Selling Your Vision

with Melissa Bernstein

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Boredom breeds creativity

Melissa Bernstein

Co-Founder of Melissa & Doug Toys, Sales Expert, Toy Inventor

Lessons Learned

Imagination is built from a blank slate. Technology removes the blank slate.

It is important for children to learn how to create from nothing.

The fear of boredom urges kids to get creative. Boredom today creates the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.


Lesson: Selling Your Vision with Melissa Bernstein

Step #10 Creativity: Boredom breeds creativity

Imagination is only built from starting from a blank slate and having to create. And kids today don't start with a blank slate. They are never bored. They are over-scheduled. And, when they are not scheduled, they have a screen to turn to. So, it's just too easy to not ever feel the fear of boredom. And the fear of boredom, which was my entire childhood, because I had nothing scheduled to do and the fear of boredom is close to panic when you are faced with it for the first, second, third time. But, over time, you learn to create so that you don't have that feeling of desperation when you are bored. That ability to create from nothing is the same thing as being an entrepreneur.

So, really the skills that we want to teach kids are not only the skills that build their minds and allow them to solve problems. But, they are also the exact same skills that allow them to be entrepreneurs and come up with ideas and rethink the way things are and see problems and make things better. So, they're really crucial skills to building tomorrow's entrepreneurs and leaders and decision-makers.

Ironically, for the last 26 years, we have focused on keeping childhood magical through play. And there really hasn't been an enemy in our story. We have done this; we've done it very quietly in our own backyard. We bent our heads and we have consistently come out with toys that really glorify childhood and allow kids to do this. But, sort of a very interesting twist on this simple play story is that within the last ten years, we feel like there has been an enemy entering our arena, which is technology. And technology is obviously not the enemy of the world and of we, as adults, because we need it, of course, and it has helped us run our business much more efficiently. Helped us get the word out. But, in terms of very young kids, from 0 to 5, technology is the most savage foe they face. And something that I think could really destroy childhood as we know it today. It's that scary. And, I think, as we have seen that lure of technology and how it is starting to take over childhood and children's brains.

In fact, just yesterday, I was at a softball game for my daughter and I took a photo on my phone and I sent it to a few people here. Ironically, I took it on my phone. But, it was a whole group of kids, at this softball game, that was so exciting, sitting in the corner. And they were probably 2 to 6 years old. And there were three iPads and they were all sitting quietly, not even talking with one another, on these iPads. Playing in the corner. Not watching the game. Not interacting with each other. Not running around. Not playing with the dirt or the things that kids do. But, literally, glued to these screens and pushing their finger. They were all playing games. Driving games and games where you move your finger up and down on these screens. And I found it so striking, just ten years ago when you were at a game, the kids were all playing together. Playing catch, running, playing tag, watching the game, God-forbid, keeping score. But, not one sibling was watching their other siblings play the game. They were glued to these screens.

So, technology is a very powerful lure. And as parents, it’s really easy to give in to because it’s an incredible babysitter. And for dual-income families, whose parents are working 50-hours a week, and come home and need that hour or two to detox before they engage. It is incredible because technology is addictive and it keeps kids really glued. So, as we have seen the lure of this and for Melissa & Doug, as a company, we're all about keeping childhood magical, inspiring kids through using their brains. This is very scary to us because we see kids becoming reactive rather than proactive. And not developing these fertile minds that they really need to solve tomorrow's problems and to become great leaders and to discover cures for illnesses and all the things that require your mind to really create from nothing. And, when you are being given all the stimuli and you are just reacting, you don't create from nothing. In fact, you are in a complete void when you are faced with a problem because you don't have something telling you what to do and you are not reacting to it.

So, this for us has given us a renewed sense of our mission. Although, we've always had our mission. And it has actually given us the enemy that we now need to fight. And its made us, as a company, want to become, we are just beginning to become, much more vocal about, not that we are against technology and that we are going to go out there and talk about all the damages that technology can give to your child. But more that, as parents, especially today's generation, who also is addicted to technology, that we can provide an alternative. And hopefully, some guidance to parents as they wonder, "Well, my kid is on their smartphone all day, how do I get them off?" That, we can begin to help them to discover ways to get them off.

It is not easy because I fight that same fight, myself, everyday with six children. But, there are ways, and there are really exciting ways when you do find those ways that get the kids off the technology and have them talking and engaging and all the things that were intuitive to us and that we did a generation ago, now, communication is virtually lost among young kids because they are talking or interacting with a screen. So, we are very passionate about helping guide young parents in learning how to raise their kids with, yes, technology as a small part of it, but largely, about all the great things that made my generation of people really build their minds properly.

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