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Playpod: Play coming your way...

Playpod is a mobile and flexible playspace designed to empower kids and their parents to engage in joyful, creative learning; in essence, to play together. These portable structures are delivered to community gathering spots - everything from churches to community centers - to bolster student learning through developmentally-appropriate play that targets senses, movement, and language. We will partner with community leaders and caretakers - both within the United States and abroad - to staff the Playpod and ensure that it is effectively deployed to reach low-income communities. It will catalyze local connections as kids and parents join together in inquiry, discovery, and collaboration. Play coming your way!

Photo of Kelli Ledeen
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How it will work: Imagine this Scenario...



It’s a beautiful Fall day.  

<honk honk>  A semi-truck, carrying an intriguing-looking steel and glass structure, pulls into a church parking lot in Durham, NC.  From the outside, curious onlookers see brightly colored objects peppered inside the Playpod.  Red chairs. Blue crates. Multi-colored tiles lining the floor.    

At the same time, half-way across the world, a team of tuk-tuks are hauling an assortment of brightly colored toy chests strapped to the roof, and barreling toward a cricket field in a nearby Mumbai slum.  Each of these chests contains toys and games specific to a particular developmental stage and can be quickly and easily unpacked anywhere parents and children gather.  This smaller and more modular approach accommodates crowded spaces where there may not be sufficient room for a full-size Playpod.   





A Playpod has arrived and it flings open its doors to invite parents and their young children inside.  This Playpod is hosted by the local church for the next six months and is staffed by volunteers who oversee its maintenance and operation.  In every corner of the Playpod, one can find color-coded play activities carefully designed to align to children’s social, emotional, and academic development from birth to five years old.

Every kid is given a “Playcard” with activities just right for his/her developmental stage.  Each color-coded “Playcard” visually represents a series of self-directed activities - lasting as little as 20 minutes - for children and their parents to explore together.   

The Playpod is filled with low-tech, no-tech and a few high-tech toys that deliberately target the need for young children to explore senses, movement and language.  Toys are simple and crafted from everyday objects so they can easily be re-created at home.  Progress is tracked for repeat “playmates” - those children participating in the Playpod - so kids, parents, and the local staff can have a shared understanding of how a child is progressing.  After each visit, a child is given the option of borrowing a new toy to continue his/her learning at home, which can be exchanged upon returning to the Playpod.  
   


 

 

Why Our Idea Might Succeed



Our concept brings creativity and play directly to where families already congregate within a community.  We bring experiential learning to parents who are seeking opportunities to bond and learn alongside their children because  we believe that learning can happen anytime and anywhere.  By helping empower parents to take an active and participatory role in their children’s learning and development, Playpod unlocks the power and potential of a community, a parent and a young child.



Our idea, however fanciful it may seem, is rooted in research and science.  Neuroscientists consistently highlight the importance of how young children develop socially, emotionally, and cognitively. These formative years are critical in establishing the neural pathways - research shows 700-1,000 new ones created every second in a child’s young brain - that will prepare children to be successful lifelong learners.  Furthermore, this cognitive growth is buoyed by the interactions and bonding among children, their parents, and other caregivers in the family or community.  (ref: Harvard University
Center on the Developing Child
).


Inspiration:

Who will benefit from this idea and where are they located?

We are designing this for parents in low-income urban environments - both domestic and abroad - where there is a concentrated population of those with young children who may have limited resources.

Since Playpod must align with the local community and heavily relies on local partnerships, we understand the importance of thoughtfully developing different deployment strategies based on the policies, culture, and context of the end users. For example, what works for an urban community within the U.S. may not mimic the approach one would take to bring Playpod to the slums of Mumbai, India or urban Mexico City. While implementation tactics may differ amongst communities, the overarching mission of Playpod remains constant: young children are better able to thrive - academically, socially, and emotionally - through meaningful and creative play with their parents.

How could you test this idea in a quick and low-cost way right now?

While our team is based in the United States, we are also interested in bringing Playpod to international communities. As a result, we would simultaneously pilot the playspace in two locations - one domestic and one abroad - to robustly test our assumptions and collect diverse user feedback.

To identify an appropriate abroad market, we would leverage the expertise of organizations that already possess deep community roots and a track record of high-quality, high-impact support. These intermediaries would be valuable thought-partners as we scout locations that: 1) reflect our intended user (e.g. low-income urban communities); 2) reveal local leaders with whom to collaborate; and 3) harbor organizations with formal and informal community ties.

Our low-cost prototype would help us test the following questions:

 - If we set up a Playpod with fun and engaging games/toys would families stop by to check it out?

 - Could we find a local community member (i.e. a grandmother, a retired teacher) to oversee the Playpod?

 - Would parents return with their children more than once?

 - What are the similarities and differences between domestic Playpod and international Playpod?

What kind of help would you need to make your idea real?

