We are Tsveti and Georgi - a Bulgarian couple with two kids, Sonny (5) and Annie (4). Together with all the usual challenges of raising two kids, we felt the need to spend as much quality time as possible with them. This meant two things - we wanted to give them skills, not just play time, and we wanted to have fun with them, too! Completing a puzzle or drawing a picture together felt OK the first couple of times, but then it kind of got boring.
We started researching more about early childhood development and found out that it is actually the best period for learning and creativity... in our entire life! At the same time, very few children games, toys and activities currently available on the market truly match the learning abilities and brain potential at this age and stimulate essential 21st century skills like problem solving, empathy, co-creation and teamwork. So we saw an opportunity and decided to do something about it.
Armed with our experience in innovation consulting for adults and our love of Maria Montessori's principles, we decided to adapt the design thinking method for 3-6 year olds. Kids transform every situation in our daily lives into a learning experience, so we decided to engage them in a whole process, not a one-off activity. Because later in life, this is the way artists, designers, architects, engineers, developers, teachers or entrepreneurs live, work and solve problems in new and exciting ways.
In the summer of 2015, together with our son and co-creator Sonny, we created Red Paper Plane - a new type of learning game for the whole family. It consists of missions - challenge-based activities that last 20 minutes per day for several days ahead. The missions take us on a journey to solve challenges together in a useful and enjoyable way – with your child as the chief pilot and you as the trustworthy navigator.
A mission goes through a 3-step process - (1) Observe and remember, (2) Select and prototype and (3) Create and present. Going through the process and not focusing on the end result is what actually matters in our missions - the more you play them, the better they (and your children) get. Of course, a 3-year old will do it differently than a 6-year old, but that's OK - we only provide a framework, basic steps and some guidance. The missions can be enjoyed with your own pace and style. In addition, each mission ensures repeatable play - it can (and most probably will) be played a number of times in a row and each time with a unique outcome.
Where are we now?
So far we have developed 15 different missions, providing a different take on the world through the eyes of someone “designing” and accomplishing things (Mission: Astronaut, Mission: Head Chef, Mission: Cartographer, Mission: Family Doctor, etc.). Each month a new mission is available as a free PDF download from our website. Families from more than 70 countries all over the world download our missions on average 2000 times a month. They are currently available in Bulgarian, English and Brazilian Portuguese, with more languages coming soon.
The missions are intentionally gender neutral and can be played without adaptation in families with different social and economic backgrounds. Among our first fans were kids and parents from Uganda, Ghana, South Africa, India and at the same time countries such as Sweden, Canada, UK and Australia. The majority of our parents are designers, creative professionals and Montessori parents - people who rely on the great power of a process behind their day to day working challenges.
We have an amazing media coverage in Bulgaria. We were also recently featured in a number of leading blogs and sites such as Swissmiss, Fatherly and Dads in Design.
Where do we want to go?
Red Paper Plane is slowly, but steadily becoming a primary occupation for us, even though we currently don't make any money from it. Judging from the amazing feedback from families, kids and learning centres which adapt our missions, there is great potential in continuing out work forward.
We are currently publishing a brand new mission every month - and we want to keep it that way! In order to do that, we need to make Red Paper Plane self-sustainable and generate enough revenue to at least cover our efforts for researching, developing and creating the missions.
We tried experimenting with Mission: Eskimo/Inuit - a paid, physical mission box for a whole month of fun and adventure. Together with the mission itself, the box contains a varity of booklets, learning materials and specially designed games for different activities. Our biggest lesson from piloting a mission box was the enormous amount of time to research, compile and design the whole thing - it's painstaking work that cannot survive on our spare time alone.
We are also currently in the process of adapting the missions for educational environments - kindergartens, play centres, children museums, etc. But this is a whole different project altogether.
In short - we would love to be supported by passionate people who want to engage their children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren in a new and meaningful way, so we are able to publish a new mission each month for a whole year ahead!
How are we going to use the funding?
We set up an initial goal of $1,000 a month. This will enable us to cover the following things:
- Design and development - we create the contents ourselves and design the missions ourselves, with occassional support from friends in illustration, editing, social media and PR. It would be great if we can afford to use additional external support.
- Hosting & website fees - we use the Strikingly platform and it's been amazing so far, but the Pro option costs money.
- Prototyping materials - we always make several iterations before publishing a mission, which takes time and resources.
- Marketing and promotion - we use social media promotion tools as a way of spreading the word about the missions.
This is more or less all we need right now. It would be great if you decide to jump on board!