Local puzzle maker has more representation in toys

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“By having better representation, it allows the child to ask questions and carry on a conversation while confusing,” said Ashley Kizis, founder of Kidunified.

One Piece at a Time, a small Guelph business aims to help children see themselves and other identities through play.

Kidunified makes puzzles that illustrate a wide range of social identities. Its first product, a 350-piece paper puzzle titled, The children’s designer market, produces an image of children of different ethnicities working together in a maker’s market. The puzzle also shows neurodivergent, disabled, non-binary, or transgender children.

Ashley Kizis, founder of Kidunified, said one of her goals with the puzzle was to include as many people from Guelph as possible. The puzzle was also designed and manufactured in Guelph using recycled paper and sustainable materials.

“It’s impossible to lump all (social identities) together, but I worked with a small group of parents who represented different social identities through their children,” Kizis said of the puzzle’s design. “So that could never be all (social identities), but as much as we could fit into this puzzle.”

Kizis said her talent was in bringing people together, so she teamed up with different Guelph consultants for the puzzle, including Rhiannon White, a local illustrator.

“She brought the kids to life, so they are the kids,” Kizis said of the puzzle. “She did a great job.”

Kizis calls herself a “passionate enigma” and her motivation to start this business came from her own child and the desire for them to have tools, resources and toys that better reflect them and their peers.

“By having better representation, it allows the child to ask questions and carry on a conversation while confusing,” Kizis said. “Sometimes things kids don’t know can be a little scary, and if they’ve seen it and worked with it as a learning tool, it’s less scary. At least that’s what I think. learned with my child. .

“When I look at my son, he loves all children. At almost seven years old, he wants to play with everyone and include everyone, so I want to continue to instill that as much as possible.”

Kizis began researching the puzzle idea in January. She said she applied to Rhyze Ventures, a competitive program for women entrepreneurs run by Innovation Guelph.

“I was accepted and Kidunified launched and we are there,” Kizis said. “I’m still in the program right now and it lasts until December.”

She notes that she came across studies highlighting the benefits of the puzzle on cognitive function and development. As a slower-paced activity, Kizis says puzzles can also teach children patience.

“For many neurodivergent kids, this can be a difficult skill to learn,” Kizis said, mentioning that the puzzle’s color palette was designed to not be too stimulating for neurodivergent eyes, but have enough contrast for them. visual impairments.

To take the practice of inclusion further, the puzzle also comes with How To: Create Your Own Instructions for the Kids Creator Marketplace which can help kids build their own maker market in real life. The instructions are written in English and French.

“The inspiration for me was to think about a classroom and teachers, and how they could incorporate conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion into their teachings with students and have fun a lot,” Kizis said. “So doing the puzzle, for one as a group, and then creating your own market.”

Kizis notes that this second element allows kids to get creative while using lots of different skills, like teamwork, project management, and math.

“They have to decide how they’re going to advertise, when they’re going to get their project, how they’re going to price it. Those are all things that, believe it or not, young kids are very capable of,” Kizis said. . , noting that his son recently held a Freezie Booth with his friends using these instructions, and donated a portion of their proceeds to the Sick Kids Foundation.

The puzzle is ideal for a classroom, a group or for a caretaker and child. Currently, the puzzle can be purchased online or at the Cavan Library and Cafe.

Currently, Kizis said she is designing a second puzzle and would like input from parents on who else to include in the next design. Residents can also find Kidunified on Instagram and Facebook.

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