Current Focus: Building Quality Early Childhood Care in Eastern NC

Building and scaling quality child-care designed for under resourced families.

By scaling and expanding quality child care centers:

  • Kids get quality care, healthy development
  • Parents can pursue job opportunities
  • Child care professionals thrive as business owners
  • New jobs are added to local economy

Our Beliefs:

  • Local talent development: the best investment a community can make is in it’s people.
  • Regionalism: long term community & economic development takes regional coordination (neighborhood, city, county) and expanding quality child care is the best starting point to bring people to the table to start working together around shared goals.
  • Starting early: the best investments in people start as early as possible, prenatal to age 5.
  • Asset-based: focus on what is working and the strengths of people & orgs to build things that work.

Our Vision:
Developing a community takes time. The problems we face are deep and often entrenched within history and other systems. Our vision is to build a design-shop that seeks to understand unmet needs, and then co-design solutions to these pain points. We want to spur new job creation through doing this work in partnership with parents, local leaders and experts so that the solutions can be developed as entirely new business that can be run by existing community members. We plan to repeat our approach again and again, each successive time, generating new partnerships and businesses that solve previously unmet challenges in expanding quality child care.

Timeline: See page 3 and 4 in the document – linked here

Potential Starting Design Challenge:

  • How can we outsource non-core work (reduce costs) to center operators so they can focus on core business of quality care to kids?
  • How can we outsource biz & back office (accounting, payroll, recruiting, state subsidies, compliance, meal prep, payments etc)?

Vichi (IDEO) & Seth (Frog) have been trained in human-centered design. Our approach to design is parent and kid-centered and empathy-driven. Seeds of Power sits at the intersection of child development experts and families, translating best practices in early childhood education to the context of the community.


Phase 1
We will use design activities & participatory interviews to build empathy, identify barriers & opportunities to build supports and make improvements to scale quality of child care centers. We will test and prototype solutions to find what works for families and center operators.



Phase 2
We will work in partnership with parents and community leaders. Our goal is to build, test, refine solutions to unmet needs and create sustainable services that will be launched and led by community members through partnerships and/or new business creation.



How This Process Looks in Action:
Each step in the process can yield new insights that cause you to go back to previous steps to refine your focus and then repeat the next steps.


Two Pager: linked here
Vichi spent the summer working for Self-Help in Durham, NC. Seth spent the summer working for the NC Early Childhood Foundation and NC Community Foundation. The vision linked above was based on over 30 interviews with North Carolina leaders from the summer of 2016.






Why & How We Landed on Executive Functioning – Part 2

Our mission got really specific after the two weeks I spent at the University of Minnesota. I graduated from there and spent time over the summer visiting family.

School Visits

While there I spent time at Shirley G Moore Lab School and the nationally acclaimed University of Minnesota Child Development Center, which is a Reggio and Montessori inspired preschool. I observed classes, talked to teachers, interviewed parents, and lucked out when I got spend a day with the Director of the U of MN U Child Development Center.

She had studied in London and Italy to earn a Montessori Diploma (birth to 8 yrs.). She had multiple bachelor’s and master’s degrees in early childhood education, infant care, and special needs. She had a lifetime of experience and we shared the same mission.

The University of Minnesota has the #1 Developmental Psychology Department in the country ahead of Stanford and Yale, according to US News and World Report.

Executive Functioning

While visiting the lab school and preschool we were shown how the curriculum was based on the work of Stephanie Carlson, another University of Minnesota researcher who is the leader in the field of building executive functioning skills in children, and specifically in children from low-resource homes.

Executive functioning skills have been shown to more accurately predict academic and life health, and wealth outcomes than aptitude or ability tests such as the IQ. Read that last sentence again. School and life outcomes are often not based on intelligence but on the ability to use and master executive functions in our school, work and life relationships.

What Executive Functioning Is
(taken from Ellen Galinsky’s Book “Mind in the Making”)

  1. Paying Attention or Focusing

Focusing is obviously central to achieving our goals. If we are so distracted that we can’t pay attention, we can’t concentrate.

