For one Astoria 8-year-old, monsters aren’t scary. Instead, they have helped her to accomplish more than most kids her age.
Lyla Black is the founder of Lyla Tov Monsters – plushy, handmade toys that are the “guardians of a good night’s sleep” – and on Nov. 21 she was awarded the Young Inventor of the Year at the 7th Annual Toy & Game Inventor Awards in Chicago, Illinois.
“We were hopeful but had no idea the outcome,” said Erin Black, Lyla’s mother. “We were surprised when they called her name.”
The Lyla Tov Monsters (a play on Hebrew words that mean “good night”) are inspired by Lyla’s original doll, which she made at age 3 as a gift for her father, Eric. The toys are made by Lyla and her parents and siblings.
The husband and wife team has been making the toys out of their Astoria home since 2009, bringing together 30 years of experience in children’s media. Erin is an Emmy Award-winning costume designer for her work on “Sesame Street” and Eric has worked for the Jim Henson Company and Scholastic Media.
“It was a very fun and kind of an overwhelming experience for us,” said Erin. “[The award] was really rewarding because it’s been a lot of work, but it’s also been a lot of fun and it’s been a great family adventure. We’ve both enjoyed giving vision to our daughter’s idea.”
The family grew the business through word of mouth, first starting to sell at local craft fairs and then opening their online store at www.lylatov.com.
Since starting, the business has sold thousands of dolls, and the monsters are now carried in such local shops as Tiny You in Sunnyside and Long Island City and Raising Astoria in Astoria. The toys are also at The Jewish Museum gift shop in Manhattan.
For the Annual Toy & Game Inventor Awards, Lyla was accompanied by her mother and grandmother. When her name was called as the winner of the Young Inventor of the Year the usual “shy” 8-year-old marched up on stage and looked to the audience of more than 300 adults and delivered her acceptance speech, said Erin.
According to Lyla’s parents, the award gave the affirmation that others regard Lyla’s creative vision as highly as they do.
“I was surprised,” said Lyla about hearing her name be called for the award. “I was a little scared. I was excited too.”