Our team seeks help in two key areas:

 1. Programmatic:

 - Trust seems to be a critical component of Playpod’s ultimate success; how can we physically create a space in which parents and children feel a high degree of safety and comfort?
 - What incentives would motivate parents to return multiple times?
 - How would we measure our success?

 2. International Presence: While our team members have experience with international communities and educational systems, we are looking to bolster our own understanding about where this initiative would best complement the users in an urban environment.

 - What international urban communities should we consider?
 - What are the advantages/disadvantages of selecting an international aid intermediary (e.g. UNICEF; Red Cross) versus a country-specific nonprofit (e.g. Pratham within India)?
 - How could we best conduct empathy research to uncover the cultural nuances within an international community dealing with educational systems, social services, and even the structure of the family unit?

Is this an idea that you or your organization would like to take forward?

  • Yes. I am ready and interested in testing this idea and making it real in my community.

36 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Ayman Hanafi
Team

Brilliant Kelli. This idea would create such a stir for parents and children alike. Parents would be delighted to see their children having fun and at the same time interacting with each other, creating friendships and also developing new skills . Learning through play and colour is fascinating for young children as well as turn-taking and sharing. Every success Kelli.

Photo of RainbowGate Foundation
Team

Brilliant idea, and this will have a major impact in low-income urban areas.

Photo of Morgan Camu
Team

Thank you! As an international nonprofit you have tremendous expertise and we'll be looking toward engaging organizations like yours as we explore possible urban communities abroad.

Photo of Uve Kindia
Team

More over its good ideal the way its mobile. People in those communities may know its not permenant but it sure will be back, that could be encouraging for many

Photo of Amowi Phillips
Team

Hi, Playpod Team! The children's park idea welcomes your input - I see great intersections of the two ideas. Please come on over to https://openideo.com/challenge/zero-to-five/ideas/the-full-service-urban-children-s-park. First though I have some comments on your excellent idea here: Where would a Playpod vehicle live in between "gigs", for example for refurbishing/resupply/maintenance, etc? I'm really excited by the modular "tuk-tuk+activity box" approach which fits in with our concept of the shared children's park in which some projects are incubated, tested and disseminated closer to where children and caregivers are. Originally we were thinking of a mobile chassis with interchangeable activity boxes for flexible positioning within a specific park space. This quickly expanded to the possibility of rethinking the ubiquitous "pomponi" or Fan Ice bicycle (the nickname is from the sound made by the bicycle horn announcing its presence in the neighborhood. See one here: http://www.pinterest.com/mmofraghana/playtime-in-africa/ ). The activity box-on-a-bike makes a lot of sense in the context of all countries in which the nieghborhoods along the "Fan Ice Man"'s route ( or equivalent) are full of small stalls and kiosks where mothers and caregivers ply their trades and often have their 0to5 children with them. Our community in Accra is a perfect example. We can see a small fleet of activity bikes whose home base is the children's park where the activity boxes are designed and replenished, and the bike riders trained to deliver and manage ECD materials. This could provide meaningful employment for young adults of both genders. Love to hear your thoughts.

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Kelli, I really like your idea. Although it did not move on to Refinement, have you seen this https://openideo.com/challenge/zero-to-five/ideas/the-full-service-urban-children-s-park idea? Perhaps there is an opportunity for collaboration? :)

Photo of Bernhard Eiser
Team

I am a big fan of the Playpod, taking the idea of a library on wheels and transforming it into a play-space really works.

I am interested in the content and how the Playpot could be implemented.
As you have identified it will not be possible for every community to have a customised unfold-able truck.
It would be great if community's could get a set of instructions to build their own Playpods using local resources.
I believe empowering parents and demonstrating the importance of play-based learning is one of the key roles in this challenge.

If you are able to push this project further, it would be a joy to equip your Playpod with a few sets of our 'Story Stones'

Photo of Paul Kim
Team

love the mobility of the concept. I still want to hack a school bus to create mobile PD opportunities for teachers.

for playbod, there could be different applications of this idea -- could you use cargo containers to create prototypes? what if you used multiple cargo containers to create a playpod "village" or area? there could be a pod for a tutoring center for older children along with what you're proposing for younger children. you could paint the cargo containers like building blocks that kids play with.

Photo of steve
Team

I think this is a really great idea. Taking good programs to where people are and meeting them on their own terms empowers them and multiplies the positive effects. Great program. This will really work!!

Photo of Emily Gould Rodriguez
Team

Love this idea. One thought-- it might be helpful to have specialists come every so often. This would allow parents or caregivers who have specific concerns (speech, OT, etc) to come at that time and ask specific questions.

