Global Toy Experts Exclusive: Dr. Gummer spills the secrets behind the UK’s popular virtual family festival

These are challenging times for conferences and trade shows. Dr. Amanda Gummer, a British child development psychologist, received a massive response to her Play At Home Fest. Here are some of her secrets. (Note: British English has a number of different spellings then American English.)

The team at Dr Gummer’s Good Play Guide were quick to pivot when Covid-19 locked down societies and reduced opportunities for play earlier this year. Realising that the family festivals featuring great toys and brands in Good Play Zones were likely to be cancelled in the summer, the team rolled up their sleeves and within just 8 weeks, created the Play At Home Fest, a virtual family festival of play. One of the first virtual festivals in lockdown, it was very much appreciated by families and the inaugural Play At Home Fest has provided a blueprint for future events. The first Play At Home Fest was so popular, the Good Play Guide team are running another one on 29th August and already planning another for the run up to Christmas.

As well as providing families with some much needed light relief and play ideas to keep the children engaged during lockdown, the Play At Home Fest was also an opportunity for brands to showcase their products in a new arena at a time when a lot of other marketing opportunities were being cancelled. Brands such as Geomag, TOMY, Scooby-Doo, Miffy, Morph, BBC, Ravensburger, Orchard Toys, Trends, Tonies, DesignaFriend, Junko, Gibsons, Shore Buddies and many more provided ‘as live’ content for the inaugural festival with the content being focussed on getting the kids playing in the real world, rather than just sitting and watching a screen for hours. More brands have joined in with the August festival also including Nick Jr., Epoch Making Toys, Bing, 44 Cats, and Amscan to name a few and the ‘as live’ performances promoting active play is enhanced by having Sisi from Sisi’s world hosting the event.

Amanda said that ensuring the event promotes play in the physical world was an essential feature of the Play At Home Fest as “the Balanced Play Pyramid that we have developed at the Good Play Guide is something we believe in and are fully committed to promoting in order to help parents make good decisions about their children’s leisure time”.

A key factor in the success of the first festival was the messaging – it was all about supporting families and didn’t feel overly-commercial, which was vital in such difficult times. The first festival was done on a not-for-profit basis and the tickets were free, with an option to make a donation to charities supporting families during the Covid Crisis. Being in tune with the consumers’ mindset is key and being able to support families, whilst raising money for charity and providing valuable opportunities for businesses was a winning combination. The team was rewarded with brilliant support from brands and performers, and the public lapped it up.

Dr Amanda Gummer explained the ethos behind the event, ‘in such a tumultuous time, parents want to feel reassured that they are still good parents and they are on the look-out for products to support them in that. As a company we’re always on the lookout for the win-win scenario and with the Play At Home Fest, we are going one stage further and made it a win-win-win. Families have access to free content and play ideas, brands have a chance to get their products in front of their target audience and there’s the feel-good factor of raising money for good causes thrown in.”

The Play At Home Fest had viewers from around the world and this is another reason for Amanda and her team to be excited. What started as a small initiative in the UK is making its presence felt in places as far-flung as Australia, India and Brazil!

Amanda goes on to say ‘in a world full of uncertainty, play is a great way of bringing families and communities together and there’s never been a more important time to do this – the fact that we’re doing it digitally means that we’re actually able to reach more people and hopefully achieve our aim of making the world a more playful place.’

Whilst the festival is streamed live, the on-demand availability of all the content on www.playathomefest.com means that time zones are not an issue – it also means that families can go back and watch their favourite performances over and over again.

It looks like the Play At Home Fest is here to stay, with the mass move to digital, the festival is set to become a regular feature in the calendars of families and toy companies alike. For more information on the Play At Home Fest please email events@goodplayguide.com

Dr. Amanda Gummer is a research psychologist specializing in child development. She has set up three organizations – Good Play Guide (prev Fundamentally Children) , FUNdamentals and Good Toy Guide Ltd, all of which promote the value of play and positive parenting in child development.

Dr. Gummer is an author and a member of the The International Toy Research Association, the British Psychological Society, LIMA, and Play England and have been involved with parliamentary policy on children’s issues via APPGs and think tanks.

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