If the preschooler is not interested in letters, it is enough to hang a poster with the alphabet above the table.
My son just enjoys inventing new games. My daughter is creative, she likes to paint, cut out, stick on. It works well when you find time to play together. The children then continue with their own further ideas without the assistance of adults. The son invented tracks for the formula, we drove different cars. Paper, pencils, a book at hand, you can get by with so little during a long train journey. If it rains at the cottage, add scissors for cutting out, glue and crayons.
What game was the most popular at your house?
Our Mushroom Game has proven itself on rainy days. The principle is simple. During the game, you walk through the forest, the edible mushrooms move forward, the green toadstool returns to the start. It can be played by children from the age of four, but it is equally enjoyed by young schoolchildren or grandparents. Pozazé is different, fast, dynamic and, moreover, children get to know mushrooms. Then when it stops raining and the sun comes out, you and your children go into the forest and they know better what they can collect. Children are playful and creative, they want to get to know and learn things. It is actually just a matter of the form in which the information reaches them.
Where did the idea to invent, create and publish your own creative educational materials, books and games come from? A layperson may have the impression that bookstores are full of them.
Two ideas actually came together when I, Adéla and Martina were on maternity leave. I had a son eight years ago, we live partly in Leipzig and we travel a lot. As he grew, I looked for the handy mini-books I talked about earlier. I knew them from Germany, although they are not nicely illustrated there, but they are practical.
We stand behind a simple, clean design that does not distract children. Even parents should keep this in mind and not unnecessarily clutter the schoolchild’s space with an excess of things and pictures.
Such a format was missing on the Czech market. When I came to my friend Martina, who is an illustrator, with the idea of creating my own notebooks with original stories and author’s drawings, she enthusiastically agreed, because she had already thought of something similar.
But a third friend got together with you.
Adély’s friend’s son had just started first grade and was mixing up the letters L and Z. That’s why his mother was looking for an alphabet poster on the wall. She was horrified to see the entire market offering. She didn’t want to put anything like that in her apartment. And another idea arose – to make a clear illustrated poster with the Czech alphabet. Then, when we thought about how to further diversify and make learning the alphabet easier, we also created pexes, dominoes and sets of cards to complete our own creations.
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Because, for example, the poster alphabet is not suitable for everyone, some children are more analytical, want to touch things and appreciate cards. Creatively oriented children, on the other hand, want to make a picture themselves, therefore a white card on which to draw something.
So was that the basis for starting your own company?
Of course, it took a while for our publishing house to take off, we were on maternity leave. In 2019, we presented a few of our things at Knihex, which is a fair for small independent publishers. Three or four things on half of the sales table, but it was very important for us because we saw the reactions of the visitors and talked to them. We were pleased with the feedback, it turned out that parents lack similar tools that support reading from the youngest age and reading literacy.
Who invented the name Poketo?
We organized a joint brainstorming session in Martina’s Prague apartment. It was clear that the name should evoke a pocket in which you hide a book. We thought and thought for a long time, I don’t even remember all the naming ideas that came up. we are that none is the right one. In the evening, when I was already lying in bed, I pondered how else to say a pocket. I found that pocket is called poketto in Japanese. This name also sounded good to the girls. We just simplified it to poketo. Martina immediately had our future logo in her head – a pocket with legs and an eye.
What was the most difficult part of starting up?
We had and still have a lot of ideas about what could be done, but we are running into capacity. Each of us has other activities. Compared to my colleagues, I was more aware that in Germany children go to kindergarten from the age of one. The girls had to look more at how to combine family and work. From the beginning we wanted to be everywhere, personally selling our stuff at all possible design events.
Most children enjoy our flashcards with stickers, from which they can put together a word by letter.
Or we promised various products to and from school and there was so much that we ended up working late at night and on vacation to get everything done. The beginnings were simply quite intuitive. Now we can set a limit and realistically estimate what we can handle. We stick to the editorial plan and expect that we also want to enjoy the holidays with our family.
How many pocket books have you and the illustrator Martina Hamouzová already created?
Nine of them have already been published and we have more on paper. From the reactions at the stand, Alois is usually intrigued by the garbage collector, who tells a story about what happens to the yogurt cup, as well as a dream come true. While for Czech boys, the idol is a garbage man, for German boys, by the way, a fireman. One type of story is fantasy, the other is non-fiction. Different children like different types of information.
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The Kvido book and the Oskarka tire were inspired by the stories we made up with our son on the way to kindergarten. We saw a tire and he asked: Mom, what is it? And that’s how the book begins. Sometimes we played fantasy about what Oskarka was doing.
How is a game or teaching aid born? One is said to have been invented by the six-year-old sons of Albík and Krispin, a colleague of Adély and Martina.
