By guest blogger, Jenn Choi
Upon reaching major milestones in Toys R Us Canada:
#1 Preschool Games
#1 Family Games
#1 Autism Awareness
And becoming an Amazon’s Choice game in the U.S., Claudia Faierman Shulman shares some of the secrets of her success in this Q and A with Forbes Contributor and education journalist, Jenn Choi.
The My Feelings Game was expanded to all Toys R Us Canada locations by March 2017
Jenn: Why do you think your game has become such a bestseller in so many categories?
Claudia: I think today’s parents are expecting more. Parents know that all people, children and adults alike are becoming so self-absorbed with their phones, emails, and texts. This worries them and I knew they were looking for a way to have fun with their kids while getting to know their thoughts and feelings. Sadly, no one really attempted to create such a game in the mainstream market.
Jenn: It doesn’t hurt to have endorsements from major luminaries in child development. Who has supported My Feelings Game so far?
Claudia: The response has been overwhelming. We are honored to be praised by luminaries such as Dr. Temple Grandin, Dr. Tony Attwood, Dr. Stephen Shore, Dr. Lucy Miller, Dr. Serena Wieder, Dr. Paula Kluth, Dr. Brenda Myles, Paula Aquilla, Ellen Yack and Rozanne Israel. All of them are pioneers in their respective fields.
Professor Stephen Shore, globally recognized for his work in education, endorses the My Feelings Game.
Jenn: What inspired you to create this game?
Claudia: I created the game for my youngest child who is on the autism spectrum. By attending his therapies, I discovered how kids learn through play. To keep connecting with him, I bought more and more games. I pretty much became an educational games collector and expert, but I still couldn’t find any games in the market to teach my child about emotions and coping. So, I just made it myself.
Jenn: How long did it take you?
Claudia: It took me one week to put it together.
Jenn: Wow and just in time too! Raising a child’s social and emotional IQ is on the top of so many consumers’ minds right now. Why do you think a small company like yours is leading the way?
Claudia: Sometimes small companies are the only ones willing to take a risk. In the game space in mainstream toy stores, you will often find the same game with just a different license. Manufacturers continue this practice because investing in new ideas can lead to failure and failures can be expensive. So much of what you see on the shelves are the same games from our youth with different characters. People are tired of this.
Jenn: Hasn’t the therapeutic product market already made and sold games that talk about feelings and social skills?
Claudia: The beauty of My Feelings Game is that it can be enjoyed by kids of all abilities. Usually therapeutic games lack the fun factor and quality and mass market games lack educational value. The quality has also been decreasing substantially.
Faierman Shulman made countless presentations to professionals. Pictured: a meeting with members of the York Region Chapter of OSLA, The Ontario Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists.
Jenn: Actually, I’ve played your game with own family and I found it to be successful with even my teenage son. Tell me about how you developed this game.
Claudia: After inventing the game and getting great feedback from child development professionals locally, I then sought feedback from STAR Institute Founder and Clinical Research Director Dr. Lucy Miller, globally-recognized for her work in Sensory Processing Disorder. I traveled all the way to Denver from Toronto to show her my game and she loved it. Her encouragement of my game propelled me to keep moving forward.
Faierman Shulman meeting Dr Lucy J. Miller at The STAR Institute in Denver Colorado. October 23rd 2012.
Jenn: You’re not from the toy industry though. How did you know what to do?
Claudia: I scoured the industry to build an amazing team of veteran game designers and illustrators. Almost everyone on my team, from marketing to design were established veterans who had just left Hasbro. I wanted everything to be perfect and refused to cut corners.
Jenn: Did you feel any friction leading a team of veterans in an industry that was foreign to you?
Claudia: It was not easy. I took the approach of learning everything I could from the designers. I also brought to the table something that most design teams in game companies don’t have: the expertise of leaders in child development. This was the winning mix. I had the best of both worlds. That is why the game is so successful. We do things differently. We even created a booklet that parents could read together and further add to the experience. It was expensive, but so worth it.
Faierman Shulman put into action the fantastic advice she received from former Hasbro Senior Vice Presidents of Marketing and Sales Phil Jackson (l.) and Mark Sullivan (r.).
Jenn: Can you tell us what’s coming next from My Feelings Game?
Claudia: We are going to develop the characters further by launching a book series. I’ve already cowritten one of the books with Dr. Miller. We’re also working on translating the game into French and Spanish due to the high volume of requests. We’ve even had requests to translate our game into Chinese. I’m not surprised. Social emotional intelligence is important everywhere, isn’t it?
My Feelings Game Inventor, Claudia Faierman Shulman examines designs before production, “This was a tremendous challenge, but every step of the way was nothing short of joyful. I have the most amazing team.”
About the writer:
Jenn Choi is a Forbes Contributor and content creator specializing in education and technology. Follow her on Twitter: @toysastools