Ines Akari has been a cabin crew on a private jet, a model and is a graduate in medical technology. The Dubai-based mother-of-one, however, is most thrilled about her new job – toy detective at Dragon Mart.
How does it feel to be a toy detective?
It’s immensely exciting, particularly to know that I was chosen from over 200 aspirants.
What exactly do you do, Ines?
As part of my job, I visit 10 shortlisted toy stores in Dragon Mart every week. I spend more than three hours checking out various toys and getting an idea of what kind of toys are available and where they are located. We do a video of the tour which is posted on Dragon Mart’s Instagram account (@DragonMart) as well as on mine (@noussa.nour). The idea is to show mums where they can find the right toy for their child. We want to choose the best and most appropriate toy for a child.
Anyone can Instagram a question related to toys on these accounts and I will suggest the best options for them.
So, would you also be at the store to help someone pick up a toy?
Not really. The reason [the toy ideas] are posted on social media channels is because I realise that mums don’t have a lot of time. I want to bring them the option of choosing toys from the comfort of their homes. So if she wants to pick up something for her children or for any child’s birthday, she can see the Instagram posts and choose a suitable one.
What do you look for when choosing toys?
My first concern is quality and I have found that because here in Dubai, everything is cleared by the Municipality, the quality of products is always good. To be honest, I did some shopping for my son as well and I must say I was very happy with the products.
I look for toys not just for three-year-old boys like my son but seek out toys for children from six months to 16 years.
Roughly, how many toys are there at the mart?
Dragon Mart has thousands of toys catering to children from different ages groups.
What special skills do you think helped you get this job?
I enjoy being with mums and children and am a regular participant at my son’s nursery school. I volunteer for reading sessions, and any event that they organise. I participate regularly in local mummy events. I truly enjoy those interactions. I love socialising and constantly learn from other mums while also offering them tips about, for instance, travelling with children, buying clothes and shoes for them….
I’m also very active and guess am fun to be around. I’m full of energy and have a very positive, optimistic outlook on life.
What should one keep in mind when picking up a toy for a kid?
Kids these days watch a lot of cartoons on television and on YouTube so they are very clear about what kind of toys they want. Advertising and social media too play a role in influencing the buying habits of children. I believe one needs to choose a toy that can also help them learn something; it should not be a mindless toy. It should help build character or help them grow in some way. For instance, let me tell you an incident about my son. His teacher in school once told me that he was not interested in colouring. Now, I think colouring is important so I was wondering how to encourage him to colour. I knew his favourite cartoon character is Spiderman. So, I had an idea. I found some colouring books that had Spiderman characters and gave them to him. He was overjoyed and promptly started colouring in those books.
What do you keep in mind when you suggest toys to parents?
The first factor is age. For instance if the child is 3 years old, buys something that is from 3 to 5; something he can play for a longer time. It is also a money-saver. It should preferably be a creative toy. Avoid single-player games; look for toys and games that parents, siblings or friends can also be involved in. It helps develop character, and encourages team work and social bonding. Also, pick toys and games that get children outdoors. Kids should not be playing alone in a corner all by themselves.
I also prefer toys made of wood because it offers a lot of tactile stimulation unlike plastic which can just be smooth.
One last point…
I want to encourage parents to recycle and reuse toys. For instance, if there is a toy that is in good condition but which their kid is bored playing with or has outgrown, they should consider donating it. Handover such toys to second-hand stores, nurseries or playschools after getting them cleaned.
I also believe there is no point in buying extremely expensive toys because kids get bored with toys very easily.