When Hannah Cary realised how quickly her firstborn son Alfie was losing interest in the conventional, department store-style toys she was buying him, it set her off on a journey to discover new ways to engage him in play.
Experimenting with open-ended play and toys meant for more than just short-term entertainment, she not only found she was connecting more strongly with her son, but others were taking an interest in what she was doing through the videos she shared on social media.
Following some positive encouragement and the impending need to return to work, the mother of two decided to take a chance and turn the idea she was toying with into a reality.
From there Playdreamers was born, and in the short time since the business was launched in April of this year not only has it grown rapidly, it's also brought with it some challenges and a whole lot of rewards.
"It's basically long-lasting toys that grow with the child," Hannah said of her online toy store that sells a range of sustainable, long-lasting toys and products that promote playful learning.
With a focus on wooden toys, non-fiction children's books, and educational resources, Hannah says there's definitely a sustainable element to the products she offers, but she's careful not to position her business as anything other than environmentally-conscious.
"I don't like to make any claims, because I don't think anyone can say they're 100 per cent eco-friendly," she said.
"I do stock some plastic, but it's all long-lasting, durable and with a purpose, so it's educational."
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A former early childhood educator, Hannah was drawn to the idea of starting her own business not only because she was passionate about it and could see a demand for what she was doing, but also because she was hesitant about the impact returning to work would have on her children.
While she now gets to spend her days with her two young sons, the amount of time she puts into her business can be demanding.
"Sometimes I work 16-hour days," she admitted.
But the rewards far outweigh the challenges.
"It's been amazing," she said.
"I've made amazing friends, I've connected more strongly with my own children. It's been rewarding every single day."
And the rewards go beyond her own personal satisfaction.
"I'm finding that people are learning so much about their children through playing with them," she said.
Having moved back to Forster in the past 18 months after a decade in Sydney, Hannah's also found support for her business in the town she grew up in.
"I have a huge amount of support locally from friends and family," she said.
"There's so many people reaching out and saying how cool it is to have something like this in their own small town."
To find out more about Playdreamers, click here.
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