Selling Your Vision

with Melissa Bernstein

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Keeping childhood alive through play

Melissa Bernstein

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

Lessons Learned

Melissa & Doug Toys are trying to build all of the blocks of early learning.

Childhood is all about trying things out and failing.

Low skill and high impact are key to great design.


Lesson: Selling Your Vision with Melissa Bernstein

Step #9 Mission: Keeping childhood alive through play

We are basically trying to build all the blocks of early learning. So, everything from sensory, motor, tactile, fine and gross motor skills and just joy of learning in general. We are really into pretend play and imagination. I think those are the categories that actually do the best for us. We're really into building confidence through crafting and doing crafts and arts and crafts. Because childhood is all about trying things out and failing so you can prepare yourself for adulthood and being confident. We believe and that's why we started the low skill high impact theme because we believed that many years ago, crafts were the opposite of confidence building activities. Most of them you felt so upset by the time you finished because you could never achieve what the photo was on the box, that they actually didn't built confidence at all.

So, the whole move behind art and crafts line was to make them much more simple and easy to complete a beautiful finished product so that kids could really be proud of what they completed. Because the whole point is you want your child to run up and say, "Mommy, mommy" or "Daddy, daddy" or "Grandma, grandma, look what I made" and have the person say, "Oh my goodness. It's beautiful," and have them feel that they really almost over reached in what they created. With us, there are obviously all the basic building blocks but it's also about activities that keep kids engrossed and imagining and creating and make them feel really good about themselves.

We have a lot of games that build critical thinking skills. So, it's about building all those great skills. A good example of lowering the barrier when you have kids who really think they can't do things is we have a pad. So, most kids, when they sit down to a blank piece of paper, can't come up with anything to draw. The number one thing you hear kid say is, "What should I draw? Give me some ideas" and that's part of why technology at young age is not good but even those who don't use it, they draw blank. It's close to panic because anyone who is faced with nothingness, most people have a really hard time coming up with something.

So, we actually created a pad to help parents and kids with that years ago. We had it for about 10 years; it's called "Complete the Picture Pad." And it's a pad of drawing starters to help them be creative. And we have a fish bowl that's empty or we have a cake platter that's just the platter and no cake or we have a pasture with the barn but nothing in the pasture or a hat that's like a clown hat but no face. That was designed for all those times because although my idea was to have kids come up with something from absolutely nothing. The truth is that many kids can't do that and it's okay. It's certainly a lot better than putting then in front of an iPad to say, "Hey. Here's an idea, go with the idea." And we're fine with that, that's a great way to start and what most kids need to get the confidence to be able to then start from nothing. So, that is an example of something that can help them get started when they don't like starting from nothing.

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