After watching the way my baby interacted with his toys, I realized he could benefit from subscription boxes dedicated to toys and kits that help grow his developing mind—and your baby can, too.
I sat down on the floor of my baby Leland’s play space and watched him pull himself up to a plastic table toy, the kind with all the crazy features on it. He pushed one button and suddenly music started playing, a purple cow popped out, and lights started flashing. What is this experience actually doing for him and for us?, I wondered. I looked around at the other toys in our play area. What were any of them actually doing—or not doing—to connect him to me and to the world around him?
When I had my first child, I wasn’t new to the idea of 'what’s best for my baby.' I was even extra prepared in some ways. I’d already spent several years building an organic baby food company, Happy Family. I knew what to feed him and how offering the right foods at the right times sets babies up for a lifetime of good health. Like most first-time moms, though, there was also plenty I didn’t know.
I’m nerd at heart. I'm happiest when researching just about anything. After diving into research about infant brain development, I discovered a doctoral thesis called “Neural Foundations.” Reading that thesis changed everything for me as a parent. I learned about the special importance of the first three years—and realized I didn’t need a degree in early childhood education to help my children in useful, lasting ways.
Babies and toddlers are naturally driven to understand the world around them. By reading up, I discovered that just as there are empty calories for a child’s body, there are empty calories for a child’s brain. If a baby presses a button and witnesses a purple cow pop out, lights flashing, and music playing, he will memorize it, practicing it over and over again to deepen his understanding. The issue is that nothing in real life really relates to purple cows and flashing lights; the baby builds a deep neural network of associations around something that is irrelevant to real life.
Two essential factors help build a child's brain: interactions with the adults in her life and her exposure to useful, real-world experiences. I started looking at my baby’s toys and books from a new perspective. Why would a baby book teach concepts such as big vs. little by showing an illustration of an elephant and a mouse? Most babies have never seen an elephant or a mouse. The illustrations also typically don’t look like the real thing and it's hard to tell how big they are relative to each another.
As I started paying more attention to what kinds of learning was more meaningful for my son, I became more confident and creative. I started making toys myself, tuning into what would interest my baby when we spent time together. We took tours around the house to find all the places where there was water, turned lights on and off, and took apart tissue boxes and containers of cotton swabs. I crouched under my glass coffee table, looked up at him and said “under!” I bought a plastic tube at the hardware store to help him understand containment. I dropped the ball through the tube and said "look, the ball falls out of the tube but it stays in the pot!"
My son and I were suddenly connecting on a more fundamental level as I began to see the world through his eyes. With books and toys that were more purposeful and specific to what he was hungry to learn, I had created a more meaningful experience for us.
I kept wondering how I could share what I had learned in a way parents would relate to. At Happy Family, we had helped so many parents feel good about what they were feeding their children’s growing bodies. Now I turned my attention to helping families feel just as confident about how to nurture their children’s growing brains.
Parents intuitively know when they are making real connections with their children, and when their children are experiencing meaningful learning. I created a new company called Lovevery to help parents have more of these moments through every-other-month subscription boxes of play kits that appeal to babies' curiosity and induce a sense of wonder. And of course the toys grow with your baby, appealing to each new stage of his or her life.
Parenting in the modern world is by most accounts overwhelming. And as a mom of three I’ve certainly had my fair share of times when I was feeling my way in the dark. I’m comforted that for now, I’ve found a way to navigate the important stuff. My hope is that if I share what I’ve learned with other parents, the time that we have together will feel even more connected and meaningful.