If there’s one thing the last few years has taught us, it’s that experiences and quality time are what matter most. A trip to the local adventure playland, unwinding at the day spa, an afternoon on the river… These are some of the things we cherish.
It’s a shift being reflected in our purchasing too. Cheap, mass-made plastic toys are out. The kids don’t need them, our cupboards don’t want them, the planet hates them. Shopping local for things that have meaning and purpose is what’s in.
Sunshine Coast mum, Melissa Soutar, has jumped on the trend, and we have to admit we are a weeny bit obsessed with her genius idea!
Spark Pop has kids’ experiences all wrapped up
Mrs Soutar is the brains behind Australia’s experience marketplace for kids and families, Spark Pop. She says Spark Pop’s purpose is to free playrooms, landfill and oceans from harmful plastics by inspiring Aussie parents to choose better ways for their children to play. Spark Pop offers array of unique activities for children and their families — from pre-kindy through to teens — that will inspire and create lasting memories.
“We’re trying to cover every aspect with the aim of educating, inspiring, entertaining and getting kids active,” Mrs Soutar says. “It can be attractions, outdoor adventure or indoor play. Even recreational sports or activities, such as going to an arcade. It can be [an] encounter with wildlife or nature. Alternatively, it can be more hands on, beauty or wellbeing based. ”
She says the activities can be done by children on their own or with friends.
“It might [also] be something they do as a family, together,” Mrs Soutar says.
Mum guilt brings idea to life
It was a severe dose of mum guilt over the hoard of unused toys her own children had that brought Spark Pop to life.
“After Christmas we did the big clean out. There were broken toys, toys missing pieces … It felt so wasteful,” Melissa Soutar says.
“Then we had three birthday parties within six weeks, for which I couldn’t bring myself to continue the cycle and buy more $20 plastic gifts for other kids. Things that could well just end up abandoned at the back of a cupboard.”
It’s a cycle parents know all too well.
A child is invited to a party. Parents run out of time for a present, so do a last-minute shop for something (anything) within the budget. It’s wrapped and moved on.
“I ended up buying experience vouchers. The mums loved it, but it didn’t feel exciting for the kids,” Mrs Soutar says.
The idea for Spark Pop was born!
“What we hope to do is create that moment of surprise and delight for the kids when they open their experience gift!”
Feed curiosity and level up kids’ identities without the junk
In May, former minister for the environment Sussan Ley revealed each year Australians discard almost 27 million toys.
“Everything that goes into landfill is wasted,” she told the ABC.
Many different materials, such as rubber, metal pieces or electronic components make up today’s toys. They also contain micro-plastics that contaminate the environment.
With 80 per cent of toys ending up in landfill and the oceans, a big driver for Mrs Soutar’s launch of Spark Pop is to encourage Australians to make more conscious choices for their child’s play.
She also is eager to get kids moving more.
“In the last Active Healthy Kids Report Card, Australian young people and children scored a D- for overall physical activity. It’s heart-breaking that with such an outdoor and active lifestyle available, we still aren’t meeting national guideline.
“I feel any incidental physical activity is great for kids and families. Consider walking to a stadium or walking around Sea World or Maleny Botanic Gardens & Bird World; it’s getting [kids] off the couch and moving,” Mrs Soutar says.
Among the organisation’s foundation partners are TreeTop Challenge at Sunshine Coast, Tamborine Mountain and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary; GoBoat; Village Road Show Theme Parks; Eco Noosa River Adventures; and The Ginger Factory.
“I hope Spark Pop inspires families to get out and enjoy our incredible south-east Queensland region. I want families to get down to the river and jump on a stand-up paddle board or go on a bike ride along the paths with beach views. There is so much out there to enjoy!”
SPARK POP has taken out the Bronze for One to Watch, sparking the imagination of the judges in the 2022 AusMumpreneur Awards held in Sydney this September.
Over 150 experiences are now available to search, book and gift at www.sparkpop.com.au.