We discovered the lovely Siân and her beautiful story props on Instagram. Our house loves stories and props to use to enhance our play with books; they are high on our list of toy priorities! We’ve ordered a couple of Siân’s custom story and nursery cubes and were really thrilled with them. Not only does Siân make beautiful things, but she’s also a super lovely person too. Without further ado let me introduce you to the Mum behind @StoryProps.
Tell us a little about yourself and your family?
Hi, I’m Siân; a Yorkshire girl, living on the outskirts of Wakefield with my little family. Chris and I have been together for 13 years and have just celebrated our 6th Wedding Anniversary. We have two absolutely amazing, but absolutely crazy boys, Noah (4) and Jacob (1). I have been a Primary School Teacher for 12 years, 7 of those, I have spent in my spiritual home – EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage).
Being an Early Years Leader at my last school I really loved, teaching both Reception and, most recently Nursery classes. I live and breathe the EYFS principles of learning through play; have made it the most important aspect in all my classrooms. I also have a passion for phonics and children’s speech, language and literacy and have always made my own resources to support children in these areas of development.
When Noah was a year old, I went back part time, which, I quickly realised in teaching, means working a full time role in part time hours and with a part time wage! After having Jacob, we made the decision that I wouldn’t return to work yet. This gave me the perfect chance to start my little business. I have always made story props for my classes and I needed something for me. It gave me something to think about other than how many times I had swept the kitchen floor or changed dirty nappies each day. I won’t pretend, I’m not a great ‘housewife’, I get bored too easily, so @StoryProps has kept me busy.
Tell us a toy that best describes you and why?
I would be a Cabbage Patch Doll. Completely based on the fact that I have a very round head and as a baby, looked just like a cabbage patch doll – here’s me! Haha – I also love a good “huggle” as my son calls it.
What do you make and where did the idea come from?
@StoryProps – Handmade wooden story props to support the sharing of stories and rhymes. They engage children’s creativity & imagination whilst helping to develop their communication and language skills in a fun and exciting way. StorySpoons, StoryPegDolls, StoryCubes & StoryPebbles.
Story props are a teaching essential. Most children (in fact, people) learn better when they are presented with visual aids to help support remembering and retelling of stories or songs. I love the feel of wooden toys and so it was a natural decision to stick to painted wooden story props. I have mainly stuck to the traditional stories and rhymes, with the odd topic set thrown in to support story telling and imaginative small world play.
When did it all begin and why?
As most Primary School teachers do, I have always made resources for my lessons. schools never have any money for extra things, so you have to get creative. I had made some story spoons for my son and was asked by a friend, last year, to make some for her daughter’s nursery as a gift. This is when I decided to make it official and I started my journey into the world of CE testing. This was a whole new world to me, but with the support of some amazing online groups, I got there. I have only been going since last November, so I am still in the early days, but my business is growing all the time and I can really see a future for it.
What does your day look like?
During normal school term time, my usual day revolves around the children. Up, dressed, school run, get Jacob down for a nap, paint spoons, sort lunch, play with Jacob, pick Noah up, make dinner, boys’ bedtime, paint spoons, collapse. EVERY DAY.
I do find it difficult sometimes, especially if I have a lot of orders in, but it seems to work and I don’t really feel I have to sacrifice my ‘downtime’. I love making the resources and I find solace in the time I spend designing and painting.
What does your ‘office’ look like?
I paint at our kitchen table. It is a large table in the bow window of the kitchen so there is a lot of light and, on a sunny day, it is a warm and inviting place to be. I enjoy sitting there with my paintbrush and ‘Gardeners World’ (on demand on the TV – I am old before my time). The rest of the paper based side of the business I do from the laptop, at the bureau in the living room. I like that I can hide it all away.
What was the first product you ever made?
The first set of spoons I made to sell was a set of 5 little speckled frog spoons. I have made a lot of these since, but they haven’t changed in design all that much. I try to stick to my particular style and keep them simple.
What’s your favourite make or best seller?
My favourite thing to make are my Nursery Rhyme StoryCubes and The 3 Little Pigs StorySpoons. I love the simple ones, I think they are the most effective and leave the play open for children.
What’s your design process and how long does it take you to make a finished product?
New designs pop into my head all the time. I’m terrible for not really drawing out my designs, I prefer just to get going, painting straight onto the wood. Inspiration comes from traditional tales, rhymes and songs. I try to stick mainly to these themes as my passion is around children’s literacy and stories. Really love it when a customer challenges me with an brief for a new product or design. I have had a few in the past that have really got me thinking and I have really enjoyed coming up with a design and taking it though to completion. Hearing that customers are happy with the end product is so satisfying. The only thing I will not do is any copyrighted designs. I prefer coming up with my own!
Your family is stranded on a desert island – what 3 toys must you take and why?
BOOKS! I would take 3 books and use the resources on the island to make props! Books and stories can take you anywhere and lead to some amazing, involved play.
What is the best part of your job?
I love being creative. I’m from a very creative family, and its just part of who I am. I love that this venture affords me the time to use my imagination and creative flair. Working around my family life means that I never feel tied to a project, my family has to come first, and this business means it always can.
Who are your favourite Mummies?
I love how Instagram and Facebook has put me in contact with some amazing ‘mummy makers’. There is a real supportive attitude and I feel a lot of them have got my back.
Three businesses I love are @oursensorykids (Insta) Jordan is an amazing, inspiring and creative woman and has supported me massively throughout the first year of my little venture. @roseandlilyjewellery (Insta) My wonderful friend makes the most amazing jewellery and handmade cards. She is the most beautiful person too. -> businessmumsnetwork (Facebook). Not a maker, but this group, created by Sher Hopkirk is the reason I am still here and determined to make a go of my business. This support network is unbelievable and I feel like I have made some real friends here.
What’s next for you?
At the moment, my 4 products are keeping me very busy. I will always be open to expanding my range but there are no major additions on the cards at the moment, other than new designs. Currently, I have an ETSY shop, Facebook and Instagram, but I am looking at possibly creating my own website sometime in the future to help to streamline my online presence. I will soon be adding an option for a gift wrapping and card writing service for people abroad to send directly to UK addresses. Hopefully this will save on postage for a lot of people.
Where can we find you?
You can find me on:
Where do you ship to?
At the moment, I send to UK addresses but international selling is a future project once I can find a suitable shipping option.
Copyright – All photographs in this post belong to @StoryProps and kind permission has been granted for me to use these lovely images. Please contact @StoryProps if you wish to use any images.
Disclaimer – Please do contact the seller or check out their sellers pages with regard to age appropriateness of toys and resources and any safety warnings. Busy Busy Learning accepts no responsibility for this. Age appropriateness and warnings can change with new legislation and when sellers make changes to their suppliers or products, so check every time.