It all started with a song on the radio that wasn’t exactly kid friendly.
Kevin Gatlin picked up his son from school one day and turned on the car radio, only to find his then-8-year-old son singing along to the hook of a “bad song.”
“He was 8 years old and didn’t know what he was saying, but I did,” Gatlin said.
Shaken by the situation, Gatlin searched to find something suitable for his children to listen to in the car, but everything he discovered geared toward kids was either a storytelling CD or a sing-along album – something he said neither parents nor children want to listen to for extended periods of time.
Gatlin remembered the “A-B-C, 1-2-3” game his mom, a retired schoolteacher, used to play with him during car rides and chose to create a character that could guide children through various games they could play during road trips. Thus, the “Ride Along with Dooey” CD and Gatlin’s own toy company, the Charlotte-based Playtime EDventures, were born.
Inspired by the success and positive feedback to “Ride Along with Dooey,” which includes more than 25 interactive car games, Gatlin chose to take another leap of faith and produce Playtime EDventures’s second product, Playtime Sheets, a product which recently made its debut at Charlotte’s Southern Christmas Show. The product is a “unique bedding solution that combines the comfort of traditional bedding with cognitive stimulation and creativity,” according to a news release.
Consisting of real twin-sized bed sheets – one fitted sheet and one flat sheet – as well as a pillow case and 8 Crayola crayons, Playtime Sheets offers more than 30 games and teaching vignettes. Activities range from traditional games, such as checkers, chess and Tic-Tac-Toe, to original custom games and activities.
Playtime Sheets stays true to Playtime EDventures’s mission of providing educational activities for children. Gatlin recruited a team of educators who are experts in their field to develop educational curricula that go with the product, and even the most traditional games incorporate more than just playing by simple rules.
“It’s not just I move, you move,” Gatlin said. “We wanted to make it an educational, fun game, so we have questions that have to be answered in order for a child to advance in a particular game, like Tic-Tac-Toe.”
Gatlin came up with the idea for Playtime Sheets about three years ago, but unlike the CD, which Gatlin said was “easy” to produce, producing the new product was much more challenging.
“It’s like getting a four-year degree because there’s manufacturing involved, time constraints … trying to learn the ropes before you spend the money takes a lot of time,” he said.
Gatlin’s efforts have paid off, as Playtime Sheets sold well during the Southern Christmas Show, and the product has received positive reviews. The Playtime Sheets content has been translated into Spanish to make the product “more demographic friendly,” Gatlin said, and partnering educators also have developed content for children with learning disabilities.
“We don’t just put out random toys,” he said. “We’ve also created special needs content, so if you have a child with autism or special needs, you have something for them.”
The company also partners with Classroom Central, Beds for Kids and the Salvation Army Women’s Shelter, donating a portion of the proceeds from Playtime Sheets sales to each organization. This gives the company a chance to give back to both the education industry and children who don’t have appropriate bedding, Gatlin said.
“We’re not a toy company that just wants to sell,” he said. “We’re a toy company where our first goal is, ‘How can we improve our surroundings or our community?’”
Find more information and purchase Playtime Sheets or “Ride Along with Dooey” at www.playtimeedventures.com.