Genius of Play Ambassador Spotlight: Drew Vernon, Marketing Director at tonies®

Drew VernonJune 1, 2021 | Drew Vernon is the U.S. marketing lead at tonies®, a popular European children’s audio system that has recently launched in the United States. Toy News Tuesday editors recently chatted with Vernon about his new role as a Play Ambassador for The Genius of Play – and why he believes a child who is a strong player is a strong learner, a problem-solver, and an overall happy person.

TNT: How did you get your start in the toy industry and what you are doing now?

DV: After working in beauty consumer goods for five years, I really wanted to work on something that was more naturally curious and exciting for me. I took an opportunity to work for LEGO, where I managed the U.S. preschool business. I’m currently the U.S. marketing lead for tonies®, a popular European children's audio system that has just recently launched in the U.S.

TNT: Why was it important to you to become a Genius of Play Ambassador and what does play mean to you?

DV: As a former child and father of three children, play has always been a central part of my life. It is only since coming into the toy industry that I have learned the important role that a good toy plays in a child's life and development. To me, play is at the core of observing and understanding the world. A strong player is a strong learner, a problem-solver, and a happy person.

TNT: Play benefits our emotional and physical wellbeing at any age, so what steps have you taken to make play a part of your daily routine both in and outside of work?

DV: I have cherished the time that working from home and school shutdowns have provided me and my five-year-old daughter to play together. We have tea parties, dance parties, and storytelling jam sessions. We even started a podcast called “Childhood” to capture it.

TNT: How do you think we as a society can better incorporate play into our lives?

DV: So many ways. I think about this a lot. One specific area I'm ardent about is bridging the gap between blue-sky, open-ended play and detailed, results-driven play. Children excel when they are taught the process of exploration and are shown the path to mastery. Too often we “teach to the test” in how we approach education. We should focus on cultivating the “guided masterpiece.”

TNT: What is your favorite toy and/or play memory?

DV: My first toy is a stuffed Wuzzle named Duh. I got him when I was in diapers and used to watch his short-lived Saturday morning cartoon with him. Duh is still with me in my office to remind me that when your name is Duh, you never take anything too seriously.

This interview is part of an ongoing series that spotlights the members of The Genius of Play Ambassadors program, who serve as play thought leaders within their own professional networks as well as key supporters and spokespersons for ongoing Genius of Play initiatives.