Monthly Archives: June 2011
Walk around Kolcraft and if you run into someone with a hearty laugh and contagious smile, you know you have just met Ted Bretschger – Senior VP of Research & Development. Ted brings so much to Kolcraft from his expertise in developing the next hottest product for moms and babies to his insight into children and their world. We recently had the chance to catch up with Ted and give you an inside glance into Kolcraft’s new product development.
Ted, you have spent your career creating products to make babies and parents happier. Why did you choose this industry?
When I graduated from college I actually began my design career by designing cars for Ford. Through a fortunate set of circumstances I was drawn into the toy industry where I fell in love with designing cars for a slightly younger crowd. Bringing toys to market that stimulated children was far more rewarding to me. While at Hasbro I was asked to tackle the juvenile products markets and I found that even more exciting and challenging. I loved working with parents and creative people to develop the best possible products for their babies.
What is a typical day like for you?
I try to focus on new opportunities for Kolcraft. I am fortunate to have some strong people in the R&D organization and try to insure that they have the needed support to drive ideas forward.
Where do you receive inspiration for your work?
Inspiration can some from many places for me. I am a big fan of research, walking through baby store aisles and watching my own children and now their children. I cannot walk down a sidewalk or through a mall without looking at competitive product or our own products, and wonder what would make that product better. I am also obsessed with Apple. I am always thinking about the radical manner in which that company has reinvented industries.
What do you like the most about your job & what is the most challenging?
I really like the challenge of attempting to find the breakthrough product. They are so few and far between in our industry but when you find them,,,,,,, Wow!
You have been at Kolcraft for 10 years, how have you seen Kolcraft change?
Huge change. We have gone from being a juvenile company that relied on the orient for new product to a company capable of developing our own innovative products. You really need to insure that your destiny is in your own hands as much as possible.
Obviously you are living & breathing baby products at work and you are also a dad and now a very young-spirited grandpa. How has being a dad and most recently a grandparent impacted how you approach your job?
Watching my children and now my granddaughter has constantly reinforced what we have seen in research regarding both how you think your children and grandchild will interact with a product versus how they actually interact with that product. It’s important to be aware of both and address both.
What has been your greatest joy to being a dad and a grandparent?
With regards to being a dad, my greatest joy will always be my relationship with them and seeing that that they are in good places in their lives. Being a grandparent is off the charts for my wife and I! Nobody could have prepared us for the thrill of this.
Ted at a glance:
Funniest thing that one of your children has said? My three year old son saying, “ Remember daddy when you were small and I was big?” (Still trying to figure that one out?)
Favorite granddaddy activity with your granddaughter? Being with her each time she laughs and smiles. (Louise does that a lot!)
If you had no commitments or obligations, what would the perfect day be like? Being with family (being on the golf course or on a sailboat with them would take it to another level.)
Favorite Kolcraft product? Really tough question…. kind of like which is your favorite child! In picking one, I’d lean towards the Jeep Liberty. It’s been a very successful stroller for us. That product was a ground-breaker for three wheel strollers. It has a great ride, is easy to maneuver and can go off the sidewalk and into the park.
And since Ted now has “grandchild on his brain” 24/7, a little fun mind game with Ted. We asked Ted what is the first word that comes to mind when we say:
Baby – Louise
Sleep – Later
Morning – Lake Michigan
Broccoli – Hollandaise
Beverage – Jamaican-Me-Crazy
Lady GaGa – Beatle’s Song?
Thanks Ted for giving us more insight into new product development. If you have a question or comment for Ted, please leave it in the comment section!
Often there isn’t one store that has everything you want to put on your baby registry so you end up with 3 or more registries at different stores. It can all be a little confusing and inconvenient. Enter the Pampers ultimate baby registry where you can combine any product, from any store, onto one baby registry. You can easily share your registry items, news and info with your family and friends.
Enjoy Pampers’ stress-free, ultimate baby registry that allows you to spend time focusing on other important things!
The Don’t list:
- Don’t go to sleep
- Don’t lose it. Take a quick break in the hall to regroup if you need to
- Don’t leave on your phone ringer
- Don’t whine/complain
- Don’t turn on the TV or surf the web if she has not said it’s ok to
The Do list:
- Do encourage your partner by telling her how well she is doing
- Do try to anticipate her needs by asking her if she needs her back rubbed, does she need ice-chips, etc.
