MY VIEW: Learning through play

Licensing.biz's Pre-school month continues with Splash MD Russell Neale Dever explaining why product in this sector should be linking in to the Foundation Level of the National Curriculum...
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Five years ago our head of content, a trained children’s therapist in a method known as ‘Focusing’, decided that she would go back to University to get a BA Hons Degree in Teaching Early Years.

For some years now Splash has tried to have at its core an ethos of added value in the work it participates in both as a licensor, production company and publisher. We felt that our head of content would be able to bring so much more to our portfolio of properties if she had what you might term an ‘insider knowledge’ and specialist development skills. We feel that our experience is both interesting and invaluable in terms of the pre-school market.

There is a tendency for licensors in the pre-school sector to assume that because the term used is ‘pre’ which is the common prefix for ‘before,’ that what happens between birth and school is different to what happens between Year 1 and the leaving age.

This period is blocked in section of Pre-School (0-4), 5-7, 8-11, Tweens and Young Adult. However the word in its proper context is taken from the Latin adverb ‘prae’ which in translation is nearer to the word ‘Preparation’ than it is to the word ‘Before.’

Pre-school in its definitive form should actually be a time of preparation for school, though somehow it is always seen as being somehow different, as if it is time off before proper learning begins in earnest. In actual fact the Foundation Level of the National Curriculum is a building block for what comes next in Key Stage 1 and 2. The main difference being that the emphasis is on learning but doing so through ‘play’ not through formal teaching.

This means that what we should be encouraging children and parents to do is actually play together so that they learn together. My view has been for some time that our society has lost much of its innocence and regrettably I have to admit that the licensing industry has for too long callously exploited the pre-school market giving little thought to the damage it could be doing in the name of royalties, advances and contracts.

There are certain companies that have always stood out as beacons and who have developed Intellectual Property from the perspective of the child and not the market, these companies have pioneered new styles and formats and whilst initially they came under a lot of criticism, have proved over time that the fundamentals they put into place were worthy of the market.

Simply put, we are creating for the adults of tomorrow who in just a few years time will be decision makers in what their own children will purchase. It is incumbent upon us not to steal the innocence of childhood but rather to support and nurture children from the cradle to school, helping them through play to develop a sense of awareness about how the world works.

What is more rewarding? Label slapping product for the sake of a royalty or working with our licensees to create product which develops a sense of social responsibility and a happy and well balanced childhood. Learning through play should punctuate everything we do in this key sector, this can be done without being worthy or overtly educative, but if we are to rescue back the ground pre-school licensing has lost to legislation over the last few years our approach has to be less cynical and more openly rewarding for both children and carers alike.

Splash Consumer Products is based near York and has for many years created high profile IP, published children's books, represented third party rights on a global basis and, more recently, launched its own VOD service through its sister company Videre Vision. MD Russell Neale Dever is a specialist in child psychology and is a member of the Institute of Focusing. Splash employs specialist educationalists to advise on all aspects of its creative work and works in conjunction with Screen Yorkshire to develop new product for animation.

You can contact Splash on +44 (0)1937 830033, via email or Skype: splash.consumer.products.

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