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02 Oct, Sunday
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Montreal Families

Activity boxes limit screen time & engage kids

A new family business based in the West Island aims to steer preschool-aged children away from screens by keeping them busy and stimulated with crafts, stories and games to play with parents and siblings.

Kolokidz is a monthly subscription box filled with fun and educational activities for children between the ages of 3 and 6. Each box has a different theme, such as animals or space, and is designed to encourage preschoolers to spend time with family to practice fine motor skills, develop creativity and logic, and learn about the alphabet and numbers.

Founded by Louis McKenzie, a father of two, the small startup began shipping its first boxes in July. Although the company is aimed at the North American market, offering $5 flat-fee shipping in Canada and the U.S., McKenzie said he’s already shipped a few boxes as far as London and Switzerland.

The idea for the company was born when McKenzie came up against the all-too-common modern parenting dilemma of how to manage and limit screen time.

Like most kids these days, McKenzie’s daughter started asking to play with mommy and daddy’s smartphones almost as soon as she could talk. Although she was never allowed to play with it for very long, McKenzie noticed that even a small amount of screen time seemed to have a big impact on the toddler’s attitude.

“Her behaviour completely changed,” McKenzie said. “She became difficult. Taking away the phone became extremely hard. She was so impatient. It really struck us, so we cut it out completely.”

McKenzie noted that the recommendation from the Canadian Pediatric Association is that kids aged 2 to 5 should have no more than one hour of screen time a day, but a lot of kids are getting much more than that.

“Once they’re 9, 10, 11, screens are a part of their lives,” he said. “But when they’re younger, they’re learning to be little humans; they’re learning to be people. Interactions with their parents are really important.”

Although Kolokidz is designed as a monthly subscription service, customers can also place a one-time order for a gift box for $30 plus shipping. Discounts are available for customers who prepay for three or 12 months in advance, bringing the cost as low as $22 per box.

“We want to create boxes that bring families together,” McKenzie said. “Children learn through play, so a lot of it is crafts, experiments and games. So far, we’re trying to ship one game per month, so that at least some of the items inside you can re-use as many times as you like.”

McKenzie said he consults with specialists in early childhood development and tests every activity in the box to ensure everything is age-appropriate and fun for kids.

Although the boxes are aimed at preschool-aged children, McKenzie said his testers found that older siblings were often eager to do the crafts and activities with their little brothers and sisters. “There’s no age limit to enjoying arts and crafts,” he said.

Each box also includes a 12-page original magazine written and designed by Kolokidz, which includes a four-page short story and eight pages of colouring, counting and letter-recognition activities.

For more information, visit kolokidz.com.

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