Wee Gallery on Visual Development and the Brand's Beginnings
1. Could you share the story behind Wee Gallery and what led you to bring the brand to life?
When our son was born, we were fully engaged with him and trying to be the best parents we could be. We’d bought all sorts of baby toys for Sid, but quickly realized that none of them were right. Newborns can’t do much more than lie there and look at the world around them. For most of the first three months, they can’t even lift their little heads, so playing with a mini-football wasn’t going to happen for quite a while. So we read through the books we’d collected and discovered that newborns are drawn to black and white images, particularly repeating geometric figures. What newborn babies can do is see. We noticed that his eyes would get big while staring at the air conditioning grate, or the pattern of terracotta tiles on the roof. We asked our pediatrician what would be good toys for our newborn and he suggested just drawing black lines on a white paper plate and propping it up in his crib. We took that idea a bit further. Surya designed a set of 6 animals and our Original Art Cards were born.
2. What are some of the first things you learned about child development?
The first things we learned about child development we learned from What To Expect When You're Expecting and the following book What To Expect From The First Year. We learned from these books that a child learns more in the first five years than in the rest of their entire lives. And that first year is the most important for setting them on the best path. We learned how newborns bond with their parents through touch, sight, and smell, and that the more interaction you have with them, the better it is for their development.
3. Is there anything interesting you’ve learned more recently?
More recently we’ve learned about how children start to learn numeracy through sorting and classifying shapes. Early interaction with shape sorting toys is a vital part of learning about numbers.
4. How do these cards, books, and other toys help with visual development?
Wee Gallery toys help with visual development by providing strong lines and interesting shapes for baby’s eyes to focus on. As they track the shapes their brains build neural connections. The more connections they make, the more their brains grow.
5. Why black and white?
Black and white is the highest contrast possible, and the easiest for newborn babies to see. They can certainly see black and white images on the very first day of life. Newborns can’t really see the difference between pastel shades, their visual acuity just isn’t developed to that level yet. And by focusing on black and white patterned images, the optic nerve connections to the brain are stimulated. The more rich these early brain connections are, the better for the baby.
6. Can you recommend a few toys for different age groups?
Wee Gallery was created for the newborn who can’t do much more than look at the world around them. High-contrast is ideal for newborn eyes. By 4-6 months, their color vision and visual acuity is almost fully developed and their understanding of the world grows by leaps and bounds. Great toys for 6 months to a year include soft books and soft toys with crinkles and rattles, activity pads that encourage tummy time and exploration. By 12 to 18 months blocks and stacking toys create the sort of open ended play that helps with fine motor skills.
7. Part of your brand mission is respecting the planet. Could you speak to how this comes into play for you?
We take the responsibility of creating products to bring into the world very seriously. We are conscious of the fact that things have become so disposable, and have worked to create products that will last beyond a few months of use. The Art Cards are ideal for a newborn, and will still be useful well into the toddler years. We also make sure that the materials we use are sustainably sourced. All the paper for our products is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), our cotton products are made with GOTS certified organic cotton, and our wooden toys are made with rubberwood, a waste product of the rubber industry, and Bamboo which is actually a woody grass that is cut when it’s harvested and continues to grow.
8. What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned as parents?
Perhaps the most important lesson we’ve learned as parents is the importance of giving kids room to grow. For me, this means giving lots of opportunities to explore and discover new things that may not be in my comfort zone. And this has made us realize all that we learn from the experiences of our children growing up.
9. What impact do you hope Wee Gallery has on children (and caregivers!) around the world?
We hope that Wee Gallery will help parents, caregivers, or teachers connect with babies and toddlers and help them to see the world through a child’s eyes. We all tend to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of adult life, but connecting with children can ignite our joy, wonder, and curiosity, too. Children are quite literally the future, and we get to see them grow, and we get to be a part of it.
We also hope to instill an appreciation for the materials that come from the Earth, and the care that it takes to design and create them. We really hope that our products will be passed down from one generation to the next.