- Do make sure the staff knows her wishes and is following them
- Do know the emotional & physical signs of labor stages (We strongly recommend Bradley Method books for understanding these phases. They have very clear explanations.)
- Do listen to your partner’s needs and help her think through difficult decisions she may need to make during labor.
Do you have any “Delivery Room Don’ts” to add to the list? Share below.
We recently met Cassandra who is the founder of Active Moms’ Club in Chicago. We loved her balanced view on life, pregnancy (she is expecting twins!) and how to live healthy even as a busy mom. We knew our Kolcraft fans would learn a lot from her not only through this interview but through some short, informative videos we will be posting where Cassandra gives us fitness tips any mom will love!
Where did the idea for AMC start?
I’ve been a personal trainer for over eight years and have always specialized in training pre-and postnatal clients. At the time, I offered moms one-on-one training year-round and held a bootcamp style class only during the summer. Then one year class participation was really high and the moms started asking for fall and winter programming is when I discovered the need to offer quality fitness classes, in which women could participate AND bring their children with them to class. AMC was ‘born’ to bring fitness, community and education to mothers and expecting mothers in October 2008.
What do you hope moms get from your classes?
My goal is for a mom to leave class feeling good about herself. I hope every woman feels a sense of accomplishment by taking time in her busy day to do something for herself. Exercise should be a regular part of every family’s lifestyle. By attending a fitness class with or without child, a mother is leading her family by example. Also, I want moms to connect and learn from each other at or outside of class. Community is important, especially to new moms who can feel a bit isolated.
You have several classes from Prenatal Training to Biceps, Babies & Buggies. Do you have a favorite class that you like to teach?
My favorite class to teach is AMC’s “From the Core: Postnatal Recovery” class. This specialty class is unique as it caters to women who are less than six months postpartum. I really get to know each participant in every session. Moms with newborns are so eager to get out of the house and meet other new moms – the class creates a special community for them. I’m proud to see all of the women ‘graduate’ out of this class feeling stronger and more confident, and better prepared to take on motherhood.
What are some of the benefits to moms trying to stay in shape?
There are so many benefits to staying in shape, especially as a mother! We need to care for our families to the best of our abilities, but if we don’t care for ourselves (by staying in shape) we are not able to be the best parent or spouse. In addition to the physical benefits of exercise: lose baby weight or maintain a normal weight, increase in energy, increase in strength, and improved cardiovascular health, the psychological benefits of exercise such as improved self-esteem & self-confidence are just as important!
Any advice for a mom who wants to get fit but just can’t seem to fit one more thing into her schedule?
A busy mom has to be creative about squeezing fitness into her schedule. The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to carve out a huge chunk of time in order for exercise to be effective. A mom can do 15 minutes of basic functional exercises (squats, lunges, planks, pushups) at home in the morning – or purchase a 15-20 minute fitness video – or tune into Fit TV on Demand, and then go for a brisk walk with the kids in the afternoon. At the end of the day that time may add up to 30-45 minutes. Consistently, if mom ‘squeezes’ in small bouts of exercise throughout her day, at the end of the week she created two or three hours of fitness that she may not have otherwise realized were available!
Now for a quick glance into Cassandra’s life.
What’s your favorite holiday? My favorite holiday may be slightly unconventional. I love Memorial Day Weekend at the end of May. It usually is a very peaceful weekend. It’s the start of the summer and (typically) warm weather. The days are long and the city is alive with great events.
What is your guilty pleasure? My guilty pleasure is alone time. With twins on the way, it’s not realistic that I will be able to participate in my guilty pleasure too often. But I certainly will make an effort – my alone time is my recharge. I will be a better parent if I am able to steal a few moments of solitude. If you are really looking for guilty – I LOVE Sweet Mandy B’s cupcakes! You might find me there…by myself!
What are you looking forward to the most once the twins are born? I look forward to meeting those little guys and discovering their personalities. I can’t wait to hold them in my arms and look into their eyes. I look forward to their first steps, teaching them how to play sports, watching them grow into little boys. And, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I look forward to reclaiming my body as my own again.
If you had a free day with no commitments or obligations what would you do with it? Hopefully, this day is granted in the summer and I am not pregnant. I would wake up around 7:30am, go for a run along the lakefront, shower, put on my bathing suit and head to the lake to bask in a little sunshine while reading a book. In the afternoon I would call my husband and ask him to meet me for margarita’s and relax with him, and play with the boys for the remainder of the day.
