Teachers from every corner of the country rely on Lakeshore to furnish their rooms, stock their supplies and provide endless learning opportunities for their students. And each fall, Lakeshore introduces new products as part of its Gifts for Growing Minds collection, which is designed to help parents inspire learning at home.
At the helm of the product development team responsible for the Gifts for Growing Minds collection, as well as many other Lakeshore favorites, is Product Development Manager Lynette Hoy. Hoy has been a part of Lakeshore since she left teaching in 2005. And her two children provide inspiration for the toys she designs, so her toys are practical. We had a chance to sit down with Lynette at the Lakeshore offices and find out a bit more about what goes into being a toy developer.
How did you get started in product development? What made you interested in Lakeshore specifically?
I have a unique history because my mom was actually a pre-school teacher. Growing up, I was always visiting her classroom. So, I would always watch her interact with kids, and I knew from a really young age that I wanted to be a teacher or be in early- childhood education. So, it was natural that I became a preschool teacher. I taught for four years. I loved coming up with those creative activities and really watching [students], you know, create in the classroom. So, when the opportunity came up for Lakeshore, it was a no-brainer. I could use that same creativity that I did in the classroom to help kids all over the country.
I read that Lakeshore requires that you have classroom experience in order to be on the product development team. Why is that?
You get everyone who has the same passion for child development under one roof. They all love thinking about making these really cool products and just have such a passion for it. The mission is really to put out quality materials that encourage a love of learning and children. As part of that mission, it is essential to have teachers, because they’re truly the experts. They truly know what is going to foster that love of learning, and they’ve been in the classroom. They know how this is going to be used and abused in a classroom. So, you know, you can hire a toy developer, but they don’t know how kids at different ages developmentally are going to be using that product. [Teachers have] the expertise … to really enforce that mission of quality and all the things that we all love about Lakeshore.
Give us an example of a product that is unique to Lakeshore.
I would say I’d have to choose our Play & Explore Rocket. This is like my baby. I think this is my favorite one. What I love about it so much is that my kids have it at home. They’ve had it for two years. They always go back to it. It’s a rocket. There’re no bells or whistles. It comes with two play astronauts and a fun rover. Kids play with this and they make up their own stories. They are using their imaginations and building social-emotional skills. They’re getting so much out of one product. The idea is to have this be really very low-tech. Very simple imagination is something that is very important in what we want to provide for kids because the research shows that having those open-ended ideas helps them create their own stories and inspiration. The theme of a rocket obviously is not new, but it’s exciting. I wanted to bring this dramatic play item to boys and girls.
What would you like parents to know about Lakeshore and the Gifts for Growing Minds collection?
This line is true to who we are as a company. The Gifts for Growing Minds collection is created with those same Lakeshore values and that same Lakeshore quality teachers are accustomed to. Parents should feel confident that their children are getting a high-quality, durable product that teachers would be happy to use.