A UAE-based company is promoting quality educational content for kids in the region through digital platforms
Almost everything is available at the touch of a button. This growing phenomenon has spawned application software, or apps – programs designed to run on smartphones, computers and tablets. Apps allow users to access useful or entertaining content.
AppyKids is a UAE-based app that provides educational language content with a local flair to children aged one to six. It launched in 2013.
Dinesh Lalvani is the app’s founder. As a programmer and designer, he had time on his hands after another company bought his first start-up business. But what prompted him to create a children’s app?
He says, “In 2012, I’d just had a son, and I wanted to teach him and my daughter Hindi and Arabic. There wasn’t much quality content online so I started sketching characters and ideas.”
Those ideas grew bigger and Dinesh found himself back in the corporate game. The result was Growl Media, which has since launched 11 AppyKids programmes.
He says, “Most kids’ content is produced by Disney. But no one’s really creating localised content that caters specifically to children in this region. That’s important because they will grow up and forget the environment they grew up in, their culture and heritage. So it’s essential to make content kids can relate to.”
AppyKids created original characters called Alfie and Zee to help children on their learning journey. The animated nature of the apps, combined with their storylines, make them fun, entertaining and interactive.
The characters embark on adventures that are educational in nature. As the stories progress, they impart valuable lessons from counting and reciting the alphabet to identifying objects.
The process of giving life to the characters took painstaking research to make sure kids in
the region would relate to them.
Dinesh adds, “We host workshops so we can understand the character, their friends and their issues. We ensure they have the moral values we want to impart to our children.”
The apps are a hit with parents, too. Taskeen Valrani is mother to three-year-old son Arvyn. Taskeen sources learning materials online but wanted something that hit closer to home.
“There was nothing Arvyn could connect with while learning at the same time,” she says. “So I was excited when friends recommended AppyKids.
“The first app I introduced him to was Appy Oceans, which involves putting together ocean animals like a jigsaw puzzle. It was interesting for him because he sees different ocean animals, and helpful because it was also a counting exercise.”
Taskeen found the app assisted Arvyn’s development at nursery. She says, “We speak Hindi, and Arvyn is learning Arabic. The app is a great mechanism for him to understand both languages. It helps with key words, translations and how to identify animals or
The apps have caught the attention of teachers, too, and many are integrating them into their classes to complement traditional methods. Dinesh explains, “We have already connected with 70 schools and nurseries and our apps are used by teachers to teach Arabic, alphabets and numbers.”
AppyKids tours schools to conduct storytelling, colouring activities and games, which allow the team to get feedback from children, educators and parents. Dinesh uses this to improve the products.
Part of the plan is to expand AppyKids beyond computers and mobiles while staying true to the concept of offering content that enhances learning.
“We’ve just launched our first set of cartoons about Zee on YouTube,” beams the 39-year-old entrepreneur. “So we’re more than just apps. Our dream is to create cartoons and animated films based on our characters.”
He adds, “As well as being active on YouTube, we have a Facebook page with a quarter of a million followers which helps us market anything we create. Our interactive website, www.appykids.com, provides child-friendly content in English and Arabic, too.
“Adults are digital immigrants whereas our children are digital natives. For them, everything is by touch screen or swipe, so using apps through tablets and smartphones comes naturally. That’s why it’s important we create quality content to ensure we impart good learning materials that lay the right foundation for the future.”
AppyKids can be downloaded for free on Apple and Android devices.