Posts Tagged ‘ children’s toys ’

Meet the Woman and Toy Creator Behind Melissa & Doug!

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Imagine if your job was to think up the next big children’s toy. For Melissa Bernstein, co-founder of Melissa & Doug, it’s just another day at the office. As the ideas person at the toy company (her husband Doug helps with operations), she’s responsible for overseeing the design process of the products your little one adores. Though the company began humbly in Doug’s parents’ garage 25 years ago, today it’s a major toy manufacturer, with more than 250 products launching in the next year. Parents chatted with the mom of six to see where she gets her inspiration (take a guess!) and what it’s like running her own business.

P: How has being a mom influenced your toy ideas?

M: I’m always watching how my children play and what they enjoy. They test every single product we make, and a lot of times really help hone the idea and help improve it throughout the process. I told them I never want them to just tell me they like something because I’m their mom, so they are very critical. Many toys they’re just kind of like, “Eh, they’re OK.” I know when we have a winner because they’ll react a lot differently.

P: Are there any specific products that were inspired by your children?

M: In our house, role play has always been a favorite activity. That inspired costumes they can try on and become other characters. They also love food preparation and serving, and that inspired a lot of our pretend cooking and cleaning items, like our Let’s Play House line and Order Up Diner set coming out next December. Another thing that our kids love to do is make play food in the sand. I used to take tupperware containers and old spice jars from our house to the sandbox, and they would make sand cakes and pies with water. The lack of fun activity-based sand toys sparked us to create items where you can actually make sand food, like ice cream cones and pizza.

P: If you had to pick one favorite toy you’ve made in the last 25 years, what would it be and why?

M: For me, it’s our coloring pad because I love taking something that’s out there already and improving upon it. I was never a fan of coloring books. Many of them are so thick you can’t lay them flat on a table or counter, making it hard to color. When you go to rip out a page, it leaves this jagged edge. I also found the grey newsprint paper not very nice for getting colors to pop. Since the images are printed on both sides of the paper, when you use markers it bleeds through and you lose one of the images. The other thing I never liked about coloring books was that my kids could never find an image they wanted to color and would end up arguing over the same one or two pictures. About five to seven years ago, we created a coloring pad that was actually a bit larger than a coloring book. It faces horizontally, so there’s more surface area in front of a child. It’s printed on white bond paper, so the colors stick out. Plus, the images are printed on one side so there’s nothing to bleed through and the pages are easy to rip out because of the binding at the top. Most of all, we created the images in conjunction with children, so every single picture on every single pad is 100 percent child-approved. They will be just as excited to color that 50th page as they are the first.

P: How did you and your husband come to realize the toy business was where you wanted to be?

M: Three out of four of our parents are educators, so we always were instilled with an educational philosophy growing up and really loved children from the beginning. When we decided that we wanted to do something on our own, children was pretty much the first thing that came to mind. We were both like, “Kids, we got to do something with kids.”

P: What helps you two maintain a good working relationship?

M: Believe it or not, for years we actually shared the same desk. That’s how close we’ve been! We are really fortunate to be two halves of a complete circle. We’ve always focused on different parts of the business. Because we’re dealing with separate areas, we can ask each other what we think of an idea and be somewhat objective because we’re not standing over each other every day. Without the support of each other to help us through, I can’t imagine making it through the last 25 years.

P: What tips do you have for other moms looking to start their own business?

M: Don’t let fear get in your way. Everybody told us not to do it. People thought our business wouldn’t work because we were not only creating toys, but also doing a lot of things counter to what was being done. We just listened to our hearts and never really thought about what people said because we knew we were doing the right thing. Follow your dream before it’s too late. Yours is probably just as good as ours, if not better. The first idea we started with isn’t what we’re doing now. We morphed along the way by listening to the market and reacting to what’s going on. As long as you’re open to listening and making changes, you’ll find your way.

P: Your company was founded on the principle of educating children. What makes you so passionate about that issue?

M: When we started it was all about nurturing minds through simple play. Then technology came into the picture. While it’s an amazing tool for society and our business, it can disrupt children’s creativity and their ability to problem solve on their own. Now moms like me are struggling to make sure their kids aren’t tethered to technology 24/7. That’s what keeps us coming into work everyday, this mission to really promote parents to connect with their children through play.