  1. Working Memory

Holding  information in our minds while mentally working with it or updating it, such as relating what you’re reading now to what you just read or relating what you are learning now to what you learned earlier.

  1. Cognitive Flexibility

Being able to flexibly switch perspectives or the focus of attention and flexibly adjust to changed demands or priorities. Can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes?

  1. Inhibitory Control

The ability to resist a strong desire to do one thing and instead do what is most appropriate. It means sticking with something you are doing after you’ve had an initial failure — inhibiting the strong desire to give up or continuing to work on something even when you’re bored.


Similarities Between Executive Functioning and Social Emotional Learning

The language used around executive functioning is almost identical to that of social emotional learning skills (SEL). And it has been tough to differentiate the two.

From this time in Minneapolis and with these experts we began to meld what we were learning with what parents had shared with us.

Another key piece was working with local parent advocates in Oakland to learn the difference between the Missionary Approach vs. Partner Approach.

The missionary approach is when you lack empathy and understanding and show up thinking you have the answer. When you ride in on a white horse to tell people how they should live their lives. It’s a blanket approach.

The partner approach is when you show up and listen. You show up to seek to understand. You show up to partner. You show up with the value that the ultimate expert on a child is their parent. You show up to support and partner, not tell and lecture at.

Even before having this clearly defined Vichi and I shared these values, but this was influential because it was the first time we could put specific language on it and this accelerated our own understanding of how we wanted to support parents we worked with .


The two big problems we were working to solve was:

1) The information gap about what best practices are for parents to develop executive  functioning skills in their children and

2) The resource gap where parents didn’t have the resources or materials to best develop these skills

Another crucial piece was that information was learned from the Stanford’s Ready4K! Project which sends literacy based text reminders to parents of Pre-K children. We learned that information has to be packaged and delivered in small enough chunks that it does not overload a parent. If information is too dense or complex the result will be inaction.

Our solution was kits. The working hypothesis was we could tailor individual kits based on kid age, interest, language and need to provide parents with 1) note cards of information (broken down in short, simple, visual ways) and 2) the physical resources themselves for parents to use with their kids.

Based on relationships we had with local non-profits we worked to pilot these first round of kits with three different groups of parents. And to text parents reminders, get feedback on what worked well and what did not work for them and their child.

Putting What We’ve Learned Into Action – Our Pilots

Why & How We Landed on Executive Functioning – Part 1

Beginning with the first conversation Vichi and I had in starting Seeds of Power, we have shared one value: We are not the experts.

We were aligned on our mission of building power in parents to support their child so they thrive once they get to Kindergarten, and we agreed that the most important thing we could do to fulfill  this mission was to build relationships with and listen to the right people.

By “right” people we mean:

  1. a) the people we exist to work in partnership with: under-resourced parents of children age 0-5
  2. b) experts in the areas of: early childhood education, parent engagement, and use of technology to support both parents and kids age 0 to 5

The early childhood experts

From our first conversation with an Early Childhood expert she stressed the importance of social emotional learning skills (SEL). She stressed how these skills were the foundation of a child’s ability to learn and were the greatest predictor of a child’s future academic success.

These skills included:

  • getting along well with others
  • controlling emotions and outbursts
  • being able to focus on a task
  • being able to work through a hard problem and keep going in the face of setbacks

The biggest experts of all: The parents

We attend weekly parent groups and from our first conversations with parents, two things were obviously clear: Every single parent we talked to wants what is best for their child, and every single parent wants their child to thrive and be successful in school.

Another common theme was that parents often did not have a clear idea of what it means to be “kindergarten ready” or what skills their child needs to master by the time they show up to their first day of school at age 5. Common responses from parents about what it means to be kindergarten ready included: Potty trained, able to say and spell their name, able to not bite others.

The baby brain development experts

We also learned from brain development experts about how crucial the first five years of life are. 90% of a child’s brain is developed by age 5 – that 90% is happening before the first day that kids set foot in a classroom!

