If anything can slacken people’s fixation with computers and touch screens, it’s Monkey Pod Games.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
If anything can slacken people’s fixation with computers and touch screens, it’s Monkey Pod Games. Creators Ron and Gilad Levy’s wooden games are so well designed and meticulously developed that they engage players of all ages. Play fun and educational brainteasers, puzzles, and mind benders individually or as a family, providing good, old-fashioned face-to-face, rather than FaceTime.
Six years ago, the Levy brothers recognized a void in the way people relate to one another despite their own technology backgrounds. “People were becoming more connected to the Internet than to each other,” remarked Gilad. “There’s no interaction because they’re on their computers and iPads. We wanted to bring families back to basics.”
Consequently, they set out to resurrect games that encourage interplay and develop strategic thinking, problem solving, visual-spatial learning, fine motor and analytical skills. It didn’t take long before their line of traditional games with a modern twist took off.
A couple of years later, retail giants came knocking. Making their debut at Toys R Us, their lines have expanded to stores all over the world. Here in New York, Monkey Pod Games are on the shelves of FAO Schwarz, Barnes and Noble, Urban Outfitters, and other high-end retailers, as well as museum gift shops. Currently, Monkey Pod puzzles are featured at the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey in an exhibit called Beyond Rubik’s Cube.
The games are beautifully handcrafted from sustainable raw wood, either from rubber trees after they’ve stopped producing rubber or fast-growing, sustainable monkey pod trees, the company’s namesake. Monkey Pod’s version of the classic tangram puzzle, which explores geometrical concepts and comes in its own attractive wood case, won the 2011 Parents’ Choice Award.
“People are much more connected to a game if they can touch it, smell the wood, hear the sounds,” noted Gilad about their tactile appeal. Clever packaging in a variety of shapes also fills the senses.
Kids and adults can visit the Monkey Pod Factory Store at 313 Halstead Avenue in Mamaroneck, which is more playroom than retail space. “Our primary goal is to sell games that people have had the chance to play and enjoy. They always come back,” said Gilad. There are close to 150 games available at the studio.
In addition, Monkey Pod Games offers hands-on presentations at all of Westchester’s local libraries. They take kids through the challenging puzzles with step-by-step instructions to avoid frustration and help them succeed.
Another one of Monkey Pod Games’ hallmarks is that the Levys hire only people with special needs to assemble, package, and prepare the games for shipping.
“Our father hired people with special needs in his factory and did a lot for our community, so it came naturally to us. When we acquired enough work, we took the same path,” explained Gilad.
Next up for Monkey Pod Games are colorful prototypes that will appeal to very young children, as well as adults. In the meantime, their pyramid and interlocking puzzles and cubes will continue to engage players, testing the patience of even the most dexterous. Their group games, from mancala and mahjong to trio domino and an award-winning XL four-in-a-row game, will continue to bring families together.
The factory store is open Monday through Friday from 9-5 and Saturday from 10-3. To find out more, log on to www.MonkeyPodGames.com or https://www. facebook.com/monkeypodgamesstore or call 800-787-8380.