Welcome to SmartFelt Toys!
Welcome to SmartFelt Toys!
I'm excited by the notion of using this space to share with you my ideas, years of experience and inspirations.
It seems appropriate that my first post should be one where I tell you a little bit about myself.
My name is Yvonne Johansen. I'm a Speech Pathologist, wife, mother, language-building toy inventor and the owner and founder of SmartFelt Toys.
After graduating from Teachers College, at Columbia University, I began working with 0-3 year olds back in New York.
I realized almost immediately that working with young children was what I wanted to do with my professional life. It was challenging but extremely rewarding.
So that's what I've done; I’ve spent my entire professional career (which has spanned 3 decades) working with children of all ages in a variety of settings.
I've worked with little ones in the private sector, I’ve had my own Non Public Agency, where I provided services in schools and Head Start Programs. I have worked for Regional Center as a consultant and as Clinical Director and Clinical Supervisor. I am now back in a Los Angeles charter school working with elementary school children.
Sometime, about a decade ago, I had a moment of clarity (some refer to these instances as "aha moments") where I imagined taking felt boards (because my kids have always loved felt) to the next level and turning a felt board into an interactive, multi-sensory, multi-use, reversible 3D play structure. I was thinking to myself "let me make a felt board on steroids!"
That was the origin of My Little House.
At first, a friend and I cobbled together this raggedy version of the toy and I brought it with me to school. Kids would crawl over each other to play with it, my fellow therapists would always ask to borrow it, and parents wanted to know where they could buy one.
So I knew I was onto something.
So my husband Peter and I decided to go for it...and so SmartFelt Toys was born.
A hugely successful Kickstarter campaign (funded by believers in my idea) helped us pay for our first toy, My Little House.
We now have three products which have won more than a dozen prestigious awards and been featured on several television shows.
We are in thousands of homes, schools, clinics and universities in the US, Australia, Israel, Canada, India and Brazil. We have been embraced by families of typically-developing kids as well as by the special needs community.
This journey has been an amazing one, and I can't wait to see what happens next.
For me, the rewards are many. When the grandmother of an autistic child sends me a video showing her granddaughter focusing on one of our toys and thanking me profusely, or when I get an email from a mom thanking me for inventing a toy that's got her kid "talking up a storm," I feel a genuine sense of pride.
And when I go to Speech and Language Conferences and young SLPs come up to me and tell me I'm an inspiration to them, well - it doesn't get much better than that.
But the real truth is, everyone who works with kids INSPIRES ME!
The work we do and the difference we make with our students is what drives us.
Since starting our business, many of my colleagues and friends have asked me “Why don’t you start a blog?” and up until a few months ago , I actually didn't really know what a blog was.
I guess it's time once again to just go for it. Hopefully, what I've got to say here will be helpful to all of you.
When you’ve done something long enough, as I have, you gain experience. And with experience comes wisdom. Every week, I look forward to sharing some of that wisdom with you.
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