…and time to get those building blocks ready:

It was a Sunday night, after dinner, at the informal in-home testing lab of Melissa and Doug Bernstein, better known as Melissa & Doug, the toy company and the signature that adorns all their products. This August, their company will turn 25, celebrating a quarter-century of anachronism. In a time when major corporations dominate the industry, making toys with all manner of batteries, digital gimmicks or movie tie-ins, the Bernsteins keep making money in wooden puzzles, coloring pads, blocks, trains and simple costumes (the police officer, the princess, the pirate).

They do little public relations and don’t advertise in magazines, or on radio and television. They don’t put coupons in Sunday newspaper inserts. They don’t rely on big hits, industry analysts say, just a steady stream of variations on classic toys mostly for children up to the age of 5. Nonetheless, their business has grown by double digits every year, to an estimated $325 million in revenue this year from $100 million in 2008 (and to 650 employees from 200), according to a toy company executive familiar with the company’s operations.

(Melissa Bernstein) thinks she knows why that is so appealing. “Parents are so scared of having their kids say, ‘I’m bored.’ It’s synonymous with, ‘I’m a bad parent,’ and so they never allow kids to feel boredom, which equals frustration, and so kids don’t get to the point where they have to dig deeper and figure out what to do.”

The child has to bring the extra dimension, the creative spark, which is why Nicole Limburg, a stay-at-home mother of four in an Akron, Ohio, suburb, is such a Melissa & Doug fan. “You don’t just hit buttons and hear noises,” she said.

– excerpted from No Tie-Ins. No Touch Screens. No Apps., NY Times, 6/9/2013

There…feel better now?

by Jim Davis