Hi, I’m Chris Ovitz, I’m a dad, lover of all things, startups, food, games, movies, and every science fiction and fantasy book I can get my hands on. I love building Lego with my 5 year old son. I’m also a serial entrepreneur and co-founder and president of OK Play.
What is the inspiration behind the company?
The inspiration for OK Play came from two places. The first was the founding team’s life changing journey to become parents. And the second was Mr. Rogers. We had seen “Don’t you wanna be my neighbor?” and was inspired to redefine screen time.
We wanted to reach families with mobile devices just as Mr. Rogers did with television. This was the start of our OK Play journey that brought us to putting children at the center of story and creation while teaching them valuable skills.
What is OK Play in just a few sentences?
At OK Play we are re-introducing children’s media. Our interactive storytelling app puts kids at the center of meaningful stories with valuable lessons based on social-emotional learning. With our app, children create, play and share their own stories.
With tools for drawing, photography, video, sound and more, the app puts children in the director’s chair to encourage creativity, self-expression and play! Our team of experts in child development has designed all OK Play content in such a way that it supports social-emotional learning in children aged 3 to 8 and teaches life skills such as friendliness and empathy.
How does your app work to promote healthy learning behavior in children?
Our app re-imagines what it means to see yourself represented in media content by inserting the child’s face and voice into the video story. This is more likely to increase children’s self-esteem and engagement with the content, which in turn creates an open and positive learning environment for our prosocial messages.
The active component encourages children to engage with the world around them, resulting in more heads-up than heads-down behavior, as is usually the case with children engaging in technology. With OK Play, the kids really sit in the director’s chair and create the story.
Do you think the STEM field has peaked in relation to children? What else can be done to achieve its full potential?
STEM skills are vital for kids, but STEM skills in the 21st century require more creativity than ever (hence the term STEAM which has grown in importance, with the Arts piece spelling it all together).
OK Play aims to inspire the creative “maker” generation who will populate MINT fields as young adults. We hope that through our creative social and emotional curriculum we can help nurture the next generation of creative thinkers and designers who are driven by friendliness and empathy.
What difficulties did other app developers out there encounter during the creation process?
Here’s a little story to answer that question …
When we first launched OK Play in September 2020, it was a parenting app designed to allow parents and kids to have a good time on and off the device. After months of beta testing, parents kept telling us how they longed for more ways to connect with their kids, and that our app was an excellent way of meeting that need.
What we didn’t expect, however, was the harsh impact of launching an app that encouraged parents to spend more time with their children amid a global pandemic than parents had been isolated at home with their children for months. What parents urgently needed now was high quality screen time that their children could do independently or with a parent. So we went back to the drawing board and combined our favorite activities into an integrated and enhanced experience that children could have with and without adults – what we now call “stories”.
Stories are the landmark of our app and make best use of our technology to put children at the center of the action and make them the heroes of their story. Parents are happy to pose for photos so their children become part of the story and giggle at the end result. With OK Play, parents always know that they are invited to experience and play, but also do not experience feelings of guilt if they cannot be there because they know that their child is busy with an active, creative and learning-based app. The lesson for other developers would be, don’t expect what you’re launching to be the product people want. Be flexible, nimble, and don’t be afraid to twist around as needed to find the right fit.
Have there been other challenges your team has faced in getting this to market or since it was released?
Where should I start? We’re a startup, so if I said no, I’d be lying.
We face new challenges every day – whether on multiple platforms, supporting tons of older devices, or navigating the ever-changing data protection landscape – we keep solving challenging problems.
What are you doing to ensure that the children’s information on the platform is safe?
As parents themselves, the team is uncompromising and is proactively committed to security and data protection. We’re working with third-party advocates, including kidSAFE, to ensure we go beyond industry best practices for kid apps. OK Play is kidSAFE COPPA certified and 100% ad-free. Common Sense Media’s rating is 5 out of 5, so parents know it’s a safe place for children to spend time.
Do you want to close something?
Yes! We’re running a really fun contest for kids through May 31st for them to submit their story idea – we’ll pick one that ends up as a fully produced interactive story on OK Play! If you’re reading this and you have young children, please submit their ideas! Submit here.
You can also download OK Play on iOS, Android, or Amazon!
I want to thank Chris for taking the time to answer some of my questions.