Photo of Morgan Camu
Team

Hi Emily, thanks for the great feedback! As educators, we're aware of the important role related social service providers have on the overall health and wellness of kids. We had originally thought of "pushing out" services (i.e. hooking people up with current existing agencies) but now we'll also think about "pulling in" services and invited specialists into the Playpod, too. Thanks for helping remind us of porous boundaries :)

Photo of Laura Kanter Fellows
Team

Hi Emily! Thanks so much for your feedback. We met with a speech therapist and occupational therapist as we were developing our idea and that came up -- how can we leverage their expertise so that all parents have access to their strategies. Thanks!

Photo of Miles Berger
Team

This is an awesome idea, I wish you guys the best of success with this, and I hope to see one of these nearby soon! all the best,
-Miles Berger

Photo of Charlotte Burney
Team

Great idea, Kelli and team! Providing local parenting information and help to families with limited resources and time is so important for the emotional health of our children and the safety of our communities. Parents who are strapped for time to be with their children can find a close to home and safe place to be involved in the extraordinary learning that happens with children under age five. Playpod can become a place for parents to learn about the developmental expectations and needs of their children, as well as interactive play. Lots of ideas for specific activities can be gleaned from fine nursery and daycare schools, as well as science museums. Please look into the sanitary issue brought up here by one of your posters. Good nursery and daycare schools choose toys wisely and know how to (try to) keep those germies away. Also, sending age appropriate books home might be a another idea to think about. Those exhange toys might not come back! And it would be great to have the child have a book to share with his parent.
Good Luck!
A retired teacher, mother of three, and grandmother of five

Photo of Elizabeth Malinzak
Team

As a mom, I know this is an awesome idea. This is a fantastic way to help kids' development and encourage parental interaction. What a great way to explore different toys and different ways of learning. I love that it is mobile and has the potential to go anywhere around the world. I would definitely take my son if I heard Playpod was in the area.

Photo of Morgan Camu
Team

Thanks, Elizabeth for your feedback and support! We're both humbled and excited about this idea and hopefully will be given the opportunity to robustly engage parents during the "research" phase of this challenge. Please stay tuned as we'd love to pick your brain!

Photo of Kelli Ledeen
Team

We love hearing from moms! Thanks!

Photo of Lulu Ng
Team

Hi Kelli. I like your idea very much and I particular like the part of exchanging toys continuously with the Playpod, which is a good way to retain customers(in this case children and parents). However, I wonder how you will deal with the sanitary problems? As when children return their toys back to the Playpod, the toys should be processed before further lending to the other children to make sure the sanitary standard.

Photo of Laura Kanter Fellows
Team

Thanks for the suggestion Lulu! That is something we need to think about. Any ideas are welcomed on how to ensure that sanitation is built into the entire playpod.

Photo of Kelli Ledeen
Team

Great point, Lulu. We will start by reaching out to teachers since a classroom also deals with similar issues related to sharing of toys and other communal resources. We would focus on toys made of materials that are resilient and easily cleaned for both environmental and sanitization issues. Thanks for the thought!

Photo of Sanjana Ramamurthy
Team

Hi Kelli! I like your idea and concept! It is a good point of staying within a community for a long time (6 months), as children development process takes time. During that time staff could make notes of child development and by the end of every month giving the feedback and recommendations to parents. In oder to solve the sanitary aspect, you could provide for borrowing picture books for kids according to their age group instead of toys. As well as children development books for parents, that they can read and learn some concepts in their spare time. That will provide parents with the ideas how to develop their child after the PlayPod leave the community.

Photo of Brad Filice
Team

This is a wonderful idea, Kelli! As you develop the concept it would be interesting to see what kind of found materials you might use to keep costs low. And also how you can utilize people from communities you're reaching to help make the play environment culturally relevant. There were a few ideas in the creative confidence challenge you might find instructive, particularly the "Electronster" "Creative Confidence Toolkit" and the "Play Portal." https://openideo.com/challenge/creative-confidence/winners-announced

Photo of Kelli Ledeen
Team

Hey Brad whats up!? Congrats on your SelfStyle winning idea! I would love to hear more from you since you've taken your idea all the way through and might have some strategies for gathering and sorting through information to improve your idea and turn it into something more concrete. We're starting to develop a list of contacts we want to reach out to if we make it to the Research phase, so I would love to hear more from someone who has already been through it... seems like we could potentially get TONS of data. Thanks for directing me to the other challenge to get some more ideas about inspiring creativity. Shoot me an email through FB...

Photo of Robert Cantor
Team

This is an inspired idea. Because young children (older ones too) learn by play, having play that is customized based on the child's age, developmental stage and previous play accomplishments is bound to achieve far better results than the current practice of putting kids in a room with plenty of toys and letting nature take its course. Because parents are included in the experience, they're likely to become more mindful of how they can help guide their children's development, something that may pay dividends long after the Playpod has moved on to a new location.

Photo of Morgan Camu
Team

Thanks, Bob! It's great to hear that you similarly believe in the positive outcomes of parent-child bonding and collaborative play!