The brain science of a baby’s brain is fascinating: A baby is born with over one trillion brain cells. Think of these as suspended and independent dots or points. When a baby experiences a feeling, performs a task, thinks a thought, a neural pathway is formed between networks of brain cells called synapses. The more an action is repeated, the more these synapses fire, and the stronger these pathways in the brain between cells become.

Two BIG things this means for kids and their development:

1) The foundation of our brain (that we learn with for the rest of life) develops from before age 3: Every early experience creates these synapses and neural pathways. In the infant state a toddler’s brain has so many more times the amount of these pathways then an adult brain.

Takeaway: What you are exposed to from birth to 3 creates the pathways which in essence are the hardware and foundation that you will use to learn for the rest of your life.

2) Our brain prunes away the unused pathways from ages 3 to 8: Because the toddler’s brain has so many more times the amount of synapses than an adult brain, this age range prunes or gets rid of unused connections.

Takeaway: If kids don’t get the proper exposure to different stimuli at this age, to language or writing or math for instance, then the parts of the brain and the connections that are used to solve these types of challenges disappear. You literally lose these connections (if they were even there in the first place) and cannot get them back. Furthermore, a new stimulus during this age range does not necessarily lead to the creation of new synapses that weren’t originally formed before age 3.

Overall takeaway: Investing in supporting a child’s brain development from birth to 5 has the highest potential to make the deepest impact on a child’s long term academic and life outcomes.

The implications are huge and shed light on the urgency and importance of our mission: Supporting parents of children age 0-5 in helping their kids develop executive functioning and school readiness skills so that all kids thrive once they get to school.

The Science of Behavior Change

Thank you to Ready4K Program at Stanford University for sharing these understandings with us.

The ideas below draw from:
1) behavior economics
2) social psychology

Behavior Change: The Foundation of Social Change

In the context of social impact work, the goal of any program, technology or organization is to change behavior.

There are lots of reasons that we, individually and collectively, do not do what is best for ourselves and those we care the most about.

For example, the outcomes we reach often are not the goals we set. In short, we fail a lot. Why does this happen?

The major barriers that stop us from doing what we should do are: time, money, and ability.

Information is another major barrier.

Our Systems of Thought

The actions we take occur as a result of what goes on between our System 1 and System 2 thinking. Research around this was made popular by Thinking Fast, And Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

System 1: Our automatic responses. Actions we take without even consciously thinking about it. These actions are not based on data or truth.
Ex: You are hiking with a small child, you see a snake on the path ahead, you jump in front of the small child without even thinking about what you should do.

The snake caused a spike in your adrenaline and induced the feeling of fear which prompted you to spring to action without making the conscious choice to do that. This “fight or flight” is a very good evolutionary trait that has allowed us as humans to survive and thrive.

System 2: Conscious, deliberate decision making. There is a thought involved. You imagine your future self and weigh the pros & cons of a decision. You’re making a decision, reflecting, intentionally using capacity to think about a focused topic.
Ex:  You know smoking is bad for your health, so you decide to sign up for a group fitness class with the goal of building a community of support to help you stop smoking.

This system of thinking relates to our executive functions, our self-control, and our ability to predict the future & reflect on the past.

When we have a limited amount of information, or no information at all, System 1 takes over. System 1 is not rational and not that good of a decision maker.

Information Overload: Avoid At All Costs

Information overload is when we are presented with too great of a quantity of info to process and make sense of at one point in time.

For example, there was an experiment where researchers set up a sample booth with 24 different kinds of jams to try at a grocery store. Then they also set up a different booth with 6 different kinds. The patrons at the booth with 24 options were one-tenth as likely as the booth with only 6 options to actually buy the jam because the booth with 24 varieties of jam was simply overloading potential customers with information.

When we experience information overload there are three typical responses:

1) We default to “rules or thumb” and heuristics. When we do this we rob ourselves of the chance to use data and be objective.

2) We shut down completely and are non-active.

