The idea for TripMonsters was born from personal experience. We had spent just too many days out in London and cities abroad taking our kids to amazing places and finding that we couldn’t get them interested. Telling them the stories of the places, giving them information to read, audio guides … nothing worked.
It was so frustrating! Here we were, in places rich with history and culture, and the kids couldn’t care less. We wanted them to learn. We wanted them to have fun. And we wanted to learn and have fun as well. We wanted a family experience that we could all share and enjoy and remember in years to come. Not another wasted day out that we’d remember in dismay.
And yet they’d sit on the phone, on the way there, on the way back (even while we were there if we’d let them), playing happily for hours on some video game that had hooked them with the things that kids love: discovery, challenge, competition, reward. It could be the most basic, mindless game, with absolutely zero educational content, but as long as it had those components, and as long as the design of the game app was fun, they loved it!
And that’s what got us thinking. Could we combine the two? What would happen if we could take kids to great places, but instead of giving them a lecture, give them discovery, challenge, competition and rewards, all bundled up in a lively, interactive app?
Or were we crazy? We started talking to parents. Without exception, they told us, yes, that would be great. Do it! They’d get it for their kids, they’d even play it with them. Bingo! Fun and learning that the whole family could share.
The only concern some of them had was that the kids would spend all their time on the screen and not look at what they were supposed to be seeing. That was the last piece of the puzzle that fell into place. We realized that everything we did, every challenge we designed, would have to be designed to make kids look up from the screen and explore what was around them. In other words: use the screen to get kids off the screen.
So we got to work. We put together a team that included a game designer, artist, writer, app designer, and a brilliant group of app developers. We staked out our first route, a two to three hour walk that takes in some of the best known – and some of the least known – sites of medieval London. We called it Knight Time.
It wasn’t a route you’d find in any guidebook. It was totally unique, developed with kids in mind. We walked the route again and again, exploring each location and looking for those small, overlooked details that would fire a child’s imagination At each location, we created challenges focused on those details, the amazing, weird, surprising or funny. We pulled together Fantastic Facts that collectively told the story of the medieval city.
And at the same time, our team was creating a brilliant looking app, with a bunch of rascals-with-hearts-of-gold characters at the centre of it. We showed early versions to our kids and their friends and saw the excitement in their responses. They made suggestions and we listened to them.
We still didn’t have a name for the app. But as our characters in the app developed, it came naturally. TripMonsters.
Eventually, we had enough of the app together to give it to some families to test. It wasn’t ready to release, there were still bugs, but we couldn’t wait any more. We just had to see if worked!
Bugs and all, what we heard back was music to our ears. Fun, learning and a great day out. The kids led, the adults followed, and everyone got involved. The parents loved it as much as the kids. (Or as some of them put it: ‘I want my own!’)
So now we’re putting the finishing touches on it and making sure the bugs are gone. Within the next month we’re hoping to release TripMonsters with Knight Time as our first route. More will follow.
With TripMonsters, our aim is to create brilliant, child-led experiences which the whole family will enjoy. We intertwine fun and learning, entertainment and education, because to us, there’s no better combination.