When our world came to an unfamiliar halt in March, I was six months pregnant with two kids under 4. Local parks donned yellow caution-tape, big-box stores closed their doors, and what started as spring break turned into… well, you know. As a stay-at-home mom, spending my days with a 2- and 3-year-old wasn’t something that came new to me. But by week four of lockdown, I had one kid with a broken foot, another one struggling to self-regulate, and a cupboard full of broken vintage china. My kids were bored – literally jumping off the walls.
Like every parent on the planet, I searched for toys destined to exhaust even the most energetic: bouncy castles, backyard climbing structures, trampolines, personal playgrounds, kiddie pools… and guess what? They were all sold out. With education, work, and entertainment taking place under one roof, everyone was on the hunt for a safe place to contain their kids. And everyone was posting their fun solutions on social media: with every trending toy came bare shelves and marked-up resale prices. Even families without a backyard were bringing these yard-friendly activities indoors to replace the dining room table.
By June, my kid's idea of fun alternated between TV, digging holes in our backyard garden, TV, and more TV.
With our third baby arriving any day, I ramped up my search, desperate for something that would particularly satisfy my child with ADHD and sensory needs.
It was then that I found it, the Holy Grail of COVID fun: The Nugget. Retailing for $229, part-furniture, part-toy, The Nugget is simple: foam blocks covered with microsuede fabric, perfect for fort building, jumping, or simply lounging around. The product claims to take the place of trinkets and small toys, allowing for less cleanup and safer play.
As someone who couldn't touch their toes, all I could think was, "Sign me up – and sign me up fast."
Except, just like bouncy castles and trampolines, jungle gyms, and the backyard playgrounds, the Nugget was nowhere to be found. With a devoted fandom that spread by word of mouth, the Nugget has become pandemic gold and its manufacturer can’t keep it in stock. Resellers began gouging on eBay and Facebook Marketplace, and the company resorted to limited “drops” of new stock, even instituting a lottery system for the chance to buy.
If there was any hope of scoring the hottest item of the year, it was there, with people who live, breathe, and sleep Nugget.
If I wanted a Nugget, my only hope was to search for one second-hand, so I started with Kijiji and Craigslist. Between the two sites I was able to find one Nugget… located 5 hours away… for $550… non-negotiable. I couldn’t bring myself (nor afford nor convince my husband) to pay almost double the price of a Nugget, so I moved on. Then, I looked on eBay and Facebook marketplace, coming to the same dead end — inflated prices with no wiggle room. And even though I wasn’t willing to be upsold on some foam and fabric, people were finding buyers. Eventually, my search led me to the Nugget Comfort CANADA Buy/Sell/Trade Facebook group. This group is dedicated to all things Nugget. The members share configurations, talk Lotto, celebrate wins, and, yes, buy, sell, and trade their Nuggets. If there was any hope of scoring the hottest item of the year, it was there, with people who live, breathe, and sleep Nugget. The Nugget Cult, as my husband would say.
In my first post in the group, I bared all about my son's special needs, explaining that occupational therapists recommend the Nugget for children with ADHD and sensory processing needs. I also told them I was hoping to purchase one in time for Christmas but couldn’t afford more than the retail price of $229 USD. The group showed me so much love – but no one was willing to give up their Nugget, not at retail cost anyway.
The next day, a member posted their Nugget for auction and I shared our story again. Immediately I was outbid. Then outbid again and outbid once again. Just as I was losing hope, my phone pinged with a notification: “I’ll add $25 to Annie’s bid.”
A perfect stranger was offering to help me raise my bid?
It happened again. “Another $25 from me!”
This was beyond my wildest dreams. In the end, 20 strangers donated nearly $250 in addition to my bid, winning the Nugget.
As I watched the bids pour in, tears formed. I didn't share my son's special needs to manipulate the system. My goal was to educate others on the Nugget's capabilities with hopes the price-gouging would stop or at least lessen.
But quickly, I learned this group of strangers didn't feel sorry for me — rather, their comments reflected a group of empathetic moms. Moms who clearly understood how hard this pandemic and isolation have been. Moms who were in the mud, too. They genuinely wanted my son to experience the magic of the Nugget. A resource that has proven to be more than just a toy; it’s a haven on those hard COVID-19 days.
Once I secured the sale, I made a post in the group thanking everyone (in disbelief) for their kindness. The total cost of the Nugget was $650 CDN ($510 USD). The agreement was that I would pay $400 CDN, the retail cost of the Nugget, and the group would pitch in the remaining funds. By the next day, I had received e-transfers from nearly 25 generous strangers and drove two cities over to pick-up our Nugget. With Nugget in hand, the final e-transfer was made to the seller, and I drove the Nugget home to my family.
To be honest, my boys had no idea what the heck a Nugget was. When I showed up with something that looked like a couch and told them to play on it, they looked confused. But, as soon as I started turning it into figments of their imagination, the Nugget became the hottest ticket in town. From a race car to a rocket ship, a fortress and a reading nook, the Nugget has become the most versatile, beloved toy in our home.
In our living room between a life-size castle, too many puzzles, and scattered Lego, sits a Saturn colored Nugget. And as we settle into the cold winter months and face the possibility of another lockdown, the Nugget is truly a blessing. Between the Nugget’s four walls, my boys have campouts, hide from monsters, and even slide down our stairs. It’s here, on the Nugget, they can jump, soar, bounce, and create to their heart's content. And while it’s a creative outlet for imagination, it’s even more of a saving grace for a mama with a lot on her plate.
It’s pretty amazing — at a time when people are being kept physically apart, social media brought us together. The day I received my Nugget was the day I not only learned the Nugget was truly the coolest toy ever, it was the day a Facebook group with members across the country harnessed the power of kindness. It was a day that showed the power of togetherness; that proved 2020 is actually a year of hope.
And I learned that because of a little something called the Nugget.