Alika Vyas has nurtured her passion for arts and crafts since childhood, by participating in rangoli competitions in school or trying her hands at jewellery and interior design. The turning point came with Alika embracing motherhood and taking her creative imagination further to make DIY toys and crafts that would teach her children everything from phonics to history and Indian epics to numbers.
A mom, an art enthusiast and marketing communications professional, Alika shares her passion and desire to create something bigger that will help parents looking for similar ways of imparting learnings to their children.
What is My Box of Festivals all about and what does it have to offer?
My box of festivals (MBOF) is a sustainable, Indian brand of educational toys that is working towards empowering artisans and popularizing Indian art forms through interactive learning toolkits, all packed in a box.
We aim to make festivals more memorable for children by creating engaging learning around them using specially designed comprehensive books, interactive toys or craft and simple recipes. This box is ideal for age 4 onwards as it teaches the child all about why and how a particular festival is celebrated while having fun! Thus, enabling parents to inculcate Indian traditions in children from a young age.
What are some of the underlying themes and stories that you seek to tell through MBOF? Any other themes you plan to develop apart from festivals?
India is a land of vast cultural heritage with beautiful traditions being followed throughout the year in different states. In phase one, we plan to cover all major festivals celebrated in India like Holi, Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi and many more. We shall also cover some Hindu deities like Hanuman, Shiva and so on. The objective is to have a complete range of boxes that can teach the child all about Indian culture and festivals.
Some of the most valuable learnings from our epics and cultural history that you feel every child should imbibe?
The Ramayana and Mahabharata are not only remarkable stories but also reflect our traditions, culture and history. They contain within them, many smaller fables that offer life lessons and morals to live by. Every year, when we celebrate Diwali, we remember the story of Rama defeating Ravana, and the victory of good over evil. We end up re-instilling the belief for following the righteous path like Bharata who refused to become the King of Ayodhya, while Rama was in exile, or like Vibhishana who stood against his own mighty brother Ravana for the sake of Dharma. Children these days are living in a fast-paced, digital world that is filled with numerous crises, the story of Rama, patient, stoic and wise or that of Pandavas can inspire and serve as exemplars.
How does MBOF help in enhancing motor skills and cognitive thinking?
This is what sets us apart from the other books or toys in the market. We are unique because we have been conceived out of a need. As a mom, I was always looking to create an immersive festival experience for my children rather than a sole book or video. This box teaches them all about Diwali and Madhubani art form through a detailed book and also makes it memorable by playing the Q & A game around it while popping balloons. Thus enhancing their motor skills as well as cognitive thinking. It also encourages family bonding over a simple recipe to make Diwali even sweeter!
In your observation, what is the influence of cultural awareness and knowledge about epics in a child’s upbringing?
Epics such as the Ramayana are embedded in the Indian ethos and its teachings are imprinted in our subconscious minds. This often influences decision-making in our daily lives. We wanted to incorporate these lessons in children as well from a young age so that they develop a similar thinking process, and know and understand Indian traditions. Having said that, we wanted to make learning fun and interactive. Hence, our box contains simple fun games that the whole family can enjoy together. Recipes that parents and try with children to have a wholesome experience around the festivals together.
How can toolkits such as MBOF increase interest in Indian cultural heritage and epics, vis-à-vis other visual and digital mediums?
"Seeing something once is better than hearing about it a hundred times. Doing something once is better than seeing it a hundred times." All the virtual and digital mediums can never replicate the interactive experience offered by the MBOF toolkit. The book lets their imagination soar as they picture the scenes from the stories and relive them. The game around the festival allows some pretend to play while challenging them on their knowledge. Any digital medium can never compete with a physical medium if it is made well.
There has been a renewed interest in Indian games and activities, but it is still comparatively less and limited to certain spheres. What could be the possible reasons behind this?
I think India is just waking up to its own potential after the wave of globalization and aping everything from the west. We have always been proud of our Yoga and Ayurveda but other genres like Indian games, art etc. have only recently started to come in limelight. Yet, they are nowhere near their counterparts from the west. Especially in the toy and games industry, we don’t have the manufacturing capabilities as China or Germany and can never compete on basis of price.
However, Indian culture is slowing leaving its mark on the world. From Indian food to cinema, we are making our presence felt in a lot of industries. Even Indian art is at the brink of being celebrated globally. Yet, Indian games and tool kits have very limited exposure on a global level. The Indian toy industry is full of indigenous artisans who can offer beautiful creations but not scale. I feel this is the right time popularize Indian games and culture across the world but it will be a very long journey and we need to be really patient and persistent.