For the third year in a row, The International Toy Fair in New York did not happen. I usually try to seek out new companies to cover each year in PopCult, but with no Toy Fair, I’ve had to go digging on my own. Luckily, I’ve turned up a bit of a gem in the overlooked catagory (by collectors, anyway) of STEAM toys.
Back before we had that term, this was the cool stuff like chemistry sets, microscopes and other toys that were loads of fun and had high educational value. STEAM toys are curriculum-based products to help prepare children for the study of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. They can also be a lot of fun, while inspring kids to consider working in those fields later in life.
Brown Toy Box was iInitially developed as a classroom resource for children in lower socio-economic communities. The company launched commercially in 2021 at Target and independent specialty toy stores nationwide.
This endeavor is the brainchild of Terri-Nichelle Bradley (left), who is active in the Atlanta education and business community as an equity advocate in the Learn4Life Network, a member of the Junior League of Atlanta, and serves as the Atlanta chapter chair of Women in Toys.
Bradley is also a recipient of the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Leaders in Corporate Citizenship- Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Prior to starting Brown Toy Box, Bradley led a communications consultancy working with Fortune 500 companies in campaigns designed to connect with the African American community and served as the VP of Corporate, Crisis, and Public Affairs for the world’s largest global PR agency.
Brown Box Toys offers a wide range of educational playsets, games and puzzles that cover evertyhing from Coding, to Marine Biology to Robotics, Chemistry, Museum Arts and more. Designed to inspire Black and Brown children to pursue STEAM career pathways, the playsets are conceived to be fun and educational for all kids. You can find their products at Target, on their own website and in independent toy stores across the country.
While the key purpose of Brown Box Toys is to foster an interest in STEAM in young children of color, the sets are very well-made and would be great for non-minority kids who might benefit from an extra lesson in inclusivity.
After participating in the ESEA conference this month, Brown Toy Box announced a new partnership with education nonprofit DonorsChoose. Brown Toy Box also announced that the company plans to expand its in-school educational offering with the goal of reaching 100,000 students in 2022.
Starting with Title 1 schools serving communities in high-poverty neighborhoods, Brown Toy Box collaborated to provide its multifaceted toy collection to educators and students, offering early exposure to STEAM focused engaging toys and educational content showcasing Black and Brown characters. Early exposure is the key to workforce development across diverse communities and representation in toys has shown to inspire children that they can reach their dreams. Ms. Bradley’s mission is to create a world where Black children are positively represented, equipped and educated to achieve greatness.
By creating innovative STEAM focused toys, as well as her ‘Dadisi Academy Crew’ which is composed of positive, smart, characters, each with an interest in a STEAM subject, Brown Toy Box seeks to normalize Black excellence and cultivate curiosity.
“What we confirmed last week at the ESEA Network conference in New Orleans is that there is an incredible hunger from schools and educators for culturally affirming products and content for their scholars. We are creating change and it feels amazing,” said Brown Toy Box creator, Terri-Nichelle Bradley. “We are on a mission to disrupt generational poverty with Brown Toy Box STEAM Kits and inspire a new generation of underserved kids to unlock their potential. Google and other corporate brands like Cox Media are helping make this happen.”
Encouraging inspiration through purposeful play, the line includes interactive STEAM kits, puzzles, journals, memory games, window clings, activity books, story dice, and more. And unlike typical STEAM kits which focus on one specific activity or project, Brown Toy Box kits are each based on a particular theme such as astronomy, marine biology, chemistry, art, coding, and robotics. Each kit also includes a DIY activity cut-out playable character figure and story board background, activity book, games, puzzles, and coloring pages for hours of engagement.