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Minnesota toymaker's innovative product grabs national attention

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A Minnesota-based toymaker is getting national media attention for his innovative idea, the Pioneer Press reports.

Jeff Freeland Nelson's YOXO product from his Play from Scratch toy company will be featured on NBC's "Today" show Tuesday in a segment about the nation's top educational toys.

Nelson, who is from St. Paul, is the brainchild of YOXO (pronounced yock-so), a series of colorful cardboard connectors in Y, O and X shapes.

The durable, laser-cut shapes were created as a means for children to creatively turn household items such as toilet paper tubes, paper towel rolls, cereal boxes and paper plates into play items.

Alone, the product's connectors can form a 17-inch-high YOXO robot, also known as a "YOXOBot."

YOXO is already a big hit with St. Paul-based toy chain Creative Kidstuff, which has six Twin Cities locations.

Creative Kidstuff CEO Roberta Bonoff told the Pioneer Press that the chain ordered the product in August, and recently reordered the product from Nelson's company for the second time.

Nelson told the Pioneer Press that the company's "No. 1 problem" is it "can't make YOXO fast enough."

Play from Scratch manufactured YOXO after a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year.

According to the paper, Nelson left his job at Minnesota Public Radio to become a toymaker specializing in green, sustainable products.

"Nineteen billion toilet paper tubes are manufactured every year and thrown away," Nelson said in his Kickstarter video pitch for YOXO. "Why not make them into toys?"

The website Mothering.com last month named YOXO one of the top "21 Toys Under $21." Highlighting natural toys in the guide, Mothering called YOXO "by far one of the coolest toys to hit the market in a long while."

The first big item from Nelson's toy company was The World Famous Box of Boxes, which consists entirely of boxes kids can play with. A similar toy kit was released after that, which only consisted of cardboard tubes.

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