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Feb 7, 2012 4:49 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East End Moms Launch The Whoopsiee

Feb 7, 2012 6:15 PM

When North Sea tot Kirra Krzenski began to crawl in the summer of 2010, her mother, Amanda, and two other local moms put their heads together in an effort to come up with a way to spare her the typical bumps and bruises of babyhood.

Their brainchild was the Whoopsiee, a padded soft helmet in the shape of a mushroom cap that is intended to protect young toddlers, while adding a touch of style.

The whimsically patterned, reversible hats clasp under the chin, have openings for ventilation, and are designed to fit the heads of children age 7 months to 3 years. And, as of this winter, they are now a fledgling business enterprise for Ms. Krzenski, her sister-in-law Karen Krzenski, also of North Sea, and their friend Denise Burke O’Brien of Sag Harbor. The women began selling the Whoopsiee on January 30, and if all goes according to the trio’s plans, playgrounds and playrooms across the East End and beyond will soon be filled with the puffy polka-dotted headwear.

“You can pad corners, but you can’t pad everything,” Karen Krzenski observed about the pointy dangers that jut out in homes, parks and just about everywhere. She recalls baby-sitting little Kirra about once a week at her home, but as a mother of three older children, her home was no longer childproof.

Karen Krzenski, the former co-owner of Once Upon a Day Care (now Side By Side Child Care) and who now provides child care for the United States Golf Association, did not give up. One of her sons, Brandt, now 11 years old, got stitches when he was about 2½ years old after a fall.

Instead of looking to pad her home, she turned her attention to padding the child.

A little Googling turned up a hat made in Europe, but it was heavy, uncomfortable and made Kirra sweat, she said.

Then, while sitting on the sand at Flying Point Beach in Water Mill on July 31, 2010—the memory is so clear she knows the exact date, she said—she and Amanda hatched the idea of what they would later dub “The Whoopsiee.”

“The U.S. needs a product that is comfortable and practical—and adorable,” Karen Krzenski recalled realizing. “The U.S. market likes adorable. If your baby’s going to wear something taking their first steps, they need to look adorable.”

The Krzenskis reached out to Karen’s mom, Sue Adabody, a former designer living in Alamonte Springs, Florida, and by August 25—Karen remembers that date too—the first Whoopsiee arrived in the mail: a lilac-colored hat topped with a flower.

“It was perfect,” Karen gushed, noting how Kirra loved wearing it. “First of all, she looked adorable. Second, it made all the difference in the world.”

A Whoopsiee-wearing Kirra would no longer be deterred from exploring her environment if she bumped into something, Karen said. Not only that, her hat began to turn heads in the playground, with other parents wondering where the Krzenskis got it, she said.

“When [Kirra] wandered into the kitchen with its tile floors, we didn’t have to panic. We just followed her around and let her explore, knowing if she did trip or fall, a much softer landing would be had, thanks to the Whoopsiee,”

Amanda Krzenski, a kindergarten teacher, wrote in an email. “Of course, it’s not intended to take the place of parental supervision, but it does provide you with peace of mind as your baby starts sitting up on their own, pulling themselves up or taking those first steps.”

Ms. Burke O’Brien, a good friend of the Krzenskis, supported the idea and became part of the Whoopsiee team. “I only wish that the Whoopsiee was available when my three children were toddling around,” she wrote in an email. “I would have rather avoided bumps and bruises on their little heads by ‘padding my babies instead of my house’!” she wrote, using a Whoopsiee motto.

Karen Krzenski said they do not use titles such as president or vice president in their business, as they consider themselves all equal. According to the newly launched Whoopsiee website, Karen Krzenski is the “Sassy One With The Ideas,” Amanda Krzenski is the “Whoopsiee Mommy,” and Ms. Burke O’Brien is the “Special Opt Mom.” The team is rounded out by a few other faces, as well.

When asked if a child might become more reckless if they became accustomed to wearing the Whoopsiee, Karen Krzenski replied that wearers do not consider the Whoopsiee a “protective shield” that will allow them to “jump off things.” For Kirra, for example, “It just gave her more freedom to explore.” As for parents, they have a little less anxiety, she said.

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Why not just wrap them in bubble wrap!!!
By whparent (7), Westhampton on Feb 13, 12 9:37 AM
It's no wonder kids these days are afraid of their own shadows.
By bubby (236), southampton on Feb 13, 12 6:53 PM
Do they come in adult sizes so the helicopter moms can dress just like the rugrats?
By VOS (1173), WHB on Feb 13, 12 7:48 PM
Yeah, kind of silly. Kids look like they are going to a wrestling match. Seems like there are too many cooks in the kitchen, but I got to give them credit for taking it this far, from concept to production.
By Lets go mets (343), Southampton on Feb 13, 12 8:12 PM
that seems like a lot of money for a padded pillow!
By MartyMcDougal (24), Sag Harbor on Feb 14, 12 1:00 PM
Certainly cuter than anything else on the market!
By wondering (63), Southampton on Feb 23, 12 3:55 PM