By: Salwa Samir
CAIRO, May 15, 2018 - How to benefit her young children by offering them education and entertainment (“edutainment”) at one and the same time, is what preoccupied Mona Kamal for years, until she thought of a way to achieve her aim.
Kamal graduated from the Faculty of Commerce, Cairo University in 2007. She worked for some time in an accounting office and left work when she got married.
The 30-year-old wanted to fill her free time and decided to revive her childhood hobby of designing handmade decorations for children which could be used on many occasions such birthday parties. She was clever at making banners, toy-shaped masks and decorative glitter frames.
"At first, I made the handmade decorations for my first son's birthday. When the guests saw my work, they encouraged me to do the same for their kids on their birthdays. That is how the story of marketing my work began," said Kamal, a mother of two, a five-year-old and a two-year-old.
Kamal was happy to see other children enjoying her products at birthday parties. But in time, she noticed that these festive products were used only once, after which they were discarded.
So, she thought of designing handmade products that could be used by children for a longer period of time, and also be useful for them.
Designing quiet books is the idea she came up with.
"I watched many videos on YouTube about how to design a quiet book. It is easy for me to design this kind of useful device which is safe for children,” Kamal told the Egyptian Mail.
"I find that quiet books provide more enjoyment than plastic toys,” she said, "they are also cheaper.”
She saw that the quiet books lasted for a long time with her children, because they were unbreakable and did not get dirty easily. She has since set the plastic toys aside.
Quiet books are suitable for children from the age of six months to nine years. Kamal designs quiet books for children in general as well as for ones with special needs and she takes into consideration the mental age of the children.
Kamal said, “Quiet books are made of very safe material that does not cause injury. They last and can be handed down to younger siblings and given to friends. They are made of peach cloth, satin and some accessories such as coloured beads, buttons and zippers.
One of the interactive activities in the books is a shirt with moveable buttons, so toddlers can learn how to button their shirt or blouse without help. Other interactive activities teach numbers and the alphabet in both Arabic and English.
To benefit a wide of range of children and their mothers alike, Kamal launched a Facebook page: "Mona Montessori For Kids". The feedback by mothers who ordered the books for their toddlers is on the rise, a fact that has encouraged Kamal to read more about the art and to implement new ideas.
“After seeing that a large number of people welcomed the interactive quiet books, I decided to design something new and different. I made interactive books with cartoon characters that both boys and girls like, such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, to make the books more attractive to children,” the artist said.
In addition to her Facebook page, Kamal has also been a guest on some TV shows covering mother-and-child issues.
“I am trying to reach a wide range of women at home to highlight the importance of quiet books in developing the skills of their children. I teach them how to make the books and their interactive activities,” Kamal said.
She pointed out that this “edutainment” tool was important in facilitating the education process for children, rather than relying only on the traditional methods, which depend on memorisation of information without interaction by children.
She began to spread the idea among her neighbours and they responded positively. She went to her children's school and showed the schoolteachers her work and they admired it.
"The school decided to set aside one day a week, so the children could use the quiet books and benefit from the interactive activities," she said.