Tender Leaf is a fairly new company, but there’s another toy maker I recently fell in love with that has been doing this for decades. Barcelona-based company Lanco has been making fully artisanal rubber toys since all the way back to 1952. The raw material used by Lanco stems from the same place as Tender Leaf Toys: the rubber tree. For over fifty years, this Catalan company has manufactured natural rubber toys for babies and even pets. A family company, Lanco has been at the forefront of European toy making for quite some time, and it was a joy to discover them, as I became a mum.
The Lanco founder and grandfather to the current owners, Alfredo Benet Domingo, was an artist who fell in love with the endless possibilities of rubber. Feeling a deep affinity to children, he decided to focus his talents of creating beautiful and colourful toys for babies. In the 1950s’, sustainability and ecology weren’t particularly popular concepts; it was just the way things were done. It’s a testament to Lanco’s commitment to the craft than in over 50 years they never neglected natural rubber for more toxic materials, staying true to latex for more than half a century. Still, it was only recently, in 2015, that Lanco began focusing its corporate image on the sustainable practices that have been the company’s backbone throughout its history. The company’s manufacturing process occurs in their factory in Fez, Morocco; each toy then heads to Barcelona, the starting point for them to be shipped internationally. As it often happens with traditional and family-based companies, the better part of Lanco workers have been there for over two decades, and women comprise 64% of their staff.
One thing I like about Lanco is that they make toys for babies as young as one month old. The items are hermetically sealed so that no mould can accumulate inside, in turn making it safe for newborn babies that are still too young to be vaccinated, and are thus much more exposed to bacteria. Lanco fulfills every European toy standard, using only biodegradable materials, from natural rubber to food-grade dyes. Every single one of the Lanco toys is crafted by hand, from prototyping in Plasticine all the way to adding the colour details.
Lanco focuses on making toys for babies, with squeaky and silent varieties that are soft to the touch and completely safe for any infant to chew. They have a few collections specialising in one of the toughest moments of parenting a baby: teething, which can be painful and traumatic for everyone in the household. Teethers Amapola are comprised of simple and unicolor shapes for babies to grasp and bite; Teethers Huella toys are shaped as animals, helping babies become familiar with their shapes and stimulated by colours; Teethers Semilla toys are all in bright colours, shaped as plants and fruits; and Teethers Orilla are two-piece toys inspired by waves, showcasing sweet shapes like elephants and birds.
The Spanish company categorizes their baby-focused products on four age groups: 1 month, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months and 24 months. The toys for each age are designed to fit each developmental stage, so, for example, toys for newborns have a focus on grip, which they can eventually change between hands.
Lanco also has a whole catalogue dedicated to one of the most traditional and beloved toys we inherited from the 20th century: the rubber duck. After manufacturing rubber ducks for over half a century, Lanco has this product down to an art. They go beyond the yellow rubber duck and expand to more colours, including white, black, green, purple and brown; there’s a holiday version with a Santa hat and they also have some “bad” duckies, including a Diablo one.
The classic versions don’t even begin to cover the wide variety present in the Lanco rubber duck arsenal. They have a multicultural line that includes a Viking and a Miss Piggy-type fashionista; there are work-inspired ducks like a bobby, a fireman and a DJ; and even some romantic ducks, from one holding a rainbow flag to a married couple. The options go on and they’re all very sweet and silly. It’s clear Lanco goes beyond simply making them for little kids; some of these can make a nice present for an adult who has stayed young at heart.
In all, I want my child to grow up in a world that’s increasingly aware of each product: where it comes from, who works on it and on what conditions, what measures are taken for it to be safe. The best way I can think of creating that kind of consciousness in him is by surrounding each step of his development with carefully thought-out items crafted by brands that care. I’ve fallen in love with the products and worldviews of Tender Leaf Toys and Lanco, and I can’t recommend them enough. I’m also madly excited to see my son go through each step of life, and I also can’t wait to find the toys that will help make him a happy and aware little human. Find out more about the company here.