a child playing with a toki mat

Customer Spotlight: TinyOlivesPlay

April 10, 2023

Meet Bertha, a teacher and mom of two who uses everything she knows about play-based learning to curate the ultimate playroom. She’s the genius behind @tinyolivesplay, an Instagram account where she posts her playroom must-haves, as well as activity ideas for other parents who are also interested in play-based learning for their children. She uses her knowledge as a teacher and her experience as a mother to take an active role in her kids’ education, utilizing toys and activities to teach her little ones about the world and their place in it. 

@tinyolivesplay play room with a toki mats play mat

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

TOP: I am Bertha, the mom and teacher behind TinyOlivesPlay. I’ve been teaching for the past 12 years and (truly) enjoy what I do. Being able to make a difference in a child’s life is a mission that I take very seriously. In addition to being a teacher, I am a mom (24/7) of two amazing kids and a wife to my (also) amazing husband. Together, we love to go on adventures, explore new places, and learn new things. 

Q: When and why did you start TinyOlivesPlay?

TOP: I started TinyOlivesPlay about 3 years ago. Spending lots of time at home motivated me to share with other moms and caregivers the activities that I was doing at home with my 2 little ones. Later on, I found myself working with brands and sharing my love for open-ended play and toys through pictures and videos. Since then, Instagram has become my creative outlet, a platform that allows me to combine all my passions and share them with others. 

Q: What Toki products do you have and how do you use them in your home?

TOP: We have a mega size play mat that we absolutely love. It is, without a doubt, the softest and most comfortable play mat that we have ever owned. The Toki mat is always in our playroom and the kids use it in different ways—to read books, play a board game, work on a puzzle, sit on while they play with the doll house, and as a landing surface while they swing in the playroom. 

@tinyolivesplay play room with a toki mats play mat

Q: What are your top 5 must-have play items for your kids right now? Did you have any particular favorites when they were toddlers?

TOP: Play silks, magnetic tiles, a Toki play mat, wooden blocks, and an indoor swing. We’ve always been big fans of open-ended toys and learning materials!

Q: When did your passion for play-based learning begin?

TOP: I’ve always been a fan of play-based learning in and outside of the classroom.  I truly believe that children learn best through fun and meaningful activities. After all, learning should be fun, right?

Q: How do you come up with the activities your kids do at home?

TOP: I take my children's interests and ages into consideration. They are both eager to learn and discover how things work, so science experiments are always a hit. They are also very creative, and so I always make sure that they have access to different art materials around the house. In addition to this, I follow a lot of wonderful moms and teachers on Instagram who inspire me with their awesome ideas. I love how this platform allows us to share ideas and make motherhood more fun! 

Q: How often do you change out the items that are in your children’s playroom?

TOP: I try to rotate toys and materials at least once a month. If I see that they are losing interest in a toy, I replace it with something else. It’s amazing to see how they react when they see a toy that they haven't seen in a while. It’s like they are seeing the coolest toy in the world! 

Q: What criteria do you have for choosing toys to keep in your playroom?

TOP: Most of our toys are open-ended. In other words, toys that can be used in many different ways. I also like toys that encourage movement. We currently own two indoor swings and a trapeze bar that my kids absolutely love. 

Q: You have a teaching background. Does your experience and knowledge as a teacher shape the way you parent your children? Alternatively, has your experience as a mother changed the way you teach?

TOP: Absolutely! Being a teacher has allowed me to understand how children learn and develop. As a mom, I bring this knowledge home and apply it as I raise and educate my two children. 

In addition, being a mom has definitely changed the way I teach.  Now, as a mom, I see things from a different perspective. I treat my students as if they were my own children and work with their parents to ensure their overall success. 

Q: As your children grow, how does the way you play with them change?

TOP: It is truly amazing to see how much the way they play has changed over the years. Exposing them to open-ended toys since their early years has helped them develop critical-thinking skills and foster their creativity. Anything is possible when they play–literally! 

@tinyolivesplay play room with a toki mats play mat

Q: What are your biggest tips for fostering independent play in very young children?

TOP: Exposing them to open-ended toys and materials from an early age. For instance, I’d suggest starting with play dough, blocks, and play-silks. Model how to play with these toys/materials, and show them how they can be used in different ways. Be present when they play, but also allow them to discover and learn on their own. It takes time, but I can promise you that they will, eventually, play independently.

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