Today, we’re thrilled to welcome Sacred Heart Toys as a sponsor on the site for the next month. When owner Laurel MacKinnon reached out to me personally a few weeks ago, I knew that we needed to share her story and support her awesome products! I’m going to share a press release below that will introduce you to Laurel and her husband Michael. But I also want to invite you today to consider purchasing one very special toy, Sacred Heart’s Plush Pope Francis. Priced at less than $20, this would be the perfect gift for the Easter season, for those Spring sacraments, or even for yourself! I’ve already placed my order because not only do I “want” this gift for a special person in my life, I also want to support a Catholic family who is starting a great apostolate.
Click here to see all of the adorable and affordable devotional products at Sacred Heart Toys. Let’s help Michael and Laurel serve our precious children with fun and inspirational toys!
Catholic Toymaker puts Faith in the hands – and mouths – of babies
Pope Francis plush toy just added to growing line of products
BOISE, IDAHO, Mar. 30, 2015 – The Catholic Church has always taught the religious formation of children is essential to developing patterns of virtue and excellence of character. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mt. 19: 14) This passage assigns parents with the responsibility to introduce and teach their children the beliefs and traditions of the Catholic faith.
And according to Michael and Laurel MacKinnon, owners of Catholic toymaker, Sacred Heart Toys, it’s never too soon to begin this formation. “It’s natural for parents to desire to teach their children important virtues like kindness, love, mercy and obedience,” explained Laurel. “And early childhood is the best opportunity for parents whose goal is to share the beauty of their faith.”
Celebration of long-standing Catholic traditions and devotions present a very persuasive way to feel a real Catholic identity. And when a parent exposes a young child to traditional prayers and special religious symbols, it helps them form a valuable connection between an adult’s emotional expression and their own. “As time passes, what might only have been a subconscious feeling as a baby or young toddler will eventually grow into fuller understanding of faith as a grown-up,” said Laurel. “As Maria Montessori taught: ‘the child is the father of the man’.”
An idea is born
At the birth of their first baby, the MacKinnons’ extended family had bestowed on their newborn daughter several religious-themed gifts, including a lovely “child-friendly” rosary made of large wooden beads. But, unfortunately, that rosary was designed for children age 3 and up. “As many new parents discover, babies learn about objects by handling them and then promptly putting them into their mouths,” said Laurel.
So, what was first a thoughtful intention soon became a potential safety hazard. This unfortunate circumstance prompted a question from the MacKinnons: how do parents introduce their very littlest ones to the beauty of Catholic traditions? Laurel began a search for more age-appropriate items for her baby, and when nothing turned up, she and Michael took a leap of faith and began designing their first Catholic baby toy.
Devotional toys that inspire a life of faith, prayer and devotion to Our Lady and Her Son
“When children can actually touch and hold Our Lady or a sweet Guardian Angel, that image will become familiar, loved, and eventually smothered with hugs and kisses,” explained Laurel. “What better toy to become the cuddly favorite?”
Laurel and Michael have received much positive feedback for Sacred Heart Toys, and have come to realize that each toy helps parents to provide real sacramental experiences for the youngest members of the family. The company has become a way for them to fulfill a kind of mission, and the toys can help families realize several great benefits — the main one being an opening of windows for children to learn the Catholic faith at an early age.
“Providing a way for parents to naturally talk about aspects of our Catholic faith with their children helps make it a part of daily life,” explained Michael. In fact, many parents have reported that items from Sacred Heart Toys have actually become a way to evangelize those who come in contact with the toys, as they are a great conversation starter about the faith.
The shape of things to come
Sales of the MacKinnons’ toys continue to grow, as more and more parents and families discover they make perfect gifts for baby showers, infant baptisms, first birthdays — or the “just because I love you” gift — which has prompted the MacKinnons to add more products to their plush toys line.
“We started with our My First Rosary toy, which includes brightly colored plush ‘beads’ and a flexible, chewable cross,” explained Laurel. “We produced 1,500 units originally, which quickly sold out once awareness grew among our Catholic retail partners, and the general public.” This favorable demand compelled Sacred Heart Toys to steadily increase production, month after month, with total sales now reaching 12,000 units over the past 15 months. The popularity in their toys has encouraged the MacKinnons to bring new sacramental products to market, including colorful plush versions of some the most important images in our holy tradition: My First Cross with inspirational words stitched on; Mother Mary Pray for Us Rattle and My Guardian Angel Rattle – their brand-new take on the newborn classic; and their newest item: Our Holy Father Plush Doll. The plush pontiff is currently available for pre-order with delivery later this summer – just in time to mark the Holy Father’s visit to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. In fact, Sacred Heart Toys is a sponsor of that event.
“Today’s culture influences and exposes children to many notions contrary to the Gospel — and at a much earlier age,” said Laurel. “Our toys are available to help babies and toddlers receive a good, primary formation in our faith traditions and devotions, and to give parents something really powerful to build upon from the very beginning.”