Dubai, UAE: Two mothers have teamed up to develop crafty children’s games that buck the technology trend.
Leyla Lahsini and Shirin Benamadi created KenziBox, a treasure trove of activities for children between the ages of 3 and 8.
Each KenziBox – which is about the size of a large shoebox – is designed to look and feel like a cardboard version of a blue treasure chest, and is filled with arts and crafts projects that focus on a monthly theme.
The KenziBox was their answer to the dilemma of how to get their four-year-olds away from the television and tablet screens and into creative and constructive play.
“Kids finish school early and you feel this need to keep them busy in the afternoon,” said Mrs Lahsini, who is of Turkish and French descent.
“We don’t want to put them in activity classes every single afternoon, but you want to keep them busy in a nice way in the house.”
Like many parents, Mrs Lahsini said she originally turned to social media app Pinterest for arts and crafts projects she could take up with her four-year-old son, Taha. But she soon realised that bringing the clever Pinterest pins to life was not as simple as it appeared.
“When you’ve never done it, it’s actually quite difficult and overwhelming,” said Mrs Lahsini. “It takes a lot of work to put it together.”
Just finding the right materials was a chore – “a pain”, according to Mrs Lahsini. She said she had to visit numerous supermarkets and stationers to find the right items just for one project.
However, she saw the value in exposing her son to different materials and in challenging him to think creatively while working with his hands. So she turned to her friend, now-business partner Mrs Benamadi, who always seemed to make the arts and crafts projects look simple and easy. Both women are in their early 30s and have master’s degrees in business administration.
“I thought: ‘Can we bring that simplicity to everyone? Can we make it a bit more standard? How could we do this?’,” said Mrs Lahsini.
Together they researched themes and developed activities around those ideas. In November, their first KenziBox, called Circus In Town, debuted.
Children could open the box and find everything they needed – materials and picture guides – in order to construct a circus diorama, with an acrobat clown who spins in a wheel, an elephant whose trunk doubles as a party horn, and make-your-own clown outfits.
The sixth and latest edition of KenziBox is called Medieval Tales and offers activities such as constructing a castle, a catapult, a dragon puppet and a crown.
“We’re trying to kind of give you a way of thinking of materials that are right in front of you in a different way,” said Mrs Benamadi, a Palestinian who was raised in the US.
“It’s so much about getting back to basics. Kids’ lives are so hugely commercialised these days. I don’t want it to ever feel like a commercial product that is too prefabricated. I want it to feel home-made. I want mums to open it and see that it’s from other mums who are trying to ignite a spark of imagination in their kids.”
Emma Fisher, a Dubai private schoolteacher who, as a friend of the co-founders, was one of the first clients, said the KenziBox was a hit with her son.
“I think it’s a great concept,” said Mrs Fisher. “To have a box delivered every month with imaginative crafts, materials and everything you need to make them with, is such a relief. Each box is themed around a particular topic and my son can’t wait to open the box each month.
“There are lots of skills that the children explore just from making the projects, such as fine motor skills, creativity, imagination. Then after the project is finished, there are links to literature, science, maths, art, music, et cetera, and imaginary role play, providing hours of play-based learning.”
The boxes are sold individually for Dh185 at kenzibox.com or at a reduced price for those who get a three, six or 12-month subscription. Delivery is free within the UAE.
© The National
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