In The Play Lab: Slumberkins
This summer I’ve been hard at work curating the 2018 launch collection for A Few Good Toys. One thing I’ve been a huge stickler about is finding toys that are crucial for child development. I’m not interested in beautiful toys that act as static nursery decor — I want to equip you and your child with beautiful toys that act as useful tools for healthy growth over the years to come.
You can imagine my excitement when I came across Slumberkins. Not only are these toys adorable and Instagram-worthy, they are made to serve a major purpose in your little ones life. Each Slumberkins animal is created to help create positive attachment routines and skills around specific ‘issues’ that naturally come up in a child’s life. Whether it’s relaxation, transition, mindfulness, conflict or self-esteem troubles, every Slumberkins toy comes with a specific poem (and soon board book!) to help foster routines and skills around these issues.
Here's a little guide I put together to help you figure out which Slumberkin is right for your kiddo based on what issues they're going through:
I connected with Kelly (Co-Founder of Slumberkins) to help me better understand the world of positive attachment and delve deeper into the drive and thinking behind the brand:
Who are the masterminds behind Slumberkins?
Callie and I have been best friends since high school. We both were tall and played sports and bonded quickly. We stayed friends over the years, doing many things together and at the same time. We both played Division 1 college sports (Callie played basketball, Kelly volleyball), we both traveled and played professionally in Europe after college, we both started our Masters degrees around the same time (Callie in Teaching, Kelly in Marriage Family Therapy) and then we both started families within a few months of each other. Callie’s husband is an Army veteran and Kelly’s husband is a high school Spanish teacher. Both of us are dedicated to kids and families, not only our own, but promoting positive skills that create success and happiness in the next generation.
Explain like I’m 5 — What is “Positive Attachment” ?
Positive Attachment means that you (the 5 year old) feel safe and loved. You know you can do anything because you have a safe person who will always be there to help you and love you, no matter what.
How does having a Slumberkin help create positive attachment ?
Having a Slumberkin is a reminder of the love and safety you create with the child during the time you spend together. When you have a Slumberkin with you while reading the Sleepytime Rhyme or just snuggling together, it becomes a physical representation of the love and safety the child feels with you. So they feel safe and confident, even when you are not there, because they can come back to their Slumberkin as a reminder of you.
What was the moment where you realized the world needs Slumberkins ?
We realized the world needed Slumberkins after we finished our studies and had our own children. We wanted to give our kids the feeling of safety and love AND build important skills that we knew kids needed to be successful. We created it for our boys and are so happy that others connect with the message and intention behind our brand.
What is the earliest age parents can begin to create positive attachment routines with their little ones?
Parents can start creating positive attachments with their children in utero! Babies can hear and respond to their mother’s voice even that early on. Reading a book or singing a song with a familiar tune that can be recognized when the child is born, can serve as a grounding tool for babies as they enter into a totally different world. Basically when you take care of yourself and try to connect with your little one in a loving way and safe way, you are creating a positive attachment with your child.
If parents don’t foster positive attachment routines what kind of negative impact can this have on children?
People naturally connect and form attachments with their children, whether there is a routine around it or not. It’s part of being human and dependant on one another. Attachment research tells us there are 4 basic types of attachment bonds that are formed in early childhood; secure, insecure, avoidant and disorganized. More often than not, the attachment style your parents had is passed on to you. So many people have a mix of styles. Different attachment styles, predispose you to react in different ways to stress and insecurity. None of the ways that people, or babies, react is negative. They're merely trying to get their needs met in the best way they know how. However, if a parent wants to consciously set aside time (a routine) to create an environment where a child feels secure and safe with their primary caregiver, there is an opportunity for learning and feelings of connectedness that lead to what we call “positive attachments”.
At what age can children use Slumberkins toys specifically?
Kids can be introduced to a Slumberkin as early as birth as long as the doctor gives the go ahead and everything is normal for that child. A lovey is something that you can hold with you while you are feeding your baby and rub on their cheek. A child will start to associate all of those good feelings with their lovely and it can help bring them comfort in times of stress because it reminds them of their caregiver. Slumberkins also offers more than being a special, super soft, unique lovey. It also comes with it’s accompanying Sleepytime Rhyme, that gives parents a tool to carve out time to connect with their child interactively through the story. Each creature has a different story and different skill that parents can start to help children develop, alongside forming a positive-attachment with their child. We see our Slumberkins being relevant from birth to about pre-school age. That being said, we always tell parents to follow the guidelines of their pediatricians and NEVER leave a child under the age of 12 months unattended with anything in their crib.
You use plush fabric for the toy body and stuff the heads with hypoallergenic polyester fiberfill — Why did you consciously choose these materials versus other ones?
We consciously chose the most luxurious softest fabric that we could find. There was nothing like our little creatures out there in the form that we created. Minky fabric is SO soft and it was hard to find any stuffed animals for kids that were THAT soft. We went with a little bit of stuffing in the heads of our lovey’s and chose to use the industry standard for hypo-allergenic polyfill for stuffed animals.
If a family is not in a position to afford a Slumberkins toy can they download your free sleepy time rhymes and use a toy they have around the house to foster positive attachment routines? They can use another stuffed animal or beloved character and insert them into the story. Or just take the time to read the story together if it seems like a skill that would be relevant. A Slumberkin can serve as a tool, a reason to sit down and read an accompanying story that promotes a skill. But really, it’s about connecting with your child. Having a safe and playful touch, eye contact and meaningful words spoken. When you do that with your child, it doesn't matter what product is around, the magic is in the love and human connection that is created.
Are there initiatives that Slumberkins does to further drive social impact?
We recently launched a grant program to promote social emotional learning. It’s open to teachers, counselors and other community agents that work with children in any capacity promoting social emotional learning. As educators we wanted to be able to continue to support children and stay connected with the community of people that we were inspired to work with. Since we have both taken the leap to do Slumberkins full time, our Grants are a way for us to stay connected to our educational community. We hope to continue offering grants from now on as a way to give back to the children and families that originally inspired our cuddly creatures.