Busy parents who don’t have the time to shop for the best developmentally-appropriate and educationally-focused toys for their little ones now have a new option. A company called Please and Carrots is today launching a subscription-based toy company that sends a quarterly box of toys to parents of children from 0 to 3 years old, which includes only those items that have been curated and approved by a team of child psychologist and educators.
The bootstrapped startup was founded by two women, Stephanie Chan, a first-time mom to twins and former VP of Consumer Marketing at InStyle and StyleWatch, and Shilpa Barchha, a psychiatrist’s daughter and former banker and consultant.
Chan explains that after her own children were born, she struggled with the number of toy options and conflicting advice about which to choose. The two decided to create a service that simplified the process for parents, while also giving them access to a members-only program for additional guidance and expert insight into early childhood development.
In other words, subscribers to Please and Carrots aren’t just paying for the box of toys – they’re also joining an online community where they can learn from the company’s expert panel which includes Dr. Susan Bartell, a nationally recognized child and parenting Psychologist; Dr. Amanda Williford, Research Professor at the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning; and Dr. Suzanne Kaseta, Managing Partner at Washingtonville Pediatrics. The company is also working with national nonprofit ZERO TO THREE which focuses on early childhood development to match subscription additions.
This online community is the “technology” side to the startup, which aims to become a WebMD-like informational service with different portals for each specific age group. Parents will find key developmental milestones for each age group, language development tips, lists of age appropriate engaging activities and downloadable handouts, and a submission form for questions to experts that will later be addressed on the company blog.
The toy boxes themselves include 3 to 4 toys, 1 to 2 books, speech tips for language development, and other activities and advice, including why the toys are appropriate and how they’re to be used. For example, toys that help children learn object permanence are included at the appropriate age, while the concept and its importance is explained to the parents in the accompanying material. In later boxes, the company explains how the toys can be repurposed by explaining how new concepts can be taught with toys from prior boxes.
The boxes are shipped quarterly for $120 per box. You can pay for the year in advance to save ($420/year).
That seems pricey, but it’s probably close to retail if you bought a handful of toys and books brand new from local stores, as many new parents do, not having hand-me downs to rely on yet.
As a parent myself, there’s a bit of sticker shock when seeing those prices but that’s because I’m a) thrifty and b) have an extended family who gives my child more than enough toys.
I’m also possibly not the target market here, which is the sort of upper-middle class stay-at-home mom and new parent who is more easily drawn to educationally focused activities like the “Your Baby Can Read” program. (Ahem, I um…I bought mine Craigslist! It was discounted! I’m sorry about it now!)
The company could easily grow within this niche and establish itself as a viable lifestyle business, but it’s hard to see it reaching a broad market given that there are more financially struggling parents in the U.S. than there are those who fit the Please and Carrots demographic. Plus, by baby number two, moms have wised up. The best toys are sometimes whatever’s around – a necklace, an old shoe, the family cat – not the carefully hand-picked developmental aids that lay forgotten in a corner.