The concept behind the toy

Harbour master is a developing toy that brings the spirit of seafaring into the playroom. Imagined over decades and now being realised in our workshops, it offers learning outcomes and fun at many levels for all children.


As a child I was fascinated by ships and would spend happy hours in my fathers shed with bits of wood, nails a saw and a hammer trying to recreate the ships I had seen in Dover harbour, our local port!  With so many family members now working at sea, a father who was in the Navy for a while and an older brother who couldn't be more involved with sea water if he tried, the fascination has never left me and I guess it must be in our family blood. 


Early design & development

Back in the mid 1980s I made the first simple version of Harbour Master for a Christmas present for my two nieces. It was a huge success, but I took it no further as our toy and rocking horse making business, kept me too occupied; the seed of the idea kept growing though.  Over time I have examined and studied how I could make this a special toy, that developed motor skills, had elements of education and above all inspired imagination and fun. 


Images in the mind

During the development of the designs I thought endlessly about the things on ships and around harbours that caught my attention as child. If you look at any of the products in the growing range, you will see elements of the things that fascinated me; holes in the sides of the ships, ropes, bollards, winches, funnels (they were very special), radar, gantries and so much more. In designing Harbour Master I found that inner child and watched my own children play with prototypes, stimulated by the same things that snared my early enquiring mind.


Shape, colour & parts recognition

Everything within the range will reference the shapes of things found in harbours, on ships and at sea. Recognising form is incredibly important in the cognitive development of children. I chose to use highlight colours to draw attention to the actual colours found on ships and harbourside environments, whilst allowing the beauty of the wood we use to show through equally. You will see for example, the colours mirror those found on key elements of ships; deck greens, waterline reds, white superstructures, green for port and red for starboard colours on bouys and ship lighting. 


Fine motor skills

The whole set is designed to develop fine motor skills from 3 years upwards. From the assembly of the harbour walls to the skilled manipulation of harbourside cranes and gantries, slinging tow ropes and developing understandings of balance, spacial awareness, pivots, weights and pushing pulling efforts.



Roll play from imagination builds stories with the right accessories. High sea adventure can lead to teaching opportunities. For example, the upcoming Ice flow set, could be used with older children to graphically explain the perils of global warming, The off-shore wind farm similarly to explain the importance of renewable energy. They key is imagination with the right toys to stimulate it.


Toy safety

Every toy, especially those loved the most will at some point end up in the mouth of young ones. Harbour master is a super yummy toy. Rest assured we have gone to great length to ensure all finishes meet the highest standards and all meet the requirements of the EN71 toy safety directive of the E.U, Full data sheets and certificate numbers of the finishes we use are available on request. Some elements of the range do feature small parts that potentially could present a chocking risk. In line with EN71 toy safety rules we stipulate that Harbour master is intended for use by children 3 years and upwards.  



At Caballus we absolutely hate plastic toys and packaging. From the outset of design, this toy had to be something that we could feel met or exceeded strict criteria to protect the environment. To that end the entire product range is made from 100% natural materials. All packaging is 100% recyclable from the cardboard cartons, the wood wool packing infills, to the paper labels and packing tape. Quite literally everything can either be recycled or composted. 

The toys themselves are of generational heirloom quality. Whilst they may at first seem more expensive than a plastic counterpart, in reality they are not. These toys are hand produced using vintage (slow) manufacturing techniques. That human touch in their making, slows the production process which in turn slows consumption of materials and builds in lasting quality - Caballus toys are not throw away items! 

There are no toxic chemicals used that damage our world and the great skill that builds these toys ensures that with care, they will last a lifetime and beyond. If sadly they do end up being thrown away or lost, their 100% natural material build, will ultimately biodegrade leaving a zero harmful footprint to the world we share. We hope however they will never be thrown away but be passed down the generations as a much loved toy. Some customers have such fondness for our products they even use them as household décor when their play life is over. 

As woodworkers we naturally have a love for trees and have our own tree planting activities taking place. We subscribe to 4 environmental groups too, that aim to improve habitat and conservation both here in the UK and the wider world. A proportion of each toy we sell is donated in equal share to these organisations in December each year. Whilst there are a great many causes we could support, we have chosen environmental efforts above all else for the simple reason the children we make toys for, need a healthier planet than we have now - it is our obligation to them all. To find out more about the work of these organisations, click here