PS Ready to get creative with your kid? We’re rocking these pom-pom flowers in our Parents office!

Pom-Pom Paper Flowers
Pom-Pom Paper Flowers
Pom-Pom Paper Flowers

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Kid Equipment 101: A Lesson in Assembly

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

One thing you’ll never have enough of in your child’s early years: gear. There will always be some gadget to comfort and entertain your little one. But sometimes putting it all together can be frustrating. As the new resident builder (aka: editorial assistant) for the lifestyle department, I understand the woes of toy construction. Follow these tips to make your next build less of a pain.

1. Don’t assume.
You may think you know how one part connects to another, but most of the time, you’ll be wrong. I was all confidence when I started building a Learn and Crawl car, only to realize I screwed a side panel together without a vital piece. To avoid repeating your work all over, just stick to the steps. Try reading ahead to make sure you follow instructions in order.

2. Be creative.
There will be times you just stare at the directions with no clue what they mean. When pictures and text seem vague, that’s the time to take a mini break from building. When you return to the project later, a genius idea may hit you, as it did for me when attaching the bouncer seat of this Evenflo activity station. Looking at how the product is pictured on the box can also be a great resource. That’s my go-to trick for inspiration.

3. Use your muscle.
Gear is a lot harder to put together than it looks. Just because parts won’t fit in place doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. You simply need a little more arm strength. Trying to loop a tiny cloth tab through a narrow slot on the seat of this Baby Home high chair seemed impossible at first to me. But with a little force, it gave way eventually. If all else fails, it doesn’t hurt to ask hubby for a hand or two.

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Daily News Roundup

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Goody Blog Daily News Roundup10 Controversial Toys That Won’t Be On This Year’s Wish Lists
Ten toys that reached the market over the past few years that probably never should have seen the light of day. [Wallet Pop]

Diaper Research Tracks Infant Estrogen Levels
The method, previously used in nonhuman primates, will allow researchers to learn more about the association between estrogen levels in human infants and their long-term reproductive development as well as the development of sex-specific behaviors, such as toy preference or cognitive differences. What’s more, the method will also allow researchers to look at how early disruption of the endocrine system affects long-term maturation, a growing concern among researchers and physicians. [Medical News Today]

Watch Video: The U.S. Gets Low Marks for Preemie Birth Rates [MSNBC]

Highlighting Gender Promotes Stereotyped Views In Preschoolers
In many preschool classrooms, gender is very noticeable – think of the greeting, “Good morning, boys and girls” or the instruction, “Girls line up on this side, boys on that.” A new study has found that when teachers call attention to gender in these simple ways, children are more likely to express stereotyped views of what activities are appropriate for boys and girls, and which gender they prefer to play with. [Medical News Today]

(more…)

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Daily News Roundup

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Goody Blog Daily News RoundupAre tablets the smartphone killer? - This very new dilemma begs the question: Are we at the dawn of an age in which tablets will become the jewel in your gadget crown, eclipsing the mighty smartphone only a few years into its reign? [CNN]

Gay benefit shapes debate about HPV vaccine for boysFrom the start, arguments about whether to inoculate males against HPV have centered mainly on the benefits for women — and the desire to stop men from transmitting the most common sexually spread infection. The vaccine is approved, but not recommended, to prevent genital warts in males. But now, growing evidence shows that the vaccine also may prevent anal cancer, particularly in the high-risk groups of homosexual and bisexual men, who are about 20 times more likely than heterosexuals to develop the disease. [MSNBC]

1 in 10 kids in U.S. has ADHD, new study saysNearly 1 in 10 U.S. children has ADHD, a sizable increase from a few years earlier that government scientists think might be explained by growing awareness and better screening. [MSNBC]

6 things to consider for your baby’s nurseryPreparing for a baby can be an overwhelming process. Before you enter the later stages of your pregnancy (when it might be difficult for you to move around), start putting together your newborn’s nursery. From paint colors to furniture, there is a lot to consider. We highlighted six important factors. [Fox News]

(more…)

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