Justin and Kathleen are crafting a homemade business on a small little corner of the Minnesota prairie. Their handcrafted toys and teethers are “Educational, developmental, eco-friendly toys for baby, toddler, and preschooler – Waldorf and montessori inspired” and you will find their creations over at Smiling Tree Toys. It was more than a year ago that Csermely was gifted a toy of the moon balancing kind and we have kept in touch ever since! Read their story below and enter to win a $20 gift certificate in their shop, it would make a perfect gift for your own child, a neighbor, a baby shower, or a surprise present of the most pleasant kind!
1. How did you discover your passion for crafting wooden toys?
We’ve been creating wooden gifts for family and friends for over 10 years. In January 2010 we embarked on a journey to turn our passion into a small business. We started by designing custom cutting boards and kitchen utensils, and after our daughter was born later that year we slowly found our way to the world of children’s toys. Our motivation is simple: to do our small part of good in the world by creating safe, natural, handmade wooden toys that minimize our eco-footprint. We want to offer children everywhere the opportunities to learn, grow, create, and imagine with heirloom hardwood toys that are safe, inspiring, open-ended, and educational. We also strongly believe in giving back (as former Peace Corps Volunteers we donate to Peace Corps Youth Development projects for every toy sold), supporting American businesses (we source our cotton drawstring bags from a family business in the southern United States and work with local or American-based vendors whenever possible), and respecting Mother Nature (we use certified sustainably harvested American hardwoods, finish our pieces with our homegrown organic oil blend, re-use brown packing paper and recycled boxes for shipping, and participate in our local green energy program).
2. We just love your wood balancing toy, the idea came from where???
Our Smiling Moon balancer is certainly our signature piece. It’s one of our best sellers, and we find that young and old alike love it. We send it to expecting mothers for their baby shower, to toddlers learning critical hand-eye coordination skills, and to older ‘kids-at-heart’ who love to play with and display it on their coffee tables. We’d seen other balancing toys based on the same principles of balancing and stacking, but they were all made of plastics or softwoods coated with harmful paints. We knew that our unique take on an all natural, hardwood moon balancer was a keepsake toy that we’d be proud to have our name on. And still today, it remains one of Justin’s favorites to make and one of Kathleen’s favorites to show off!
3. Tell us more about your homegrown organic camelina oil/beeswax finish…
Our organic homegrown wood finish is one of the most unique eco-aspects of our family business. The one-of-a-kind blend is made from camelina oil and beeswax, both of which are grown/harvested on our family’s certified organic farmland. Camelina is a close relative of flaxseed. Not only is it a nutritious culinary oil high in Omega-3′s, but it’s also a great natural finish for wood! We blend it with a bit of pure beeswax (to add a nice sheen and a bit of waterproofing), and brush it on every one of our toys (with the exception of our maple teethers, which we leave unfinished). Learn more about our camelina oil/beeswax blend at Smiling Tree’s blog, and pay a visit to Omega Maiden Oils – our family business that grows, processes, and sells Omega Maiden organic camelina oil.
4. The biggest challenges of working from home are…
…bouncing between diaper changes, important conference calls, nap time, and work deadlines
…remembering to take time for ourselves, be it a mid-afternoon walk, a call to a friend, remembering to eat lunch, or (yes) even a shower
…knowing when to close the office door and relax!
… and the greatest rewards?
…being in control of our daily schedules
…family breakfast, family lunch, and family dinner
…Justin’s ten-step commute to the woodshop and Kathleen’s yoga stretch pant and slippers “work” attire
…carving out time for middle-of-the-day playtime with little ones who grow up way too fast
5. What is your biggest inspiration for living closer to nature?
We want our children to share in our deep respect and admiration for Mother Nature. The more time we spend enjoying the outdoors, the more we discover its beauty, its complexity, and its endless symbiotic relationships that occur at all levels, from the very big to the very small. Living simply and in-tune with nature keeps us humble, grounded, healthy, and happy!
What could be in those many boxes?!
You will find all of the handcrafted creations of Smiling Tree Toys in their family owned and operated shop. Check out all the wooden toys for young girls and boys (and the young at heart!) before entering the $20 gift certificate giveaway (courtesy of Smiling Tree Toys)!
Start entering today, January the 22nd and the winner will be chosen on Tuesday the 29th. There are multiple ways to enter, explore them below…