Creating magical childhood moments with mindful stories and handmade toys

Liesl van der Hoven from Fairy Caravan

Creating magical childhood moments

My name is Liesl van der Hoven. I am an artist, storyteller and the owner of Fairy Caravan.

My small creative team and I have a passion for using our artistic talents to create toys and stories to support and inspire children in navigating the challenges of growing up.

Much of my own inspiration comes from the therapeutic value of mindfulness and from spending time in nature. 

Mindfulness can be defined as “being conscious or aware of something; or a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

I stumbled upon mindfulness practices (meditation and yoga) in my search for something to calm my own overactive mind. Once I realised how helpful these practices were to me as an adult, I started delving into the possibilities of sharing mindfulness techniques with young children through my creative work. 

Nothing makes me happier than knowing that Fairy Caravan’s stories and characters support, encourage and inspire children to be the best that they can possibly be!

I have a Master’s degree in Philosophy from Stellenbosch University. I’ve also studied Graphic Design and completed several courses in children’s book writing and illustration.

The magic of making illustrations become “real”

Once upon a time, I started thinking about what would happen if children’s book illustrations were brought to life in three dimensions… and that’s when the adventure of Fairy Caravan began!

All of the Fairy Caravan toys and dolls start off as hand-drawn illustrations on paper. Once I have completed an illustration and scanned it to my computer, it is time to have it printed on fabric.

My team and I then create our special Fairy Caravan magic by sewing and stuffing the printed fabric into our signature handmade toys.

I absolutely love the creative process - it's my favourite mindfulness exercise! When I'm busy creating, I am purely focused on the present moment and the character in front of me.

Exquisite craftsmanship is extremely important to me, and I am personally involved in the process of turning an illustration into a real character from beginning to end.

See more of our characters here!

Mindful stories to support and inspire children

Of course it was also important to me that characters as special as ours must have their own stories! And what I wanted above all else was that these stories should support and inspire children as they deal with the challenges of growing up.

I asked a number of play therapists for advice about difficulties that most children struggle with as they are growing up, and how to overcome these stumbling blocks. A recurring theme that emerged was the value of mindfulness in overcoming a wide variety of problems that most children deal with.

I believe that stories are a wonderful way of explaining concepts to children. By sharing mindful methods of dealing with problems in easily understood stories, it is my aim to share coping skills that will serve a child throughout his/her entire lifetime.

Find out more about the Fairy Caravan stories, and how I am being advised by play therapists in developing my story themes here.

We aspire to be mindful in our own actions, our interactions with others and the messages we share with the world - especially the messages contained in our stories. To us being mindful also means to think deeply about things and to act in an ethical manner.

We care deeply about children and our impact on the environment...

We always strive to use only the best quality materials for our products. All of our fabric products are made from 100% cotton to ensure that sensitive young skins only come into contact with natural fibers.

We care about the impact that our products have on the little people who use them as well the impact our manufacturing processes have on the environment.

We use a printing process that is safe for the young children who come into contact with our products, because the inks are water-based and non-toxic. The footprint of our printing process on the environment is also very small, as the inks are bonded to the fabric with heat, which not only makes our products washable and colourfast, but also means that no harmful chemical processes are needed after the fabric has been printed.