Many parents do not see themselves as their child’s first and best teacher or understand why and how they might use everyday interactions to boost their child’s early language development.
Shoppers with children encountered playful characters that captured their attention from the moment they entered a store. Children were encouraged to search for the characters that appeared in floor stickers, on overhead banners, or on the glass covering display cases. At each interaction site, a colourful character prompted adults and children to interact in a number of ways – by discussing shapes and colours, naming objects, or talking about where products come from and how they can be prepared.
The positive outcomes are mutually reinforcing: parents/caregivers practice a positive parent behavior and children are exposed to more positive interaction and learning opportunities. The theory of change assumes that parents and children will carry the type of interactions they practice within the store into the larger environment and into the home, leading to richer verbal interactions across moments of the day.
In addition, the gain for the business – with a small, low-tech input, supermarkets can capture and deliver an entirely new value to customers by pivoting the existing store platform to support early learning. Sifunda demonstrates that what is good for our children is good for business.
The longer-term strategy is to extend the Sifunda concept into other sites across the everyday environment within a given community, with the supermarket as the vertical “anchor” for scale complemented by horizontal reinforcing prompts in locations such as taxi ranks, government offices, clinics and such.