Quality playthings are an important part of our family's experience. We choose quality over quantity, and sustainably (ie: second hand or natural materials) over mainstream popularity.
One company we've chosen to patronize as a family is A Toy Garden. I respect their customer service, their family-owned philosophy and the quality of much of what they sell. I interviewed A Toy Garden recently. Our conversation is below.
Clean: What is your company and how long have you been in business?
A Toy Garden: For 10 years, I have offered an extensive selection of mostly hand-made toys made by me, friends in Northern California, around the United States, and around the world. Whenever possible, I purchase directly from the artisans. In general, these toys are made from wood, cotton, wool, silk, and other natural and high-quality materials and are open-ended, leaving lots of room for the child to develop and use his/her own imagination and imitation skills. A few items are just plain fun and I couldn't resist offering them to you. I also buy from a few larger manufacturers that have strong ethical and safety policies whether manufacturing in Germany, USA, Thailand, Canada, China, or elsewhere.
Clean: What inspired you to go into this line of work?
A Toy Garden: I am a work-from-home mom & social worker and attended the Sacramento Waldorf School for 13 years. When my daughter was 2, she asked me to sew an apron for her just like mine! Then she wanted a tablecloth & cloth napkins, then beans bags, & a puppet theater. I started sewing for her, her friends, and then started selling to families around Northern California. My husband is key in supporting the technical/computer (and moving heavy boxes) side of the business. My children are now 11 and 9 and attend the Sacramento Waldorf School. I still personally make the bean bags, play silks, silk and flannel blankets, and some of the gnomes and other toys we sell.
Clean: How do you believe you and your business are bringing good into the world?
A Toy Garden: I especially enjoy offering toys that are handmade and made in the USA by small family run businesses. I work with over 40 artisans. Often we develop toys together via email and photos. I enjoy creating toys I think my customers will enjoy and that are not available elsewhere. Often, the simpler the toys, the better. Many of our wooden toys and cloth dolls are made here, as well as some of our kits and art supplies. I encourage all my customers to purchase items Made in the US as much as possible. There are many reasons why supporting US made products is healthy for our families and our country. In addition, we run our business as earth friendly as possible. We use many recycled boxes and packing materials. We recycle and reuse as many of our paper, bags, and other materials as possible. Many of our toys have no packaging at all – just the toy! Our warehouse is built of energy efficient materials below ground so we can run our business year-round without heat or air conditioning.
Clean: What else should we know?
A Toy Garden: When I choose toys I have many criteria. Mostly, I want them to be made of natural materials and to be open-ended, inspiring children to play with each toy in a variety of creative ways. I assess the quality and overall beauty of a toy as well. And sometimes, I just select a toys because it is fun and I know children and adults will enjoy it. Our inventory changes frequently so keep checking back on our site. Thank you for supporting a family run company!
A Toy Garden has generously donate a copy of one of our favorite children's books ever: The Tales of Tiptoes Lightly. This magical story of a fairy, two gnomes, a couple of mice, and an elephant will have your kids (and you) enchanted.
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Thank you, A Toy Garden!Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. I'll be back here on Monday for another wonderful week. We're off to Living Green Expo in the Twin Cities!