“Passing on the Faith through proven play-based learning” is the tag-line for Shining Light Dolls, a company run by Chicago-based mom Chantal Baros. 

Products include, among other things, saint puzzles, coloring books, magnets, and, of course, saint dolls. The classic dolls come with a little card that tells their story. “My newest favorite is St. Brigid of Ireland," says Baros. "She’s the most beautiful shade of spring green. As I was creating that doll and podcast, the more I read about her the more I loved her because she’s got so many great stories. She was born in sad poverty and went on to become an amazing female figure in Catholic Irish history.”

Baros started her company prior to becoming a mom, but today her own children inspire the direction that her company takes. 

“The company has really grown as my family has grown," she says. "My kids are my biggest inspiration. As I look for products for them, it inspires me to create new products for other people’s children.”

Baros cites St. John Bosco as one of the guiding principles determining her work. “We use imagery that speaks to children. St John Bosco says that you have to meet children where they’re at.” Baros does this by intentionally creating toys and games that are meant to fit naturally into a child’s world and make the faith accessible. 

In addition to her products, Baros also hosts a podcast called Saint Stories for Kids. The five to ten minute episodes each feature a saint with an upcoming feast day. Though the saints are selected based on the liturgical year, many of them are not well-known. 

“Choosing based on the liturgical year makes it a lot harder, because a lot are stories I haven’t heard,” says Baros. “Luckily for me, my mom is actually really an expert on the saints and she’s my encyclopedia. A lot of these stories came from her and from listening to her as a child myself.”

Even the episodes on the more famous saints involve little-known stories about that saint. A recent St. Patrick episode, for example, relates the story of how St. Patrick and his companions, while walking along a road where the king’s servants were waiting to ambush them, were miraculously made to appear to be deer, and thus passed by safely. 

Whether families engage with Shining Light Dolls through toys or through the podcast, Baros hopes that they come away inspired by the stories they have heard. 

“I think that my biggest hope is that people who hear the saint stories or look at the lives of the saints appreciate that each saint is unique and different. God appreciates that about all of us. There isn’t a cookie cutter for being a saint.”

Find Baros’ dolls and other saint toys at www.shininglightdolls.com, and listen to the podcast Saint Stories for Kids hosted by Shining Light Dolls here!

Photos courtesy of Chantal Baros.