Tiny Earth Toys, a Durham-based toy subscription company, is a pandemic baby of sorts. After Rachael Classi took a few months off from work during COVID to care for her two daughters, she saw a need for a service that makes it easy for parents to switch out their kids’ old toys for new, age-appropriate ones, but doesn’t come with all the clutter.
“I had more space to be present in our home and observe what habits we had begun to form,” Classi tells me. “Something wasn’t quite sitting right in how we were consuming and discarding toys.”
Classi, the founder and CEO, launched Tiny Earth Toys in September 2020 and offers toys for kids ages 0 to 4. Subscriptions start at $29 a month. I checked in with her to learn more about how it started, how it works and what’s next. Here’s a Q&A.
Go Ask Mom: How did Tiny Earth get its start? What was your aha moment?
Rachael Classi: While pregnant with my second daughter, I was celebrating Easter with family and friends. My two-year-old was enraptured. The dyed eggs, the baskets and the candy were a triple whammy of fun. She walked away with seven Easter baskets from well-meaning family and friends. Six ended up in the trash.
Fast forward a year and both my daughters were gifted subscription play and craft boxes. Our home became cluttered with a mountain of toys that, while thrilling for the short time they were developmentally appropriate, sat unused waiting for us to donate, regift, or discard. It became so clear that we are consuming more than we need (and our planet can bear). And it became clear that our patterns of consumption begin at birth.
GAM: How does it work, and what do you get?
RC: We started Tiny Earth Toys to close the gap between developmentally appropriate learning materials and sustainable, ethically sourced toys. Families subscribe to our kits and receive four to eight wooden, educator-selected toys tailored to their child’s age. Families keep the toys for as long or little as they want before exchanging them for the next kit. And they have the option to purchase what they just can’t part with. Included are learning guides written by experts in early childhood education and all the materials needed to exchange the kits.
GAM: What do you look for when you’re sourcing toys for the boxes?
RC: We have a really strong perspective on what makes their way into our boxes. It starts by first assessing the manufacturer. We look for brands that are domestic (where possible) manufacturing plastic-free, screen-free toys that have educational value. Then we turn to our team of early childhood educators who select specific items for different ages based on the critical learning milestones happening at each interval.
GAM: Your focus is on kids, but you also offer some content for caregivers. What does that include?
RC: Our caregiver content is one of my favorite things about what we do. We have a team of early childhood educators with backgrounds in early childhood behavior and learning who have created learning guides that help caregivers understand the critical work of their child and provide supports to them in implementing learning based play. We run free webinars for caregivers and are building a massive content base with age-based and topic-based articles to support caregivers in their parenting journey.
GAM: What are your hopes for the future of Tiny Earth?
RC: Gosh I love this question because the future feels so bright for Tiny Earth and for our children’s future having more access to sustainable, circular choices. Our hope is that we help to educate a generation of parents and children about the benefits and ease of reuse so that our children’s generation defaults to conscious consumption. We believe we achieve this by encouraging families to source second-hand, rent where they can and include their children in this experience.
Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.