Adam and Meghan Owenz want other parents to know this: They are not crazy.
Sure, they think a lot about limiting — nearly eliminating — screen time for their two kids, ages 6 and 3. They don't really watch TV at home. Ditto for movies. Usually, they opt for activities like drawing, reading, and spending time outdoors.
But the parents from Wyomissing, Berks County, who run the blog "Screen-free Parenting" aren't aiming to change other parents who let their kids scroll through their smartphones for fun. Instead, the Owenzes say they want to offer tips, tricks, and tools for cutting down on kids' screen time if parents want to.
Their latest tool is "Starting Lines," a board game they developed over the last year and a half that's a mix of Pictionary (released in 1985) and Apples to Apples (1999) and that the couple says fosters creativity in both children and adults. They hope the game, which they're crowdfunding with the hope of shipping 1,000 units by early 2019, will address what's called the "creativity crisis" — the idea that there's been a gradual shift over the last several decades away from promoting creativity.
"The average drawing game is top-down. It says, 'Draw an alligator,' then you're judged on that," said Meghan Owenz, a psychology professor at Penn State Berks who teaches child development. "Instead of telling them what to draw, what if we had a game that rewarded people for seeing something that not everybody did?"
Here's how it works: A player selects one of 18 "starting line" cards — which everyone will use as the basis for a drawing — and one of 24 category cards, like "big city" or "in the sea." Each player (you need three or more) has two minutes to turn that line into something else that falls into the category, plus come up with a creative caption to go along with it.
Then, the designated judge for that round picks a favorite (à la Apples to Apples) based not necessarily on how good the drawing is, but on how creative the end product is. The winner keeps the category card, and, by the end of the game, the player with the most category cards wins.
The game isn't just for the young ones. Adults can play with kids — they don't have to dumb themselves down, because the judging isn't based on artistry — or with other adult friends.
The Owenzes say they didn't set out to develop a product. As full-time professors, they weren't aiming to become the founders of a board game business. But they started playing a rudimentary version with their kids and realized they were on to something.
After Starting Lines was born, Adam, 37, and Meghan, 33, played it with friends and family, spending 18 months building a prototype and finessing everything from the category cards to the type of paper used to the length of time each player has to make a masterpiece.
They contracted with a production company and an order fulfillment service, both of which work with other household games, like Cards Against Humanity (2011), and placed an order for 100 games.
Last week, the Owenzes launched a crowdfunding campaign aimed at raising $20,000, or enough capital to place an order for 1,000 more games. For $25, plus $6 in shipping costs, customers can order the basic Starting Lines game and expect to receive it by February if the crowdfunding campaign succeeds. Buyers can also choose a $49 option that gets them the game and then donates one to a school, camp, or after-school program.
Other pledge levels include an adults-only expansion pack (with categories like "college party" and "what hell looks like") and a five-pack specifically for educators.