|Richard: A Doctor rarely invents a line of toys. Yet, you, Dr. Zabina Bhasin, MD, a/k/a Dr. Zee, have done so. Can you tell us about the genesis of your company “In Kidz?”|
Dr. Zee: Growing up in Los Angeles as the daughter of Indian immigrants, I experienced a lot of bullying due to being from a different culture than the other children in my class. One of the most hurtful moments was when I was made fun of for the way my food smelled. Richard. In our generation the shift in cultural awareness and knowledge had not taken place, although our country had become even more diverse. That didn’t sit right with me.
I previously created baskets for friends and family members for years. I would curate different items that celebrated traditional celebrations such as Diwali, which is a big celebration for my family. The same way I put those baskets together is how I initially started putting cultural kits together with the help of people I knew.
Being a child psychiatrist has played a huge role in the effort that I have put into In KidZ. My goal is to ensure that children have both an educational and a fun experience.
Richard: Your products and mission are grounded in honoring diversity and bringing people from different cultures together. How do your toys reflect that mission?
Dr. Zee: When we create a kit, the very first step is to establish who will be involved in the creation as an expert or an ambassador. We have experts for every single kit. To be an expert one has to have an intimate knowledge of the country, tradition, celebration, or theme we are discussing. We always aim to find individuals who have spent a significant amount of time in the specific countries at hand. We also love working with experts who have a substantial amount of knowledge about the current climate, so that we can offer the most well rounded and up to date information.
The truth is we are all more similar than we are different and a lot of those similarities can be found in the games, crafts, toys, and other items we grew up with. For example, who would have thought that the game of Ludo would be popular both in India and Norway? These connections happen when people engage with our kits.
Children use toys and play as a way to learn and connect with one another. Children from different cultures can learn about each other and also teach each other through engagement. Our kits all come with an activity book, which is the brain of the kit. The activity book contains so much information about the culture/country/tradition as well as fun activities that inspire children to want to learn more.
Richard: Your company is not just about toys. It is also about the delivery system, which you call “Culture Kits.” Can you tell us about these Culture Kits and how they help your mission?
Dr. Zee: Think about what the United States of America is, it is a melting pot of different cultures. We all have different celebrations, stories, food, and clothing that come with deep history. The world is full of cultures and the USA is a conglomerate of them all. Our kits are focused on teaching various aspects of culture that display communities rooted in love.
Our culture kits are designed for children but they are truly made for the entire family. That is why we have such a broad age range on our kits. Children as young as 3 can learn and enjoy the kits in the company of a parent/family member. An 8 year old can navigate and enjoy the kit on their own. All of our kits also encourage everyone to continue learning about various cultures. Our kits are intended to be the tool that encourages families on a journey of expanding their cultural knowledge. Maybe the family will discover new languages they want to learn or new food dishes that become staples in their weekly dinners.
Our kits and products do not teach race or history of prejudicial racism. Our aim is to navigate the next generation down a path of inclusivity and compassion through understanding and awareness of others that are different but similar. Learning about our interconnectedness through activities, crafts, and language is a great way to accomplish this.
You recently announced a partnership with Sesame Street. Can you tell us about it and what products you will produce?
In KidZ curates kits for ourselves, now we will be working with Sesame Street to create unique kits centered around various Sesame Street characters and themes. In KidZ and Sesame Street have similar goals and values. Both companies have a focus on creating an open and educational community where everyone can be included. It is truly a dream come true to be able to have a partnership with Sesame Street considering the legacy they have.The products will be based on the same principle we apply to our kits. The themed educational boxes, which could center around holidays or cooking, for example, will contain coloring and activity books, puzzles, games, recipe cards, and figurines. Children will be fully engaged with hands-on learning while exploring various cultures and traditions and practicing mindfulness activities.
Richard: Who is Hootie the Owl, and where does he or she fit into all of this?
Dr. Zee: Hootie is a White Owl that joined our In KidZ team as our official travel companion! Hootie, whose name was selected by an In KidZ family, travels the world exploring different countries, experiencing their traditions, and enticing our curiosity. We would like for families and children to take Hootie with them on their trips around the world, in person, virtually, or while they explore one of our curated country boxes. Hootie does not have a gender. Hootie goes by they/them. We use this as an example of how to communicate with someone without placing a specific gender on them. Hootie is young and impressionable, but curious. He matures and evolves with every culture that he experiences and through every play module that he encounters.
Richard: Where can people find your products?
Dr. Zee: Individuals can order our products directly from InKidzCo.com.They are also available online at Target.com, Nordstrom.com, Macys.com, Maisonette.com.