Parenting young children has never been easy, but the pandemic brings new challenges to the task. Many moms and dads are working from home, and popping out for playdates or mini-adventures brings an element of risk. How can dedicated parents enrich the lives of growing preschoolers?
Susan Larkin has created Let’s Go Co., a weekly resource she calls “the Antidote to Monotony.” Each box arrives with 5 “play” cards and 4 “make” cards and with activities built around a weekly theme. Examples include Let’s Go Camping, Let’s Go Into the Ocean, Let’s Go Gardening, Let’s Go Into Space, Let’s Go Trick-or-Treating, Let’s Go Check the Weather and Let’s Go Have Thanksgiving.
“As parents, we want to be able to just say ‘Let’s go do ____,’ but there are always so many things getting in the way,” says Larkin. “There are so many things we know we should be doing to help our child develop, but it can feel overwhelming, or we don’t know where to start. Now, more than ever, it’s easier to sit someone down in front of a TV, which we really don’t want to do, but it’s the choice of least resistance.”
Larkin, a 2008 graduate of Lake Highlands High School, uses her background as a certified speech pathologist to create activities specially designed for ages 2-4. She worked in RISD junior high and high schools until 2016, then moved to UTD’s acclaimed Center for BrainHealth and Brain Performance Institute before starting her business.
“Essentially, what is inside every box is a plan for enriching language,” says Larkin. “It is not therapy, but it’s modeled after things we know through tons of research helps kids develop language.” The added benefit for parents? “We know that when we have fun and get excited as adults, our brains benefit, too. The point of the box is to have fun, but the payoff is always positive – for you and your child.”
“Play” card activities tie into “make” cards, such as the recent camping theme which encouraged families to look for sticks for a campfire, then use one to make a fishing pole. The activities build sensory play, problem solving and fine motor skills, Larkin says. Everything needed is inside the box – all crafts are pre-prepped, shapes are pre-cut, paper is scored along the fold lines and ribbons are the right length. If instructions call for scotch tape, a roll is included. If gluestick is required, you’ll find it in the box.
One box may be purchased for $36.50, or families may order a monthly subscription for $32 per box. Larkin has special deals for educators and speech therapists, who can purchase activities to send home with clients. And she’s found a market she wasn’t expecting. Let’s Go Co. boxes have become popular birthday gifts for children and treasured activities between grandparents and their littles. Another unexpected use? The simple crafts and discussion starters are great for helping elderly loved ones suffering from dementia.
“The most rewarding thing is the feedback I get,” says Larkin. “I had one mom tell me that it had been tough finding time to spend with her two girls after the birth of her third, and so when they were doing the ‘make’ crafts, her oldest kept saying, ‘Mommy, this is my favorite ever, doing this together.’ I cried for a solid 5 minutes after that, because that is my whole goal with this, giving parents and their kids the opportunity to spend meaningful time together.”
Larkin recently moved into the Northlake neighborhood with husband Miles, daughter Amelia and baby son Bo. She admits she didn’t realize how much time her new business would require and says it’s a true family effort.
“It’s challenging and rewarding and an emotional rollercoaster, but I’m so thankful for the unbelievable support I get from Miles. He encourages me every single step of the way and stays up late with me drilling holes into plastic jugs and filling boxes and cutting paper.”
Larkin can ship anywhere in the U.S. and has already sent packages as far as California and Mississippi. She also has a weekly pick up arrangement at Flag Pole Hill, and We Are the Missfits at Lakeridge Village allows pickup at their store for a $3 donation to their rent relief fund. She is considering expanding to additional ages, although she says boxes could currently be enjoyed by kids as old as 7 or 8, she says. Other future potentials swirling in her creative brain include a brick-and-mortar store to host craft parties and seminars on fostering language development.
Larkin says she’s inspired by other young moms she’s watched create businesses from home, and she’s received valuable advice from people she admires.
“I have so many friends and family members that have felt passionate about an idea and have run with it. They have been so encouraging. I get a lot done once the kids are asleep. My mom [Lake Highlands Women’s League leader Michelle Harris] has always told me to ‘make hay while the sun shines,’ which I’m not sure I ever fully appreciated or understood until now. Any time that I am not actively doing something else, I try and get just one little thing crossed off my to-do list, and that helps me feel like I’m getting stuff done, even if it’s just a tiny task.”
With her growing family and burgeoning business, Larkin says she’s not sure she’ll ever go back to speech therapy. At UTD, she focused on high performance brain training, and she says that feeds right into her work with Let’s Go Co.
“We know from lots of research that stepping outside of routine and doing something new actually changes the physical makeup of our brains and helps them work more efficiently. My goal with each box is that number 1, it’s fun for your kids and helps give them the opportunity to develop new language, but as a secondary number 1, that it helps provide parents the opportunity to step outside their routine and infuse excitement and novelty into their week as well.”