Neonatal development is a crucial topic of concern for many parents and caregivers. During the period of infancy, the cerebral cortex develops at a fast rate, impacting the amount of information the brain will hold in a lifetime. However, while new parents make sure their children receive the necessities of warmth, food, and care, not enough conversation is garnered around brain development.
So 14-year-old Avantika Kampani, a student of Class 9 At Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai, has innovated learning tools for toddlers to address this. Despite classroom assignments and exam preparations of her own, this young innovator recently launched a range of educational tools designed to drive child learning right from day one.
Under her initiative DayOne, Avantika has formulated a brain development kit for kids between the ages of zero and three. About how she was inspired to do so, she tells The Better India, “My first cousin lived with us for the first six months after he was born. Being around him made me realise how he was capable of doing so much more than just eating and sleeping. He was always observant, reacting to his surroundings, and reaching out for things with a sense of curiosity. Wondering if encouraging this behaviour could hold any meaning, I conducted some research and found out that early brain development actually has a lasting impact on a child’s growth.”
Avantika’s research showed her that there is a dearth of learning tools available for new parents. Moreover, careful observation and a keen interest in psychology taught her that a major chunk of a human being’s learning happens in the first five years of life.
During this period they display the impressive ability to learn language effortlessly and also experience rapid changes in developmental patterns. This was what she decided to capitalise upon.
So under her initiative DayOne, she launched ‘Seekh’, which has a range of six sections: At First Sight, Count Up, Touch and Feel, Building Blocks, Let’s Read, and Link Up. “These center around different cognitive potentials of an infant relating to vision, touch, understanding, and analytical ability, that can be nurtured right from day one”.
Based on how her own mother would teach her things during infancy, Avantika built a system of learning. She explains, “Each card of At First Sight has its own complexity and gives the child something different to look at. This keeps his/her attention intact and helps develop different neural connections. The cards use only primary colours as these are the first three colours a child begins to see after black and white blotches after birth. The vivid images and patterns also help sharpen their vision and comprehension ability. Link Up, on the other hand, focuses on basic object correlation. Each card has a word which the parent says out loud, as well as a shadow of the said object, which is for the child to see and understand what it looks like. Since colour comprehension is weak at this stage, dark coloured shadows make it easier for the child to relate to the object.”
Based on market research, she has made this into a medium-priced and travel-friendly learning product that makes learning fun for young ones.
Employing her creativity, the young entrepreneur has made these tools colourful and fun to use. “If learning was not portrayed as a task to be done in the day, children would actually enjoy it, as it would become a fun part of their life” Avantika says. She believes that it is important for parents to build a bond with their child in the sphere of education as well and learn with them along the way. The set consists of flashcards and guides for both children and parents.
Avantika says her own parents have played a major role in giving roots to her wings. Through their support, she entered the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA) program in India. YEA is a USA-based programme that strives towards nurturing middle school students into driven entrepreneurs. This is where she was trained with appropriate guidance in business studies, marketing, the legalities of starting a business, and more.
‘Seekh’ is thus not only an inspired venture in child learning, but also a carefully researched business product.
With guidance from the programme, she also pitched the idea to various investors. At the YEA USA competition, she became the first Indian to stand in the top 3 positions. “Pitching is an extremely important experience in growth as an entrepreneur. It even helped me feel more comfortable and confident at the competition” Avantika says. ‘Seekh’ won her the second prize in the international competition.
This is not to say that any of the student’s own learning was ever compromised. She believes herself to be a meticulous learner who likes to stay on top of her work. She believes this venture has taught her the importance of time management and the trajectory of growth in the real world.
When asked if more innovations should be expected from DayOne, Avantika revealed that a new product is already in the making.