When any company reaches its 35th anniversary, that’s a cause for celebration. When that company happens to be Melissa & Doug, then you can expect A TON of open-ended celebrating throughout the year!
This year marks our 35th year making timeless, screen-free toys, so we wanted to take an opportunity to look back and celebrate some highlights from the past three-plus decades of sparking kids’ imaginations. Be on the lookout throughout the rest of the year for special events and more!
Let’s take a walk down Memory Lane and look at the most unforgettable moments in our 35 years of inspiring open-ended play.
1988: The beginning of 35 years of play
It all started in 1988 with a girl, a boy, and a dream to create meaningful toys that would inspire kids to discover themselves, their passions, and their purpose! Yes, Melissa and Doug (pictured) are real people…and parents to six kids! Raised by educators, the couple knew in their early 20s they wanted to create imagination-sparking products for children. From its humble beginnings in a garage, the company has grown to hundreds of associates, with toys distributed in countries across the globe.
1991: Putting the pieces together with puzzles
The Fuzzy Farm Puzzle (pictured), with its textured pieces, was our first hit product, and we’ve been making wooden puzzles, sound puzzles, floor puzzles, and more ever since. Today, we’re honored to be the #1 children’s brand for puzzles. (1)
1998: Wooden toys for the win
This is the era of our classic wooden toys like the Shape Sorting Cube, Rainbow Stacker, Pounding Bench, and more. Before the number of Montessori schools skyrocketed in the last 20 years, we were making core development items out of wood and bringing these “school” items to the masses. We love wood and use it whenever we can because it’s natural and renewable. That’s why we recently committed to planting 10 million trees by 2030, and are partnering with One Tree Planted to help us reach that goal. And it’s why we have accelerated our commitments to using FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council®) certified materials. (2)
2003: Cuddling up with plush toys
Known for our attention to detail, we begin making realistic plush stuffed animals, like our iconic giraffe that has graced playrooms and nurseries for decades. (Check out our latest special edition Rainbow Giraffe, exclusively available on MelissaAndDoug.com, in honor of our 35th anniversary.) Our Giant White Tiger was so lifelike it was once placed outside and mistaken for a real tiger! Helicopters were even called to track it!
2006: Getting more creative
Understanding the value of creative expression for childhood development, Melissa & Doug saw a need to bring high-quality art products to the market. In 2006, we started to put our stamp on the Arts & Crafts category with our popular wooden stamp sets in handy wooden trays. Later we’d add large format activity, coloring, and sticker pads, keeping kids entertained and engaged with beautiful, original artwork and delightful details.
2009: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Knowing that kids want to dress-up all year round and not just Halloween, we sought to make high-quality costumes with soft materials and realistic accessories that could last more than a season. Kids love imitating adults and our dress-up-and-play sets (firefighter, doctor, chef, and more) come with everything a child needs to look the part, plus exciting accessories to spur imaginative play.
2012: Taking screen-free fun on the go
With screentime on the rise and busy families always on the go, we saw a need for a smaller format activity pad that could keep kids engaged at restaurants, on the sidelines of their siblings’ games, in the car, or on the plane. On-the-Go travel pads, including the innovative Water WOW! with its mess-free, reusable water pen and coloring pad, help kids have screen-free fun anywhere!
2013: Cleaning up and rocking out
A perennial best seller, Dust! Sweep! Mop! not only gives kids some realistic action as they “play house,” it also becomes a favorite of kid “rock stars.”
2017: Space to play
2022: Hello, baby!
While we’ve produced toys for the younger set over the years (including the K’s Kids collection), 2022 marked the launch of a new assortment featuring soon-to-be classics such as the Pineapple Soft Stacker, the Wooden Shape Sorting Grocery Cart, and the GO Tots® and RollablesⓇ toy lines. And more recently, we unveiled our Wooden Work & Play Desktop Activity Board for baby business pros and the sensory-stimulating Ice Cream Take-Along Toy.
2023: Happy Anniversary!
Stay tuned for more great toys (check out this year’s award-winning Deluxe Grill & Pizza Oven Play Set and the Cool Scoops Ice Creamery). And don’t miss news on exciting partnerships, such as our just-launched collection with the National Park Foundation, and so much more. Thank you for being part of our journey to spread the power of open-ended play!
(1) Circana POS Data (March 2023)
(2) FSC® C156584 - Visit our Sustainability page and product pages for more info on our FSC®-certified products.