Martial artists are constantly problem-solving in the gym and in competition, so when Amir Khan needed a solution for an issue outside of fighting, he engineered one himself.
The Singaporean striker – who returns to action in a rematch with Eduard Folayang at ONE Fight Night 14: Stamp vs. Ham on Prime Video on September 29 – struggled to find an enriching place for his son Leon to play while he and his wife Cristina dealt with their daily business.
They didn’t need all-day care, but they did need some way to free up time that didn’t rely on screens. With nothing available, they brought their vision to life with Leon and Friends.
Revealing how the new business came about, Khan said:
“My wife and I had this idea a while back. There are not a lot of places where we can drop off our kids and buy maybe a couple of hours to do our work as parents. With our busy schedules, we also wanted to find some kind of entertainment for kids so that they wouldn’t feel bored.
“Instead of just opening a laptop, tablet, TV, or something, we wanted to have something that is also beneficial for them. That’s why we came up with Leon and Friends.
“It’s been operational since March. I feel like the response has been good, the brand has been building. We’re hoping to replicate what we are doing and hopefully get to open in more areas in Singapore.”
Although the idea was to help parents, children were at the forefront of the Khan family’s plans.
Naming it after their own offspring, the Evolve athlete and his wife wanted to make sure that Leon and Friends was everything they’d want for their son, mixing play with beneficial skill development and learning.
With that in mind, they constructed their unique play space at Singapore’s Marina Square.
“It’s a small, private play area where parents can come in and drop their kids off and be confident that they are in a safe environment while having a short break. It’s basically like two hours of play, and they can have lunch or peacefully have a date night.
“Our activities are focused on developing kids’ motor skills, fine sensory skills, and all of the toys are educational. So parents know that it will be good for the child as well.”
Amir Khan Wants To Help Children Become More Confident
As someone who has struggled with anxiety in social situations in the past, Amir Khan wanted his new business to help instill some confidence into the children under its care.
The lightweight star was often quiet growing up because he was self-conscious about his stutter, but he believes kindness and compassion can help young people start to get over their worries.
After all, it’s not easy to break the ice when thrust into new situations. Yet, with the help of the Leon and Friends staff, Khan tries to ease the children into bonding with new people.
“We inform our staff to ensure that there is a welcoming social environment. If we see a child who is a bit socially awkward or they are not talking to each other, we encourage the staff to introduce the kids to one another.
“We found that once they are introduced, they are more comfortable to play with each other, so we help them with that first step.”
Khan feels that the COVID-19 pandemic also exacerbated existing issues and kept some kids from socializing in the same way as their older peers.
Not having exposure to different people and situations at such a formative age could have hindered their ability to connect with others, and Khan wanted to play his part in helping them get past that.
Ultimately, it’s about offering a safe space for children to come out of their shells and learn to interact better with others.
Assured that it will make a positive impact, Khan said:
“During COVID, kids didn’t really get the chance to go to school and people developed this kind of social awkwardness.
“I mean, in Singapore, everyone is socially awkward anyway, even me. It’s just that the environment that we were put in, they didn’t have a lot of chances to be exposed to social gatherings, so we wanted to try and build that.
“We want to help give kids the confidence to make new friends. I feel that is what separates us from other playgrounds.”