Covid’s influence on our lives has been, for the most part, momentous, and it will most likely have an impact on how we go about our daily business for a while to come. Some people have taken the changes and turned them into advantages, and one of those is Mbombela’s Davina Hoffman, the crafty talent behind Recreated Inspirations.
Davina found herself with time on her hands when the lodge she worked for in Mozambique closed due to lockdown. “With the tourist industry being shut off, I had plenty of free time to indulge in my hobby, making and creating DIY projects. With so many of my loved ones having babies or falling pregnant during the pandemic, I decided to try and make some practical wooden gifts to give away. Wood is durable, easy to work with, can be passed down for generations and the options are limitless, so I really took a great interest, despite not really having the skill set,” she laughs.
Davina had the vision and soon discovered she had a knack for working with wood, but realised she lacked the necessary technical skills. “I knew how to get the project done, but lacked the ability to do most of the practical work, such as the drilling, sanding of larger items, sawing, and for on, so on the weekends I would gather my husband and father and get them to assist me.”
After watching them for a couple of weekends and analysing how they worked, she learnt a lot about what making these toys was all about, and what works and what doesn’t. She realised she would need to learn how to use these tools herself if she wanted to recreate some of her million Pinterest board items on her own! “Once I managed to do that,” she laughs, “I started getting orders here and there, mostly through word of mouth, and I realised there definitely was a demand for these toys. I have always wanted to be my own boss and just like so many others, the pandemic allowed me to reassess my life and what was really important to me. I decided that I wanted to pursue my passion of crafty hobbies, and Recreated Inspirations was born.”
From there, Davina joined forces with her mum, Manuela Duarte. Manuela has years of experience crocheting and makes beautifully crocheted toys. With her contributing the soft side and her daughter creating the wood, they realised they made the perfect team. The items Davina creates are aimed, for the most part, at the 0-10 year age group, and almost all of them have an educational slant. She did her homework before starting on her first products and found that most parents feel that most educational toys are either plastic and cheaply made, or in the case of wooden toys, too pricey or not readily available.
“I love the Montessori principles,” she says, “and when I first started making toys I wanted to base them around that. ‘Children learn through play’ – we hear that so often, and it’s the truth; a simple toy can teach a child fundamental life skills. Playing is a big part of a child’s day, especially in the first five to seven years, and it helps their brains develop. A kid’s mind is constantly expanding, even when they are just looking around at their surroundings. Toys may sometimes seem basic and considered just an item to keep children busy, but through playing with educational toys, life skills are developed – such as problem-solving, learning cause and effect, developing motor skills and discovering independence and positive self-esteem.”
While Davina’s range has grown somewhat, she still has her favourites; the Amish puzzle ball and the spindle box. The former is also known as the clutch ball and comes in custom colours. It is a great way to teach children the basics – how to grasp, roll and throw. The beauty of it, Davina says, is that once the baby has outgrown it, it can be packed away for a few years, only to be reborn as an excellent puzzle challenge, teaching the older child to effectively take something apart and then rebuild it. “This helps to develop fine motor skills, which in turn stimulates brain development.”
She goes on to describe the spindle box, which comes with 45 spindles, the aim of which is to reinforce the idea that the symbols represent certain quantities of separate physical objects. It also introduces the concept of “zero” and its symbol. If there are too few or too many spindles, a kid knows that he/she has made an error somewhere along the way. This helps to develop problem-solving and independence. This can also be used to build on mathematical skills.
A few other noteworthy mentionables are the braiding board, which teaches coordination of movement and fine motor skills; nuts and bolts, which teaches toddlers to use their cognitive skills to match pieces by size; and Rona the Bear, who sports a beanie and face mask, both of which can be removed and put back on. This helps children to identify with both the pandemic and necessary precautions, but also to develop fine motor skills. “Also,” smiles Davina, “the name Rona, apart from stemming from the word ‘corona’, also means ‘my joy’ in Hebrew, and we hope that we added some joy to all of the homes who have adopted a Rona Bear to date.”
Her goal is to ultimately be able to make and supply cost-effective, quality toys to schools all over South Africa, and also to be able to teach crocheting skills to others, as it is no longer taught in schools.
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