of Maileg? Maileg (pronounced “My’lye”) are an award-winning Danish toy company that produces gorgeous, swoon-worthy soft toys with a nostalgic, storybook appeal. We’ve been ogling them for quite a while, so we were beyond thrilled to receive a parcel the other day containing a beautiful Maileg ‘Big Sister’ Mouse, complete with matchbox bed, that was kindly sent to us for review by One Hundred Toys. If it’s possible to create Hygge in toy form, a Maileg Mouse must be it! Read on to find out why.
We tend to buy two types of toy in our house. First, there are toys ‘of the moment’, that are often inspired by the kids’ current obsessions. These are toys that we know, deep down inside, even as we shell out our hard-earned cash for them, will end up at the charity shop or passed down to younger friends before very long. Then there are the toys that, we hope, will become childhood treasures – the toys they’ll love, play with constantly, and keep forever and ever (or at least until the next generation comes along to receive them into their sticky little paws). Maileg toys definitely fit into this latter category.
Each Maileg toy is made from natural materials like linen and cotton. Our Big Sister Mouse has suede-soft ears and tail, and lovely hand-sewn details such as her stitched eyes, nose and smile. She arrived tucked up in a giant matchbox bed (complete with linen mattress, pillow and a teeny, tiny blanket), and dressed in a polka-dotted red dress that I’m sure T-Bird would be quite happy to wear herself. Underneath the dress (as T-Bird was quick to find out – casual nudity is de rigueur for all her toys) she has a stripy linen beany body that enables her to sit up rather nicely when it’s time for tea.
Big Sister Mouse is a great size for play – big enough to be a friendly playmate, and small enough to be tucked into a child’s pocket or bag when going out and about. I have to say I love the size – it’s pretty much perfect in that she’s little, like T-Bird expects a mouse to be, but also big enough to have a definite personality.
The other mice in the Maileg family vary in size – the smallest are the ‘baby’ mice and, naturally, ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ – in their cigar-box bed - are the biggest. The different sizes are a nice touch – it always annoys me (though probably not the kids!) when toys are out of proportion to each other. There's a range of characters making up extended family, including (so cute it’s almost unbearable) ‘Grandma and Grandpa Mouse’, top ‘n’ tailing it in their long matchbox bed.
Within a very short time of arrival, once the empty courier box had been converted into the obligatory car racer, T-Bird was playing happily with her little mouse friend. K-Dog remarked that what was so lovely about this toy (apart from the self-contained storage functionality of the bed-box – he’s big on putting things away!) is that she seems to come with a story – just opening up that matchbox to find her sleeping inside sparks the imagination in a way which makes you think of Enid Blyton books or Mary Norton's The Borrowers, and they would fit right in with Bagpuss and his friends. It’s a secret world where toys come to life, ready to play and make stories with their child companions.
These little mice definitely have more play value than many soft toys where the emphasis is more on providing comfort. Big Sister mouse is certainly capable of being used that way, but has so much character she almost demands more involved play! It didn’t take long for T-Bird to scavenge up some accessories from her other toys, and then demand we make some more, just for Big Sister! With our trusty supply of wine corks (it’s hard work, making sure that stash is always full), we rustled up a picnic for her. Mice surely love cheese and cake, so they were first on the list, and then we got carried away and made a whole feast!
That lead to a campfire - for the marshmallows, naturally, and that lead in turn to the request for a tent. Because you can’t have a campfire without a tent, mummy! So I whipped up* this sweet little Mouse-House Bell Tent (we’re Bell Tent obsessives in this house – I’ve been promised one of our own for next summer, but for now this will have to do!), and Big Sister was finally all set. At least for now…
*This is a lie – the tent took a whole evening and involved much wine and bad language. I will post a tutorial soon, but as it was meant to be a quick throwaway thing, I stupidly didn’t take pictures while making it. So now I’ll have to make another one *sigh!* I will definitely need to stock up on the vino first though...
It’s lovely to be able to extend the play with simple bits like this, and the fact that many of the mice come with their own bed-boxes is a great start. Maileg also do a number of other more elaborate sets for even more fantastical storytelling – my particular favourite is the circus set, which consists of three circus mice and a polka-dot tent! T-Bird, on the other hand, loves the look of Princess Mouse, which comes with a castle, a pile of mattresses, and a crocheted pea! However the individual mice are also brim-full of charm, and each one has been given a unique character. Take a look at Big Brother Racer’s hat, or the Tooth Fairy Mice with their hats and wands, just for a start!
There is such a timeless simplicity to the design – Maileg toys look like the kind your grandmother’s grandmother might have made, sitting by the fire in that rosy-tinted nostalgic past where the snow fell every Christmas, all toys were crafted masterpieces (nobody say “lead paint”) and kids played outside every day. Never mind the rickets, I’m happy to buy into a world-view like this that encourages imaginative play through simple toys, and props that enable rather than restrict kids' storytelling. Yes, these are made in China (you don’t fool me, ‘Made in PRC’ label), but they are high quality in terms of construction and materials, and the company itself is clearly trying to take an ethical stance on manufacturing.
Heritage toys don’t come cheap (quality always comes with a price tag, after all), but it’s clear that these mice are made to last. Maileg’s soft toys – according their website – are suitable for all ages, right from birth on up. Personally, I have my doubts as to how that mouse-tail would hold up against a determined toddler, and it makes me wince just thinking about a baby mouthing that lovely little mouse nose. But they are a great size for little ones and look pretty robust to boot. And in the end, what is a toy for, if not for playing? It’s wonderful to think of our kids being able to have something they can pass on to their own kids, but it’s surely more important for them to enjoy their own childhood playtime now.
Whilst One Hundred Toys kindly set us these toys to review, all opinions on this blog are our own (honestly, turns out we didn't need any kind of payment to love Maileg Mice!).
If you've enjoyed reading this, check back later for tutorials on our wine-cork mouse food and that pesky but glorious Mouse-House bell tent! They will be coming soon, I promise...
...and in the meantime, why not take a look at some of our Pinterest boards for more inspiration.