B.Bat-Erdene: Children see toys as a reflection of life


The head of the Children’s Toy Association of Mongolia, B.Bat-Erdene, had a childhood dream to create toys, which has come true. Currently, children living in eight soums of his home province, Bulgan, play in playgrounds created by him. B.Bat-Erdene also provides toys for elementary school students and children in kindergartens. We have waited eagerly for him to visit Ulaanbaatar for an interview.

-Can you talk about yourself a bit? I heard that you travel to remote soums in provinces and build playgrounds, as well as give toys to school children and preschoolers in kindergartens. Can you tell us more about what you do?

-I arrived in Ulaanbaatar a few days ago after working in Bulgan Province, where playgrounds that are financed by the state budget are under construction. Just before coming to the capital, I officially handed over a brand new playground to Gurvanbulag soum residents. As I work in a field for children, I have set a major goal to provide toys and playgrounds for 500 soums in 21 provinces of Mongolia. I am trying my best to reach my goal. As for my profession, I am a painter, designer and child toy researcher. I receive many requests to create toys that are suitable for children of various ages.

-How many soums of Bulgan have playgrounds?

-Member of the Parliament E.Munkh-Ochir called me one day and said, “I heard that you create toys and I’d like you to create toys for school and kindergarten children in 16 soums in Bulgan Province. Can you visit the locations where the playgrounds are planned to be developed in the soums and make designs?” I accepted the commission and worked on the playground designs for three months. We have built playgrounds and supplied toys to students and preschoolers in eight soums in Bulgan so far. Administrations of Mogod and Selenge soums have also requested playgrounds and toys. We will be working there shortly. I also worked in Uvs, Dornogobi, Dundgobi, and Sukhbaatar provinces before.

-When did you decide to make toys for living?

-When I was a kid, I used to make toys with wood and steel by copying manufactured toys. I always wanted to make science-based toys that meet standards, which led me to my current job.

First, I planned to import toys and run a toy business here. But soon enough, I realized that I have to build a toy factory that embodies the Mongolian life and culture. Children see toys as a reflection of life. They must play with toys that educate them about their heritage, history, traditions, and Mongolian way of thinking.

Sometimes, I play with toys myself as part of my toy research. I made toy exhibitions 70 times. The first toy that I created with my colleagues won first place in a competition held by the Mongolian Designers Association and Intellectual Property Office of Mongolia.

-Where did you establish your toy factory?

-I was appointed to Bulgan Province and started working as an art teacher in 1995. The idea came to me then. After a while, I wrote my “Mongol Maamuu” (Mongolian Kid) project. Bulgan Province administrations supported my project and they submitted proposals to the British Child Fund (BCF) in Mongolia (currently the Japanese Child Fund), and Embassy of United Kingdom to Mongolia to support the toy factory.

The BCF provided two million MNT worth of equipment and devices, while Bulgan Province administrators allowed me to use the former sky diver’s facility for the factory. This is how I established the “Mongol Maamuu” toy factory. We donated the first batch of toys to the children of Bulgan Province during Mother and Children’s Day on June 1. Since then, we have been receiving commissions from Orkhon and Darkhan-Uul Provinces, and Ulaanbaatar.

-I heard that some kindergartens in Ulaanbaatar have toys that were made in your factory. What can you tell us about them?

-I have visited several kindergartens in the city. I saw toys that were manufactured by our factory between 1999 and 2000. The toys we made for Kindergarten No.161 and No.181 were all there.

-What material do you use for toys?

-Plastic toys that have vibrant colors are in demand by children in the countryside. As for the city, organizations make orders for playgrounds that are eco-friendly. Also, people living in the Gobi region think very differently from people living in steppe regions. Gobi residents are generally interested in toys that depict national nomadic culture and traditions, while steppe region residents prefer playgrounds with the theme of a fairy tale or a national myth that have colorful plastic toys, as the steppe is largely green.

-Have you worked for the Union of Mongolian Artists?

-I won first place in an arts competition with my “V.A.Janibekov and J.Gurragchaa” painting when I was in tenth grade in middle school. My painting was very well-received and they offered me a job. With my first ever salary, I bought a record player, which was one of my dreams.

I used to paint portraits mostly. My grandfather used to say, “a well drawn portrait gives off the impression that it is looking at you even when you are moving around.”

