About us: the passion behind ToolKid
Jos van de Vliet
I always felt an affinity with tools and DIY. As my childhood days were less abundant in certain choices than today, I had to work and use my imagination to get what I wanted. That made me see challenges in all kinds of things: the submarine I saw on TV? With two toilet rolls and a lot of creativity, I easily made my own version. From an analog train track to an old moped: I learned by doing and when something went wrong, I kept on trying until it worked.
This pleasure, my inquisitiveness and entrepreneurial mindset were the foundation for me, as a child, at how I looked at the world around me.
In later years, at work and at home, I was never daunted to get started on, for instance, building a wall, setting up a network, or placing a window frame. Not that it all went perfectly smoothly, but that was all right: you can only learn from your mistakes!
Now, I want to offer the children of today the same fun that I had. As a society, it seems that we have lost the ability to create challenges and to trust in the fact that children will find their own ways through them. Even though it is my experience that this is exactly what makes you grow!
When my son’s occupational therapist wanted him to use tools to train his eye-hand coordination, I immediately started looking for suitable kids’ tools. To my surprise, what I found were toys… They sometimes looked like real mini tools but as soon as children wanted to use them, they frustratingly found out that they couldn’t make anything with them.
As a technically trained professional, my heart was already in product development and production. This is how I came up with the idea to develop the tools that I was looking for… One thing led to another and after going through all the – not always easy – steps, I am enormously proud of what we have created now with ToolKid: a product that is one of a kind. I could already put my whole heart into the development phase, and my expertise and prior experience as an entrepreneur really helped.
Especially our new inventions such as the fretsaw tensioner and nail holder offer a wonderful feeling of satisfaction: we give children the tools that actually work! Seeing how they enjoy using the tools safely and independently to create something by themselves makes us realize how worthwhile every step has been!
I always was an entrepreneurial child. And like every child, I was curious by nature and explored the world around me to try and understand it. I liked finding out how something worked and then try to copy it myself, or to take something apart and put it back together again, like my moped.
I also always enjoyed working with children. When I met Jos and he explained his wish to develop kids’ tools, it instantly piqued my enthusiasm. Thanks to my knowledge and experience in working with children as an art therapist (BAT), I immediately understood the motivation of the occupational therapist. Letting children work with tools goes beyond stimulating their motor skills!
My expertise regarding the development phases of children really helped in the development of ToolKid. I researched the obstacles children experienced when using tools, after which, and together with Jos, we devised how we could make the specific tool more child-friendly.
It was truly amazing and inspiring to see how children, during the usage study at TU Delft, immediately preferred working with our ToolKid tools. Everything we had envisioned, we saw it happening right in front of us! I was deeply touched that children who were using these tools experienced the same things that I did as a child. Over the past years, this has been proved time and again, but I will never forget that first moment.
Another great success was when ToolKid appeared to comply with the strict European safety standards for toys. At the time, there was no safety standard for kids’ toys, and this was the only reference we could find. ToolKid passed the tests with flying colors and became the standard for safe kids’ tools worldwide!
My heart lies with ToolKid and especially with the fun that children experience when they start using our tools. The positive response from adults and knowing that we contribute positively to the development of children (and thus to our future world) are a great incentive to further expand and promote ToolKid. This is why ToolKid has become more than a product: it is my mission!