If someone was going to write a book about your life, what would the title be? My book might be titled “Anything is Possible”. I live on the outside of the “box” and always find myself pushing the limits, regardless what it is. I completed two Ironman triathlons prior to getting married and feel I still have at least one more in me. Ideally I would complete another Ironman when I’m 60 years old so I have a better chance to win my age group, which would quality me for Ironman Kona in Hawai’i (my lifelong dream)! You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. You are your only boundary.
Kolcraft is excited to be partnering with Active Mom’s Club to sponsor free lunch and learn sessions after the Biceps, Babies & Buggies class. You can sign up for it on the AMC website.
Air travel can be especially difficult when traveling by plane with kids. We found a few helpful sites with tips and games specifically geared towards air travel with kids.
- Parenting site offers 50 ways to entertain a child on an airplane.
- Disney has a fun scavenger hunt on the plane game.
- About.com provides 11 games to keep kids entertained during travel.
- Mommyland offers 5 fun activities for toddlers when traveling by plane.
- Trekaroo has 10 fun travel activities for kids.
What games or activities have helped keep your children entertained while traveling?
Our newly released Contours Optima Tandem Stroller has been getting a lot of praise from moms and dads. They love all the features in a tandem that is lightweight – only 36 lbs! The features and beauty of the Optima Tandem Stroller read like poetry so we are having an Ode to the Optima Twitter contest to celebrate.
It’s easy to enter our Our Ode to the Optima contest! It will run from June 23-30 midnight CST on Twitter.
1. Follow @Kolcraft on Twitter
2. Complete the sentence Oh Optima how I love your….
3. Use the hash tag #ContoursOptima
Contest is limited to one entry per day. If you wish to enter on consecutive days, you have to complete the sentence with a different phrase. Tweeting the same phrase multiple times will not give you multiple entries. Entries will be judged on creativity – humor, how you will use the Optima, how make your life easier, etc).
Winner will receive a Contours Optima Tandem Stroller in color of their choice!
There is nothing like a yummy popsicle treat to cool off you and your children on a hot summer day. We recently came across this Frosty Tropical Pops recipe from Kraft. We love that it’s easy to make and uses real fruit!
What you need:
- 4 cups of strawberries
- 1 tsp Kool-AID Sugar Free Tropical Punch Flavor Low Calorie Soft Drink (For a healthier alternative use real fruit juice instead)
What to do:
- Blend ingredients in blender until smooth; pour into 6 paper cups or reusable popsicle molds.
- Insert wooden pop stick into center of each cup. Freeze 3 hours or until firm.
- Remove pops from cups just before serving.
What is your favorite summertime treat?
Today is the official first day of summer (hooray!) and with that often comes camp time for kids! There are all sorts of great summer camps out there. We love camps that get kids outdoors, teach them new things and give them opportunities to make new friends. Wonder if your child doesn’t like traditional summer camps? Wonder if your child is more into film-making, cartoon creation, science and engineering? Well, there is a camp for these special interests held by the Digital Media Academy.
Check it out. Your child just may be the next Steven Spielberg in the making!
At Kolcraft we believe in the importance of your opinion. Through parents’ honest opinions on our products, we learn what we are doing right and what we can improve. For this reason we have a ratings and review section on every product page. This also helps other parents who are researching products to know which product will meet their needs.
If you have a Kolcraft, Jeep, Sesame Street, Sealy or Contours product and want to give us your opinion please do! Just go to the product page and clink on the link near the top of hte page that says “Write a Review”. It’s easy to do and we do not sell or market to you from the ratings and reviews.
Go ahead, tell us what you think. We want to know!
We love meeting dads who are involved with their children’s lives. They often have a funny & unique take on everything from diaper changing to strollers to baby jail. We recently made a new friend who we came to find out is a Chicago neighbor, writes his own blog Man vs Baby and also blogs for Pregnancy & Newborn! We know you will love Josh and he will fast become your friend like he has with Kolcraft.
You have lived in Japan, set foot in Antarctica & are the author of a novel. Did you ever think you’d be a stay at home dad? I really refer to all that B.C. (Before Child) stuff as my former life. I enjoyed it, I had some great experiences, and now it’s over. It’s kind of trite, but in its simplest terms, that was all my life as a son. While I’ll certainly still be a son, I’m now also forever a father. But no, you don’t hear a lot of boys on Career Day pronouncing, “I wanna be a stay-at-home dad when I grow up.” But why not? The pay is lousy, but the benefits are amazing.
