An award-winning toy business run from a country Waikato home


The Rolston buccaneers. (From left) Ty, Monte, Sawyer, Jada and Danny prepare to do battle in the bush beyond.

There are lots of places to play around the property.
 The kids play in the bush and fish in the stream. The adults work from home creating toys that win awards. imaginations are fuelled, dreams fulfilled. It’s a good life.

When Dee met Jeremy 20 years ago it was clear they would one day alight in a place without traffic snarls or neon lights, where the noisy beat of a kereru’s wings would be the loudest sound around.

Dee was raised on a farm at Kinohaku, a speck-sized settlement on the shores of the Kawhia Harbour. She and her sisters and brother played imaginary games, built African pygmy huts in the bush, leapt feet-first from a high bridge into the harbour and helped their grandmother hand-milk her cows in return for milk and butter. “We had no television,” she says. “We made our own adventures.”

Jeremy and Dee.

Jeremy and Dee.

Jeremy spent his childhood shifting homes as his father followed shearing gangs around the country. They moved 15 times before he reached his teens. He says he missed each home. But through the tapestry of ever-changing landscapes he cherishes one memory. When shearing was slow he and his dad would jump on a farm bike and go bush to hunt possums. They would kip overnight in makeshift shelters, boil the billy on an open fire and breathe the bush air. It was, he says, the best time ever.

This is a love story. But it’s more than a fairy tale about a beautiful blonde-haired young woman who married her best friend. It’s about a couple who share ideas about what childhood should be like. In this household of mum, dad and six kids aged from one to 12, real-time conversations are important; imagination is encouraged.


Music is a passion for Jeremy and the older children, and spontaneous singalongs take place when anyone picks up the guitar. 

Monte, aged eight, is currently working on a graphic novel about a dog named TLSH, aka The Last Super Hero, who sometimes gets in trouble. When he finishes he might join his siblings to re-enact a scene from Lord of the Rings, or mount a pretend pony to hurdle jumps in the paddock.

Dee says she can count on one hand the number of times she has ever heard one of her children complain they are bored. “If they did,” she says. “I would suggest giving them a job to do.”

The good life for the Rolstons began officially eight years ago, when they bought a house on the road to Te Pahu near Raglan. But the seeds for their lifestyle were planted much earlier. They met through a church youth group when Dee was 18 and Jeremy 22. Jeremy says he first saw Dee at a concert and cymbals crashed.

There’s no shortage of pint-sized tools when work has to be done, nor is there any lack of imagination when it comes to games, dressed-up or not.

There’s no shortage of pint-sized tools when work has to be done, nor is there any lack of imagination when it comes to games, dressed-up or not.

They later became best mates. On their first date he took her for a walk in the bush and gallantly piggy-backed her across a river. Dee says she married Jeremy “because if some other girl married him, I would lose my best friend”.

Jeremy was a furniture-maker – a skill he had learned, with a black rubber-handled claw hammer, at the knee of his father. He was a skilled tradesman and topped New Zealand in his trade certificates in cabinet-making. Dee had a BA from Waikato University and a post-graduate diploma in English as a second language. Four years after their marriage they travelled to South Korea where Dee taught English and Jeremy – who had originally signed on as a caretaker – found himself instead teaching kindergarten. “It was great,” he says. “The best time. I could be myself.”

When the couple returned to Hamilton the furniture-making business had hit tough times as cheap imports flooded the country. Jeremy took up a position running a church youth group. But with the approaching birth of their third child, the couple realized they had outgrown their home.

“I think because I had moved so often, I also wanted a place where we could put down roots and the kids could have some space,” Jeremy says.
Paradise was found in the form of a large two-storied wooden home with a labyrinth of rooms, flanked by bush, a creek, an orchard and massive climbing trees. Soon after they moved in Monte was born in the front bedroom.


Part of the plan was always for Dee to home-school the children. “We didn’t want them to spend half their lives on a school bus or in a classroom.”

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