Virtual Halloween or good ol’ fashioned playtime in the sun? Fun Pickle’s Richa Daga helps us understand the merits of both
When it comes to designing the big virtual shift, vis-a-vis Zoom birthday parties or online learning, Fun Pickle’s Richa Daga had the first mover’s advantage, at least in the city. Fun Pickle has garnered quite a bit of renown for its zero-contact kids’ celebrations (everything from virtual Karaoke nights to father’s day bashes) and activity-based virtual workshops, and children’s holistic development still remains the biggest priority for Daga.
“On March 17, our first on-ground birthday party got canceled because we already had a few cases in the city. And we were quick to improvise because our first virtual party was on April 24, and the same month we also started online quizzes for kids. At that point it was about testing waters, to see if kids responded to virtual events and if at all they could engage with them,” Daga shares.
But Daga, who’s also a mum, believes that no amount of terrifically planned online Halloween bashes or Zumba lessons can make up for good ol’ play time in the sun. However, Fun Pickle has hosted a range of virtual fitness and interactive workshops with the help of renowned experts and Daga believes the virtual shift has its upside, especially in terms of connectivity and exposure. But how effective is the virtual medium as a sustainable anchor for children’s wellness? Daga helps us with the facts:
Tell us how you envisioned running Fun Pickle when outdoor activities stopped
The shift was luckily quick and effective. Of course, the offline physical activities were way more elaborate and engaging. But the benefit of the virtual platform is of course, the reach. We have been able to set up events and online parties for people in Singapore, US and Dubai, as well as across the country, even in smaller towns like Durgapur and Raipur. The geographical barriers have opened up.
You’ve also introduced mentors, trainers and speakers from all over
Yes, because Fun Pickle also hosts productive classes, specialised courses and workshops we have been able to invite talents and experts from all over. For instance we have this speech programme where the trainer is from Mumbai, a ballet class that is based out of Delhi. So, children can maximise their learning opportunities.
You’ve done around 500 virtual events amid the shutdown...
Yes! Besides birthdays, we have also hosted Halloween carnivals, Diwali parties and themed virtual bashes where children can connect. Now, we are also involving the families. You know, how corporates have these allotted family time or family days, so we are also scheduling like an hour-long session where families can also participate in fun activities, it’s a really helpful mental exercise for the kids to spend productive time with their family
You’re also trying to make the events more personalised...
Yes, for instance, for some themed birthday parties we send hampers to all the kids. Recently, a client in Delhi wanted to host a science-themed birthday party for the kids. And these thematic birthdays are usually really well-designed with specific props and elaborate set-ups. Amid the lockdown it wasn’t possible for the parents to source anything. So we curated hampers catering to the theme of the party which we delivered to their doorsteps, so we took care of the logistics which made things simpler for each participant.
Tell us how the kids have been coping with virtual learning and engagements
To be honest, if we have a child’s attention for an hour, that’s a pretty big deal. Older kids can often disengage, or switch off their Zoom, it was a challenge for us to design each event or class in a way that’s interactive on all levels. For example, in a Zumba workshop everyone has so much energy, they will all probably participate. But when it comes to activities that are not as physical, we adapt interesting techniques.
Like we have mystery-led challenges where we section some kids into a group and the subject has to be extremely engrossing to hold the child’s attention. I had this client who called me up and said her kid wants to have a Zoom party next year, even if things are back to normal because you can have so many people at a virtual gathering. We have even done birthday bashes with 57 kids! For workshops, we have had to be observant about the pace at which the kids learn and then decide on the capacity. In fitness there are five kids, in ballet there are 12, in Spanish we have only four because it’s a language class.
What do you think is the biggest challenge to children’s wellness at the moment?
There are so many challenges, confinement is the biggest one. Even if you try to take them to the terrace to get some fresh air and Vitamin D, almost every child has gained weight, some of them have become obese, they’re over-eating . Conscious eating isn’t all that prevalent because they are eating to feel better. This has been a pattern for the last nine months and it is bound to take a toll on their development. Even if you connect with people over Zoom it’s not the same as being bare feet on the grass, you can’t take that away from a child. My kids are not going to their cricket practise and soccer classes because it’s not safe. However I should add that I’ve been able to expose them to some terrific trainers across the country who take kids’ wellness very seriously, they are learning so much.