3) System 1 takes over and controls our behavior.

And this is the heart of behavior change: We can design environments and present information in ways that makes a desired outcome much more likely. Advertisers do this all the time.

Designing Information That Works

To lighten the cognitive load and direct people to specific actions we should:

1) Reduce the choice set: less is more powerful.

Ex: Think 4 jars of jam instead of 24.

2) Provide highly specific and prescriptive info: this way people are unlikely to misinterpret it.

Ex: Think about when your doctor tells you to do a specific exercise to help your health versus when they practice with you and give you feedback before sending you on your way.

3) Reduce fear: when people don’t know what to do, they are unsure and often afraid. Give them clarity to reduce fear & anxiety.

Ex: Think of when your boss gives you clear feedback on how to improve a report versus saying “make this better.”

4) Motivate effectively: frame information in specific ways that align with your subject’s self-interest and goals.

Ex: Think about when a teacher tells you that you have to learn a subject “because it’s important” versus “because this is the most important skill to learn for you to be a successful employee once you leave school.”

Ready4K Example

In the context of the READY4K program, the above science was applied in the following ways through a 1 year pilot during a school year to achieve the results of preschoolers acquiring two to three months’ worth of learning during the pilot texting program.

Parents were sent a series of short, direct text message during the week that related to helping parents build early literacy skills in their child during age 0-5.

  • Fact Text: Sent on Monday, framed as benefits to child and was meant to motivate the parent about why they should even consider this behavior change
  • Tip Text: Sent on Wednesday, short text that was super specific and reduced the cognitive load by being short and to the point. A parenting tip that was directly connected to the Fact Text from Monday.
  • Growth Text: Sent on Friday, a short encouragement to tell the parents what a great job they are doing and/or an extension of Wednesday’s tip for parents to take this information further.

Implications for Seeds of Power

  • We must root behavior design principles into all informational materials we develop for parents (and ourselves, partners, etc.)
  • We will have an empathy based, understanding approach where we always put ourselves in the shoes of the parent and make sure we are presenting information in the best way possible
  • Less is more. We constantly over communicate information and overload people to the point of inaction. We need to ruthlessly edit and cut down to maximize effectiveness.

Further Reading


Overall Message

Less is more. In communicating we need to value simplicity at all costs. And if we don’t then we waste our time and effort because we overload people with information to the point of inaction.

Pilot Three: Putting it all together and getting things right

…or so we thought.

Shortly after Seth piloted our first kit with a parent group in Antioch, the organizers of that group invited us to present at a second group that they run in the same location on a different day of the week. Eager to collect more feedback, we promptly agreed to come back for another pilot group. Adding to our excitement was the knowledge that by the time this group would meet, we would have already shared our kits with two groups of parents and would have tons of feedback with which to refine the kit and make the experience even better.

Changes to the kit from last time:

  • Print the cover pages of the books in color. More color has, overwhelmingly, been the most common piece of feedback we’ve received (and observed) from parents. The most cost-effective change in this direction was to print the covers of the books in color and leave the remaining pages in black and white. This way, kids would be more drawn to the book but would still have an opportunity to color the remaining pages (with the cover as a guide if they needed ideas for how to begin).
  • Cut one of the books to have rounded edges. In Oakland, many of the parents pointed out that the sharp corners on the books could lead to paper cuts for their children. To test the importance of this hazard, I cut one of the books in the kit to have round edges (see photo below) and the other to have the normal right angle edges. I was interested to see if parents would notice the difference and whether they would have a preference
  • Include a jar of Play-Doh for the hide-and-seek game. Currently, one of the games in the kit is to play peek-a-boo or hide-and-seek using everyday objects and a cloth (which we provide). This helps children learn about object permanence and develop their working memory while socially interacting with another person. Previously we didn’t provide any objects for parents to hide, but this time around we added Play-Doh because it is low cost, non toxic, easy to hide, and also helps children develop fine motor skills.

Colored book cover pages with rounded edges and the complete kit, which included an additional Play-Doh this time around.

