How Puzzle Huddle Creators Are Increasing Black Representation For Kids One Piece At A Time
Matthew Goins’ puzzles celebrate diversity in career, ethnicity and religion
August 08, 2019 at 4:24 pm
It’s often assumed that, for many young Black boys and girls growing up in cities around the U.S, regular exposure to successful people who aren’t entertainers and look like them is rare. In that same vein, most kids in the community aren't equally exposed to various spiritual backgrounds and know two main sides to religion; you go to church or you don’t. Imagine how many lives could be positively transformed if the scope of their world was expanded just a bit. Currently, Matthew Goins, the founder of Puzzle Huddle has taken on the task of broadening that scope with his creative children’s puzzle designs.
Goins is a devoted husband, invested father, triple alumni of Howard University and a former HR professional turned full-time entrepreneur. However, before he was any of those things, he was a young man born and raised in Michigan and a product of the Detroit school system. With an educator mother and equally involved father, Goins learned early the importance of quality education and the possibilities for exceptional career advancement. Goins was fortunate to have the support to pursue any career he wanted, however he also recognized that not all children have such a privilege.
“My parents always held my siblings and I accountable for good school performance. I've always attended schools with an African American majority. All of the schools had a culture of achievement and high standards,” Goins told Blavity. “Based on my experience in school, I can appreciate the broad spectrum of career interests. I'm also in a network of high achieving professionals that I met at every level of my school career.”
Many of Goins’ friends are parenting young children and cultivating them to achieve high goals, while setting them up to believe that there is no limit to what they can do and be in this world. For Goins, it’s his own children that helped him make the life altering decision to leave his ten year career as an HR professional to create Puzzle Huddle and work for himself. With the love and support of his wife Marnel Goins, the career professional has taken his entrepreneurial endeavor on as full-time self-employment and is helping shape positive narratives about people of color.
“Having three young children provided the most compelling experience,” Goins shared. “I started by cutting puzzles out of cardboard for my children at home. Eventually I began thinking about how to make similar products available to others. The company has been limited to nights and weekends, until recently when my wife was offered a job across the country. That transition created a unique opportunity for me to work on the business full-time.”
Of all the things to create, Goins and his family are making puzzles to improve representation. The significance of their company extends past showcasing Black people in various professions. His story helps dispel the false and overly promoted trope of the absent Black father as well.
“Children can be limited by what they are exposed to. There aren't many outlets that communicate a broad range of narratives and career examples to diverse children. The puzzle can provide a platform to support and expand children’s imagination,” Goins said. “It's also been important for me to communicate about the company as a father because the narrative around African American fathers is very limited and stereotypically communicated as dysfunctional.”
Representation matters and the narratives spewed to children are what they will cleave to most in life. Based on these facts, it has been vital for Goins to create images in his puzzles that not only show diversity on many levels, but also that make such variety look appealing.
“Kids are often interested in doing things with cool uniforms. Kids start with things like ballerina [or] firefighter, because the uniforms are cool,” Goins shared. “So blending access to career forms that were different without actually ignoring what’s going to grab a kid’s interest in the first place, the cool uniform, then [taking] baby steps away from that to expand what a kid might understand in terms of career opportunities is important.”
Not to neglect the role that upbringing plays in exposing children to different things outside their communities or comfort zone, Puzzle Huddle also challenges the open-mindedness of parents. For parents, these puzzles can help better prepare children for the world, while also reminding parents that they too can still dream big.
“You need tools and materials and collateral to help lead your child’s thinking in any direction. What’s immediately available is what comes from the big bot media companies... We don’t want to force a template of thinking onto a parent, if a parent is interested in [representation] then [Puzzle Huddle] gives them access to a channel where they exist.”
YouTube | Puzzle Huddle
Puzzle Huddle gives parents the opportunity to introduce their children to diversity and create a new norm. At the same time, children can explore the depths of their imagination through a fun, inclusive and productive activity. The puzzles are sold online at the company’s website.