Friday, June 8, 2012

Helping Kids Play Safe: An Interview with David Cohen, Creator of Stop-it!

Being active and playing outside is an important part of childhood and in towns across Canada, seeing children at play in the driveway is a familiar site. Maybe it is shooting a basketball at the hoop hanging off the garage or a little game of ball hockey, but whatever the outdoor activity, an important concern for all parents is the safety of their children while at play. David Cohen, a father of three active kids, had that same concern a few years ago and when he failed to find an existing product that would help make the driveway a safer play area, he created one - Stop-it!

Stop-it! is a multi-purpose net that can be used in the driveway, at the park or in the backyard. It allows parents to create a boundary or safer play area for their children. The net can stop balls from rolling into the street and it serves as a reminder for kids to remain in a safe area. It is fully retractable too, which makes it easy for parents or kids to set up and take down.

“I have three kids, 14, 13 and 8 years old and they keep me pretty busy,” David explained in our recent interview. “They are really active kids and play a lot of sports. Their main sport is hockey and they are on the ice five or six times a week, so we go running around from arena to arena. When they come home though, the first thing they do is go outside to play once their homework is done.”

“That’s really were all this began, my kids were young and we lived on a busy street; they always wanted to play on the driveway. I was thinking there must be a way I can make it a little bit safer for them, but when I went and looked, I couldn’t find anything I could purchase. I thought I would try to make something myself, so that I would have some piece of mind and it evolved from there.”

Since he approached creating Stop-it! for his own use and not as a business when he first began, David was able to take his time designing the product. As it evolved, he found ways to perfect the net system; creating the locking system, making it retractable and manufacturing it in a way that one net could be stacked upon another for added height. With his product now available to the public at select retailers in Ontario and on the Stop-it! website, combined with the positive response and feedback he has received from parents, his goal is to one day see Stop-it! in every driveway in every neighbourhood.

“The main message we try to get out to parents is don’t take safety for granted, that you can always have your eyes on your kids, or that they will always remember to stay off the road. We want to make this area that is the play area for most families safer - that’s our goal.”

“I had one parent call and tell me that when anyone comes over to play, the first thing her son does is put the net up and then they figure out what game they are going to play,” David said. “When he goes to other friends houses, he asks, ‘Are you going to put a net up?’ He has figured out that he needs this and asks his friends why they don't have one too.”

“Speaking with one mother, she was saying that her daughter is always riding her tricycle in the driveway and now there is a physical reminder that she cannot go out of the driveway. It is also a good reminder for cars pulling into the driveway because sometimes drivers may not see kids playing. In its simplest form, it is great to keep the ball from rolling into the road, but it really does a good job as a reminder to kids to be aware of their surroundings too.”

Nothing can compare to the watchful eye of a parent, but having that extra level of protection could make a big difference and provide some peace of mind. Having fun and staying safe - a perfect combination!

You can find Stop-it! at www.stop-it.ca and on Twitter (@Stopit_Canada).

This article first appeared in the June 2012 edition of Main Street and is posted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street to have a look at a great community newspaper that I am proud to support!

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