About Us: The Bigjigs Story – bigjigstoys.ca

About Us: The Bigjigs Story

How Did It Begin?

Peter Ireland

Peter Ireland at the Bigjigs Toys stand in the 1990s

Bigjigs Toys was born in 1985 in Peter Ireland’s garden shed in Kent, England. Peter was learning to be a Craft Design teacher and began making wooden toys in his spare time. Friends and family were so impressed by his wooden creations that they kept asking him to make toys for them!

Realising he was onto something, Peter began making wooden jigsaws from floorboards, which he and wife Liz sold at craft fairs all across the UK. Liz and Peter were both teachers by profession so have always had child development and education at the heart of what they do. One school holiday, Peter and Liz made the decision to give up teaching and pursue the toys business full time. Bigjigs Toys was born! 

Sam Ireland

Baby Sam Ireland, 1987

Initially, Bigjigs Toys only produced jigsaw puzzles, which were lovingly handmade, cut, painted, and packed in the garden shed. These jigsaw puzzles were sold at a weekly weekend market in Covent Garden, London, making it the only sales outlet for Bigjigs products at the time. Customers loved the jigsaw puzzles and wanted to see the range extended, so Bigjigs broadened their product range to magnets, wellie pegs, pencil holders, door plaques, and coat hooks.
Peter’s floorboard puzzles evolved into wooden toys for kids of all ages. In the early 1990s, we debuted our first mail-order catalogue. Orders came through the post thick and fast, and the business began to spread across the country. At our peak, we printed over 500,000 catalogues every year!

Proud Family Business

The Ireland Family

Family Run From Day One: Tom, Sam, Liz, and Peter Ireland

Bigjigs Toys has grown enormously since 1985, but still remains family run. Liz and Peter are still involved in every aspect of the toy production, from the toy design to packing your order. Liz and Peter’s two sons, Sam and Tom, became Directors in 2017. Even grandchildren Arthur and Edith get involved with testing the toys! It really is, and continues to be, a family affair.

Experiencing Big(jigs) Growth 

Bigjigs Toys began to supply other toy shops and retailers, making trade and B2B sales our biggest income. In 2018, we launched our B2C website and now sell direct to consumers. During the same year, we purchased Tidlo from John Crane, a renowned wooden toy manufacturer.

Bigjigs RailDidicarTidlo and ZooBooKoo are all part of the Bigjigs Toys family. We are proud to distribute some great brands that include CollectAGowi ToysGreen ToysLottie Dolls, Tiger TribeMakedo and Schylling.

Duchess of Cornwall

The Duchess of Cornwall looking at Bigjigs Toys products at a craft fair, 2012

Bigjigs Toys operates from a large warehouse in Folkestone, Kent and distributes toys worldwide to over 100 countries. We have recently acquired a brand new office just a few minutes away from our warehouse. We currently employ 46 people in the UK and continue to go from strength to strength.

The Bigjigs Toys Mission

To deliver quality, safe and affordable products which are responsibly sourced and complement childhood development through fun, exploration, and learning.

Our Environmental Responsibility

Responsible Manufacturing

We work closely with a number of production facilities in the Far East that are regularly visited by our Managing Director Liz. Liz takes great care to ensure that the facilities are operating ethically and are committed to the quality that we expect.

Ethical Sources

Our Directors visit the sites where our wood is sourced to ensure environmental criteria are being met. The majority of our products are manufactured using Rubberwood. Rubberwood is a byproduct of the latex production process. Rather than the wood being discarded at the end of its useful life, it is harvested from replenishable forests and used in our toy production. It is a solid hardwood, perfect for producing quality, hard-wearing toys.

Sustainable Toy Distribution Brands

Our partner brands are selected based on similar environmental and social credentials. Green Toys, for example, are made in the USA solely from recycled milk jugs. We are also FSC® Certified with FSC® C147826, which ensures our wood comes from responsibly managed forests and meets the “Gold Standard” of sustainable forestry. You can read more about our commitment to Environmental Responsibility and Sustainability here.

Safe, Quality Toys

Independent Toy Safety Testing

Each toy in our range has been safety tested by an independent lab to ensure that it meets the standards required to be sold in Great Britain (BS EN71), Europe (EN71 regulations) and/or North America (ASTM regulations). This testing process includes rigorous durability testing, chemical and paint analysis and consideration for age-appropriate guidelines. You can read about how we meet and exceed Toy Safety standards here.

Learning Through Play

Our toys are designed at our HQ in Folkestone by our creative team. Each product is designed to encourage key skills and is graded according to age-appropriate guidelines. We firmly believe in the importance of learning through play and our products support some aspects of child development. From rhythm to number recognition, from manual dexterity to gross motor skills, we love to encourage children to play, explore and learn.

Child-Friendly Paints, Stains and Lacquers

Young children often explore textures with their mouths. During this stage, you need to be sure that no chemicals will be ingested from the surface of the toy. You can be assured that all of our products use child-friendly paints, stains, and lacquers and pass stringent safety testing guidelines regarding surface coverings.