Have any your adventures prepared you for the adventure of fatherhood? Not specifically, but what I learned from travelling is to take advantage of every second and to not fear the reaper. If you go on vacation (think beaches), you have time to burn, and that’s the point. To unwind. Travelling is different. 90% of the places we’ve been I’m relatively sure we’ll never go back it to. Therefore, while you’re there, you do and see and experience as much as possible, you don’t wait till tomorrow or hesitate. It forces you into the moment where decisions (often bold ones) need to be made with certainty, and instincts have to be trusted. It’s the same with parenting. You can talk about sleep training’s different strategies and methods and read ten different books on the subject and wait for the weekend to start, etc. Or you can just do it and trust that whatever you’ve decided is the right thing for your child.
What were your first thoughts when you brought your son home from the hospital? I clearly remember coming home, putting Bub in the swing and thinking ‘Now what?’ Since he spent 4 weeks in the NIC (Neonatal Intensive Care) Unit, we had become very programmed in being told what to do and what not to do, lots of opining combined with sterilizing. The babies were all hooked up to monitors, and alarms would go off at least every five minutes. Diaper changing was still optional. Now, in our living room, it was clear for the first time that we were on our own. There is a scary sense of freedom in that. It also dawned on us shortly thereafter that there was no one telling us we couldn’t hold him as often as we liked. And no alarms would go off, either.
What is a typical day like for you? Do you even have “typical days”? I am constantly attempting to be on a schedule, but with really limited success. On paper, I get up around 7:30, when my wife leaves for work. Bub is generally at his calmest in the mornings, and this is when I try to get my writing done as well. We like to get out for a walk at some point. We do chores, and by we I mean me. We eat, he naps, we read and play and just hang out together. He likes to look out the window. He also likes to put his feet in his mouth. To each his own.
What has been your biggest daddy challenge? Lack of peers. SADs (Stay-At-home Dad) are certainly not new, and they are currently gaining prominence, but I still get a lot of ‘Oh, is Mommy sick today?’ questions and looks. But worse (and I am just as guilty of this), I don’t think men aren’t as social as women, at least in this role. I’ve never once stopped another man with a stroller to exchange baby anecdotes.
But it’s also a change in social structure for us. A newborn really puts you in no-man’s land. You think of people with kids, you think of go-karts and treehouses and leaving him at play dates. Bub doesn’t play. And we don’t have any friends with young kids, either. People know it’s hard, but until they experience it for themselves, there’s really no way to fully understand. I know I didn’t.
What has been your biggest daddy joy? Our son was born eight weeks premature and spent the first month of life in the NIC Unit, so in a very literal sense, he had never seen the world. Never breathed fresh air. Never heard a bird chirp or smelled a pile of autumn leaves. And for us, the back and forth every day (twice a day for my wife) was almost unbearable. Then one day we walked in and they had the car seat all ready for him. It was the moment I walked out of the hospital to go pull the car around that it really hit me. It was the biggest weight off my shoulders. I felt alive, I felt hope, and for the first time, I felt like a parent.
Josh at a glance :
Funniest baby moment? First real poop he had–a melty peanut buttery mess that covered the majority of his lower half as well as some of his torso. It was everywhere, my equipment was beyond substandard and I didn’t know what to do. So I carried him to the kitchen sink and hosed him down.
Favorite daddy son activity? Bath time is right up there. Right from the start he enjoyed bathing, which subsequently helped me to enjoy it as well. Nothing says male bonding like a receptacle of warm water and shameless nudity. We also enjoy doing the Sunday crossword together, though his contributions are meager at best.
What you learned from changing diapers? Always secure the feet.
Describe the perfect day: Warm fall day, red leaves on a killer disc golf course all to myself, a couple of my favorite beers, no phone, no baby, no responsibilities. Not really a whole day, but not a bad start.
And since Josh now has “baby on his brain” 24/7, a little fun mind game with Josh. We asked Josh what is the first word that comes to mind when we say:
Baby: Fish mouth
Sleep: Abandon hope
Lady GaGa: Guilty pleasure
Thanks Josh. We had a great time with the interview & look forward to more of your blog posts!