Turning a hobby into a career

Reuben has been creating toys made from wood most his life. When he was just six years old his curiosity drove him to build a tree house using just loose objects, cut offs and wood sourced from his backyard, and local hardware store.

Reuben then found himself sitting in his new treehouse hand built all by himself. It was from this moment he realised he had discovered a newfound passion that would continue to drive him to overcome his barriers to touch, sensory, noise and concentration.

By age eleven, Reuben was making toys every weekend, running school market stalls, and selling his wooden toys to the school community.

A whale toy shaped out of timber with a Kinnect tag attached.

But while the school community, friends and family loved Reuben’s toys — making toys wasn’t always something he had envisioned being a long-term career. While making wooden toys was still a passion, Reuben’s typical day involved working at the local childcare centre.

Almost two decades on from building his own treehouse, Reuben would spend each day sitting in the childcare centre thinking about what more he could do to support the kids around him, and realised the need for more educational resources, and toys within the childcare sector that could serve more than just one purpose.

“Childcare, vacation care and schools have curriculums, philosophies and standards, they also promote educational experiences and products that link back to sustainability,” said Reuben.

Linking in with Mylestones Employment a Disability Service Provider designed to support people living with disability find meaningful work and build a career, Kinnect's handmade toys was born and Reuben turned his hobby, and passion for toy making into an ongoing career supporting kids education, with toys.

"After successfully opening my business and sourcing an ABN under the guidance of Mylestones Employment, I set to work making educational toys and puzzles suitable for all ages.

"My toys are designed to enhance play experiences and educational encounters that captivates children’s interests.

A dinosaur toy made out of timber

Since starting Kinnect's handmade toys, Reuben’s skills have developed immensely — he has transitioned from making toys out of driftwood and cut offs, to creating real life 3D puzzles, and educational packs with purpose.

“The choice to start my business was inspired and informed by my years of woodworking, schooling, careers in education and manufacturing, and most importantly energised by my focus group... the children I work with through my current workplace,” he said.

“I have been lucky enough in my own life to have some incredible mentors who gifted me a wonderful education. I can’t wait to pay it forward by giving children experiences that fit all types of learners — visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, both neurotypical and neurodivergent children through to holistic play.

“It’s funny to think that my hobby of toy making and by falling into a career of childcare would ultimately come together and allow me to do both things I love for the rest of my life, and earn an income too.”

When he isn’t busy making toys in his workshop, Reuben attends his local market to sells his toys and puzzles to the local community, actively seeking and building new connections with local childcare centres.

“I feel so validated when people and organisations purchase my products – like “people are actually interest in my creations. I can’t believe where I am today and how far this journey has taken me.

“When CPL’s Toy and Resources Library purchased my puzzles for their own library and then rented them out to a family, I felt like my small business was really going places,” said Rueben.

An intricate dinosaur toy made from timber

But Reuben has big dreams for the future of sustainable play and Kinnect's handmade toys, with a goal to start a ‘travelling museum’ where he can visit schools, childcare centres and educational spaces up and down the Southeast Coast to showcase his toys, and promote opportunities for education play. Follow Rueben’s career journey here to see all the incredible work he is doing. He might just pop up at your local market soon.

Follow Rueben’s career journey to see all the incredible work he is doing. He might just pop up at your local market soon.

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Published by the CPL Team
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A young man wearing a red polo and smiling for a photo