Wendy Smolen is a copywriter, editor, and idea generator who has been an astute player in the children’s toy and media industry for over 20 years. Her passions are play and technology, and how the two affect ways kids learn and connect today. In 2007 she cofounded Sandbox Summit, a series of conferences that explored the synergy between play, learning, and technology. From 2010 to 2016, Sandbox Summit@MIT was a highly-anticipated annual event, attended by thought leaders across all media platforms. Speakers included luminaries from such major companies and institutions as Google, IDEO, Amazon, LEGO, Discovery Education, Hasbro, Mattel, National Geographic, MIT, Harvard, USC, Carnegie Mellon, and more, as well as start-ups and dreamers.
Wendy has held senior positions at PlayScience, LLC., and several parenting magazines. At Toy Wishes she was the Editorial Director, responsible for selecting the much-quoted “Hot Dozen” toys for the holidays and publishing a weekly blog on Amazon.com. Prior to that, she was the Deputy Editor of Nick Jr. Family Magazine, where she oversaw all play and lifestyle features, including the annual “50 Best Toys of the Year.” As the Lifestyles Editor of Parents magazine, she turned the holiday toy section into one of the most popular features of the year, year after year. She was also instrumental in creating a joint venture with Parents and Consumer Reports to rate children’s products. At all three publications, she established collaborative relationships with the magazines’ online counterparts.
Wendy has worked on dozens of projects and concepts for established toy and media companies including LEGO, HAPE, Crayola, Out of the Blue, A&E, and Microsoft, as well as startups. She currently consults on product and virtual world concepts focused on play and technology. Since 2015, she has been a member of HATCH, an international group of creative influencers whose ideas inspire positive change. From 2010 to 2016, she was a judge for best toys of the year for the Toy Association TOTY Awards. She now judges the Seriously Stem Awards, is a member of the Women in Toys Empowerment Committee, and regularly contributes to The Toy Book and other publications. She has appeared on numerous television and radio shows, and has been interviewed by national publications discussing both parenting and play. She is the author of an award-winning book, Playing Together, 101 Terrific Games and Activities that Children Ages 3 to 9 Can Do Together (1995, Simon & Schuster, Inc.), and edited, No Whine With Dinner (2011, M3 Press). Prior to looking at the ways and means of kids’ play, she played with more grown-up toys as the creative director of two international cosmetic companies.
Wendy earned a B.S. at Cornell University. She has three grown children whom she credits with keeping her up to speed in social media, since they now text more often than they call.