The Story Behind Smiling Tree

April 10, 2013



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!

Also in what's new

The Heart of Smiling Tree
The Heart of Smiling Tree

November 15, 2017

This is where we bring your keepsake toys to life! Our wood shop. It's the heartbeat of Smiling Tree. The place where Justin spends endless hours planning and making and dreaming.

The Smiling Tree Toys Wood Shop - Restored Dairy Barn

Continue Reading

NEW ITEM | Decorative Wall Buntings
NEW ITEM | Decorative Wall Buntings

September 28, 2017

New from Smiling Tree: decorative wall BUNTINGS! Much thought was given to this collection to include options for every season, occasion, and room in your home. Beautifully designed engraved accents accompany inspiring phrases to add a special touch to your home or holiday decor. 

Continue Reading

Etsy Featured Shop: Smiling Tree Toys
Etsy Featured Shop: Smiling Tree Toys

December 30, 2016

Several weeks ago, we received notice that Smiling Tree Toys had been chosen as an Etsy featured shop! We've shared a short video and 

Continue Reading