Changes to the pilot from last time:

  • It was clear from the last two pilots that our SMS engagement is low and is an area for major growth. In the first two pilots combined, only six parents (out of 16) subscribed to our text message reminders, and only three engaged by replying to a message we sent. Furthermore, Seth and I never really scripted out what our sequence of text messages would be after the first couple. This time around, we created a clear plan for a two-week engagement in which we would send a text message every other day that either reminded parents to try an activity (while reinforcing the relevance to executive functioning) or collected a small data point to help measure progress and collect feedback. Additionally, we agreed to allocate time during the session to walk through the subscription process on parents’ phones in order to make sure their requests went through.

Initial feedback from the parents:

  • (+) The materials in the kits are all non toxic and safe to eat.
  • (+) Initially, none of the parents commented on the difference in edge cuts for the books (rounded vs. sharp). Once I pointed it out, all parents expressed a preference for the rounded edges either for safety, novelty (this makes the books seem different from normal books for adults), or ease of turning pages.
  • (+) The activities seem to fit well into their existing day-to-day interactions with their children.
  • (Δ) Bind the activity cards together as a single book. Many parents thought that is was bound in the first place and were surprised when the pages fell apart from each other!
  • (Δ) Include more color pages in the books. Young children seem most drawn to bright colors. If we want kids to gravitate towards and demand our stuff, it needs to be more colorful.
  • (Δ) Laminate the book for long-term durability. What if my child spills juice on it?
  • (Δ) Include additional information about the brain science and rationale behind the activities. Not every parent is looking for this level of granularity, but if they are, it would be nice to have a clear place to look for more information.
  • (Δ) The 0-2 year age range seems a bit wide. Children from 0-6 months have a more specific capability and range of needs. It might help to differentiate the activities for that age level to help parents understand how to correctly foster executive functioning at the earliest stages. A major concern is that many of the activities encourage speaking to children. Until age 1 or above, many children aren’t really saying words. Parents struggled with how to do things like read or play our games when their children aren’t able to respond. Knowing that language development at this age is vitally important, we can be clearer about the expectations for the child – they may not respond coherently, but even if they are babbling you should still continue to speak to them and ask questions.

Thoughts to improve the kit:

  • Bind the activity cards together in a format like a book or packet.
  • Reduce text and increase visuals. What is the bare minimum needed to explain each activity?
  • Explore more durable options for printing our materials (lamination, card stock, etc.).
  • More color! Definitely for the pages of the book, and perhaps for the flashcards or other aspects of the kit.
  • Include either supplemental information or links to get more information about child development and executive functioning if parents are interested.
  • Break out the 0-6 months age group into a separate kit and emphasize how to work through the activities and what types of responses (or non-responses) to expect from children. A main part of this is to debunk the expectation that children must be able to speak in order to learn from speech.

Things to change for the next pilot:

  • Facilitate SMS sign-up in person: The biggest hitch from this pilot was that ultimately, when it came to sign up for the text messaging service, I found out that this group had a no texting rule during the meeting. So, I  encouraged parents to sign up for our text alerts as soon as they left the group. Not surprisingly, zero parents subscribed to our service; their lives are extremely busy and the process is not super straightforward or immediately gratifying. Given that parent engagement and feedback via text is currently the biggest disconnect that we face towards making meaningful progress, it will be increasingly important to check with group facilitators ahead of time about cell phone access and make sure that we can help with sign-up in person during the session.

Teen Success – you rock!

Pilot Two: Refining the kit and testing in Oakland

Context: In mid-May, I visited Brighter Beginnings in Oakland to do a focus group with their Teen Success parent group about what is most difficult about being a teen parent and what resources they find useful for building skills with their children at home. That was one of the first times that Seth or I had a chance to gather feedback from actual parents. Fast forward two months and a ton of learning (and cutting and stapling), and I returned to the same group to show them the kits we’ve created and hear what they think.

