As soon as I saw these felt activity sets by Jessica Hipp, my imagination started to run wild with possibilities for play. Hand-cut from felt, these sets provide a template for play that limited only by your child’s imagination. I’m so excited to feature her products this month. (Along with a Featured Freebie for April!)
Jessica is a local stay-at-home mom whose crafty hobby turned into a business. Previously, she worked as a Developmental Therapist/ Behavior Analyst for young children, but decided to stay home after her son was born in 2012. While home with her small son, Jessica got more into crafting (fell in love with Pinterest) and soon started making toys for her one-year-old. She wanted to avoid the ubiquitous plastic, light-up toys so homemade felt was a perfect alternative.
“My son loves letters,” Jessica said. “One of the first items I made for him were felt letters. He would carry them around, dump them out of his box, and hide them under the couch. We would label the letter and the sound, he would look at us and continue carrying, and dumping, and hiding. Then suddenly, he would pick up a letter and tell us the sound! At 19 months, he knew every letter sound. ALL of them! He didn’t learn that from TV, and he didn’t learn them from us sitting him down and drilling him, he learned them through playing with us!”
Jessica’s friends soon started encouraging her to sell her creations and she started by selling to play group friends and on Facebook. Eventually she opened an Etsy shop. Last month, Sweetbottoms started carrying her sets. They are a perfect fit for our natural-minded customers.
Because of her expertise in early-childhood development, I asked Jessica for some advice about how we can help our kids learn. It’s simple: Play and Pretend.
PLAY! Seems simple enough, but it can be difficult or awkward for us adults. To us, dumping a basket of toys repeatedly isn’t how you’re “supposed to play” with toys. But, for a toddler, it is. Build on that curiosity, label what the child is doing, imitate what the child is doing. Have the child imitate you! Talk about everything. Label the item, the color, the texture, the action, anything you can think of to talk about, do it!PRETEND! Help develop that wonderful abstract thinking by pretending! Pretend by using realistic items (ie: “bake” cookies by using felt food and real bowls, cookie sheets, etc), by using less realistic items (ie: talk on the phone using a block rather than a phone), dress up and pretend to be a superhero, or a doctor, or a parent!
And her line of felt activity sets helps parents do just this. By using simple, washable felt, Jessica hopes parents will be inspired to interact with their children’s play in a way that’s not typical with electronic counterparts. Parents can read a book and use the Storyboard sets to make it interactive. Dramatic play sets and felt food are natural building blocks for open-ended play.
Jessica gets a lot of her ideas from Pinterest or friends and uses her son’s interests as an inspiration for new activities.
“I see the things that my son gravitates towards and then I think how can I twist this into a more developmentally appropriate activity for him,” Jessica said.
I can’t wait to see what she thinks of next! Right now we carry lots of fun options to spark interactive play in any home.
Jessica’s dramatic play doctor set was featured on Toddler Approved, which, by the way is a great resource for accessible and fun play-based learning.
And don’t miss out of the Rainbow Ice Cream Cone Matching Set, the April Featured Freebie.
What’s your little learner into these days? My son couldn’t keep his hands off those ice cream cones!
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