Kelly Oriard and Callie Christensen, CAMP SLUMBERKINS

Kelly Oriard and Callie Christensen, CAMP SLUMBERKINS

Zibby is joined by Kelly Oriard and Callie Christensen, the two creators of Slumberkins, as well as one of her sons and all of his Slumberkins. Kelly and Callie talk with Zibby about how they apply their backgrounds in education and family therapy to create products that help teach important lessons in a fun and friendly way. They also share how they came up with the idea for Camp Slumberkins a year ago and when they knew self-publishing was the right path for them. Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books has teamed up with Camp Slumberkins! Use code CAMPZIBBY for 15% off until July 31st!!


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Slumberkins team. Welcome to “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” where we’re joined by my son and both of you. We get to discuss the magic of Slumberkins and the amazing books that come with all of the animals. Welcome.

Son: They have Slumberkins in the background.

Zibby: I see them. Yeah, look at those.

Callie Christensen: Thank you so much for having us on. We’re so excited. This is the first time that we’re doing a podcast with a child, too, to be included in it. This is so exciting. We’re very happy.

Zibby: He’s an expert. He’s done many podcasts, so he .

Son: Only one.

Zibby: No, you did a few in the city. You did a few.

Son: No, I didn’t. Which ones did I do?

Zibby: Tell us about the whole Slumberkins concept.

Son: What’s a concept?

Zibby: Idea. The idea for Slumberkins and the idea to pair stuffed animals with books, especially the parts where we say the things out loud together. We love those sections. I certainly .

Kelly Oriard: We came up with Slumberkins almost six years ago now when we were on a maternity leave with our sons. We were both working in the schools at the time. I was working as a school counselor. Callie was working as a teacher. When we were on break, we were talking about all of the things that we would do with kids in the schools like teaching different skills, teaching about feelings, and all of that. We thought, you know what, we think parents would want to get a head start on this instead of just kids learning about it when they get to school. I think there’s really, really fun ways to do that. We paired cuddly creatures that were cute and different with the stories together. We knew that when kids hear their parents saying really nice or positive things, things that we call affirmations, out loud, that if they would do that back and forth with them, that kids would start to believe those things for themselves too and know that those things are true. We wanted to combine those things together. That’s really how we came up with Slumberkins.

Zibby: Amazing. How did you go about writing all of those books? Did you divide them? Did you two write them all?

Son: Can I get some of my Slumberkins here?

Zibby: Sure, yeah, go get the Slumberkins.

Callie: I’m trying to think of the skills that we wanted to focus on first. Then it was really fun to develop what character would be the main character of the book. Our first couple were Bigfoot with wanting to infuse self-esteem skills into kids as well as Sloth for relaxation. As new moms with new babies on maternity leave, sleep was top of mind. Then I think the third one was actually Fox for family change because Kelly is a school counselor. That was one of her biggest groups that she was doing interventions with in school. We saw those needs. Kelly is a natural-born poet as well as a therapist. As soon as we both creatively brainstormed the concept and storyline, Kelly would go off and write and infuse different techniques that she would use in family therapy sessions or in sessions with kids to really deliver those powerful messages. A lot of times as parents, we’re afraid to venture into these territories around feelings and emotions because we don’t want to mess up or say the wrong thing. Kelly, as a therapist, knows the words that need to be said by a parent. We always knew as educators, the students that had the most progress, the parents were involved in the process. Parents were actually delivering the therapeutic messages to their children.

Zibby: Amazing. Aw, we’re doing a collective show-off of these characters. Which ones are these?

Son: I think this one is Ibex and Otter.

Author: Mm-hmm, Ibex and Otter.

Zibby: What do Ibex and Otter represent? What are they supposed to teach us?

Kelly: Do you want me to answer? Do you remember?

Zibby: Either of you guys. Do you remember? I don’t remember.

Son: I know where the book is.

