It’s holiday time. Frazzled parents and grandparents race around, corralling all the must-have latest toys and gadgets for every kid on their list.
They can’t find it all, of course. Thank god for Amazon.
But plenty of child gifts fly under the radar. Thank god for Melissa & Doug.
The Wilton-based, Westport-bred manufacturer of low-tech — but simple, colorful and very popular wooden toys — is swimming happily (and profitably) against the high-tech, highly disposable, plastic toy tide.
Parents around the world know and love Melissa & Doug toys. But the company — and its owners, Melissa and her Staples High School graduate husband Doug Bernstein — keeps a low profile. They don’t get much press.
Until now. Vox — the huge news and information website — just published a long, in-depth piece on Melissa & Doug (the business, and the human beings).
From start to finish, it sings the praises of the firm (and its owners).
For example, writer Chavie Lieber says:
In an era when children are bombarded with screens and all manners of tech, the company has maintained its spot in the crowded toy market despite the fact that — and perhaps because — the company’s toys have no electronic components to them. Melissa & Doug is set on making toys that are meant to be timeless, in an effort to preserve a cornerstone of childhood that the founders believe is under attack: open-ended play.
The piece explains why wooden toys are so important; how Melissa and Doug’s backgrounds (both are children of educators) inform their work; the importance of Amazon to their early 2000s growth; the role of open-ended play (particularly with simple toys) in child development; the negative effects of screens on kids, and the Bernsteins’ fight against too much technology.
It’s a fascinating piece. And it ends by noting that one of Melissa & Doug’s most popular toys of all time is a set of natural-finished hardwood blocks.
It is, Vox says, “perhaps the oldest toy in history. The company wouldn’t want it any other way.”
(Click here for the full Vox story. Hat tip: Ken Wirfel)