The Telegraph
| Sunday, March 15, 2015 |

7days

Games children play

Is your child hooked on computer games? Fret not. Look at the array of new skill development toys that are rocking the toys market, advises Sharmistha Ghosal

It's s-p-l-e-n-d-i-d, splendid," shouts Aadrish before his cousin can spell the word out. "That was Tino's turn, you shouldn't have spelt it," Pushpanjali mildly scolds her nine-year-old son.

It is a lazy Sunday afternoon and the Roy Barman family is busy playing Spell Bee in their Calcutta home. There was a time when Sundays for Aadrish meant hours spent playing computer games. But a slew of innovative games has turned routine into fun-filled hours.

"He was either busy shooting helicopters on a computer screen or building the same old shipyard with his blocks. The interest was waning and the afternoons were becoming a drag," the young homemaker says.

The new range of cognitive skill development toys developed by start-ups has revolutionised the toy market in India. Children are happy, as are their parents, for the games are not just fun but also instructive.

"Children learn best if taught in a game format. So utmost care must be taken of what the child is playing with, whether offline or online," says Rashmi Mantri, special educator, Apeejay School, Park Street, Calcutta. "These games enhance life skills and sportsmanship if they are structured in a scientific manner. Apart from that, they also help parents bond with their child," Mantri points out.

Some of these games can also be subscribed to online, on a monthly basis. Flintobox, a year-old Chennai start-up, for instance, sells different kinds of activity boxes which are shipped to its subscribers every month. Each box contains four or five activities that cover 12 developmental areas including motor, cognitive, creativity, language and social skills. A six-month subscription costs Rs 5,370.

"Children are exposed to 20-25 different concepts, ideas and inspirations over a period of six months and more. These concepts make them creative and inquisitive and they tend to apply them to daily life," says Arunprasad Durairaj, founder of Flintobox. "And it also helps kids move away from television."

The games, clearly, are catching on. In its first year between October 2013 and September 2014, Flintobox earned Rs 30 lakh. "The focus during that period was mainly on product development and testing with zero marketing. Till now, we have made Rs 1 crore in subscription sales which are growing by 50 per cent on a month-on-month basis. We expect to close this operating year at Rs 6 crore," Durairaj adds.

Two-year-old Cocomoco Kids, the erstwhile Travellerkids, is another games provider popular with children and parents alike. "We specialise in affordable toys that make children take an interest in English, geography and maths," Cocomoco Kids co-founder Priyanka Prabhakar says.

Among their popular toys - which cost between Rs 50 and Rs 1,250 - are fun maps. "Kids are usually averse to maps but ours are colourful and they can learn about a country's currency, language and flag," Prabhakar says.

Spell Bees, which helps children learn words and spellings, is another popular game from the Cocomoco Kids stable, as are World Bingo and Passport Kit, which make them aware of countries.

The company sold 15,000 units in 2014, and now plans to add five more games to its cart of 25. "Besides online retail outlets such as Flipkart and Firstcry, our toys are available in stores in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore," the 27-year-old entrepreneur says, adding that plans are afoot to set up shops in Calcutta and Chennai.

For parents, the toys are the best thing for their kids after protein bars. Parul Jain, a radio broadcaster and a mother of two, was drawn to these games after her son received a toy called World Box (which focuses on geography) as a return gift.

"I looked up the Internet and saw that there were many enterprises selling such toys," says Jain, who now buys them for her children and their friends. "It's very important to grow up with a doll but playtime should also be interesting and educative."

Edsix Brain Lab is another child-centric enterprise which aims at evaluating multiple intelligence and cognitive skills through a host of online games. It has over 500 games spanning modules on memory, focus and attention, problem solving, linguistics and visual processing problems. The games have been developed by a team of education experts, development paediatricians and clinical psychologists.

"We work primarily with schools and currently we have more than 15,000 student subscribers in the South," says Saravanan Sundaramoorthy, founder of Edsix, which came up under the IIT, Madras, Rural Technology Business Incubator programme. "It is vital to have a strong grasp of concepts rather than rote learning. These games teach a child to apply what they learn."

Sujee Vijaybalaiya, co-ordinator of Life Oriented Education (LOE) at C.K. School, Cuddalore, is happy with Edsix's games, which the school has been following since the last academic year. The games, she adds, have helped students handle computers and problem solving better.

At home, too, she is happy to see her 11-year-old daughter, Rishika, spend less time on games such as "Dressing your Barbie" on the computer. "Now she is hooked on games that enhance her cognitive skills," Vijaybalaiya says.

Of course, the main problem that the start-ups face is that their competitors are often giants in the global market. "Don't forget we compete with everything from Barbies to iPads," says Pallavi Agarwal, founder, Chalk and Chuckles, a Delhi-based company which makes games on memory, cognition, problem solving, logical reasoning and storytelling. Indian companies have to keep prices low because the games are often bought as return gifts for parties, and parents seek bargains for bulk buying.

"Abroad, the picture is far more promising, with greater revenue earning and a positive approach by buyers," adds Agarwal, whose three-year-old company sells its toys in the US, South Africa and Spain.

But the market in India is growing, too. And, for once, parents don't mind saying to their child: go and play!

Cool company

Start-ups that make special games

  • Flintobox
  • Cocomoco Kids
  • Chalk and Chuckles
  • Edsix
  • Little Readers’ Nook
  • Curiously Grafix
  • Friendly Toyz

Fun learning

Games that help you with

Words
Spell Bee 
Storytelling Kits

Memory
Hungrrry Four 
Monkey Expressions 

Geography
World Bingo
Passport Kit
Interactive World Map Kit

Numbers
Stepping Stones 
A-door-able Race 

Motor skills
Ant The Builder