South Windsor business making old school toys new again

Nate and Bec Slack with some of their CleverStuff wares.
Nate and Bec Slack with some of their CleverStuff wares.

If CleverStuff Educational Toys were to write its manifesto of success, it could quite easily be kept to a few well-worn sayings ... specially the one to do with the futility of wheel reinvention.

Husband and wife team, Nate and Bec Slack have steered clear of techno gadgetry and instead opted for the toys that have stood the test of time for generations.

No plastics or artificial bells and whistles here folks. CleverStuff specialises in items primarily made from wood. And they've got a warehouse of around 500 items to boast, ranging from puzzles and instruments to balance bikes and all manner of activity tables.

"It's old school turned new," says Bec.

"I've never heard of anyone handing along a plastic work bench that their child played with for six months, but people hold on to things like train sets and puzzles and shape sorters.

"I really like the nostalgia of it. I think with screen times and so much stimulus in the world, sometimes it's good to just sit back with some blocks and watch your child's imagination come to life instead of telling them what to think. It's about making something up for themselves."

The couple, who call Pitt Town home, recently moved their business to a new warehouse in Mileham Street, South Windsor, after having been in Penrith for the past six years.

"We predominantly focus on naught to six ... early education and preschool learning," Bec said. "In saying that, I'm 32 and my husband's nearly 40 and we play with them as well. I don't think there's an age limit on making a castle out of building blocks."

Bec said the majority of Cleverstuff's toys were aimed to stimulate the senses, encourage connection and quality time, while being educational.

Some of course do have nods to the modern world.

"We've actually got an alphabet puzzle which comes with a wooden stylus," she said. "Within each of the letter shapes there's actually a little track so the child can start to develop that muscle memory of learning how to write.

"Swiping on a screen they can tell what the letters are, but there are so many kids starting in kindy and year one and they don't have pencil grip because they're not doing that any more."

Bec said that the best sellers in the range were "the things that are a little bit different ... that you can't find in other places".

"One of our best selling toys is called a Touch and Match," she said. "It's a puzzle, they're all circles, and each has a different piece of fabric attached. So ones got velcro, one has some satin and one has some foam and then on the board you've got to match the texture to the texture.

"And musical toys. Every kid likes to play on a xylophone and shake on a tambourine."

Bec said that many of the toys supplied by CleverStuff triggered the memories of their customers.

"I think sometimes the parents get more excited," she said. "There is something so special about a grandparent that walks in and says, 'I remember when I bought my daughter her first tea set and now I'm buying one for my grand daughter'."

CleverStuff provides many toys to childcare and family day care centres around the area.

Bec says there's no greater test for a toy's durability than sending it off to a room full of young tackers.

"If you can have 80 kids a day playing with it for 10 hours a day, five days a week they must be doing something right," she said.

Customers visiting the CleverStuff website will note the toys are not broken up into "girl" or "boy" specific streams.

"I think it's a bit old school and it's a bit of a stereotype," said Bec. "I don't believe that toys have a gender. What ever the child's interest is, is all that matters."

The new CleverStuff warehouse is located at Unit 10, 74 Mileham Street, South Windsor.

To check out the range visit cleverstuff.com.au.