I’ve worked at the UMA since 1983. Back then, painters N.Orkhon and J.Luvsanzundui used to work there and their way of drawing portraits was very distinct and it intrigued me a lot. I copied their techniques and drew several portraits. One day I showed the portraits that I drew to my directors and they asked me to draw portraits of former rulers of the Soviet Union as they received orders. The first portrait commission that I did was of M.S.Gorbachev. Each painter was given an assignment to draw more than ten portraits. I drew a three meter tall portrait over an entire night and the following morning. Our division chief asked for the portrait. I was so nervous and thought my portrait would not meet his taste. But then he said, “The portrait has a slightly reddish glow as you painted it at night. But you did nice work on it.” It encouraged me a lot.

-Why did you go to Bulgan Province to teach?

-When I started to become known among art circles, I was obligated to work in Bulgan as I was not a registered resident of Ulaanbaatar. Our division chief tried his best to let me stay but wasn’t successful. So I went back to my birth place, Bulgan Province. I’ve done many things in Bulgan, redesigning its cultural palace and so on since then.

At the time, Khishig-Undur soum of Bulgan was looking for an art teacher and I worked there. I wanted to give an opportunity to my students to feel the wonder of art. I used to hold contests among students and provided practical painting skills. The speed paintings that were painted by my students in the last ten minutes of the lesson while listening to music were praised nationwide. It won the first price in a competition for art teachers as well. While teaching, I also studied at the Mongolian University of Fine Arts.

-What do you think about playgrounds built in Ulaanbaatar?

-Today, factories are required to manufacture toys that meet safety and health standards for children. Therefore, we make toy designs in accordance with these standards that appeal to children’s preferences based on their ages. Toy researchers have to closely observe children’s playing environment and movements. I traveled to Bugat soum of Govi-Altai Province and visited schools and kindergartens. The kids there were very well brought up. But children in other soums were sometimes very undisciplined and broke their toys instantly. I realized then that I have to manufacture different toys for the intended children.

-Nowadays, children are more interested in computer games rather than toys. What is your opinion on this?

-Toy experts, researchers and toy makers need to be trained in Mongolia, especially toy makers. Children’s toys are not a souvenir. People should be aware of the differences. Souvenirs are covered with paints and glues that are harmful for children’s health, as they are for display and not playing. Children’s toys must be appealing in their design, and the materials used must meet standards. They shouldn’t affect children’s health in any way.

Our kids are getting obsessed with computers and not learning about traditional toys, such as anklebone games. But we can create computer games and applications based on anklebone games and let our children play them.

-I heard that you are the first toy maker to make souvenir figures with Mongolian national garments. Can you tell us more about them?

-Yes, I laid the foundation for the popular souvenirs of Mongolian lords and queens, as well as Mongolian gers. Foreigners saw my ger-shaped toy and asked me to make similar souvenirs. They were so delighted when I made souvenirs of gers and other nomadic cultural goods for them. Since then, artisans started to copy my designs and they became popular.

-Do you work with foreign toy makers?

-There are 16 countries that have toy associations, such as UK, the USA and Singapore. The International Council of Toy Industries advised us to join the council. Also, we have dealt with The Toy Association of California, in the USA. Last year, I visited five of the largest toy factories in Beijing and learned about their operations. From there, I got an idea to establish plastic playgrounds and toys in the future.

-I also heard that you are planning to create “Mongolian Kid” brand toys. How is it progressing so far?

-Many countries across the world have national brand toys that represent their own cultures and traditions. For instance, Japan has Hello Kitty, the USA has Donald Duck, and Russia has Matryoshka dolls.

My son is majoring in toy design. People asked me, “Why did you choose to use Mongolian kids for the brand instead of Mongolian livestock such as horses or camels?” I have showed my toy exhibition abroad before and visitors were very interested in toys depicting Mongolian kids and bought a lot of them. That is why I decided to make the “Mongolian Kid” a national brand toy.

In the first stage of the project, I’m planning to release phone credit cards featuring a picture of Mongolian kids. Also, I plan to partner up with other toy factories to produce Mongolian Kid brand clothing, toys, and food products for children.

I have met several business operators and made proposals. A beverage producer has agreed to release Mongolian Kid Brand drinks and water containers soon.


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Posted by on Dec 17 2013. Filed under Domestic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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