Inspiring Children: the Power of Play
Educational toys help kids gain a better perspective on Black history and learn to build a better self.
Children can wear you out with their nonstop questions, picky eating habits, and affinity for play. On the other hand, little ones can also inspire you to be the best version of yourself, ignite the leader within you, and take you to new heights. Ask Tiffney Laing; she owes a lot of her success to the love of her children. Since becoming a mom, her priority has been to make the world a better place for her kids. That passion led her to become the entrepreneur she is today.
Thinking of her children’s future, Laing was fed up with a lack of representation in the toy industry. It began to affect her children, who were puzzled as to why no toys looked like them. Her solution was founding Ancestors & Descendants, LLC, in 2016, which later became Bevy & Dave, LLC, named after her children Beverly and David. The company creates toys with brown skin and a historical perspective, changing the lives of children all over the world who have minimal racial representation in the toy industry.
Her flagship product, History Makers Puzzle Block Set, has won multiple awards, including the 2018 Product of the Year by Creative Child Magazine and the 2018 Family Choice Award. It’s available for purchase at museums, retail stores, online, historical sites, and institutions like the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
Apart from being a supermom, toymaker, budding historian, and role model for young girls and minorities, Laing is also an educator and administrator who worked as a student life coordinator and professor of leadership studies at Northern Virginia Community College. She has a master’s degree from Frostburg State University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in mass communication/media studies from Wilberforce University. She has also completed over 48 doctoral-level courses in higher education and leadership studies from Shenandoah University.
“Education is a vital part of my identity,” says Laing. “I’m always teaching, but I realized that my children and other ethnic children weren’t given the opportunity to learn through play like other fairer-skinned nationalities were.” This premise led her to create the History Makers Puzzle Block Set, an educational toy to encourage leadership and Black history knowledge among youth. The 30-piece block set is for ages three and older and includes a history booklet to help African-American children play, learn, stack blocks, do puzzles, and other activities, with their ancestors in mind.
“There are a lot of black leaders that children don’t know about and won’t be taught in schools,” she says. “I’m happy for the opportunity to bring these facts to children in a way that’s fun and uplifting.”
Growing Up Tiffney
Spending childhood between the west coast in California and the east coast in Buffalo, New York, Laing understands how culture and experiences can aid in a child’s development. She now resides in Ashburn, Virginia, and has for over a decade.
Laing liked playing with dolls as a kid, even though she never considered herself a “girly girl.” In the sixth grade, she still found herself enchanted with them and began to realize the power of play. She recognized the keen attention children pay to characters, not necessarily dolls. She took it a step further, using her children as relatable characters that demonstrate leadership, honor, esteem, and respect. Bevy & Dave toys enable tots to learn African-American history and role models to emulate.
Learning Made Fun
Ultimately, Laing wants to alter the perception of black history in the United States. Rather than focusing on slavery and oppression, she wants people to know the contributions that African Americans have accomplished over the years, despite that injustice. Hence the original name of her company, Ancestors & Descendants. But she found the name was too hard for people to remember and changed the company’s name.
Now, Bevy & Dave toys use play to introduce concepts both children and adults can use to change the narrative about black people in America. Laing wants to highlight the many contributions to American society that African Americans have made. “Unlike the textbooks want you to think, Black history isn’t just dominated by slavery and civil rights. There are people who worked hard and made sacrifices to allow African Americans like me to be here. They deserve respect and recognition today,” she says.
Laing’s History Makers Puzzle Block Set comes with alphabetical blocks featuring renowned African American individuals and highlights concepts like commitment and service. The Inventors Legacy is another educational toy that doubles as a puzzle, focusing on famous and lesser-known African American inventors like Frederick M. Jones, who invented mobile refrigeration. Others include Garrett Morgan, who came up with the smoke hood, an early gas mask, the “three-way” traffic signal by Granville T. Woods, and Norbert Rillieux, who first automated the sugar refining process.
“There are so many African-American leaders, inventors, teachers, and entrepreneurs that are often swept under the rug,” says Laing. “Even parents don’t know about them. Toys are the best way to level the playing field and teach kids about African-American history.”
For more information on Bevy & Dave learning toys, visit bevyanddave.com