POP – Tarina kirjan takana ja miten työskentely lasten kanssa johti oivalluksiin

POP – The story behind the book and how working with children led to insights

Pop the Bird is an umbrella project developed by writer-illustrator team Jenni Erkintalo and Réka Király about basic shapes, building characters, storytelling and visual learning for children aged 3–8.

Learning materials dealing with basic forms are often quite flat in content. Storytelling can make an abstract topic more approachable for children. Transforming the basic idea of learning basic shapes, Jenni Erkintalo and Réka Király built a bird character, Pop, and the world surrounding the bird by using basic shapes. Thus, the focus of learning shifted to the playful character and storytelling, with building-block-like geometric elements remaining visible.


Erkintalo and Király talk about the project:

– There are many books that teach basic shapes by presenting them one by one. We wanted to create a book where the main focus is on the story and its characters, in which the basic forms are embedded. This is how we came up with the story concept around Pop the Bird, and the picture book Pop soon at home (Pop pian kotona, Etana Editions 2015) was born from it.




Parallel to writing and illustrating the book, we developed the concept of a workshop aimed at young children. Using a set of Pop stickers based on basic shapeswe worked on characters and stories related to the shapes.

– We questioned images and features related to shapes and figures. If the characters are built from circles and semicircles, does that automatically mean happy and soft? What if a character is built entirely out of triangles, does it automatically become the villain of the story? We also considered other obvious and not-so-obvious associations related to shapes and characters and how they affect the storytelling.

Working together with children in the most diverse groups produced a lot of laughter and wonderful stories. We soon realized that we have already held free workshops for more than 2,000 children in Finland!

– Next, our book and workshop concept were invited to participate in one of Finland's biggest design events, the Helsinki Design Week, where we also presented Pop story cubes for the first time.

– We also received e-mails from different kindergartens, and soon they started using our picture book in their learning materials. The Pop puuhaa – Pop Doodles activity book/poster that we published was also used by families and groups of children, and the joy of working together on the poster sheet seemed to follow the principles of the workshops.

– We started this project out of personal curiosity about visual learning and our own enthusiasm for storytelling. While working with children, we have received a lot of feedback on the content, and it has made it possible to further develop the elements of the concept and tailor the workshops to suit each purpose. With the help of the entire Pop package, children can learn about basic shapes through both sight and touch and at the same time develop their storytelling skills.


Currently, the Pop project consists of

  • Pop pian kotona/Pop Soon at Home picture book, which is aimed at 3-4 year old readers,
  • Pop puuhaa/Pop Doodles  activity book and poster for children aged 3 and older
  • Pop ja numerot/Pop and the Numbers poster,
  • the workshop materials: Pop stickers and Pop story cubes
  • tailored workshops that can be adapted for different age groups for kindergartens, exhibitions, museums and various events

All images © Aino Huovio and Etana Editions.

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