An educator for her entire career, Tiffney Laing knows that children learn best when play is involved. With this notion in mind, she started Ancestors & Descendants in 2015 and, in October, debuted the company’s first product: History Makers Puzzle Block Set about African-American history.
Stemming from her role as a mother and the coordinator of student life and adjunct faculty member teaching leadership and business courses at Northern Virginia Community College Loudoun Campus, Laing knows that to truly make an impact, students need to be taught history and need to start learning from a young age.
“When we talk about history, it is very important that society understands its history,” says Laing. “In order to be a great society, you have to know what happened beforehand and who came before you. If children and people in general understood history, there would be less confusion in the world. There would be more appreciation, understanding and compassion in general. You create a great people when they are connected to those who came before them.”
From this concept the History Makers Puzzle Block Set was born. The 30-piece wooden block set, with history booklet, has six sides of play learning with the basics such as the alphabet, colors and an overall puzzle, but it also teaches leadership concept words and about historical figures and events. Bev and Dave are the “self-leadership gurus” who lead children through the learning experience created by Laing to give the children characters they can relate to and learn from. They are also the characters who will carry through the Ancestors & Descendants line of upcoming products, the next one launching in early 2017: Bev and Dave’s Adventures Through History book series.
Through this line of educational toys, Laing’s desire is to teach history through the lens of leadership and to get these teachings into the minds of children at a young age so it can stay with them the rest of their lives. And her focus on African-American history is geared toward all children because it is an important part of America’s history, one that doesn’t just involve slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. Through the puzzles Laing teaches children about African-American choreographers, journalists, educators, musicians, aviators and many more figures in our history.
“It’s really phenomenal and magnificent when you talk about the triumph through challenges,” she says. “With children today, sometimes when they think things are terrible, they will see that it’s not so bad when they can understand history. And it makes them have that much more strength and energy that they need now to achieve their dreams.
“You find great encouragement through these historical events and characters about how they were able to achieve in times where they had less than what we have now,” says Laing. “So with the opportunities we have now, just imagine what you can do. But [children] won’t see it unless they understand history. They won’t know how great their present is unless they understand history.” // Ancestors & Descendants History Makers Puzzle Block Set, for ages 3 and up, $29.99