My Inspiration

My name is Colette. This is about my story about early education and the inspiration for our hackathon project, Smilestones.

I needed social interaction for my son Zaire, since he was an only child, so I took him to the 7-8 month Baby & Me classes at Gymboree: he could get social interaction with other kids and play. Being there kind of exposed me to other kids since I wasn't an experienced parent. What stood out to me was when all these kids started standing and walking in class in a couple months. And there were all these praises around the room like, "WOW Julian is standing!" and "Brock is walking! Good job!" My kid, at the same age was still a crawler and was the last one to learn at 13 months!! Apparently, my kid was a late bloomer at walking. Some of the parents there were really involved with their kids and were not really first time parents. They were already at a head start with their kids learning. I remember when I was on a lunch date with one of those Gymboree moms, and she started showing me that her kid less than 13 months could point to his body parts. For example she'd be like "Daniel point to your nose": he would point to his nose. "Daniel, pat your tummy": and he would pat his tummy. And that was a shocker for me. Daniel couldn't even talk yet! I wasn't expecting my kid could possibly do that at that age.

So that led me to go home and start teaching Zaire that day because I didn't want to be that parent that had a slow child. And I didn't want Zaire to start off slow at school either. So I practiced with him to point to his ear and point to his nose. And that became a daily exercise for a week or two until he got it. I was so happy. I didn't know a kid could grasp that in 2 weeks and retain it. So that's what got me to reading resources on the web and go out buying books to teach him and get him to watch and practice nonverbal communications with baby sign language from Baby Einstein DVD's. So around 16 months of age he was fully engaged and got used to my teaching style: he got used to focusing and later around 16 months old trying to learn things on his own like phonics. Around that time one day we were driving in the car and I heard him in the back babyseat saying "W...W...W... Wahlmahrt!" I looked in the mirror and realized he read his first word at 16 months old.

As a first time parent, if I never went to Gymboree... I could have been that parent that just stays at home and just take my kid to the zoo on the weekends. I never would've known his capabilities compared to other kids his age and whether he was behind or not on his milestones. I didn't know those resources existed and never looked into it, had not been those veteran parents at Gymboree who had teenagers already. I met other young first time moms who were at that predicament myself, at that age with Zaire. I couldn't go to one spot to get everything I needed. Not many parents have the time to search multiple resources and vet out techniques and start organizing steps to teach their own kids, based on their children's age range. Other new parents would ask me where they could look but all I could tell them was to search the web and I didn't really have one set resource they could go to because I had to look everywhere and I just made learning recipes for myself and my kid.

About Smilestones

It's an unfortunate situation: the future is our children, so why do parents have to dig so deep for information that everyone needs to know and that's not easily accessible?? To help out everybody, we made Smilestones: on Smilestones, you have the parents of today who are sharing what they're doing and what they're learning so the information is constantly updated and parents can review each other's techniques. The resources are constantly updated, so the possibilities are endless at a very early age.

Many parents are unaware of their child’s capabilities before age 5. From K-12, there are state guidelines that dictate learning standards and where a child should be in their learning. However, there is no standard curriculum for children before they start school. There is no "best way" for encouraging child development and learning, and "good parenting" is highly subjective. Parents turn to their community, close friends and relatives, to figure out what's best for their child; Still, they won't always have all the answers the parent needs... so they turn to the web for easy-to-find parenting techniques. There are so many different parenting articles, videos, or educational toys, but they're all scattered on the web... and it's difficult to find trustworthy parenting resources.

As a community, Smilestones parents aggregate all the necessary information for your child to thrive in one place. Smilestones is a community for parents to share, edit, and review techniques for getting kids ready for success.

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