Genius of Play Ambassador Spotlight: Darci Shaw, Senior Marketing Manager at Learning Resources

darci-shawAugust 24, 2021 | Toy News Tuesday editors caught up with Darci Shaw, senior marketing manager at Learning Resources, about her role as a Play Ambassador for The Toy Association’s Genius of Play initiative and how the pandemic allowed her family to reconnect over game nights.

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

DS: I’m relatively new to the toy industry, having just joined Learning Resources two years ago. Coming from marketing/communications roles in the insurance industry for more than a decade, I was, of course, super excited to transfer those skills over to such a playful industry. Who wouldn’t want to work for a toy company? Having kids of my own, I fell in love with the company’s mission to instill a love of learning in children by championing the tools they need to succeed. I’ve enjoyed growing both as a person and as a professional with Learning Resources and now act as senior marketing manager.

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

DS: When The Genius of Play was launched, I knew we needed to get Learning Resources involved, so when they announced they were looking for ambassadors it was an opportunity for me personally to support a cause I can truly stand behind. The Genius of Play’s commitment to helping families learn through play is such a great extension of Learning Resources’ mission that made me want to join the toy industry.

As a mom, I have witnessed my own kids and their peers being consumed with technology and spending less time doing the types of traditional play that I grew up with. Play is definitely very nostalgic for me; I have memories of a wonderful childhood spent playing and connecting with my family, whether it was with a board game or playing outside. Now I get a chance to share those same ideas I found fun as a kid and help other families bond through play. How great is that?

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?

DS: You can regularly find me begging my children to play a game or do arts & crafts with me! I absolutely love playing both board and video games. I guess you could say I have a healthy thirst for competition. As a family, we definitely used quarantine as an opportunity to do more gaming together, and, after baseball season is over, we’ll have more time to make those memories (there’s only so much time in the day).

At Learning Resources, our team makes it a priority to have monthly gatherings where we will always play a fun, team-building game or activity. Just like kids, these moments of play at work have been invaluable in getting to know one another and learning things about each other that we probably wouldn’t have found out otherwise. It just goes to show that the lessons you learn through play are lessons you carry for life.

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

DS: As an adult, I was emotionally transported to my childhood when I was able to play with Learning Resources’ Botley 2.0 at Toy Fair 2020. Watching other adults genuinely smile as they struggled to maneuver Botley through our obstacle course while kids would pick it up seemingly instantaneously was one of the great joys of my professional career.

On a personal level, I’m a closet gamer so I have to say my Nintendo Game Boy was probably one of the top toys of my childhood. My kids still have a hard time believing I could have so much fun on a screen that literally had one color on it. At the time, it was such a new way to express imaginative play and tell stories – all in the palm of your hand. Ah the golden days, when there was no such thing as “screen time limits,” though the four AA batteries sure did seem to go fast!

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

DS: One of the most common excuses you’ll hear from adults is “I just don’t have time,” which will always be true unless you prioritize and make the time. As a society, it’s important to not view play as just something kids do because they don’t have a job. Play can be, and should be, just as beneficial for adults to unwind, to refresh, and to reset so they can be productive again.

Everyone is so busy these days, and I believe one of the silver linings of quarantine was that it forced a lot of us to slow down and return to some of life’s simple pleasures, like family game night. Even in the workplace, taking just 30 minutes to play a quick virtual game with my work team proved to be really energizing this past year. These are the types of things that should be encouraged on a daily basis.

This interview is part of an ongoing series that spotlights the members of The Genius of Play.