In the face of global adversity, innovation often flourishes. This certainly rings true for Amanda Seyfried and her childhood best friends, Anne Hoehn and Maureen North, who make up the creative triumvirate behind the eco-friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and child-centric brand, Make It Cute Kids. Stemming from the necessity to keep their children engaged during the pandemic, Anne built a playhouse out of a refrigerator box that soon morphed into an inspirational movement to foster imaginative play in young children. Here, we take you behind the scenes of Make It Cute, delving into the journey that led to its creation, the philosophy driving its vision, and its commitment to responsible, sustainable development. As they share their experiences, insights, and aspirations, the founders of Make It Cute truly embody the transformative power of play, creativity, and adaptability in the face of challenges.
What inspired you to create Make It Cute Kids, and how did the idea come to fruition?
Amanda Seyfried: Anne had created this beautiful playhouse for her kids [made] out of a refrigerator box. She cut out perfect shingles, painted them our favorite neutral colors, and it was so cute. During the time of the pandemic, we were all looking for a creative outlet, and that’s when we decided to try to recreate it for everyone.
So the brainchild of this brand came out of COVID; what are some of the biggest parenting lessons each of you learned during that time?
Maureen: The pandemic taught us to be flexible with change. I think you get stuck in your ways/routines/habits between work and life- so when it all came to a halt, we had to accept that things would be done differently. We learned to embrace less structure and understand the value of slowing down- although sometimes incredibly challenging. We love our teachers, and while we have always supported them, we have gained a new sense of empathy for what teachers do daily. This empathy also gave us perspective- for those mothers who do it independently or may have different circumstances than us.
What’s the philosophy behind Make It Cute and talk about how it’s essential for children’s development?
Maureen: The Make It Cute playhouse encourages open-ended play and imaginative play. This is essential in child development because it builds a child’s character, primary language, and critical thinking skills, along with social and emotional skills- to say the least. A child needs to have their own space in their home. A playhouse offers them that sanctuary and a place to call their own. It allows them to build their sense of self and independence and even gives them a door (or two!) to ‘close’ to the outside world. The playhouses offer retreats for them to go and feel in control and a place where the child’s imagination can run freely. While facilitating all of this- it looks cute in your home!
Let’s be honest. Toys, in general, are ugly. How much of this was a part of the concept for Make It Cute?
Anne: One of the issues that we kept running into as parents of young children are that our kids took over our space in a too chaotic way. Designing products for Make It Cute that are both beautiful and functional allows us to reclaim our space and find the zen that our homes once had. We believe that we’ve been able to achieve this while also creating products that kids actually really want, too. Our playhouses provide a sanctuary for kids to thrive and play without taking away from the home’s aesthetic.
What sets Make It Cute apart from other products in the market geared toward children’s play and learning?
Anne: We already consume so much as parents, so it was essential to create a product that had little impact on the environment and was made responsibly with no plastic. We know that toys can quickly lose their luster in little kids’ minds. Too often, this means discarded toys end up in landfills sooner rather than later. The ability to quickly set up the Make It Cute playhouse but also store it for later play under a bed, couch, or in a closet means parents and caregivers have the opportunity to pull the playhouse back out, set it up, and offer what feels like a brand new space for kids to explore and interact with. The variety of play opportunities with the playhouses is endless; witnessing our kids and their friends find new ways every day to transform their playhouses into grocery stores, sleepover hide-outs, and reading nooks (to name a few) is truly magical.
How do you ensure that Make It Cute products are safe and developmentally appropriate for young children?
Maureen: Our products and packaging are tested and certified for ASTM F963 children’s safety testing. We are constantly developing and researching new materials that are safe for children and the earth and environment. Numerous early childhood educators and play experts have provided feedback and insight as part of our design review process and given their accolades to our final playhouse design. As mothers, we have the opportunity to watch and observe how our young children play and interact with other kids. Our children help us have more understanding of how they are developing and learning, and we use our own experiences to help build imaginative play.
How do you plan to continue evolving Make It Cute to stay relevant and meet the changing needs of children and parents?
Amanda: Well, first and foremost, our foundational rule is that what we create is based on having little to no environmental footprint, and we will constantly be striving to do our part to give back through partnerships with organizations who make an impact- our responsibility as human beings and especially parents is to understand our place in mother nature and teach our kids how to protect the earth. Everything we create with Make It Cute will be made out of sustainable materials with as much imagination, innovation, and magic as possible. We’ve only just begun.
What advice would you give to parents encouraging their children to engage in more play-based learning experiences?
Anne: Less is more. Too often, we are guilty of providing our kids with endless toys. Reducing the number of toys in a child’s space can transform their ability to create new ways of playing and interacting with them.
If you want customers to leave with ONE takeaway about Make It Cute, what would it be?
Amanda: You don’t have to make any compromises to keep your kids, your home’s aesthetic, or the environment happy and intact.