Anyone whose sweet baby has grown into a demanding toddler knows that eating out is not as fun as it used to be. Whether it's reaching down to pick up the same toy seven times or dealing with multiple spills in minutes while fussy diners glare, some parents put a moratorium altogether on restaurants. Well one mom wants to help. In fact, Beth Fynbo's invention to keep toddlers busy at restaurants is so clever, it could change your life — seriously.
Fynbo, a military veteran, according to ABC 6 News, discovered the classic parent dilemma when she had a child of her own, a son named Christian who's now 17 months old. She figured there had to be a product to help moms like her keep their offspring amused enough when dining at restaurants so the adults could have at least a couple minutes of relaxation or conversation, but was shocked to find absolutely nothing available online.
"Toddlers throw things, they spill, they [fuss], so I just couldn't believe no one had thought of anything that would allow a parent to still go out to dinner," she tells Romper. "And also [a real-life toy with features to manipulate] is such a better substitute to just shoving a mobile device in front of them."
So she set out to come up with the fix herself... and the result is her own invention: the Busy Baby Mat, a silicone plastic mat that suctions down to a table surface (or even the side of a bathtub) and has fun, colorful toys attached by a tether to the mat. It's even wipeable, so you can throw in some dry-erase markers for beginning doodling. When you're done with it, it folds up perfectly to fit in a diaper bag. Genius.
"It's good for kids that are, like 6 months to 18 months old," Fynbo told ABC 6 News. "Now when kids drop or throw things [because of the tether attachment], they just stay within arm's reach."
The idea is so simple, yet effective, Fynbo's friends and local parents are already using her sample versions, which she started making from items around her house, according to an interview with the Pioneer Press, before having friends with babies test them out.
"When we take Sunny out, when we took him out as a baby prior to this product, we would just be taking products off the floor," mom Priv Shenoy, who has used the play mat, told ABC 6 News. "We would be brushing them off; they would be dirty and we didn't want to give them back after that." (Been there, sister.)
The clever product has a patent pending, as the inventor explains to Romper. When Fynbo took her prototype to New York's Toy Fair, as she tells it, other industry veterans referred her to a professional product developer to do a test manufacturing run. But that means financing the fabrication of 5,000 each of her big- and small-size mats.
"I guess I need to come up with about, oh, I don't know, $150,000?" laughed Fynbo, who this weekend is launching a Kickstarter campaign to get the funding to get the product out to the masses. The mats will be available at a discount price to those who participate in the fundraising, Fynbo tells Romper, with the small mat going for $20 and the large for $25 — $5 off the future retail price.
Although the mom has never had her own business, she does have a master's degree in Business and works in management for a health care company — something that's surely coming in handy with her launch. "I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and I'm so excited," she tells Romper, adding that in the current chaos, she and her fiancé have pushed wedding planning to the side.
Fynbo attributes her tenacity to the skills she learned in a decade and several deployments in the U.S. Army, including being embedded as an Army journalist in Iraq. "You face a lot of challenges while you're in the field, like trying to film during a dust storm in Iraq. But you just have to figure it out. You can't just be like, 'Poor me!' The motto is, Adapt and overcome," she tells Romper.
"I think moms have the best ideas," Fynbo, who has other ideas including a shopping cart amusement system, added to ABC 6 News. "Because we problem-solve all the time with little ones."
Amen to that. And while I really can't wait to see how this invention fares, it's hard to imagine about a gazillion moms who've given up ever getting to go to Chili's again won't want it. I'll meet you there for that Awesome Blossom appetizer!