Changes to the kit from last time: 

  • Included crayons for kids to color the stories before reading them
  • Included a small cloth to use for playing games that teach and reinforce object permanence


New additions to the kits: crayons and a hiding cloth

The pilot:
1) Distribute kits to teen parents in Oakland.
2) Explain the importance of 0-3 brain development and model how to use the different activities in the kit.
3) Give parents about 20 minutes to explore the kit along with their child, and provide feedback / ask questions.
4) Use Remind to provide text reminders for parents to use the kit, and to collect feedback via text.
5) Follow up meeting in person after parents have had the kits for one week, and again after at least two weeks to get feedback and track progress of kids’ executive functioning skills.

Initial feedback from parents:

  • (+) The kit has a range of games so that infants and older kids (1+) alike can benefit from and participate in the activities as they grow.
  • (+) The memory game cards are engaging and can be used in lots of different ways (vocabulary, matching, drawing).
  • (+) The crayons are perfect for the kids to use to color the stories before reading them.
  • (Δ) More color! The kids gravitate to color and the first thing they grabbed from the kit was usually the colored stickers we used to mark different activities.
  • (Δ) The memory game cards are a little “boyish”. Perhaps also include some more “girly” pictures like a purse or a doll.
  • (Δ) Some of the materials could be hazardous and/or not durable enough for very young children. In particular, the books are made of thin paper and have staples / sharp edges that can cause paper cuts. The kits come inside a large plastic bag and include several smaller plastic bags that are a suffocation risk.

Examples of the memory game cards, and the plastic bags they come in marked with a bright sticker

Thoughts to improve the kit:

  • Use cloth bags and books made of more durable paper that lacks sharp edges.
  • Print books with some pages in color and others in black & white for coloring.
  • Include a wider range of objects for the memory game cards.

Things to change for next pilot (with a new group in Antioch next week!):

  • Plan ahead for different settings: This pilot was different from the group in Antioch because we conducted the group in the playroom alongside the kids. This made it much easier to model the different activities, allow parents to try them with their kids, and observe how the kids were reacting. However, because we were in the playroom, I didn’t get a chance to hand out the pre-survey to collect data on the children’s current behavior. There was no flat surface to write on, not everyone had pens, and everyone was engaged in the activities with their children.
  • Allow time to sign up for text alerts, and make sure it works: Each kit includes instructions for subscribing to our text announcements, and I also explained the process.  However, I did this after handing out the kits and by then everyone was excited to explore the activities. A few parents told me they signed up, but when I checked our Remind account later in the day, no one had successfully joined.
  • Keep emphasizing the connection to executive functioning: Before handing out the kits, I talked a bit about executive functioning, 0-3 brain development, and how the activities in the kit help build a foundation for success in adulthood. After handing out the kits, I talked about how/why some of the activities build executive functioning skills. I don’t think the information stuck. One way to continue to reinforce the  connection might be through our text message reminders. As parents use the kits more and more, they may begin to see more examples of behavior change in their children and relate that to the information we share about executive functioning.

Once again, a huge thank you to Teen Success and Brighter Beginnings for inviting us and piloting with us. We’re excited to keep testing and learning!

Pilot One: Testing our Kit with Antioch Parents

Examples from the first pages of our parent kit. Click to enlarge and read.

pg 1pg 2

Background: We’ve spent 6 months at parent groups and learning from Early Childhood Education (ECE) experts. From listening to parents and experts we’ve developed a minimum-viable-product (MVP) pilot.

The problem:
1) Information access: Parents do not have access to information to know
a) that executive functioning and social emotional learning (SEL) skills are the most critical skills to develop from 0-5 to ensure that kids show up to kindergarten ready to thrive.
b) what the best activities and strategies are to build these skills.

2) Resource access: Even when equipped with knowledge, parents don’t always have the physical items to play games that promote their kids’ brain development.

The solution: Kits specific to children’s age (0-2, 2-3, and 3-5) that draw from the best research and evidence-based practices. Kits contain note cards that share the most important information, the why, directions, and pictures in a parent-friendly and engaging way.

