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Mia Galison, eeBoo
by The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association   |   February 26   |   1 Comment

Time to get comfy… today is Tell a Fairy Tale Day.  New or old, fairy tales never seem to go out of style.  To celebrate we caught up with Mia Galison the creative force behind eeBoo. Learn how Mia is taking classics and making them new again to inspire imaginations year round. 

The mission of eeBoo is to inspire literacy through old-fashioned formats, but re-invented why is that important to you?

Literacy is a term that encompasses many skills that are not only necessary for later life, but actually essential for a young child to develop—vocabulary, socialization, sequential thinking, imaginative opportunities-- these are the tools that allow a child to jump in and comprehend the world.  “Old Fashioned” is another way of saying tested and beloved, and it also means there is a physical component lacking in many of the new digital “activities” for children.  EeBoo products are meant to inspire conversation, visual interest, creativity, a physical component, and shared fun.

Every company has a 'how we got started in business' story. Can you tell us about the beginning?

 I was working as a creative director for the gift division of Stewart Tabori and Chang when I got pregnant with twins--my first child had recently turned one.  I knew that was the end of being able to work for someone else.  I had been developing product for other people for many years and I knew how and where to make things.  I could see what a dearth there was in the children's market for beautiful well-made educational products--and I just dove in.    I've heard lots of people say that they wouldn't be able to start their own businesses with young children but I knew there was no other way to be able to spend the type of time I wanted with my family if I didn't have control over my own schedule.   I used a room in my New York City apartment and then was able to move down to a basement apartment in my building.  As a perk, the office was directly under my 1st floor apartment and if my kids needed me they could go to a spot right over my head and stamp their feet.  (Don’t worry, they had a sitter!) We didn't have a separate phone line but if I heard them stomp I could pick up the phone and talk to them.  My first product was Garden Bug Cookie Cutters which I had produced in a very small factory in Pennsylvania--the second (a year later) was a set of stacking blocks.  I took on various freelance design and research jobs and I managed to make expenses for the first few years.  My husband, Saxton Freymann, did a series of children's books called Play with your Food and with the money he made from that I was able to increase my product line and focus full attention on more product development.  17 years later we inhabit a beautiful studio and have over 500 products in a wide variety of categories ranging from board games to art materials.  

What tips would you share with parents who want to foster literacy in their children?

It's easy to say and hard to do but it gives back in spades---limit t.v., computer, and video games to your absolute limit of tolerance.  We set up rules early on, and our kids never expected to use their time in that way, which gave them loads of more time to read, draw and mess around with imaginative play.  We read to our kids when they were babies and gave our kids books to look at as soon as they could hold them.  We didn't consciously do it but we didn't differentiate between a toy and a book (they were kept all together) and we used them as as tools to spend time together.  As our children got older we always read to them before bed and always let them pick out books at tag sales for their libraries.  We got them library cards as soon as they were allowed to get one and they spent many summer afternoons in our air conditioned public library.   We also gave them materials to make their own books out of scrap paper with a stapler and scissors. 

What five things should every parent have to promote imaginative play?

My husband and I like to go to flea markets and we always bought funny props for our kids; old ladies hats, walking sticks, paper masks, old handmade Halloween costumes, any old (even partly broken) instruments, old fabric for capes, coins, flags, menus, ledgers, always something new.  We also had an art cabinet that included tons of supplies all kept in plastic ball jars:  popsicle sticks, toilet paper rolls, glue, magic markers, acrylic gems, colored feathers.  pom poms, pipe cleaners, felt and scissors.  We also left empty jars in the cabinet for our kids to fill with things like milkweed seeds, pine cones or scraps of construction paper. 
Fairy Tale day is 2/26, what is your favorite Fairy Tale?

The Gingerbread man, run, as fast as you can't catch me-I'm the Gingerbread man.  He's so sassy.  Of course he does end up getting eaten by the fox but I chose to focus on the great run he has. 

Tell us a little bit about eeBoo products, why do you think the classic stories are still popular today?

Classic stories have lasted because they strike a chord, they tap into something human.  And then add to this our natural desire as parents to share with our children stories, images and games that we remember enjoying as children; it helps remind us what childhood feels like, and that is important as you connect with your child’s experience. It is also one of the great joys of parenting—connecting to your own childhood and those parts of yourself that you might have forgotten. 

All of our products are intended to offer children wholesome enjoyable activities that will stimulate their imaginations, teach them simple skills, expose them to beautiful artwork and design, and give them opportunities to express themselves or engage in conversations with their parents or playmates.  We want to facilitate those joyful and memorable times of discovery, imagination and shared fun.  Obviously, there are many classic activities to reinvent and rediscover. And we also create completely new products as well.

Comments (1)    expand/hide comments
Allen Brafman  |  February 27
I rarely find myself speechless--but having read this interview twice with the image of Mia in my mind smiling a truly joyful smile beside a vase of I don't know what kind of flower and what seems a carpace, I am awed into a silence of respect and admiration. I fear if I break the silence, I will diminish a perfect appreciaion, not unlike adding a verse to "Leaves of Grass."
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