What goes into our products? From concept to your doorstep.
Thank you for coming to my website and having a look around. You might be wondering why you should buy from Benedykt and Sylvester; what sets us apart from other similar companies? You’ve probably read about us so here I’d like to write a bit about my products, and why you should choose my unique and original designs.
Almost all of the products in our shop are designed by me, Brittany, and tried and tested by my boys, Benedykt and Sylvester. All of our products came to be because I first and foremost made them for my own children to enjoy. After we trial the products, and see how the boys respond, we know they will be loved by your children too.
Prototypes and Testing
Take the first product for example: the Montessori Inspired Placemats. These didn’t start out as wood! At first I trialled the idea on another material, but I included the personalisation on the prototype. Benedykt LOVED them, so I knew I was onto something. However, I wasn’t happy with the material. I set about sourcing a longer lasting, more quality material and eventually we landed on the acacia wooden boards. I’ve always been a fan of wooden products in the kitchen (I’d always choose a wooden spoon over silicone, and a wooden chopping board over plastic!), so I knew that these would work as a long lasting and functional item.
Unique Concept and Original Designs
My ideas usually come to me at random points in the day as I often have “aha!” moments when I am interacting with my children. The very first learning tiles came about after I made some 3-part cards at home by printing and laminating. It frustrated me that the cute little cards I made were so easily and quickly tattered after only a few uses… (and misuses!). It occurred to me that we could do with longer lasting resources that withstand toddler fun. After all, there’s no right way to use anything for an exploring child! Benedykt had recently turned 3 and he was starting to get good at counting. I could tell the difference between him reciting the numbers 1-10 by rote and really counting and him counting his foods, toys, bubbles etc made me say “aha!”, and that’s when I decided to make the original wooden counting cards:
These were laser engraved onto beautiful and extremely high-quality 3mm alder wood. Benedykt got on with them really well. A few months later, after Benedykt showed an interest in the Space book we had on his shelf, the Solar System tiles and Phases of the Moon set came into fruition. Along with them, the new oak-faced MDF material and new dimensions; improving both the affordability and usability in one go.
Materials and Sustainability
I take care to choose the best quality, yet affordable materials for the products themselves as well as their packaging. The manufacturers I work with only work with wood from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)certified forests. The FSC is the governing organisation of the timber industry and they ensure that wood is sourced responsibly in terms of the environment and social standards. I also choose to use MDF over hardwood because MDF is effectively a waste product; so by creating a use for it we are saving it from landfill, and avoiding using unnecessary solid hardwood. My full sustainability policy can be found here.
I put my heart into the Montessori Learning Tiles display packaging boxes, too. I wanted to have a box that is as good as the tiles themselves: beautiful, functional, and practical. The matchbox style suits the tiles perfectly for storage, and the little window makes them perfect for display. Of course, it’s plastic free!
The next step in my product design is to ensure the quality and ethics of the artwork. It is important within the principles of Montessori to stick to realism, if possible, during the first plane of development (0-6 years), and that is why all of the artwork we use is either photography or realism illustration. All of the artwork I use is either copyright to myself, commissioned by myself through the use of independent illustrators, or selected carefully ensuring we have the correct commercial licensing. Collating such resources carefully takes a lot of time and I take pride in this aspect of the product design. It is so easy to come across products that misuse artwork taken unlawfully, albeit unintentionally, from sources such as internet search engines.
On top of sourcing correct artwork; I take pride in spending a period of time to research the topics I am potentially going to work with. For example, the dinosaur topic was not as easy as picking 10 dinosaurs and running with it. I couldn’t select any 10, nor could I take the first image that was labelled as any particular dinosaur (mislabelling dinosaurs is so common). I therefore spent several weeks behind the scenes consulting expert advice to ensure we were using the correct and most up-to-date images and facts; after all, the Learning Tiles are designed for educating and I am passionate about teaching the latest information. For example, most recent discoveries suggest that the Velociraptor was very likely to have had feathers! This is also why we didn’t include “pterodactyl”- most of my focus group suggested it in their top 10 dinos, but did you know, it’s not actually classified as a dinosaur?
Production and Machinery
The process of manufacture of the Montessori Learning Tiles takes 7 different steps; and each product in our shop is handcrafted by our small team of workshop experts. We use high-specification industry machines to laser cut, engrave and print our products. The team tape, cut, then remove the tape from the individual tiles (front and back!), before sanding, dusting and then eventually loading them into the printer. After that, they are then boxed and sent to you!
We take pride in always being available to offer inspiration and help for our customers. If you follow us on Instagram, you will know that I often post about how the boys are using their products. We love for you to tag us in your activities, to share with us how you use them, too! It is so lovely to be a part of a community – using the hashtag #bnslittlelearners will enable you to find other customers, too!