Park City toy company targets IKOS Brain Train Ball to young learners
New toy positioned as alternative to screen time
July 18, 2017
As the father of two toddlers, Mike Wong was concerned when he read "Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids — and How to Break the Trance," a book detailing the negative effects that too much screen time can have on childhood development.
Wong, a co-founder of the Park City-based toy company IKO, LLC, set about finding a solution for parents worried their young children are spending too much time staring at iPads instead of playing with toys and stimulating their creativity. He developed the IKOS Brain Train Ball, a tweak to the spherical puzzle toy that got the company — which Wong and three former Park City High School students created a few years ago — off the ground.
"Having two young boys of my own, I wanted to provide them with something that wasn't a screen," he said. "Lots of parents mean well, and they need a break so they put a screen in front of their kids to keep them occupied, but it starts a pattern that it really dangerous."
The Brain Train Ball, Wong said, features numbers, letters and sensory shapes cut into the toy's pieces, allowing young children to learn new concepts while stimulating their spatial development by constructing the puzzle into a ball or other shapes.
"It's important to be active and playing, and I notice more and more kids aren't doing that," Wong said. "They're stuck inside behind a screen. It's important to me because I got to play outside a ton, and hopefully more kids can do that."
Wong envisions the Brain Train Ball as the next step in the company's evolution. It began as a student project within the Park City Center for Advanced Professional Studies program — Wong was a business adviser in the program and continues to be involved in it — before morphing into a full-fledged business.
After getting a start in local shops like Kimball Junction's J.W. Allen & Sons Toys & Candy, IKO, LLC's products are now being sold in the NASA Headquarters gift shop in Washington, D.C., the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and some Bed Bath & Beyond stores.
None of it would have been possible, Wong said, without the support Park City has shown it.
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"If we were in a different city, we wouldn't be where we are," he said.
IKO LLC has launched a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to help launch the Brain Train Ball. For more information, visit kickstarter.com and search "IKO, LLC."