Kelly: Ibex is emotional courage, which means, basically, having big feelings and deep feelings is a superpower. That’s the superpower that Ibex has. Kids learn that that is a really great thing to have and how to manage big feelings and deep empathy. Otter is about family bonding or connections. It tells us that family is whoever we love. We have a heart family. We get to choose who we love. Whether they’re here or far away, we can always be connected to the people that we love.

Zibby: Love it. This is my daughter too. I have to say, there have been many fights over Slumberkins because I guess I’ve ordered an odd number at times. We’ve had a hard time divvying them up.

Kelly: You need Hammerhead. It’s conflict resolution.

Zibby: Do we have Hammerhead?

Son: We have the Confidence Crew one.

Kelly: Confidence Crew doesn’t come with a typical Hammerhead book. We’ll have to get you the Hammerhead book.

Zibby: Very cool. Are your kids in love with all the Slumberkins as well?

Callie: As a former teacher, I’m also the busy mom of three kids that needs all of the tools that we produce with the brand. I feel like all of my kids gravitate towards different ones. Yeah, I’m a user of our products pretty routinely. My daughter, who’s four, can say her affirmations by heart. I think that’s just the core mission for me as a mom, to implant those seeds of early emotional well-being that hopefully as she encounters things in her life that we as parents can’t control, she can always lean on that firm foundation of the positive core beliefs for herself.

Zibby: I know you’re so nice to offer listeners a discount code. Hold on, I know you sent it to me so I wouldn’t lose it. That means it’s got to be in here somewhere.

Son: You didn’t even go in the text.

Zibby: I am.

Son: It’s not a text. A lot of people now use mailbox and email.

Zibby: Here it is. CAMPZIBBY, fifteen percent off Camp Slumberkins for everyone. One use per customer. Active from today until July 31st with code CAMPZIBBY, all caps. Tell us more about camps. Thank you so much for that generous code. Tell us about Camp Zibby. I know you’ve seen our boxes here. We are huge fans of — tell listeners about your idea and how you came up with a whole camp. I wish I had it last summer. We were marooned in our homes.

Kelly: Last summer was the first summer that we launched Camp. It was kind of serendipitous because we sold through it so fast, way faster than we expected.

Zibby: Oh, maybe I didn’t know about it last summer.

Kelly: It went really fast because we had already had it in the works. It just happened to be that it was really great for all the people stuck at home and unable to go places. The idea around Camp was to go a little bit deeper into a concept that needed more explanation and more skills to go with it. This year, we focused on growth mindset, which is a huge topic as kids enter into school. It’s about keeping on, seeing failure as a way to learn and grow. There’s some complexity to that for young kids and honestly, for adults. We wanted to dive into it a little bit more deeply through our character Bigfoot. He’s kind of been our mascot for Camp.

Son: I have Bigfoot, but he’s in the city.

Kelly: He meets his friend Narwhal at camp, Narwhal is our mascot for growth mindset, and goes on an adventure to learn those skills that help you move towards being able to overcome any obstacle and how to achieve what you’re wanting to achieve.

Zibby: Do you have any questions? Maybe what characters are coming next?

Son: Oh, yeah. What characters are coming next? I want them.

Callie: We always have things in the works. What is happening? I’m like, what month is it? I think we will debut a new collection in September, but we haven’t released that information yet. It’ll be a really fun collection with lots of activities.

Son: Can I ask my sister if I can have all of the Slumberkins?

Kelly: I’m curious, have you guys done any of the digital resource content that came with Camp, like the meditations?

Zibby: Not yet. I do have it. I saved it. It keeps rising in my inbox as I get rid of everything else. It’s soon to be accomplished, in other words. We haven’t done it yet, but we’re ready for it. It’s right there. I saved it.

Kelly: That was really the hope for Camp. We parsed it out for different age groups this year. We have from babies to toddlers to big kids, different activities. Some of those will be in the digital resources if you’re going for a baby or an older kid. The ones that are in the card deck are really for preschool. We really wanted to make it easy and interactive for parents to do these quick activities that are based in attachment and connection to help build these skills. They’re not just an activity sheet or something like that. They’re interactive. It allows the parents to really connect on a deeper level with their kids. They’re hopefully also building towards these bigger concepts like growth mindset.

