Whilst we haven’t yet found a magic parenting wand, we did spot a “reading wand” that helps young children learn new languages
Four babies are born every second, equalling 130 million each year. From diapers to childcare, parenting isn’t easy. Moreover, the rapidly accelerating pace of modern life presents additional challenges and pressures.
Thus, we thought it was time to put a spotlight on those innovations supporting parents — so that they can do the best they can without driving themselves insane.
Whilst we haven’t yet found a magic parenting wand, we did spot a “reading wand” that helps young children learn new languages and a startup that allows parents to trade in outgrown clothes for new sets.
1. TINDER-STYLE FRIENDSHIP FINDER FOR MOTHERS
Created as a Tinder-style friendship finder for mothers, the Peanut app now provides Q&A forums and dedicated community spaces. Users post on a range of topics such as pregnancy, health and fitness, work and money and motherhood. Trying To Conceive (TTC) is the app’s latest community and supports women in their journey as they attempt to become mothers.
Founder Michelle Kennedy set up the app after experiencing the isolation that often accompanies early parenthood. Finding friends by location proved immediately successful, and as the number of users grew, so too did the intimate and meaningful conversations. It was at that point that Kennedy expanded the app to include Q&A forums called Peanut Pages. More recently, she introduced Peanut Groups, which is where the majority of the app’s activity now takes place.
A recent round of venture capital funding raised €4.5 million to focus on the continued growth of the community forums. Kennedy plans to double the company’s number of staff in the next year and prioritise support for the TTC community. Available on both iOS and Android, the app is free and obtainable in the USA, UK, Australia and Canada.
2. FAIRYTALES REIMAGINED FOR MODERN ERA
Creative agency, The Martin Agency, has begun a non-profit project that will re-imagine classic fairytales for a modern era. The project, “Now Upon a Time”, uses original fairytale story plotlines, but changes details so as to present stronger female characters and more positive role models for both boys and girls.
The project started when The Martin Agency’s SVP and creative director, Neel Williams, was reading a bedtime story to his two young daughters. It is well known that fairytales are heavily gender-stereotyped, with girls and women in the stories almost always rescued by their male counterparts, and Williams recognised how unhealthy and backwards thinking this is. Creatives at The Martin Agency rework the stories and produce new visual versions online, as well as podcasts and audiobooks. What is more, all of the material is free.
Thus far, the agency has reworked six stories, including “Lil’ Ruby Riding Hood”, and it has many more in the pipeline. The motive behind the podcasts and audiobooks is to help children to use their imagination, to aid busy parents who may not have time for a bedtime reading and, of course, to redefine gender stereotypes from a young age. The music and audio production was created for free by Rainmaker Studios, BANG and Pull.
3. SEAWEED-BASED DIAPER IS WASHABLE, REUSABLE AND BIODEGRADABLE
Product designer Luisa Kahlfeldt’s Sumo baby diaper combines a beautiful aesthetic, with cutting edge fabrics and construction. Named after the Japanese sport, the Sumo is the first mono-material diaper to market. The fabric is made from SeaCell, a naturally smooth, soft and antibacterial material composed of eucalyptus and algae extracts.
SmartFiberAG manufactures SeaCell via a sustainable process that leaves the seaweed completely untreated. By using the natural stretch method of knitting yarn, the diaper has an in-built elasticity that allows it to close with a wraparound tie. This eliminates the need for extra parts and materials such as snap closures, Velcro tape or buttons. Recycling is much easier when products contain only a single material.
To keep leakage to a minimum, Kahlfeldt has partnered with Swiss company Schoeller to incorporate biodegradable waterproofing compound EcoRepel into the diaper. The diapers are a natural fibre colour, with contrasting edging and ties, and can be washed and reused many times. Kahlfeldt’s development plans for the diaper including scaling manufacturing and further refining the fabric. In September 2019, the Sumo diaper won the national Swiss James Dyson.
4. STARTUP ALLOWS PARENTS TO TRADE-IN OUTGROWN BABY CLOTHES FOR NEW SETS
E-commerce startup Upchoose sells sets of organic cotton baby clothing. When a child outgrows a size, parents and carers return the products for a discount on the next set. New parents not only save time and money but also further sustainability if they choose to buy used, or “preloved” sets.
The company offers different pricing options and shoppers can decide how many of each item they would like in a set. Accessories include bibs, burp cloths and bed toys, all in organic cotton. Everything available can be bought new or preloved. Preloved collections are further reduced in price and may also be returned for a discount on the next set and size. Upchoose also curates collections from leading organic brands, including Under the Nile, Kate Quinn and Burt’s Bees Baby.
Traditional baby clothing, even when made from 100 per cent cotton, is usually treated with industrial chemicals. Babies have very thin, sensitive skin that can absorb such toxins much more easily. Upchoose helps to reduce that risk by selling clothes and accessories that are 100 per cent organic cotton.
5. WAND USES COMPUTER VISION TO TURN BOOKS INTO BILINGUAL TUTOR
Startup Habbi Habbi has developed a “reading wand” that helps young children learn new languages. When pointed at a picture in an accompanying book, the wand says words out loud or plays music. The wand and accompanying language learning books are currently available in Spanish and Mandarin, with more languages planned.
The wand works using computer vision. The tip of the wand identifies the pixels on a page and reads out the specific word or illustration. There is no technology embedded in the book itself. The books contain “surprises” scattered throughout, like sounds or songs, to keep kids focused and engaged.
Habbi Habbi’s co-founders Anne-Louise Nieto and Hanna Chiou met while working as management consultants, advising companies on new consumer products. They were motivated by a shared desire to teach their children new languages but found a lack of resources frustrating. Once they developed their product, they opened a pop-up shop in Stanford to test how kids interacted with their products.
6. ADULTS SEE WORLD THROUGH A CHILD’S EYES USING VIRTUAL REALITY
UK-based Cornerstone is piloting a programme that gives adults a virtual experience of the abuse and stresses a child in the social care system may have faced. The programme, known as Cornerstone Partnership’s Virtual Reality, is as engaging as a virtual reality game. Yet instead of the thrill of driving a race car or battling space aliens, viewers are subjected to domestic violence. Cornerstone says it’s the first of its kind.
The point is to improve children’s lives. Cornerstone says the programme helps people who interact with children in care — social workers, judges, teachers, and mental health professionals — develop a deeper understanding and empathy for what some of these children have been through.
Nine out of ten of the care professionals who piloted the system said it would improve their interactions with children. An equal number felt it would make adoptions more successful. Prospective adoptive parents also use the programme.
7. ONLINE PLATFORM PROVIDES REMOTE, AFFORDABLE AUTISM SCREENING
India-based CogniABle is a screening and education platform that uses AI to correctly diagnose young children on the autism spectrum. The data-driven program is more effective and less expensive at diagnosing young children than traditional methods, according to CogniABle.
Manu and Swati Kohli developed CogniABlewhen struggling to find services for their child after he was diagnosed with autism. The Kohlis developed the platform to provide a remote, data-driven and affordable service that could be used by parents.
The online platform also allows people to access screening and expert assistance in areas without autism-specific services. The AI-driven program diagnoses children based on his or her fine motor, gross motor and complex actions. The machine learning uses a large pool of data to fine-tune its analysis. It then creates a customised plan for each child. The team has already filed two patents for its machine learning models. CongiABle has also signed contracts with hospital chains in India and licensed evidence-based curriculum from US experts.
12th February 2020