Imagine being presented with an opportunity to work with a brand you love. That was the position I was in when Melissa & Doug asked me to contribute to their Playtime Press blog just over two years ago. I’m excited to say this role is changing (more to come) and to kick things off, I was invited down to meet THE Melissa & Doug at Toy Fair in New York City.
Wow! How exciting to meet the people behind the brand and the amazing staff and content creators that work with them.
Oh crap! Now I have to put myself out there, escape my comfortable little shell of a life and meet people. People who probably know each other and have worked together over time. And in New York city, on my own.
Yah, that was pretty much the conversation that went through my head within 5-minutes of agreeing to attend. All those things I profess online and to my kids — stop comparing yourself to others, don’t downplay your own talents, push yourself out of your comfort zone or you’ll never experience new things – I was having a hard time swallowing about myself.
Some advice is easier to give than to take but I had resolved that this year I would take these risks. I did just that when I took on a contract position just before the holidays and it has only been a positive experience. I’m taking that mindset for an upcoming trip to California that has me driving around L.A. So how could I not jump at the chance presented to me by the folks at Melissa & Doug?
I arrived early, giving me a chance to walk around and explore the area. I was staying at the Marriott Marquis just off of Times Square. I ventured down Broadway (7th street) and Avenue of the Americas (6th street) in the cold, mesmerized by the crowds, the architecture, the shops and voices I passed on my walk. I love living in Toronto but it’s no New York City, no matter what others may say.
I made it back in time to catch the shuttle from the hotel to the the Jarvits Convention Centre where Toy Fair New York 2016 was being held. The actual show didn’t open until the next day as exhibitors continued to put the final touches on their booths. The folks at Melissa & Doug had made special arrangements to invite a select few of us to preview their booth ahead of time.
And what a booth. First it was right off of the main entrance to the show and we were greeted by a life-size peg puzzle (a favourite puzzle format and one I shared a few extended play ideas).
We had a chance to meet THE Melissa & Doug and what a treat. They were both very personable and friendly, not what you would expect as the head to such an impressive independently own business. You could really feel the passion in why they started the brand and continue to expand their product collection, boasting over 2,000 different items currently.
Melissa walked us around the spacious booth, highlighting the product categories they were excited about and the new products coming to stores soon.
6 of the new products I’m really excited about are:
The large vehicle play rug. Of course Melissa & Doug have a number of rug & vehicle sets (love that they package vehicles with the rugs so kids can play right away) but this larger version gives a great play space for those bigger vehicles they kids probably have like the garbage truck or the car carrier.
The Wrap and Roll Sushi Counter. It’s true, I’m partial to sushi. I love the idea of exposing the kids to new foods through play. The ice cream and breakfast play sets are cute but it’s great to see other food items incorporated into mainstream play.
Embroidery Made Easy. Kids like to mimic and if you’re a crafter they probably want to create the same items that you are making, that dress you sewed, a quilt bedspread, an embroidered wall hanging. Melissa & Doug’s line of Made Easy crafts gives little hands the chance to try these skills and produce a great finished piece. I especially love the Embroidery Made Easy since my youngest daughter wants to try her hand as learning this skill, a skill I don’t possess. The Stained Glass Made Easy also looks great. I had a chance to see some finished pieces and you would have a hard time believing the glass elements were actually stickers.
Mess-Free Sand. You may remember how much I loath working with glitter and my discovering of Mess-Free Glitter. Now there’s Mess-Free Sand (another messy material that seems to find itself in the cracks of everything). Similar to the glitter product, kids can create animals and mosaics using colourful sand without the mess.
3D Puzzle and Play. Yes, I’m a fan of puzzles but wait until you see the new 3D Puzzle sets from Melissa & Doug. Not only do kids get to think spatially when putting these creations together, they have a full play set to use in the end. From pirate ships and castles to play homes, just imagine the play possibilities.
Take-Along Safari. Babies on the go will love these soft Take-Along sets – Safari with wild animals, Town with vehicles and Farm with farm animals – include a collection of soft items that crinkle, rattle or squeak as well as a soft mat that folds up for storage and easy carrying. The sets are too cute and perfect for little hands want to explore.
Of course these are just a few of the new items that caught my eye, available on the site and in stores soon, but there are so many classic products that also have me inspired with a few play ideas.
After exploring the world of Melissa & Doug, we enjoyed a lovely dinner as a group at Bar Americain. I’m not saying I wasn’t anxious, not being much of a small talker, but it was great to connect with so many wonderful contributors. I’m sure I broke my own golden rule by filling up ackward silence with nonsensical gibberish but that aside, I’m looking forward to learning from fellow contributors and continuing to come up with some interesting ideas.
So how was your family day weekend?