Image by Norma Moran Photography

Little Big Learning

Our latest print magazine Issue 12 is all about fostering learning through play. A brand that really aligns with the core value Minty Magazine holds is Little Big Learning. Their products are developed around simple, open ended play items that allow children to actively use their imagination. 

Today we chat to Stephanie and Lauren, owners of Little Big Learning about all things business, sustainability and their upcoming plans for the future. 

Who is behind Little Big Learning? Tell us a little bit about yourself.

‘We are a two mum family run business. Stephanie & Lauren and our babe Haizen, who is the muse of course.  We all work behind the scenes on Little Big. Haizen loves hanging out at the warehouse and ‘helping’ which is actually more like hindering these days! Haizen is our official product tester and her sassy self loves to give brutally honest feedback on all the products.’

Image by Krystal Kyriacou
Learning-through-play-Ky Winton_
Image by Ky Winton

Congratulations on Little Big Learning’s first birthday this weekend! What do you think has been the most exciting and rewarding experience in the last year for you? What about the most challenging?

‘There’s been so many exciting and rewarding moments over the last 12 months but we still just LOVE getting emails from our customers telling us how much they love the products. Our Learning Towers in particular get some pretty amazing feedback. We started the business because getting a learning tower was a game changer for us at mealtimes and it really is so rewarding to hear the same from other families. We still do a happy dance when we get nice emails.

As for challenging, it’s got to be working out how to balance business and family life which is still a work in progress. We work together, live together, dream together. It makes us incredibly close and we are grateful for that but it does come with its own challenges.’

At Minty Magazine we are huge believers in quality resources playing a vital role in fostering imaginative play which is why we LOVE Little Big Learning. What are your philosophies when it comes to nurturing the little ones in your life through play?

‘As a business as well as in our own home, we believe in simple, open ended play items that allow children to actively create their own worlds. We take a lot of our inspiration from the Montessori education philosophies which are all about ‘following the child’. Which means,  unstructured and unguided by us as parents. We provide a safe and inviting environment for Haizen to play and learn independently and she does the rest. Almost too much now – we’re kind of getting sick of pretending to be a Doctor or a Teacher or a bicycle…’

Sustainability was a huge focus for Minty Magazine in our last issue and we love that it is a big part of Little Big Learning. What is the process behind creating products that are ethical and sustainable?

‘From the small beginnings of Little Big in our 2-bedroom apartment and every step since, we’ve made it our mission to create products that have a low environmental impact and are produced ethically in Australia.

From the materials we use, the manufacturing processes, to how we package and transport our products – we consider each step and ensure we are doing things right by our Earth and the people we work with.  

Last year, in 2018 , we planted enough trees to absorb over 240 tonnes of carbon dioxide through our Plants For Products program. That’s enough to offset the average family home for over 18 years!

Financially, it can be a challenging ethos to run a business by and it does have an impact on our profit margins but  it’s something we are very proud of and we hope to inspire other businesses to do the same. We believe you can run a successful business without taking advantage of other people or the planet.’

So, with so much already achieved… What is in store for us next for Little Big Learning?

‘New products of course! Things that you have never seen before and things that are going to make you say ‘WOW!’. We cannot wait to show you all what we’ve been working on – we’ll give you a little clue, on of our next products is inspired by the beautiful Kimberley regions of Western Australia.’

What do you find are the challenges of owning an online business?

‘Having to be ‘online’ ALL the time. There’s a hell of a lot of screen time involved. We all know the impact of too much screen time for kids – the prognosis isn’t much better for adults! If anyone has the answer for this please let us know!’

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For those who haven’t heard of things like the Pikler Triangle, Montessori and Learning Towers, can you explain what these are and what the benefits are for our little ones?

  ‘‘Montessori’ is an education methodology developed by Italian doctor Maria Montessori some 100 years ago. Montessori encouraged a world where children are assumed capable and treated as such, rather than assumed incapable and catered for.  You’ll see children as young as 3 in Montessori classrooms independently baking their own muffins and washing their own dishes in child sized kitchens. It’s quite amazing what they can do when given that freedom!

Our ‘Montessori-inspired products’ are adaptations to her method which encourage learning through independence. Our kitchen Learning Towers for example, allow immersion into a world which is otherwise, quite literally, out of reach. We all know what it’s like trying to cook dinner with a toddler at our feet screaming to be picked up – they just want to be involved. Our Learning Towers allow this to be done in a safe and independent way from as young as 10 months old.

As for Pikler Triangle climbing frames, they have been adopted by the Montessori community as a tool to encourage self paced physical independence and gross motor development, but were originally designed by Hungarian Pediatrician Dr Emmi Pikler. They provide a safe way to satisfy that innate desire for babies and toddlers to climb!’

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting a business that you wish you knew?

‘Starting a new business can be all consuming, especially when you’ve likely got a day job or you are a new parent (or both!). It’s important to learn early on how to ‘switch off’ your business brain and to stay present in your life and with your family. Although you do need to make sacrifices to get a business off the ground, family and friends still come first. Basically, just take the afternoon off sometimes, go to the beach and get off your phone (that one is still a work in progress for me!) If you can find that balance early on, you’ll be a much happier small business owner!’

Stephanie & Lauren with Haizen

Minty’s favourite 3 Little Big Learning products

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