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China Daily Website

Animated beavers busy educating children

Updated: 2012-06-06 17:16
( Xinhua)

BEIJING - While "Tom and Jerry" and Mickey Mouse still reign supreme in kids' entertainment in China, a band of highbrow beavers have arrived on the scene to help fill a void in early-childhood education.

As Chinese children's new online friends, the beavers from sing, tell stories and encourage kids build good habits. As a hit among young parents and their children, the site has over 3 million registered members since its launch in 2010.

Its popular children's songs and original Flash cartoons have an average of 10 million online views every month.

"Children need a partner to understand society and obtain knowledge and skills. The beavers meet their emotional needs, and that's why they're so popular among children," said Yang Wei, co-founder and CEO of

Residing in a virtual beaver village, each beaver has a unique personality and ability. One can talk to plants, one wears a magical pendant, and another is a grandfatherly inventor.

The beavers stress parent-child interactive education. For example, the company has developed a mobile application that encourages children to make a habit of brushing their teeth.

The beaver awards kids with a "medal" if they brush their teeth twice daily for a week and fill in the digital record card with the help of their parents. They can even compete with their parents on who wins the most medals.

"Parents have great influence over their children in the pre-school period. That's why we emphasize parent-child interaction," Yang said.

Busy with their careers, parents often sacrifice participation in the early education of their children and such responsibilities fall on grandparents, kindergarten teachers or nannies.

"It's a pity to see many parents give up involvement with their children. Usually, it's them who can give their children a sense of security," said Cheng Fangping, a professor from the School of Education at People's University.

According to Cheng, the group-style education at kindergartens can't provide every child the full attention needed. He said interaction with parents is conducive to children's intellectual and personality development.

"Multimedia education provides a multitude of information in a vivid and conceivable way, but it has to build connections with real life," Cheng said.

In just two years, Yang has expanded his business beyond the Internet and into the development of mobile applications, books and educational toys for children and parents.

"As the kids love the beaver, they take his 'advice' very seriously," Yang Wei said.

Last year, the site received nearly $10 million in investment from the Qiming Venture Partners, a leading investment firm in China.

In May, Fortune magazine's China edition listed Yang as one of the Top 40 Chinese business leaders under 40.

Yang first decided to establish the site in late 2009. He said, "Most educational resources in China concentrate on primary school students and beyond. In contrast, pre-school education often lacks quality materials.

"It prompted me to quit my job as an IT engineer and develop original and quality materials for pre-school children and their parents," Yang said.

In order to carry out the research and development of pre-school educational products, the site has formed a partnership with the Educational Department of Beijing Normal University.

Many young Chinese couples are determined to have a child this year, the auspicious Year of the Dragon. An earlier report forecast a 5-percent increase in the number of new born babies in China this year.

But Yang said that in addition to this year's baby boom, China faces mid-and-long term population growth, and he expects the beavers to meet China's ever growing demand for early childhood education.