Meet the Mastermind Behind Sensory Play Company Young, Wild & Friedman
Instagram is filled with eye-candy images, but few rival the color and fun that explodes from Julie Friedman's account, @YoungWildAndFriedman. As you scroll through her photos of sparkly play dough, princess and pirate figurines, and creative cookie cutters, you'll realize instantly that she has a knack for playtime—and will probably decide to buy one of her kits, designed to encourage sensory play, immediately (we've been there!).
But what's just as incredible as this CEO and mom-of-three's kits is her story behind them. We chatted with Julie about her kits, what inspired her to create them, and the perks of sensory play.
Q: You’ve grown such an incredible business from your passion for sensory play!
How did you become interested in sensory play?
A: When my daughter was diagnosed with severe anxiety and an array of speech disorders, one of our doctors recommended incorporating sensory play into our daily routine, saying that it could help calm her anxiety and encourage language development. I started researching, and was blown away by the benefits of sensory play and how incredible it is for our little ones! So, I started making homemade play dough and assembling fun activities to go along with it. Before long, people were asking to buy the kits that I was making for my daughter, and here were are now—running a full-blown play dough operation!
Q: What are some of the benefits of sensory play that you discovered?
A: Sensory play builds nerve connections within the developing brain’s pathways, which triggers a child’s inclination for and ability in completing more complex learning tasks.
It supports language development, cognitive growth, motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction, and aids in developing memory function. And in addition to helping children learn vitally important sensory attributes (hot, cold, sticky, dry, etc.), it's great for calming an anxious or frustrated child.
Q: How do you decide what materials go into your sensory play kits?
A: It really depends on the theme and what I can come up with and find. I always try to put a variety of tactile objects that feel different from each other and can be used and manipulated in various ways. That might include fuzzy pipe cleaners, smooth rocks, shiny jewels, bells that jingle, play dough that smells like cinnamon or lemon, and so forth.
Q: Which sensory kit has been your favorite so far?
A: That's a hard question! I love them all for different reasons, but I think that the Pirate Kit has to be my all-time favorite. I just love the little treasure box and the gold. I feel like a total kid, but I had a blast playing with this one with my little people!
Q: How old are your three children, and do they ever help you decide what will go into the kits or give you ideas for the themes?
A: Evie, the one I developed this business for, is 6 years old and started kindergarten this year! Kerr turns four this month, and Rhett just turned two. And yes, I always look for products and themes that they would be interested in. They are my go-to product testers!
I can always tell if a kit is a winner based on how they play and interact with it.
Q: During what ages is sensory play most important?
A: All ages! Even adults engage in sensory output and input without knowing it. It might be shaking your foot while you wait, twirling your hair, or clicking your pen! Sensory play is equally beneficial for all ages, but I say to start young, because who wouldn't want to incorporate all of the great benefits for their littles?
Q: What are some ways parents can participate in sensory play with their kids to boost what their little learners get out of the experience?
A: Just get in there any play with them—kids love these kits on their own, but they always love it even more when Mom and Dad get involved as well. Another super easy way to engage in sensory play is to just go for a nature walk outside and observe the world around you using your senses! Feel the cool breeze on your face, smell the flowers, listen to the birds chirping, and collect items like rocks, acorns, pinecones, and leaves and notice the textures. Are they smooth, bumpy, rough, crunchy, or pokey? It's such an easy and fun way to engage in natural sensory play!