Spielwarenmesse: Interview Dusyma: education, learning and free play as a holistic approach

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Kindergartenkinder mit Betreuerin
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Interview Dusyma: education, learning and free play as a holistic approach

from Ulrich Texter

Dusyma Kindergartenbedarf GmbH is one of the leading providers of educational toys, learning resources and furniture, with a good 12,000 products for nurseries and schools, parents and senior citizens. Founded back in 1925, the company wants its range to contribute to children’s long-term development. It is one of the big "educational providers" which exhibit at the Spielwarenmesse®. In the following interview, CEO Lulu Schiffler-Betz talks about how education and play are intrinsically linked.

Spielwarenmesse®: Ms Schiffler-Betz, the PISA Study ranked Germany at the lower end of the educational spectrum in 2001: things must have gone splendidly for Dusyma since then?

Lulu Schiffler-Betz: Dusyma is doing well. "Splendidly" is relative! That does not have much to do with PISA nowadays. However, the study did act as a wake-up call for the educational landscape and sector and led to action. One effect has been that nurseries, previously seen as supplementary childcare facilities, are now considered educational institutions. In this regard, our mindset here at Dusyma matches that of educationalists at that level: "Play is educational!"

PISA also led to the development of many new learning programmes and resources which were meant to impart global knowledge at turbo speed through mostly programmatic methods. A lot of money was invested in these, and wasted in some cases. According to our decades of experience, underpinned by modern brain research findings, intrinsic learning and the way in which children’s potential is developed occur very differently: through exploratory and experimental play, by trying things out, through imitation and repetition, via trial and error.

Fortunately, these findings influence our customers’ selection, decision-making and buying behaviours. To sum up the situation for Dusyma, sales of games, toys and learning experience resources have noticeably increased due to the impact of PISA, especially in the area of language education and the sciences, including maths, nature and technology.

Quality is rising in nurseries and playschools according to the Bertelsmann Foundation. What makes for a good daycare facility and what role do toys play in this?

L.S-B.: The quality of a nursery or playschool is primarily rooted in the facility’s safety and reliability and the people who work there. Ideally, they should carry out their duties happily and be highly motivated, competent and very committed. They should work in partnership with the parents and operator to foster the well-being of each child and the group as a whole.

Nothing more?

L.S-B.: Of course, quality is also expressed through a holistic educational approach focused on the developmental needs of the various children. I also believe it is fundamental to have a cheerful, loving and welcoming culture, a sufficient number of professional and committed staff and, of course, stimulating facilities with materials that go well together. This creates areas and spaces in which children find opportunities for play and exploration, be that artistic or science-based, alone in groups and together with the educationalists.

And what do toys contribute to a "loving and welcoming culture"?

L.S-B.: When correctly chosen and offered, toys play a very crucial role in this. Good toys for different play and learning areas which can be used on an everyday basis or according to the situation and also challenge holistically. Toys which raise more questions and encourage problem solving rather than presenting ready solutions on a silver platter, which therefore lead children to act as creative scientists and designers rather than passive consumers. Dusyma has understood for more than nine decades that the material and finish must combine maximum quality and the highest aesthetics.

Play, movement, experience and exploration - the Dusyma range of toys has something for everyone. Where have you noticed particular demand in the last 10 years? For toys that foster cognitive development or more motor skill development?

L.S-B.: Those who know Dusyma know that we generally pursue a holistic approach with respect to all of our toys. However, we do also focus on particular areas where we can support our customers’ concerns and requirements at that time. These have been and are all products to do with language development, such as in role plays, playing shop, resources.

Games which foster social skills but also play material that supports exploration, experimentation and discovery, such as mirrors as building platforms, sand tubs and light panels with coloured acrylic bricks. Play material for learning action planning, so forward-looking strategic play, as well as games for strengthening basic mathematical skills, for learning mathematical laws.

I’m just giving a few examples here, but at the same time I would deter people from forcing a generation of children towards development priorities. Children have the right to develop all of their skills in manifold ways and through play, and discover all of their talents.

You have some 12,000 products in your range. Which are your own creations, which come from partners and how many new products are developed annually to make educators happy?

L.S-B.: This is really key: educator happiness! Besides children’s happiness and well-being, this is especially important to us! We also work for them and, in close cooperation with educationalists, building on their practical experience, develop products and concepts which provide useful support to our customers in their daily work lives.

Of the some 12,000 items in our range, approx. 60% are trade goods, so products we buy and sell to complete our range. The other 40% are in-house developments: 30% furniture, 10% toys and learning experience resources. We develop 10 to 20 new products, sometimes even more, per year in the area of toys. Usually much more with furniture. For example, we have product lines there in terms of cabinets and wardrobes consisting of a multitude of individual products in and of themselves.

You can find everything at the Spielwarenmesse: both high-tech and old-fashioned toys. Who tends to visit your stand?

L.S-B.: Everyone interested in high-quality toys comes by our stand, but particularly toy and teaching aid retailers from Germany and abroad.

But all of those looking for special new products, who want to find out about the innovations presented or are curious about what the newcomers and designers located in Hall 3 have to offer also come to us.

Licences are playing an ever greater role when it comes to toys. But Darth Vader and Maya the Bee must be strictly off limits in your segment?

L.S-B.: It’s true, but we distance ourselves completely from licences. We leave this area to producers and companies targeting private consumers. Of course, there is the odd licence we would be interested in, but we remain true to our guiding principle and will continue to work on our own ideas and the educational strengths in the future. Thankfully, we have loads of potential for new and exciting products for the future as well.


Discover new products from Dusyma and other suppliers from the product group Wooden Toys and Craftworks live at the Spielwarenmesse® 2017. Get your ticket now at an advance booking price.

 

Author of this article:

Ulrich Texter

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