Yes, the boys came up with a simple game of Word Eaters themselves when they wanted to practice their alphabet and vocabulary. In the beginning, we always start from the needs of the children. For educational matters, we cooperate with special pedagogy, we are looking for a way to teach children in a creative way. Last time we did case questions, which is the basis for inflection and other grammar.
We made up two stories to help the children remember the questions. One dreamy and one real. And the Czech woman, whom we invented at the time, recommended us the concept of recommending ourselves for loading as well. So we added three sets of cards to practice with a friend or parents. This made the product whole – the third grader learns case questions playfully.
You proudly announce that you test all gadgets on your children. Have you ever “thrown something off the table”?
When we did the illustrated set of listed words, I got carried away and came up with a very complex game where the listed word cards would work a bit like Pokemon or Ninjago cards. When I had to explain the rules to the children for half an hour, it was clear that such a game would not work. The cards remained a simple idea, we added five game tips that people know to test that they can practically use the listed words.
Among other things, you focus on supporting reading from an early age. What should children be able to do before starting first grade?
According to the materials of the Ministry of Education, it is mainly about abilities and skills – for example, social and motor skills. So it’s not about knowledge, letters, math. However, according to my experience, in schools it is expected that the child can at least sign and know some letters. If the preschooler is not interested in letters, it is enough to hang a poster with the alphabet above the table. Most children enjoy our flashcards with stickers, from which they can put together a word by letter.
They also train the fine motor skills they will need. Which is very important for writing. My son was very interested in letters, but he didn’t want to draw at all. The doctor then told me that he had to train his fine motor skills because he needed them for school. And so, on the contrary, thanks to his interest in letters with our creative set, he drew a little more. For playful children who don’t enjoy drawing, we have an alphabet like a pexeso. In this way, they fix the letters, play with open cards, just look for twins. They are ways for children to play and non-violently lead to the alphabet. However, I am not in favor of reading to children at the age of five. It depends on the child’s interest. Parents should be the guides who support him.
How do I know which educational aids are suitable for my child? And are they usable even for children with special needs?
Yes, they are suitable for them – precisely because of the playfulness, ease of learning and also because of our aesthetic style, which is on a simple white background without a plethora of images. The visual smog distracts the child’s attention, which is extremely important for all dysgraphics and dyslexics… A friend who has such a son praised our books a lot – little text, capital letters, short stories. She managed to read them with him, he kept his concentration. The colorful background annoys him. We rely on the balance of text, image and free space.
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How not to overwhelm the space with the aforementioned visual smog, for example in a children’s room?
Sometimes you come to class and it’s a jumble of things. It is difficult for children to concentrate in such an environment, moreover, they perceive it aesthetically. After all, functional things also have aesthetic value. That’s why we stand behind a simple, clean design that doesn’t distract children. Even parents should keep this in mind and not unnecessarily clutter the schoolchild’s space with an excess of things and pictures. And as for the children’s room, we recommend dividing it into a learning zone with a desk, a separate corner for playing and a place to relax.
How difficult have the last two years with covid been for Poketo?
We had to find completely new ways of communication. Before that, it formed the basis of personal selling. None of that happened suddenly. Even the insights from personal meetings were gone. So we threw ourselves into the e-shop, which we had somewhat neglected until then, and we expanded our cooperation with smaller stores quite a bit. It was very demanding, and I didn’t get to the Czech Republic for ten months. At the same time, it was a time full of potential, because many people appreciated our products and their meaning.
What are you releasing this year?
This time we are preparing materials for counting, as well as the long-promised garbage game. And I already mentioned that we released a set of fall questions. The children like it, the teachers are also enthusiastic. However, pictorial cooking recipes from last year are extremely popular. You really score. The recipes are in the form of a set of cards. What a card, it’s a one cup recipe, completely simple, with a minimum of text in capital letters and a drawn procedure. These are recipes for whole foods. Seven-year-olds can easily cook for themselves, they feel a sense of accomplishment, and their parents will be pleased when they get food on their plate for once.
My children also cook according to the card. In the evening, after successfully preparing dinner, my daughter said to me: Mom, I thought it wouldn’t be edible. She was thrilled that her meal was a success. When we talk to people at the stands and hear that our gadgets are helping them, we are very happy. For example, one mother confided in us that her preschool son, who spent a long time in the hospital, learned the alphabet with our help. These stories give us energy and we see that what I do has meaning.
Three friends are behind the small Prague publishing house – manager Adéla Švecová, who is in charge of the brand’s marketing and business strategy, plus a head full of ideas for new products, illustrator Martina Hamouzová, who designed the entire visual brand, creates the design of new products and participates in their appearance development, and the writer Pavla Nejezchleba, who is the author of all the stories, invents the board games and writes all the texts. A trio of active young women have been creating clear, clear and comprehensible educational materials, books and games for several years, which support children in creativity, reading skills and playful learning. The store on Prague’s Letná became their base.