Husband and wife team Russell and Catherine Miller are hoping to change the way children play freely with the launch of playscapes company Sleeping Lions Adventures.
Through the creation of temporary destinations (playscapes) Sleeping Lions Adventures allows children to take charge of the way they play while giving parents peace of mind.
The pair have received significant funds from both an angel investor and The University of Manchester’s Innovation Company, UMI3 Ltd, through the UMIP Innovation Optimiser Programme as they bid to grow their offering.
Co-founders Russell and Catherine, believe children are turning to i-pads for entertainment rather than playing alongside other youngsters in immersive environments that bolster creativity and sociability.
He said: “Our playscapes are like mini theatre sets and are a starting point to an adventure. Our latest indoor playscape is Pirates and Sea Monsters – a giant octopus, shipwreck that children can play in – that was recently hired for a wedding in Cheshire.
“The playscapes encourage children’s curiosity, playfulness and sociability while allowing children’s families to have fun elsewhere – just like they did at the wedding.”
Russell, 45, who works at The University of Manchester, and Catherine, founded the idea after having two children of their own.
“Our children are both under the age of four,” said Russell. “Two years ago Catherine and I talked about how we played in fields, dens and in the street when we were younger.
“Sadly, children don’t tend to play like that anymore. There’s a restricted nature to play now and more and more children are using i-pads which we feel is detrimental, particularly when it comes to social interaction.
“Following lots of research we realised that we could create something that could make play possible almost anywhere and that’s what Sleeping Lions Adventures is.”
One of the company’s aims is to make it easier for children to attend weddings. The other is creating mini immersive experiences for use in cafes, car showrooms and other retail environments.
“The average transaction time to buy a car is three hours,” said Russell, “so we are talking to dealerships about the potential of setting up playscapes so parents can focus on the car they might want while children play freely but with a sense of creativity too.
“With weddings, it can often be a case of children not being invited, which can alienate some family members. We are planning to change that.”
He added: “It’s also important to thank UMIP’s Innovation Optimiser team for helping us shape our business idea – they’ve been incredibly supportive.”
Kate Park, Director of Kate Park Events, worked alongside Sleeping Lions Adventures during the recent wedding in Cheshire.
She said: “Inviting children to weddings has just been made a whole lot more fun with Sleeping Lions Adventures. Their playscape made a huge and positive impact on the wedding party. It looked great in the venue and importantly it kept all the children entertained – leaving their parents able to enjoy the celebration.
“Children used to find weddings long and dull – not anymore.”