Amanda Wiltshire is a teacher with a creative mind, who, despite the setbacks of the pandemic, has decided to hone in on her talents and create an innovative business that is a hit with both parents and children alike, especially in light of these challenging times with many parents working from home and children doing online classes.
Her business, Pickney Busy Box, is a bespoke company that encompasses everything that has to do with education, according to the private school teacher. It comprises educational manipulatives to help children with their fine motor, gross motor, cognitive, social, and “everything” skills.
“I teach through games and fun. I found that kids were more receptive and susceptive to the things being taught if I made them in a game format. I never saw it [teaching] as “sit down” learning. They retained it easier like if their brains opened up like a sponge and saturated everything once it’s in a fun format,” she explained.
The enterprising young woman started her business with a special box for her own son, noting that she didn’t have a “cool phone” or a tablet for him to watch YouTube, so she packed toys, worksheets, and other manipulatives in a lunch box for him to use at church and other outings.
Being cognisant of the different learning needs of children, Amanda creates an arsenal of mainstream and sensory boxes along with busy books, busy boards, and other creative means of keeping children busy and engaged in the learning process. And parents need not worry about the longevity of these items either, as most of them are laminated and they come with specific instructions.
“The response has been great. It’s been overwhelming. I remember a time I sat down and cried. Of course, you want people to appreciate you and your talent is being respected and people think it’s just as cool as you think it is,” she shared.
Before the spike in COVID-19 cases and subsequent restricted movement, Wiltshire added activities such as her popular Painting, Potting, and Plants classes for children ages four to 14 as well as her Pickney Book Club.
“Even in this time of COVID-19 with teaching online, some parents are very frustrated because some don’t have devices but some of them are also not geared towards teaching and they are frustrated,” she shared.
Amanda’s advice to parents trying to balance their own work with supervising their children’s “new normal” of online learning is creating a structure and sticking to it. And she follows her own advice, as her son does online learning from home and follows a strict schedule.
“You need to get a timetable. Children thrive on structure. They are more resilient than we think. And they would test you and they would fight you, but when they realise this is the law of the land, it is the law of the land,” she said with a laugh.
“Do not waver. Write your timetable and consequences will be had . . . follow through with your consequences, whatever you deem is best with your household. It’s going to be difficult in the beginning. Everything that is worth doing is difficult,” she advised.
While it seems that online learning will be the new normal for the foreseeable future, Amanda’s dream for Pickney Busy Box is to expand the business into a virtual school.
“When it comes to online learning, documents being downloadable, YouTube videos; I want to literally take Pickney Busy Box to be streamed across all mediums to help everyone”.
This article appears in the 2021 edition of TODAY’s Woman. Read the full publication here.