Slumberkins is the culmination of more than 20 years of friendship and a shared life passion for promoting early emotional learning.
As mothers with family therapy and early education backgrounds, Co-Founders and Co-CEOs Kelly Oriard and Callie Christensen identified a need for intentional children’s products while on maternity leave together in 2016.
Slumberkins aims to provide parents and caregivers with various tools to support their children in building social-emotional learning skills. These skills, like self-awareness, independence, and acceptance, are primarily supported by the books and affirmations associated with each Slumberkins creature. It can be challenging for children experiencing a language disorder to communicate and access language centers in the brain.
When children experience big emotions, it becomes even more challenging to communicate. Consistency in repeating the affirmations helps language to become more automatic. Then, when big feelings happen, the affirmations can support children in the problem-solving process. Slumberkins supports parents and caregivers in raising caring, confident, and resilient children.
Ms. Oriard and Ms. Christensen hope to spread the Slumberkins mission and prepare children to thrive in the modern world.
The Creation of Slumberkins
Entrepreneurs Kelly Oriard and Callie Christensen are the co-founders of Slumberkins. Kelly has a dual master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and school counseling and has worked as a school counselor and family therapist at a K-8 school in Portland, Oregon. Callie has a master’s degree in teaching with endorsements in elementary education and special education. She previously worked as a special education teacher in a therapeutic day treatment school and an elementary school in the Pacific Northwest. Both are passionate about teaching children the social-emotional life skills needed to thrive in our modern world. With six children between them, Kelly and Callie’s experience as mothers has played a significant role in shaping Slumberkins into what it is today.
Ms. Oriard and Ms. Christensen have been best friends since they met in high school at 14. As the women explained, they have lived somewhat parallel lives, going back to get their Master’s Degrees to become educators around the same time. They remained close at every stage of their lives, so after a few years teaching, when they landed on maternity leave together with their sons, it was the starting point that brought them back together and inspired them to create Slumberkins.
“When on maternity leave from roles in the therapeutic realm in the schools, we had the idea to start our business, and we really had no intention of quitting our jobs in education,” said Oriard. “We had this idea about giving parents tools to help their children develop social-emotional skill sets. So we taught ourselves to sew and sewed these little plush creatures we made up and printed their stories on cardstock. We sold them at local craft fairs, and after selling out, we decided to begin working through Etsy and social media to see how it would go. It was the organic traction that fueled the brand on social media that impassioned us to keep growing. By Summer 2017, we had the opportunity to take our brand on Shark Tank and tell our story. That’s when we decided to quit our job as educators and began working full time to develop our brand.”
Social Skills and More
Slumberkins has been on a mission to promote early emotional learning. Their books and cuddly creatures are constructed to help parents and caregivers teach essential social-emotional skills and raise resilient, caring, and confident children (appropriate for ages baby to elementary school).
Several of the stories teach children self-regulation strategies and routines to support them when experiencing big feelings. These stories provide examples of ways to practice calming their bodies and brains. These stories also help with feelings identification. Children practice noticing how different feelings show up in their bodies, how to name these feelings, and how to use emotional regulation strategies to support these feelings. Our free resources go one step further to guide children and caregivers in learning these skills and techniques.
Each collection is designed to support a different pillar or aspect of emotional wellness and can be used to meet a specific need (like coping with anxiety, navigating change, or experiencing grief and loss) or proactively supporting children in their emotional development (collections like gratitude, authenticity, and mindfulness).
“As a therapist and educator, we are proud to design around the needs we see from our own experiences as mothers and in our professional careers as educators,” Ms. Christensen shared. “One new initiative we are really proud of is our standards-aligned curriculum for teachers, along with new books for the classroom. We are thrilled to be able to support parents and get back to the schools where we started.”
Supporting Neurodiverse Children Too
For those who have neurodiverse children like myself, Slumberkins have activities for those who are verbal and non-verbal. These include visuals and video content to support and practice emotional regulation, coping skills, managing big feelings, and various developmental levels in each of the themes.
Slumberkins products can support autistic children and all children with varying abilities:
- Understanding how emotions show up in our bodies
- Learning emotional regulation strategies (Hammerhead, Yeti, Bigfoot)
- Learning coping skills (Fox, Otter, Alpaca, Sprite, Bigfoot, Ibex)
- Naming emotions and building language around them
- Learning to identify emotions in ourselves and others (Creatures Full of Feelings, The Feels)
- Addressing common social problem-solving scenarios like teasing, conflict resolution, acceptance, and authenticity (Bigfoot, Unicorn, Hammerhead)
- Managing anxiety (Alpaca) Building Confidence (Bigfoot, Unicorn, Yak, Narwhal, Lynx)
- Supporting body awareness and mind-body integration through the central nervous system (YouTube affirmation yoga routines series)
As we end our conversation, it’s clear that at the end of the day, Ms. Oriard and Ms. Christensen are mothers who want to help other mothers, parents, caregivers, and of course, children.
“As parents, we all want the best for our children, and with the world rapidly shifting and giving more recognition to the importance of mental health,” said Kelly. “We hope to equip parents with the tools that we wish our own parents had. We were children of the ’80s when feelings weren’t openly discussed, and the family’s emotional needs weren’t addressed.”
Callie adds, “We also hope these resources, products, and content bring meaningful moments of connection that adults can lean on as tools to help foster emotionally healthy children.”