I love the SparkPlay™ tagline: “Igniting fun with your imagination,” because it really conveys the connection between play and learning. Using imagination is a great way for kids to explore and learn more about the world and that’s what the SparkPlay™ Play Packs are all about.
Standing Out From the Subscription Box Crowd
I recently had the opportunity to take a look at two SparkPlay Play Packs: the Radical Rock Stars Adventure Pack and the Gadzooks Garden Adventure Pack .
When I first opened the box I was surprised, but not unpleasantly. I’m used to seeing subscription boxes with detailed directions and a lot of components to them, which are very nicely put together, but also have the possibility of being rather prescriptive if you’re not an outside-the-box thinker. (Pun not intended, but it works.)
SparkPlay™ Play Packs are the opposite of prescriptive. Each one contains a collection of items, much like things you might already have around the house for your child to play with. The difference is that all of the items are related, creating a theme that can then ignite your child’s imagination. For example, the Radical Rock Stars Pack contained:
- A toy microphone (one of the ones that echoes, Kid Tester #1 loved it!)
- Some very cool rockstar shades
- A pair of mesh gloves, a bandana, and a rockin’ wig
- An instrument (In our case, it was a really neat red recorder with directions of how to play it. It’s still being played as I write this…)
- A canvas storage bag to hold everything until the next use. That, in particular, is a great idea. If you purchase a subscription, then you end up having a series of bags, each one of which contains a different theme for imaginative play.
SparkPlay Does Ignite Imagination
Mr. Learning Treehouse was a little stumped by the Adventure Packs at first, and wondered out loud how the box was different than just giving your child some dress-up stuff and toys and letting them play. I reminded him that not all parents would think to put the items together to create a theme.
In providing everything together, SparkPlay has set up a number of likely scenarios for your child to play out.
Each Play Pack comes with an easy-to-read page of suggestions of how to “Start The Adventure.”
There’s also a corresponding “Ignite Inspiration Video” for each adventure pack, so when you open it up you can go to the Parent’s Hub online, enter the password enclosed in the box, and check out the video to see some of the suggestions of how to use the enclosed items in action. It’s a nice way to see imagination in action before you set your little one loose to use his imaginative skills.
It’s All Open-Ended
I like that the page just has suggestions and open-ended questions to ask your child, instead of scripted role-play scenarios. That really opens up the door for your child to be the one who leads play instead of being led in play.
He uses his imagination to show you what interests him and gets to be in charge of how the action plays out. It may play out one way the first time he opens the Play Pack and a different way the next time he opens the bag.
As you can see, Kid Tester #1 loved being a rock star and he loved being a bee. He put on an “echo” show for us with the microphone and was a “shiny guy” with his rock star wig.
The bee wand became some sort of magical “bee stick” with complicated kid rules I didn’t understand, but I didn’t have to. That’s the whole point. The game was all about what made sense to KT #1 and how he chose to have fun with the things he found inside the adventure pack.
In fact, one of the cooler ways I saw imagination in action was KT #1 combining the elements of the two Adventure Packs. The bee wand became a conductor’s baton, the wings part of the rock star costume, and the toy insects from the Gadzooks Garden Pack were apparently playing their own teeny, tiny instruments. It was very cool to see him in action.
The Bottom Line
I think SparkPlay has tapped into a play concept that is underutilized in some toys today–simplicity. Keeping it simple is sometimes the best way to give your child the room he needs to grow and expand his ability to be a creative thinker. Congratulations to SparkPlay for recognizing that kids need to create play, not have it created for them.