Plastic waste is a huge challenge as we try to live more sustainable lives. Matthew Gooding speaks to Maria Bataller from Cambridge start-up Young and Learning which wants to change how we think about toys

nyone with young children will be familiar with the tide of brightly coloured plastic which

sweeps through your house as they get older and start collecting toys. While most of us shrug our shoulders and accept that our lives will involve being surrounded by various gaudy cars, animals, and building blocks, Maria Bataller has decided to lead the fight back. Together with husband Warren, she has set up Young and Learning, a company that designs and makes sustainable toys to help children to learn and grow through play. The business was founded in 2017, and Maria says it has been driven by her twin passions: caring for the environment and child development. “Before having children, Warren and I loved travelling and enjoyed scuba diving, and this opened our eyes to the problem of waste, particularly plastics in the ocean,” she recalls. “When we got back from our travels we started making some small changes at home to try and reduce the amount of waste we produced. But when we had children, we were overwhelmed by the amount of plastic toys we received. They were very kindly gifted but most of them never get used.”

several courses and it has become my passion. “When I found out I was pregnant with my second child [a son, Nolan, now two], we decided we wanted to do something to combine these two passions; protecting the planet, particularly waste in toys, and child development. That’s how we came up with Young and Learning. “I went back to work three days a week and had the kids two days a week. We found a few hours to work

Maria and Warren are not alone. Indeed, in 2018 us Brits spent £370m on toys, 90% of which are made of plastic and can’t be easily recycled. Alongside her interest in reducing plastic waste, Maria began researching child development after the birth of her daughter Sofia, now four. “When my daughter was born I wanted to find out about everything, so I started reading different things and learning about the developmental stages,” she says. “Now I’ve done

ABOVE The balance board can be used in a whole host of ways, encouraging children to use their imaginations

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