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Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Put it to the vote

Parents and children pick what they think are fun ways to learn science and punctuation, and even make a game of math

The protagonist of Natasha Sharma’s Squiggle Takes A Walk is faced with an identity crisis: She’s not sure if she’s a comma or a question mark.

Published jointly by Young Zubaan and Penguin, the book is an attempt to make punctuation fun for children as they “splash, run, bump, trip and swing" across the 68 pages with Squiggle.

“The story is moved forward by the doodle (Squiggle). She jumps in (into the book and the adventure) and lands on a question mark who asks her all sorts of questions... Squiggle runs out screaming ‘Aargh!’ and suddenly runs into an exclamation mark that is like a wall and tells her it’s great to be excited. She runs out screaming ‘Stop, stop, stop’, and runs into a full stop," says Sharma in a phone interview. The characters mirror the function they perform in punctuation, she explains.

Squiggle Takes A Walk is one of the winners of the Parents and Kids Choice Awards 2015 (PKCA), announced this week by Gurgaon, Haryana, headquartered RivoKids. The categories include books and magazines; toys, do-it-yourself kits and subscription boxes; movies and mobile apps; activity centres and children’s exhibitions; and digital education and innovation.

RivoKids founders Parul Mittal and Ritu Uberoy launched the awards last year. The USP of these awards, as well as the three-year-old start-up, is that they ask parents and children for recommendations on what others looking to discover new content and activities for children aged 0-15 might try.

Sharma, a mother of two, says that in addition to awards like the PKCA and the Crossword Book Awards, festivals like the Kala Ghoda Children’s Literature Festival and Bookaroo, online book clubs and Facebook groups where parents post short reviews of books also help discover material for children. Bookaroo, incidentally, won in the Best Kids Event category at the PKCA this year.

The PKCA, says Sharma, has been successful in thinking through some of the categories. “It’s impossible to judge a picture book for a three-year-old against a chapter book for a 12-year-old (in the same competition). You need to separate these by category and age. The PKCA does that to some extent," she says.

The idea behind the PKCA awards, according to Mittal, is to first help parents and children in search of interesting, often educational, content discover books, magazines, videos, activity classes, apps and toys that other parents and children have tried. The second is to highlight Indian start-ups in this field. Uberoy says that while most parents in cities know about Fisher-Price and Mattel, many might not have heard of Imagimake or MadRats, Indian makers of games.

“When my own children (aged 11, 13 and 16) are doing a jigsaw, they can take up a table for days. MadRats have made this roll-up puzzle that solves the problem," Uberoy says. “They’ve thought about these things," she adds. MadRats’ Madzzle game, too, is among the winners.

The awards are based on nominations by parents and children. Uberoy says some 3,000 nominations came in this year. They had a jury last year, but this year the founders themselves shortlisted six entries in each category based on the number of nominations they received. The shortlisted entries were put to vote—they received 10,000 votes across categories this year.

Last year, Moshi Monsters—the UK-born fuzzy pink, brown, orange, lilac and black pet monsters—were among the computer games children were most impressed with; this year, children are playing games like the math-based 2048 on their mobiles. “You would be surprised, children as young as (those in) class V are playing it in my children’s school bus," says Uberoy.

In the first year, the PKCA threw up some surprises in terms of what children were reading and watching (there was even a category on YouTube videos). There have been some interesting finds this year too. Sample the list of magazines: The winners are Brainwave, a science-based magazine by the publishers of Amar Chitra Katha, with articles on subjects like genetics and the northern white rhinoceros of Sudan; the Kids Explore magazine for ages 4-8; and the RobinAge weekly newspaper for children in the 4-15 age group.

New Delhi-based Shilpa Sethi, a Web designer with Tumlare, a travel services company, and mother of a five-year-old, says she began researching subscription boxes when she chanced upon the RivoKids site last month. She even nominated a bunch of them for the PKCA, including Flintobox, which was one of the winners. “I bought the submarine Flintobox pack—it’s an underwater (kit)," Sethi says. Her toddler took to it like a fish to water.

To her, the most interesting thing about the awards is that they helped her discover “Indian games. Beyond Lego and Funskool".

Click here to see the complete list of Parents and Kids Choice Awards winners.

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