Photo of Alix Dyke
Team

What an novel and exciting idea! I hope I get to see it in action.

Photo of Morgan Camu
Team

Thanks, Alix! Appreciate your support!

Photo of Leah Meloy
Team

Excellent concept! As a speech-language pathologist working with the 0-5 population, I think this idea will help provide families with the tools to make developmental activities and play more accessible at home. The more opportunities for child-directed language and play, the better for speech, language, and social skills development. The pod will also serve a secondary purpose of creating a space for peer interactions as families gather and learn. Great idea!

Photo of Laura Kanter Fellows
Team

Thanks for the feedback Leah. We would love to get your thoughts as we develop the idea given your expertise!

Photo of Victoria Nguyen
Team

What a fantastic idea! Mobilizing play to bring communities, families and children together makes this proposal particularly alluring. Furthermore, the availability of these kinds of critical public services is gravely lacking in many low-income urban areas. Playpod provides a feasible, low-cost, and innovative solution to this. Not only does it offer a means for low-income communities to ensure their children receive the learning and socialization experiences essential to early development, but it also has found a way to extend the cultivation of these skills beyond the space and time of the Playpod itself--allowing parents and children to learn and grow together. This certainly extends the utility and value of Playpod to communities across the US. I look forward to seeing this idea come to fruition! Some quick questions: I assume that space inside the pod is limited, especially if parents and children are meant to engage in activities together. What is the capacity of each Playpod and how might parents gauge wait times before heading out? If there is indeed a wait, is it possible to set up a place indoors somewhere parents and children can comfortably wait their turn, perhaps with partnering community centers? This may be a way to combine projects and recreation, establishing even deeper ties to the community and strengthening local organizations in the process. Finally, you mentioned the Playpod structure is made of steel and glass. Is there a means to regulate temperatures inside the pod, or is it generally intended only for more temperate climates and seasons? thanks!

Photo of Laura Kanter Fellows
Team

Victoria, Thanks for the feedback and super helpful questions. Your questions spurred us to think about the physical space and we are toying with ideas for how it can be even more malleable to fit in existing community gathering spaces/different climates. More to come when we post some updates to our concept but I wanted to make sure to let you know that we are taking in your input as we iterate on the idea!

Photo of Guy Viner
Team

Interesting approach. With the focus of our Zero to Five Challenge being on the developing world – we wonder if your team might consider iterating this initiative for use outside of the US? What elements would need to be re-configured? Who might you collaborate with in a developing country to ensure the concept is locally relevant and to assist you with prototyping? What might you learn from our Research phase which could help with tailoring this initiative for the developing world?

We're excited to see this proposal evolve – and as it does, you can revise your post at any time by hitting the Update Entry button up there on the right.

Photo of Laura Kanter Fellows
Team

Guy, thanks for the feedback! Our team circled up today and we will post an updated more globally-focused concept in the next 24-hours. One of our teammates has done work in India, so we are excited to translate the idea into that context (given her experiences there). We would love to hear your thoughts/suggestions once we post the updated version. Thanks!

Photo of Marta Woszczyna
Team

Hi Guys!
Thanks for your comment Morgan, I'm giving my thoughts in return :)
I like the idea of portability a lot. You could also consider having a instant playground solutions that 'pack up in a box' instead of having a whole truck coming with ready playground, maybe not as impressive but a bit lower cost I suppose. Maybe you could have units/modules that can be put together depending on needs and context. The imagination playground, you're using as an example, is not fixed to certain space but can technically be packed and transported anywhere. You could then have community leaders or even community members actually choosing what they need for example more educational or more hang out space, or different age groups. Another thing is to consider reusing and re-purposing existing objects or recycling materials, to lower the costs. If the price went down maybe the whole modules could be taken away, maybe not by individual families but a school or church, instead of only lending it out.
Good luck!

Photo of An Old Friend
Team

Hi Kelli. Your idea is very impressive and innovative. It could really work in helping children to communicate and collaborate through means of entertainment. I am really interested in how you going to inform families regarding the exact timing and location of the Playpod so they could bring their children to take part? In tackling this problem, our idea may greatly contribute to yours in a sense to inform the families via our online platform. Please use the below link to check our idea:
https://openideo.com/challenge/zero-to-five/ideas/the-application-of-gamification-as-a-tool-for-supporting-child-development-activities-in-rural-africa

Photo of Morgan Camu
Team

Thanks, Eleftheria for such great feedback; as you can tell, we're pretty excited! And yes, it does seem like our two ideas could overlap and support one another. Our current thinking is that local community leaders - who would be our Playpod partners - would tap into their local communication networks to advertise the Playpod's location and hours. Since the Playpod would likely be stationary for several months - and it's a big structure that's hard to miss - folks won't have too much trouble finding it.