The Silicon Review
“My greatest achievement is developing a comprehensive vision of what constitutes a great toy that educates and entertains children.”
Leonid Shafir, founder of Play-A-Maze, had a deep interest in toys and particularly puzzle mazes since his childhood. Therefore, he went on to explore trends in early childhood development and play-based learning at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada. During his days at the varsity, he realized that the toys were a great way to learn through play. This amazement reinforced his passion to learn as much as possible about mazes.
Of course, there were several other factors that led Mr. Shafir to research more about toys and later set up a company. The shortage of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) toys and children’s obsession with gadgets, were a few of the factors that influenced him to find a remedy to eradicate what was considered impacting the psychological well-being of children and adults.
Recently, The Silicon Review reached out to Mr. Shafir for his comments on how he established Play-A-Maze and plans to achieve greater heights. Play-A-Maze is a toy manufacturing company focused on the development of innovative puzzle toys for children of all ages. It is based in the Province of Quebec, Canada. Describing his company, Mr. Shafir specified, “My greatest achievement is developing a comprehensive vision of what constitutes a great toy that educates and entertains children. I am proud as a leader that my employees and business partners respect and trust me because I managed to ignite them with my passion and vision.”
When asked about the importance of STEM toys and their impact on children, Mr. Shafir said sciences alone are not sufficient to design innovative products. Innovation emerges at the intersection of diverse disciplines and Play-A-Maze’s capacity to create and innovate is premised on knowledge in different domains, including psychology, arts, and many other disciplines that go beyond the STEM agenda, he further emphasized.
Mr. Shafir explained, “In my experience, the best results in innovation and creativity come not from STEM but STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics). STEAM disciplines are vital to designing our innovative puzzle mazes because Play-A-Maze relies on expertise in mechanical engineering and math, as well as on knowledge of early childhood development and psychology of play, to design maze toys. This multidisciplinary approach to toy design enables us to take simple puzzle mazes to a sophisticated new level by offering a unique and affordable opportunity to learn the basics of mechanical engineering through fun gameplay that fosters an intuitive understanding of physical and mechanical concepts.”
Moreover, a good number of parents revealed to Mr. Shafir that the risk of social isolation at the cost of so-called entertainment is deepening by day as their kids are glued to their gadgets all the time. Bashing the smartphone culture, these parents admitted that their children’s anxiety and stress levels are growing.
Mr. Shafir had spoken to many parents while he was researching children’s excessive screen time trend.
“I spent a lot of time thinking how to bring people together through play to help them relax, socialize, and enjoy the moment together.”
Simply put, Play-A-Maze strives to create out-of-the-box toy products for teachers to explain basic scientific concepts, children to have fun, and parents to have a great family time. “We want the name of our company to become the synonym of innovative mechanical and electronic STEAM products,” concluded Mr. Shafir.
Team of Experts: Enabling Child Well-Being
A Play-A-Maze team is a group of like-minded people who are passionate about toys and learning. They developed an innovative technology that enables them to integrate gearsets and other mechanical elements into puzzle mazes, which facilitates STEM learning. This is one of the factors that led to the establishment of the company.
Currently, the team is working on developing a technology that will combine traditional puzzles with mobile gaming to create a fun-to-learn environment for children of all ages. Importantly, they are launching the first-ever product line of puzzle maze toys (Gear8TM) in 2022 and already working on the two new product lines to come to market in 2023-24.
Play-A-Maze team of experts includes Antonia Llull, Marie-Ange Janvier, and Tim Kimber.
Antonia Llull has been a practicing occupational therapist for over 21 years, specializing in Pediatrics. In her career’s journey, she has founded and directed a multidisciplinary, pediatric rehab clinic and a private school for students with special needs in Orlando, FL.
Marie-Ange Janvier, a Canadian STEM activist with Ph.D. in Engineering, is passionate to promote science and technology to children. She participated in various initiatives to boost knowledge of sciences among immigrant and underprivileged populations on academic and community levels.
Tim Kimber is a founder and former CEO of a Canadian toy company PlaSmart that brought a highly successful puzzle maze Perplexus to the market.
In the next three years, Play-A-Maze plans to launch two new product lines, expand into the US and EU markets; establish partnerships with new retail buyers, STEM organizations, playcenters, and afterschool programs that are looking for top-class education and developmental toy products.
For further information about the existing and upcoming products, feel free to contact Mr. Shafir at the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Leonid Shafir | Founder
Leonid Shafir is the founder of Play-A-Maze. During his studying at Wilfred Laurier University, he explored trends in Early Childhood Development and Play-Based Learning. As a graduate student, he researched the role of play in human culture and development.
Besides, Mr. Shafir worked at the Government of Canada where he examined trends in early education. He also participated in the development of the first national Early Learning and Child Care Framework. His insight and experience in how children learn and play uniquely positions Mr. Shafir to create and design toys that engage the mind, challenge the player, and advance critical skills development in children of all ages.
Needless to say, he’s interested in puzzle and STEM toys as a means to foster children’s learning through play.