When Shreya Mittal became a mother last year, she began reading up on early childhood development in a frenzy. Everyone wants the best for their child but Mittal was determined to start as early as possible. “When my daughter was born I knew I could not wait till preschool as I had read in various books that 80 per cent of brain development happens in the first three years. I wanted to stay on top of things, much like other parents,” she says.
With many children now beginning playschool quite early, it is not uncommon to see tiny kids attending classes with their mothers in tow. The playschool environment is also becoming increasingly competitive necessitating the child to be prepared in advance. Fortunately, a plethora of recently launched toys, learning tools and technologies help facilitate this.
Mittal addressed this gap in early education by launching Curious Cub, where she manufactures age-appropriate ‘passive learning’ wooden toys sold as play kits. Advocating playtime with a purpose, these toys are based on the Montessori philosophy with its two-pronged approach of ‘Learning by Doing’ and ‘Learning to Learn’. Simply put, the toys need to be manipulated by the child at will, therefore sparking their curiosity and encouraging them to be active learners.
Counsellor and founder of Journey Matters, Drishti Goenka, chose to highlight the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL) in a sea of cognitive development tools. She launched a set of alphabetic flashcards called A to Z of You and Me, to teach SEL vocabulary to young learners so they could better understand their own experiences by exploring themes of inclusivity, mindfulness, consent and practising kindness. She explains, “If we break down SEL into simple skills, they involve a child’s ability to sit still during circle time, listen to a story, taking turns, being compassionate when their friend is upset etc. For instance, if a child is unable to listen to a story, how will they understand the story? Hence, cognitive, social and emotional development go hand in hand.”
Similarly, Pooja Midha, Co-founder of Wonderhood, a 3T edtech startup, believes in working on overall development, through their ‘toy-first, tech-enabled, and teacher-aided’ approach. Their early learning programme called wonderLearn focuses on cognition, speech and language, general awareness, art, music, social skills and more, by using a combination of their toys and team of teachers. Additionally, for parents who prefer being the teachers themselves, they offer a wonderLearn Explorer Program where learning happens at their chosen pace through content and toys that are provided beforehand.
Shumee Toys is another homegrown toy brand passionate about making playtime development-friendly, child-safe, and sustainable. They create engaging, open-ended wooden toys, games, and activity boxes for ages 0 to six.
Every Shumee toy is handcrafted using natural materials. There are three very important questions to ask when choosing an early development tool, according to founder Meeta Sharma Gupta: “Can the child play with this toy many times and in different ways without getting bored? Does this toy allow the child to be creative and imaginative? Can this toy encourage independent and collaborative play?
HOW TO ACCESS
✥ Level 1 Play Kit aimed at 0 Months+ goes up to Level 11 Play Kit for 21 Months+
✥ Every Play Kit contains 10 play essentials and is priced at `2,999.
✥ Purchase from Curiouscub.in
Journey Matters: A to Z of You and Me
✥ Set of 26 alphabetic flashcards with stories and illustrations geared towards social-emotional learning
✥ Priced at Rs 1,250 per set
✥ Pre-order from Journey-matters.myshopify.com
Wonderhood wonderLearn Program
✥ Choose from age-appropriate subscription plans geared towards holistic development through use of toys and technology under the guidance of teachers.
✥ Plans begin from Rs 2,000
✥ Enroll on Wonderhood.in
✥ Choose from a number of infant essentials, toys and subscription boxes that are eco-friendly and child safe
✥ Prices start from Rs 375 per toy
✥ Buy on Shumee.in