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.”