In a world full of electronic gadgets and computer screens, it’s refreshing to encourage children to be creative and use their imaginations. Enter little miss workbench, an American-made company that encourages imaginative play with their range of beautifully handcrafted, timeless wooden toys.
little miss workbench’s founder Michele Chiaramonte was previously a New York City public school teacher. From this role, she learned that thoughtful play is key to a child’s development. Motherhood soon became her second role, with the birth of her daughter Mali. For her first Mother’s Day, Chiaramonte was given a portable table saw by her husband, inspiring her to hone her woodworking skills. Her baby daughter was a deep sleeper, so she set on with her new hobby, building bookshelves, a kitchen island and an activity table during her spare time.
When her daughter started playing with the offcuts, Chiaramonte was inspired to change direction and move on to toys for Mali. She observed that Mali was also curious about the world around her, often imitating her mother taking photos when they were out on walks. Spurred on by her experiences as a teacher, she set about making toys that encourage imaginative play.
What became a side project turned into a fully-fledged business when friends soon asked her to make some for their children. Bellport, a small town on the south shores of Long Island in New York, was now home to little miss workbench’s workshop.
We love little miss workbench because their toys are not powered by batteries or extension cords but by a child’s creativity and imagination. The toys remind you of an old-fashioned era; durable and elegant, but simply made. What cleverly sets little miss workbench apart is that they are designed and handcrafted with a modern twist: think cameras and iPhones made out of hardwood but with painted chalkboard sections that kids can draw on. Old school toys are also included in the range, such as a classic yo-yo, a little jalopy and cubism wooden blocks that allow kids to develop hand-eye coordination, dexterity and fine motor skills.
All the toys are made out of sustainable American hardwood, left in their natural finish and sealed with natural beeswax sealant. In toys that have a pop of color, plant-based dyes were used, ensuring that everything is completely child-safe.
little miss workbench also supports local and global organizations such as the
Boys and Girls Club of the Bellport area and Four Girls for Families, a locally formed charity committed to bringing clean water to Cambodian communities.
Jana Pleyto now calls New York home, but before that, she grew up in minimalistic, sustainable households in Melbourne and London. 'Mindful curation' may not have been a phrase then, but it turns out she’s been living it all her life! She loves her KeepCup, GIR tools and Swedish Stockings, and she is Head of Brand Operations for BuyMeOnce USA.