Keeping children creatively engaged is a priority for young mother and business woman Sama Yateem.
Children in Bahrain suffer from a lack of options when it comes to outdoor pastimes. It’s this gap that young entrepreneur Sama Yateem aims to fill. In the three years since it has opened, Sama’s activity centre PLAY has become very popular with children.
Sama tells us why her five-year daughter loves coming to PLAY and why her elder son insists that she open a similar place for older and more active children.
WTM: What made you embark on this business idea?
SY: After becoming a mother I realised that there weren’t many places to take your children to in Bahrain. With our hot summers, outdoor time is limited and we spend a lot of time indoors. I travel a lot and was really impressed by children’s museums in the US. I wanted to open an educational centre that’d be a safe for children to grow and be creative. Most other play areas in Bahrain comprise of electronic rides that don’t really offer any intellectual stimulation. At PLAY, I have a diverse staff trained in childcare, so parents feel comfortable leaving their kids with us.
WTM: To what extent do you focus on creativity?
SY: PLAY is all about creativity. I could have called my centre The Purple Palm Tree because I believe children should be free to express themselves; if they want to colour a tree purple, why not? We offer many ways to do this, whether through our art room or dramatic play with costumes. We encourage children to use their imagination and
provide many props to get creative juices flowing. For instance, we might have a robot building competition in the construction zone and ask the children to assemble one from household items.
WTM: What sort of skills can children pick up at PLAY?
SY: Children nowadays are over-stimulated with electronic devices such as iPads, PlayStations and other gadgets. Many haven’t had much exposure to imaginative play that’s crucial for their development. Studies show playing improves memory, stimulates growth of brain cells, improves language skills and promotes creative problem solving.
WTM: Do you have plans for expansion?
SY: My vision is for PLAY to become a recognized brand with a franchise in every country. I recently hired Los Angeles-based Franchise Consulting Group to turn my business into a franchise. I’m currently in discussions to open branches in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
WTM: Tell us about your events and what’s on the cards?
SY: We have monthly events that celebrate various cultures and holidays. Children play creative games, create arts and crafts, and cook up tasty treats related to the event. Additionally, we opened the PLAY lounge where older children can cook, create, and perform. We’ve started a new service where our team goes over to the customers’ house and develop fun and interactive games for parties.