Let Them Be Bugs – a modular toy by Malou van Dijck and Renske Rothuizen


How did you come up with the idea of your modular toy “Let Them Be Bugs”?

While wondering: what would it be like to be an insect for a day? Well we can tell you that there won’t be much lazing around. Insects have a very busy job! They help nature and are excellent in recycling waste and the spreading of seeds. Tasks that cost quite some energy. It’s a great thing we have insects around, cause did you know that without insects, life on earth wouldn’t survive for a long time?

With nearly a million known species these teeming tiny critters come in great numbers. Unfortunately, the insects are not always popular with humans, and often seen as unnecessary and annoying. Due to different causes like climate change, almost 40% of insects are threatened with extinction. Such a shame, because we need the bees, beetles and other creepy critters to keep ourselves alive. And we can learn a lot from them! It’s high time to let our society come into contact with these captivating creatures? How to start this change? By introducing our children to meet these extraordinary bugs.

How did children respond to your “Let Them Be Bugs”?

All kids, from very different ages, have their own way of playing with Let Them Be Bugs. These imaginative creatures evoke different types of play such as physical play, consecutive play and fantasy play.

Thanks to these creative insects the children learn about nature in a playful way and are stimulated to wander and explore more often. By diving into nature the children discover more about all the different types of insects and their special characteristics. This way they are invited to learn more about the importance of insects for our planet.

Currently “Let Them Be Bugs” is still a prototype, but what are your plans for the future?

In cooperation with a label we hope to bring the toys to the market and of course give kids the opportunity to enjoy and play with them! We are looking for a partner to make this happen and research together the most sustainable way of doing this. There are already a lot of kids (and parents) interested so we hope to get them in shops in the foreseeable future!

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your toy design?

Let Them Be Bugs is designed to help kids (and parents) appreciate again why we share our planet with these amazing insects. By making friends with these bugs, the current image of being unnecessary and annoying is challenged. To get this massage rightfully across we designed the toys in a sustainable way. We carefully researched the best options for production and the materials used. Most importantly the toys are designed to last a long life and to be enjoyed by different generations.

Tell us briefly about your background. Who and what has shaped you as a designer?

We are both graduates from Design Academy Eindhoven and met each other during the professional business training for creative professionals ‘Driving Dutch Design’. Malou van Dijck: I love to tell stories through design. I use product and social design as a tool to create (a small) space for everyone in this world. Inspiration comes from daily life and the peculiarities in human behaviour. Renske Rothuizen observes her surroundings with a childlike wonder and curiosity. She likes to get inspired by daily moments. They amaze and challenge her to find the joy within the obvious. For Renske, the aim is to bring sophistication and playful design together in a fine balance.

We both believe boredom shaped our creativity; it’s the best breeding ground for being a designer. It is something we both try to treasure by taking time for wandering and daydreaming.

What toys did you play with as a child? Did you have a favourite toy?

We both loved to play outside and were blessed with a rich imagination. Every object, item, material around us could be used for play.

For example Malou: I used to love to go on mini-adventures in the backyard or collect froglets and insects on hiking trips with my parents and siblings. Everybody would be joining in, in my imaginative storylines of tropical safari’s, trilling quests and treasure hunts. Seamingly boring surroundings would change in a flick of an eye. Indoors toys could be: pasta, soap, beads, bed linen but also duplo, lego, board games everything could be used as material to play.

As a child Renske was an observer already. She could connect the neighbourhood kids and made building plans for different treehouses together. The favourite ‘toy’ she played with were the tools from the shed.

Do you feel there is a toy that every child should have?

For us nature is the best environment to play in as a child. Experiencing the different seasons and weather gives them a lot of confidence and knowledge. We admire designers and manufacturers who are aware of the senses and future of our youngest generations.

Malou van Dijck & Renske Rothuizen

Lieke Janssen

Get in touch with Renske Rothuizen via e-mail: