Top Banana Rena Nathanson reveals the origins of the first ever Bananagrams Challenge and her plans to grow the event in the near future.

Why I launched the Bananagrams Challenge

There are many games which would work well in the classroom, but in reality, getting them into schools in the first place can be quite a challenge.

Schools are working with limited budgets and need to ensure the tools and collateral they buy for the classroom are going to be of the very best benefit to the children, and with teachers’ time already stretched, there are limited hours in the day for trying out different games.

I’ve always known that Bananagrams would work in classrooms. It’s a great tool for spelling and literacy exercises, and the gameplay is also perfect for a classroom setting.

The Bananagrams Challenge is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication in getting our game to market and, more importantly, getting it played by the right audience: kids.

It’s exciting to think that 15,000 children in 500 schools in the UK are now playing Bananagrams.

We decided to run the first ever Bananagrams Challenge in the UK for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I live here and my own children went through the British school system, so it felt like the natural launch-pad. Secondly, the size was important when configuring the play aspects. Capping the Challenge at 500 schools was a comfortable starting point for us, although we were very oversubscribed and already have a hefty sign-up list for next year.

As for the live Grand Final itself, where ten-year-old Louis Webber was the first child in the world to be crowned Top Banana, I’m still buzzing.

The feedback has all been overwhelmingly positive and everyone really enjoyed their special day at a fantastic venue. The children were so inspiring – in addition to their incredible vocabulary and spelling skills, they showed excellent sportsmanship, always supporting their opponents with a smile.

Going forward, we will definitely grow The Bananagrams Challenge and open it up to more schools in the UK.

Now we have a really firm grasp on what’s involved, we feel we can only go from strength to strength.

We plan to roll out the Challenge in the US next, with the final to be played in late spring 2016. We’ll start regionally so we can keep the logistics tight, but we’re confident that it will become a national, annual event in the US, too.

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