Photo courtesy of The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.

After a rough year of virtual learning, kids are ready for a hands-on lesson in kindness.

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, in partnership with Open the Joy, is selling Love and Forgiveness Boxes.

The curated kits teach kids ages 4 to 12 about compassion and selflessness through activities such as puzzles, origami, crafts and letter writing. The content is based on the museum’s interactive exhibit, XOXO: Love and Forgiveness, which debuted on February 14, 2014, and continues to inspire families across the country as a traveling attraction.

The Love and Forgiveness Boxes are available online at and for $34.99. Target stores nationwide will start selling the boxes on June 21. The museum’s gift shop, dubbed the Little Orange Store, will also stock the boxes when the North Side facility reopens on June 12 with new exhibitions such as Emotions at Play with Pixar’s “Inside Out.” Timed tickets are available from June 12 through August 31.

Photo courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.
Photo courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

For months, museum officials have been working with Shalini Samtani, founder and CEO of Open the Joy.

“We have taken lessons learned from some of the hardest moments in life and transformed them to create products and experiences that help kids develop, heal and grow,” Samtani says. “By expanding our line into Target we are able to reach a larger audience, and by working with Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh we can take their expertise in social and emotional learning and share it with even more kids and families.”

Samtani started Open the Joy in 2019 after her daughter was diagnosed with a rare disease that required extended hospital stays. Luckily, she is doing better now.

While there were plenty of toys available to help her child pass the time, none of them addressed the youngster’s emotional well-being. Samtani’s company launched an entire collection of playthings created by therapists that focus on kindness, bonding, laughter and fostering social and emotional learning while developing motor skills, reducing stress and providing bonding opportunities for families.

They’re available in different themes, including the Kindness Mission Box, Anger Management Box and My Gratitude Box.

Photo courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.
Photo courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

Since then, Open the Joy has been racking up accolades such as the 2019 Best New Products for Kids Award at NY NOW, the New Kids on the Block Award at the Toy Fair and the Best New Manufacturers Award at ToyFest West. In 2020, Samtani was selected for the Tory Burch Foundation’s national Fellows Program.

Joining forces with the museum was a no-brainer. It’s the first time the facility has partnered with an organization to create a retail product based on one of its traveling exhibits that is available at a national retailer like Target. Since its inception, the XOXO exhibit has traveled to 16 venues and is still on tour. In 2017, the museum built a version of XOXO for the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and, in 2019, developed a pop-up component that can travel to schools and organizations in order to facilitate the exhibit’s ideas, concepts and programs.

Open the Joy is also partnering with the Spread the Joy Foundation to distribute activity kits to children in hospitals across the country.

“It is very exciting to have a nationwide toy launch based on one of our exhibits,” says Anne Fullenkamp, senior director of design at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. “We love seeing kids playing and learning when they are at the museum interacting with our art and exhibits. Launching this product with Target and Open the Joy lets us share that experience with even more families.”

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.