The Story Behind Smiling Tree



We're Justin and Kathleen, the creators and owners of 
Smiling Tree. You can find us in southwestern Minnesota, where we work hard and play harder to bring all natural, heirloom toys to your home.  We're proud parents to two little ones, and we love family time, playing games, cooking wholesome meals, and being outdoors.

{how it all  began}

In late 2009, we returned to the U.S. after living in West Africa for two years serving as Peace Corps Volunteers. It was exhilarating, challenging, and life-altering. Surrounded again by the modern luxuries of life in America, we looked at one another and said “Now what?”

Justin’s always been passionate about crafting wood, and Kathleen’s been in love with all things handmade for as long as she can remember. Add parenthood to the mix, and the epiphany came almost immediately: creating handmade wooden toys is what we were meant to do. And so it began.

{a day in the life}

Most mornings start at 6:00am. We get a few hours of shop time and computer work in before the little ones awake. Then it’s good morning kisses, a hearty family breakfast, and planning the rest of the day.

And so on...

The wood shop hums all day long with the happy sounds of toy making, reggae music, and laughing little ones.  Our home office is the scene of quick ins-and-outs as we reply to emails, prep orders for shipping, and jot down those eureka! moments when new design ideas pop into mind. In between all of that, we're playing hide-and-seek, reading books, and chasing after the little ones chasing after the kitties. 


{the bigger picture}

Smiling Tree Toys isn’t just a family business; it’s a defining part of our family. We keep the personal, the passionate, and the eco-handmade touch in every aspect of Smiling Tree. From sustainably harvested American hardwoods, to our homegrown organic camelina oil/beeswax finish, to natural cotton drawstring bags made-in-the-USA, we ensure every part of Smiling Tree Toys is respectful of and gentle on mother earth. We wouldn't have it any other way. 

We believe that when people are kind, honest, hard-working, respectful of mother earth, and doing something they love, then great things will happen. Life is great for us, indeed. Is it hard at times? Sure. But is it worth it? Absolutely.

We truly appreciate your interest in our family business.  Warm wishes from our family to yours!