Sparkt Bridges

Mom Can't Find Toys That Look Like Her Twins, So She Created Them

She's designed a line of puzzles that give families a diversity in choosing educational games for their children.

This story is part of a bi-weekly series that celebrates people who are reaching across a divide to "build bridges" with those different from themselves. The Sparkt Bridges series is made possible with the support of UPMC.

We've all heard the phrase "representation matters." Amanda Wilson believes it's something that becomes more important with each generation. And it was that saying that got the wheels turning in the brain of this mommy-to-be.

Amanda Wilson's twins Xola and Adric.A+X Puzzles Instagram Page

When Wilson was pregnant with twins Adric and Xola, she started to look for toys that represented her family and their culture. When it came to educational toys, like puzzles, Wilson's search came up empty. But it sparked a birth of another kind, a business venture grounded in love, fun and inclusion. A+X Puzzles was born!

During the creation of the puzzle line, it was important for Amanda to pay homage to the role models and influential leaders that she learned about as a child. "Black Rushmore was obviously inspired by Mount Rushmore, but I think about the African Americans who have been monumental for my life," said Wilson, explaining the design for her "Black Rushmore" puzzle.

"There's Michelle Obama, Michael Eric Dyson, Malcolm X, and Zora Neale Hurston," in the puzzle. "So those people, I think that were integral in how I live, you know, learning and education. But yours could be different."

The puzzles feature a character named Zoey and her friends having fun experiences in a lollipop forest.

Wilson intends for A+X Puzzles to be more than just a fun activity for kids. The puzzles help develop a child's fine motor skills and each puzzle is accompanied by a story that allows kids to practice their reading skills while they play. Wilson hopes to spark a lesson of another kind, one that lets young brown boys and girls know they can dream big.

"If I know that you can become the president of the United States, that might change what I thought that I initially wanted to be when I grow up. And so that's where my imagination plays in with the puzzles," said Wilson.

Wilson wants African American children to see themselves in fun and positive narratives in her puzzles.

With all the negative images of African Americans that are often displayed in the media, Wilson wants her puzzles to counter those narratives early on. "You change the way that children see themselves. We want to just give a positive outlook on what children can be when they grow up," she said.

A+X Puzzles is helping to bridge the representation gap among all children. "Young people in our spaces, that are youth of color, are seeing themselves reflected in the images in those puzzles," said Kelly Rottmund, Teen Services Coordinator for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. But children of all races who play with the toys can also be influenced by their positive messages.

Good for this mom who refused to accept business as usual, and did something that will surely make a difference!

The Sparkt Bridges Project is produced

with the generous support of UPMC.

Life Changing Medicine.

How can you start something good?

If you're interested in purchasing A+X puzzles, click here. They're sold individually for families, and wholesale for retailers.

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