Why would a toy industry veteran risk everything to create a line of low-tech children’s puzzles?

The parent in me had an idea and I’m a mother before all else! I spent most of my career developing toys from SpongeBob to Spiderman. These were toys with all the flashing lights & sounds, remote controls and motors. It was fun, but my approach to toy development really changed when I had kids of my own. I started to see toy development through the eyes of a mother and her children.  The “playbook” went out the window when I started to buy toys for my own kids and watched how they played with them. I wanted to buy toys for my own early learners that would help them discover, learn, reach & exceed their milestones. I started to develop toys with the same in mind. One day, while straightening up my kids’ playroom and trying to match up missing wooden puzzle pieces with their corresponding boards, I remember thinking to myself, “Why hasn’t anyone come up with a way to snap the pieces onto the boards so they stay together? I couldn’t even store our puzzles on the bookshelf without the pieces falling out.  Puzzles weren’t a category of mine, so it was a fleeting thought.

 With kid #1, toys were organized; the playroom and bedroom were immaculate. Fast-forward 3 years. Along came kid #2. Who had time to keep things orderly and organized? After all, I was a busy mother with a full-time job and 2 kids with double the toys and half the time. Thank goodness for toy bins! Things weren’t organized, but at least they looked neat. What happened to those puzzle pieces? You could find them at the bottom of the toy bin if you could find them at all. My kids didn’t play with them because they didn’t want to look for the pieces.

 Zoom out to the toy industry landscape. The toy business had fallen victim to what is called ‘label-slapping’.  A TV show or movie consumes our kids and they nag their parents for the toy with the character’s image.  The toy companies then take an old toy and slap on a photo of the character.  Usually, it is a “watch me” toy – a toy that requires a battery, you press a button, and watch it do some type of trick.  Other than pressing the button, the child doesn’t have to think.  But smart moms know better.  They want fun toys that will help their child develop – physically, mentally, and emotionally. The problem is that no one is really making these toys anymore, especially in a digital world where kids are always “plugged in”. One type of toy that still resonates with both kids and parents are interlocking construction sets.  Also, a classic toy and hit by TV and Movie tie-ins, interlocking construction toys (the most popular brand starts with L and ends with O) seem to really connect (pun intended) with kids.  It combines imagination, fine motor skills, context and engagement. 

 Fast-forward another 5 years. Now I’m buying big kid toys for my children. Wow, did they love those construction toys…all those little pieces everywhere…a mother’s nightmare… and then it hit me like the ton of bricks that my kids had! I just came up with a way to snap down puzzle pieces! It “clicked” when I was watching my daughter snap her LEGO® bricks together and the idea for Brick Mates emerged!

 I wanted to create something that a mom would buy – not just because her kid had seen it on TV – but because it does what mom’s need from a toy.  Brick Mates entertains kids in a meaningful way; they’re educational, engage kids’ motor skills, and imagination, are compatible with other bricks and playsets that kids are likely to have in their playrooms, can be wiped down with disinfectant and can be used over and over again without getting old and tired. When you put them away, the pieces stay! No more lost pieces at the bottom of that toy bin!

I shifted gears from my comfortable, risk-free job with a reliable paycheck to start my own company. Merging together what I know as a toy maker and as a mom, I created Brick Mates. Brick Mates Puzzles and activities are not only fun to play with, but also they are based on tried and true play and learning patterns.

Brick Mates® are classic toys that teach the basics in a fun and easy way. No worries about blue screens, device addiction or charging batteries. Just play as it was intended.