When I first spoke with Sonal Gerten, I remember talking a lot about the “play defecit” in children’s lives. Almost immediately after birth, we place our babies in carseats, strollers, bouncy seats, vibrating rockers, and neglect their freedom to move about, often because of convenience or because it’s the “norm”.
When they’re toddlers, we sign them up for countless structured activities and call it “play”. It’s not that they don’t need educational activities and a some structure, but in reality, children need more time to be curious, creative and free. They’re only little for so long. She encouraged,
Don’t forget to play. Always remember the best times you had as a child (I bet the majority of these memories are the simple, unplanned moments). Play is so critical to childhood development – it’s not frivolous. And put away the flashcards – babies don’t need them.”
Sonal and I met for the first time about two months ago, when I was invited to my first MN Blogger Bash to represent Forever Golden Living. At the event, Minnesota “Makers” (crafters, chefs, entreprenuers, etc.) were set up and ready to share the story and purpose behind their locally made products. It was a great place for everyone to network.
Being a mom, I was immediately attracted to a booth called Tumblewalla (loosely translated from Hindi as “one who tumbles”). I could see the baby onesies hanging at this very booth from across the Union Depot, and immediately made my way over to meet with the company’s founder. I soon learned Tumblewalla wasn’t just beautiful, sustainably-made baby onesies. It was an entire movement.
I found myself curious about Sonal Gerten’s purpose, and intrigued by the idea of children (and adults) playing and discovering more and being a bit less structured. Sonal shared a bit about herself with me, and I found more info on her website that night…She writes:
It’s been a personal journey to be more present and playful in my own life. I’m a busyness addict – my default setting is to do more, achieve more, stress more and worry more (when I’m not busy of course).
It wasn’t until the birth of my kids that I truly realized I needed to change my ways for the benefit of my family. Stress, constant worry, and a roadrunner lifestyle were NOT values I wanted to pass on to my sons.
As a new mom, I also saw a void in the market – a need for more spirited, pure and comfortable fabrics for babies and toddlers that represented the vibrancy and yoga traditions of my Indian heritage – and this “a-ha” is how Tumblewalla came to be…because a Tumblewalla (loosely translated from Hindi as “one who tumbles”) really knows how to PLAY.”
I asked if I could feature her on Forever Golden Living as part of my “Month of Inspiring Women”, and I was so happy when she agreed.
I first asked Sonal what inspired her to start Tumblewalla. She explained,
I’ve always loved working with kids and believed in the importance of education – ever since I led hikes for elementary kids for my local Audubon Society in High School. I’ve also had creative inclinations as well, which is why marketing has been a common theme throughout my career. I had a spark of an idea after my first son Deven was born that allowed my two passions (education and marketing) to come together, and that’s how Tumblewalla was born. I wanted to create something that helped me in my personal life too – my parenting style was too rigid and I wanted to have more fun as a mom. Tumblewalla is a nice everyday nudge for me to be more playful.”
When Sonal and I got together for a coffee play date recently, I was full of questions. I felt confused and unsure of what activities were the “right” ones for Everett. She gave me a bunch of ideas from toys that force children to do the work and to “figure it out”, to letting Everett be barefoot more at home.
“Our team creates each piece of clothing as a visual reminder to be spirited, to move and to let the miraculous experience of parenthood unfold without expectations and demands. Our pieces are designed by a team of aspiring yogis (who are still working to master the elusive handstand) and made with love in a sustainable workplace in India.
Babies instinctively know their true nature, and as such they are our little yogis. By becoming more childlike in our playfulness and presence, we can connect with our babies even more and nurture a sense of wonder, play, and presence in ourselves and others.”
From my conversations with Sonal, and even as I’m writing this blogpost, I see a common theme in my own life. I am constantly busy, often times creating unnecessary anxiety and worry, when I should be more content. Sometimes that means saying no more, and being more present where I truly want to be.
I have to remind myself everyday to unplug, take deep breaths when I’m stressed and just be playful and enjoy the moment as I’ll never have it back!” she told me.
Sonal’s passion for children doesn’t stop with her own. As a public speaker, she educates people constantly, and donates a percentage of all of her profits from Tumblewalla to organizations for children. She says,
I, like, everyone else, want to better my community (and family). The play deficit is something that I’m passionate about on many different levels – how it impacts kids in Third World Countries, to how it impacts kids in our own communities (1 in 5 kids don’t live within walking distance to a playground in the US) to how it impacts my own family.”
I personally love learning and being inspired by mompreneurs like Sonal. And I love Tumblewalla, from the baby yogi clothing to Sonal’s educational blog curations.
She has inspired me to spend more time in each moment, as these years are invaluable.
I ended our interview by asking Sonal who inspires her. She said,
My kids – they are so authentic (no filter – they speak their mind), always present, curious, loving, generous and kind and they love to play. I don’t know how they manage to squeeze so many laughs in one day.”