Zibby: The Camp Slumberkins comes with a great book, which I read out loud to them immediately when it arrived. Although, I think part of the strategy was to read only sections, but we read the whole thing. Sorry, read it all at once. They were like, “What? No, keep going.” Okay, fine. Okay, fine.

Callie: That’s so great. I love your podcast title, “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” I am that typical mom that has so many books that are just started because I’m looking for a snippet of information, and then onto the next. I think that’s also the beauty of what I appreciate, too, about Slumberkins and what Kelly’s been able to do in infusing such important information that kids need to hear from their primary caregiver and family in their life into super easy to just plug and play in your normal daily routine that it takes five minutes to read a story to your child. You deliver such impactful content.

Zibby: I know you can get the books from the Slumberkins website along with all the animals, but — shh, shh. You guys made me forget. What was I even saying? Do you have any idea?

Son: What are the other animals of the next series Slumberkins?

Zibby: They’re not telling us. They’re not revealing the secret.

Kelly: Can’t give the info out.

Callie: You know what we can share that’s really exciting? We are working on bringing the characters to life in a TV show with the characters.

Zibby: That is cool.

Son: When’s it coming out?

Callie: We don’t know yet. It will be sometime 2022.

Zibby: Really? That’s so exciting.

Callie: We’re working on it behind the scenes.

Son: Is there a Slumberkins app?

Callie: We don’t have an app yet. I say yet because hopefully that will come down the road.

Kelly: What would you want to see in a Slumberkins app? What would you want to do on a Slumberkins app?

Son: I don’t know.

Kelly: Would you want to play a game? Would you want to listen to something? Would you want to see the characters?

Son: All three.

Kelly: All three of those, okay. That’s a good thing for us to know because we need to have it in our thoughts as we think, what do kids want? What kind of app do kids want for Slumberkins? That’s good to let us know.

Zibby: You have a tester if you need more market research. Oh, what I was asking is, I know you can get the books on the Slumberkins website, but where else can you get the books? Anywhere else?

Callie: We have our products on Amazon. Then there are some specialty retailers that also carry Slumberkins. The easiest way to get them is, for sure.

Son: I’m going to go on

Zibby: Oh, no, now he’s going to the site. We already, by the way, have ordered — how many Slumberkins?

Son: All the Slumberkins.

Zibby: All the Slumberkins for his birthday, which isn’t until December. I’m storing them.


Zibby: Apparently you have a…

Author: There he is.

Zibby: Yeah, look at that. Discounts right now. Awesome. Two questions. What would you tell moms at home who need to just get through the summer, what they can do with all of your resources? Then what would you tell aspiring authors now that you are published authors as well as entrepreneurs?

Callie: For the moms that are trying to survive summer, I am that mom, I would just say, with Camp, the Camp experience, it’s a big experience. It can feel overwhelming to try to get all of it done, so just going at your own pace with it is really key, just even taking two of the activity cards and maybe trying to do two a night or two a week. You can really stretch it out over summer. I know that just by engaging with kids at that level, on their level, for me, this is where it’s helpful to have a best friend that’s a therapist that can tell me the benefits that even just tuning in and playing with kids in the way that the activities facilitate, it’s really based in thera-play, which does wonders with attachment and relationships and bonding with kids. In today’s overwhelming world, we’ve all been coping through COVID, I think both parents and kids are craving that meaningful connection which Camp really facilitates and fosters. Other than that, I don’t know if you have tips too.

Kelly: Everybody’s schedules were kind of mixed up and different this year anyway, probably, I’m assuming. As we get into summer and routines and things change, just be on the watch-out for changes in behavior or the upping of emotions and difficulty, potentially, with transition or change. I would say remember as a parent, your job is to not stop your kids from feeling big emotions, but to welcome them and show them that you can handle that and help your kids identify what feelings are coming up and give space to them. That’s really what Slumberkins is based in, is a lot of accepting of all emotions as a way to help kids regulate their nervous system so they’re able to approach any challenge or anything going on in their lives as a grounded individual and carry that on through their life. That’s really the starting point for doing that. I know whenever anything changes, it can get tense.

