Ideacrate: Revolutionising play in the digital age

We caught up with Shifa Yusuffali, founder of Ideacrate, a non-digital edutainment company, to discuss the importance of unplugged activities for developing young minds.

Founded by Shifa Yusuffali in 2015 after experiencing difficulties in finding quality entertainment options for herself and her toddler, Ideacrate is now one of the top entertainment and education businesses in the UAE, with over 11 branches across the country and further expansion plans across the Middle East.

Shifa’s mission is to revolutionise the edutainment industry by providing innovative and enriching experiences for children and families, setting the standard for high-quality, family-centred edutainment experiences in the region.

Unplugged play

Global bodies of research suggest that primary school aged children should have their screen time limited to one to two hours per day. Outside of this window, parents are advised to keep all activities off-screen. Not only does normal play give kids a chance to be more mindful of the present moment, but studies suggest that unplugged young brains actually work differently. Visualisation, imagination and social cues are all honed through the type of play we adults remember, and other benefits include reduced anxiety, better attention spans and a deeper connection to a sense of ‘self’. The research is clear – children truly need an abundance of unplugged play to develop healthily and it can be useful to think of non-digital fun as a form of mental exercise that needs to be done from a young age.

How Ideacrate benefits children

Ideacrate’s venues like Orange Wheels and Orange Seeds are a testament to the critical role of safe and stimulating play environments. In a world increasingly dominated by screens, they offer a refreshing alternative, fostering holistic child development through physical, cognitive and social engagement. Here’s why this approach is so significant:

Physical development

Firstly, in the carefully designed spaces such as Central Play, Tree House and soft play areas, children are actively engaged in activities that target their gross motor skills. These activities encompass a wide range of movements that challenge and enhance little one’s coordination, strength and overall physical wellbeing. Soft play areas provide a safe and cushioned environment for children to practise crawling, jumping and rolling, promoting kids’ agility and flexibility in a fun way. By engaging in these dynamic movements, children develop core muscle strength and improve their ability to control their body movements with precision, while developing a happy relationship with non-digital playtime.

Mental development

Secondly, Orange Wheels is a hub for cognitive growth. In O Town, a vibrant space designed for imaginative play, children immerse themselves in different roles using character costumes. They explore interactive setups like a bakery, a fruit and vegetable stall and a cafe, igniting their curiosity and problem-solving abilities. The arts and crafts section further stimulates the cognitive development of young minds, through activities like drawing, stacking and creative problem-solving, giving kids the chance to build up essential skills for their later success, both academically and in life.

Social skills

However, it’s not just about physical and cognitive prowess; social skills are a cornerstone of Ideacrate’s approach. Through engaging group activities such as Circle Time and Dance Time, children learn valuable lessons in teamwork, communication and cooperation. Circle Time sessions encourage interactive discussions and collaborative projects, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie between little ones. Meanwhile, Dance Time and Bubble Time are not just about fun; they’re also valuable learning opportunities. Through these activities, children learn about cause and effect as they interact with the bubbles, develop hand-eye coordination as they reach for and pop bubbles, and experience sensory stimulation through the visual and tactile aspects of the activity.

Emotional development

As little ones develop enough to move beyond noticing and expressing their feelings, they begin to understand and manage their emotions. This usually occurs around the age of 4 or 5 years old. At this stage, helpful play includes:

  • Creating art that expresses their feelings
  • Solving puzzles or using strategy during games
  • Playing in a group with their peers

Orange Wheels offers all of these kinds of experiences, in the knowledge that these activities can really help children to understand and manage their emotions. Creative craft time can be wonderful for encouraging little ones to let their feelings out in a fun, healthy way, while also building up their motor skills. Group play with other children is a natural, real-world avenue for kids to sharpen their interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, coping with their emotions in a positive way among their peers.

Maximising opportunities

Shifa understands the challenges of managing digital exposure in today’s world. That’s why Orange Wheels strikes a balance, offering a space that limits screen time, while maximising developmental opportunities. The venue’s commitment is not just to restrict technology, but to leverage the power of play in shaping well-rounded individuals. Ideacrate believes that by nurturing creativity, critical thinking and social skills in a playful and enriching environment, we can prepare children for success in a digital-centric future.

Orange Wheels isn’t just a play area; it’s a transformative experience where children play, discover and create in a world that demands adaptability and resilience. It allows parents to redefine the essence of play for today’s digital era, celebrating each joyful moment as their kids discover the unparalleled benefits of unplugged, hands-on experiences.

Image Credit: Shutterstock & Ideacrate

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