The octopus in the box

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Bangalore, October. 18:   How do you keep your child busy, out of trouble, away from the TV and iPad? And not have to send them away to any class? How do you do all this at home, while you try to catch up on your work? A young father got thinking on these lines and came up with a solution, all bundled up in a box.

It’s very common to see young mums take on new professions once their kids are born, and trying to integrate their work with their children’s activities. So when a four-year-old child inspires his dad to start a company to develop products to keep him “engaged”, you do get a bit curious.

For someone who’s worked on technology products and mobile app platforms, Vijaybabu Gandhi is quite a surprise. “He’s a concerned dad and wants his kid to be engaged in some activity that’s meaningful and purposeful. Most toys in the market are either recreational or educational, he found. So together we wanted to create something purposeful, and keep parents worry-free,” offers Arunprasad Durairaj, co-founder, along with Vijay, of a new venture called Flinto. Arun is from a venture capital background, with a specialisation in mergers and acquisitions. A newbie dad, he too hopped onto the bandwagon in all entrepreneurial spirit.

They brought together child psychologists, early child development professionals, designers, educators who’ve worked with children’s craft, story writers — who all formed their board of consultants — to figure out what a child, between ages three and seven, should have.

“We were motivated to design everything from scratch, and fill the gap. And we wanted to provide something new every month. We realised just a toy, craft or activity alone won’t work. So we developed a six-year-old character, an octopus called Flinto — he’s an aspirational character who speaks to the kids,” says Arun.

Vijay explains how each box comes with three activities — one related to art, one to science, and one is an experiment. “Kids feel different about making their own toy and hold it dearer than one you buy them,” points out Arun. It includes some activities to be done with the hand — it could be hand-painting, or tearing along a dotted line to make their own wiggly snake, or making their own wind-chime with shells.

Then there is a game — a board, tile or card game. Each box is also accompanied by a story book. “It’s more a comic strip adventure of Flinto the octopus, which comes with a simple moral or is a trigger for kids to create their own stories,” says Vijay.

Each month comes riding on the back of a theme or a concept. When they did a “space adventure” theme, the box came with simple materials for kids to build their own telescope, there was a two-sided jigsaw puzzle, and you could create your own “moon lamp”. Themes so far have included “Nature’s music” to introduce children to sounds in nature, “Into the sea” and “Fun with numbers”. They immediately jump to clarify that the last theme was not academic at all. “It helps children learn early numeracy — children are given their own currency to learn to buy and sell vegetables,” adds Arun.

The duo reiterate that there’s no one definitive outcome from the activities in the box, as the age target range is quite vast — “The takeaway for a three-year-old child is different from that of a seven-year-old. For the younger child it may be about fine-tuning motor skills, for the older child, it may be about perfecting them,” offers Vijay. While younger kids may need some guidance about how to go about the activities, older ones will be able to figure it out themselves.

The kits, sourced and produced in Bangalore, are available on a monthly subscription (of Rs. 745 a month). They are currently selling them online and have delivered across 40 cities in India including Pune, Goa, Coimbatore, Vishakhapatnam, Ludhiana, Vadodara and more. “A few schools and retail stores have also partnered with us,” says Arun. They bust all myths that such educational toys are in demand in urban centres. “In fact our first sale was in Tirunalveli. Tier-two cities are more responsive. Parents and children have the same aspirations as those in urban cities, but the opportunities to engage the child outside home may be fewer than in a big city,” is the logic Vijay offers.

For details look up www.flinto.in or call 9663381867

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