Zibby: Very true. Oh, yeah, those are the activities. They were just talking about these. We can print these, except we don’t have toner. I don’t know which one to order. Advice to aspiring authors?

Callie: When we first started Slumberkins, we were on maternity leave from school. When we had to go back to our jobs, we were wondering, we’ve had some success with Slumberkins, but we can’t really do both. I started pitching the storylines to editors and book agents and got polite no’s all over the place. We had had so much positive feedback from real customers that it put wind in our sails to just continue down the self-published path, which we ended up doing. It’s been a journey. We are so lucky that Kelly can author the books. Then finding the right illustrator was also a big step. Once you have those two solid things, it’s actually pretty easy to self-publish a book. It’s a little bit different than the traditional publishing route where then you’re kind of plugged into their PR and marketing circuit after your book is released. You can move a lot faster and you have way more control if you’re in the self-publishing space.

Son: Does it come with this and this and the things?

Zibby: We were wondering if this Comfort Corner comes with all — oh, you can’t really see. Does the Comfort Corner come with the animals in the corner, or it’s just decals for the wall?

Callie: Just decals. It’s a big thing that you have printed. It’s just a digital download right now that then you have printed and then you can hang on the wall like a big poster.

Kelly: Have you ever heard of a calming corner before or had it in your classroom or at your house?

Son: What’s this?

Zibby: It’s to make a little nook.

Son: Oh, who’s this guy?

Kelly: That’s just one of our helpers that came and did some pictures for us. We get a lot of kids that come and help us with pictures. We give them Slumberkins for helping us out too.

Zibby: Ooh. Where are you guys based?

Kelly: We’re in Vancouver, Washington, right by Portland, Oregon.

Zibby: We won’t be able to model for you, unfortunately. We’re far away. Excellent. I just have to thank you both of you so much because my kids have gotten so much enjoyment out of the Slumberkins. I personally have slept with the Slumber Sloth many nights, and many others as they bring them into my bed in the night.

Son: Can we have this, Mom?

Zibby: What is that? The digital activity, the coloring book?

Son: Yeah, the coloring book.

Zibby: Yeah. Is it a freestanding physical ?

Author: Mm-hmm.

Zibby: All right, we’ll be getting that next.

Son: Can you buy this?

Zibby: Yes, I can buy it.

Callie: Thank you. It’s always so meaningful to hear how much kids and families are loving Slumberkins and just loving the characters. It’s really exciting to think about bringing them to life in the media landscape for families to enjoy through that avenue as well.

Zibby: Awesome. If you ever want to partner in any way or you’re going to some cool thing or we can do something together, let me know. We have the same target audience here. Keep me on your radar. Here, what’s the question?

Son: What are the voices of the people on the TV show?

Kelly: This is such a cool part of what we’re doing right now. That’s also a behind-the-scenes thing. We can’t tell who they are right now, but I will tell you we’re still moving forward. We’ve written all of the stories that are going to be the TV shows. Then we go on a Zoom just like this. It’ll be kids that are the voices of the characters. They come and they record just like you’re doing in a microphone on Zoom. We record the whole thing and get to watch them do it. They even sing songs. It is just really cool.

Zibby: That’s so cool.

Son: Now can I get my snack?

Zibby: Yes, now you can get your snack. Now we’re going to go. Thank you so much for your time. Again, the discount code is CAMPZIBBY, all caps. Fifteen percent off for Camp Slumberkins. One use per customer. Active from today until July 31st.

Author: Awesome. Thank you so much for having us, Zibby. It was really nice to meet you.

Zibby: You too. Thanks a lot. Bye.

Author: Bye.

Kelly Oriard and Callie Christensen, CAMP SLUMBERKINS

CAMP SLUMBERKINS by Kelly Oriard and Callie Christensen

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