As much as parenting young children is rewarding and joyful, it can also at times be overwhelming.
“We get so many questions from parents about stages of development, especially what toys are appropriate,” says Woodbury resident Deb Amundson, who is a pediatric occupational therapist for St. Paul Public Schools. Her business partner, Cathy Tennant, is also her co-worker in the Birth to 3 Program and has a master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education. Both were once stay-at-home parents themselves, and understand this need from both sides.
In response, they launched a new venture called Swaddle to Waddle, geared to help parents navigate the early childhood years. Swaddle to Waddle is a subscription-based service that delivers a monthly box of toys curated to be age- and developmentally appropriate, and helps parents understand the developmental skills and ways to use the toy. Swaddle to Waddle will also offer paid parent mentor groups and one-on-one coaching.
“We find parents are shocked at the developmental skills a child is learning in something as simple as an activity like playing with blocks,” says Tennant.
“Children are developing fine motor skills, and understanding how much force to use as you are stacking and building. It develops social skills in taking turns and cooperative play. There can be language development in describing what you’re building, and making choices,” says Amundson.
Parents fill out a questionnaire that will help determine what toys are most appropriate for their box. Each box is custom designed with boutique-quality toys and includes one book, and a sheet that explains what the child is learning and different ways to use the toys. The monthly subscription costs $37 plus shipping, and is billed quarterly.
There will also be boxes that can be purchased on a one-time basis for a birthday, big sibling or baby shower gift.
“We are committed to offering high-quality, unique toys that can’t be found at your local store,” says Amundson.
Swaddle to Waddle offers general parenting tips on their blog and Facebook page. Each post focuses on a specific developmental area, including independence and self-help; sensory; communication; cognitive and problem solving; social and emotional; fine motor; and gross motor skills. The team is also working to develop a paid community with access to more in-depth, direct coaching and an online community. These groups might be specific to a development milestone (like potty-training), or groups for parents of children with special needs.
“We recognize that it takes a village to raise a child. Also, we know from our own experience that motherhood and parenting can be sometimes isolating and you can feel really overwhelmed,” says Tennant.
“We want to become that lifeline for some people so they know, not only are we answering questions, but are validating and supporting each other, too, within that community,” adds Amundson. “We hope to take a little of the stress and worry out of parenting. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our concerns, we forget that this is still fun.”