The pilot:
1) Distribute kits to teen parents in Antioch.
2) Have parents take a pre-assessment based on sections of the DRDP, California’s Kindergarten Readiness test.
3) Use Remind to provide text reminders for parents to use the kit.
4) Follow up meeting after kits have been in use for at least two weeks to get feedback and track progress of kids’ executive functioning skills.

IMG_0123 IMG_0124Examples of the kits.

Initial feedback from parents:

  • (+) we like the scripted stories that model SEL skills
  • (+) the memory game in color is fun and engaging
  • (+) the note cards with game directions are helpful because they are smaller than a sheet of paper
  • (Δ) the kit needs more color, black & white is boring and dull
  • (Δ) put physical objects to play with, like mini toys (one game note card in the kit references using toys from around the house, the moms wanted toys in the kit)

Thoughts to improve the kit:

  • provide markers in the kit so kids can color the books before and after parents read them to their children
  • provide simple objects that are large enough to not be a choking hazard, and a cloth (so they can do a game like #4 linked here)

Reflections on how to improve the introduction and sharing of the kit with parents for Pilot #2 next week (in Oakland!):

  • Present last, after building relationships: I presented first, then spent the rest of the parent group participating along with the parents. By the end, the parents were much more comfortable giving me blunt feedback. By opening the meeting with my presentation, I did not gain the full trust of the parents, and they did not provide as much feedback.
  • Improve the hook by doing vision setting: Open by asking every parent what their dreams and hopes are for their child by the time their child is age 25. After the parents go around and share, then connect this kit / solution, that is rooted in brain science and improving executive functioning skills, to those dreams and hopes they shared out.
  • Model by doing: In the moment of presenting, use a parent’s child and play a game from the kit in front of the parents. Explain and show how the game is benefiting specific areas of the child’s brain and executive functioning skill development.


Thank you to Teen Success and Brighter Beginnings for inviting us and piloting with us. We appreciate you!

All About Young Children Online Resource – California Department of Education

Name: All About Young Children Online Resource – California Department of Education

Company structure: Non-profit, government agency

Background: This resource was created by a conglomerate of ECE experts from WestEd, the Infant Care Program at Google, the California Department of Education, and several non profit organizations and Universities. The resource is disseminated by the California DOE and the State Advisory Council on Early Learning and Care, and is available in 8 languages.

Goal & intended use of the product: .Designed for parents, it provides information about the types of skills and behaviors that are developmentally appropriate for children at different ages, and aligned strategies for parents to use to help develop skills at those ages. The information is divided into five distinct areas (social-emotional development, language development and literacy, number sense, physical development, approaches to learning). The site provides guidance up to age 5.

Cost: Free

User interface & Design: The information on this site is some of the most comprehensive we’ve encountered in terms of covering many areas of development and clearly detailing the importance of proficiency at each age level. The information helps parents measure their child’s current progress in terms of observable actions for each developmental area, and strategies generally fit into a variety of everyday scenarios. Strategies are sometimes accompanied by videos which model how to do a certain activity or what mastery looks like. The vocabulary used is fairly simple and the multiple languages make it widely accessible to different populations. All information is also exportable to PDF and printable.

Simplicity factor: The quantity and density of information is quite overwhelming. Information is not broken down into manageable chunks and it’s hard to know where to begin or what is most relevant for your child. It’s one of the best sources of comprehensive information for a practitioner to reference, but probably too dense and cumbersome for quick, day-to-day use by a parent.

Best feature: The combination of presenting developmental expectations and aligned strategies in the same place, in an accessible format in terms of reading level, videos, and multiple languages. Few other resources we’ve encountered have as much complete information.

How it can be improved: Break information down into more manageable chunks. Help parents quickly navigate to the information that’s most relevant for their child (perhaps by collecting some pre-data on their child). Add means for data collection and progress tracking. Build in structures that keep parents coming back. Use a more memorable URL – we consistently forget what it is!

Bottom line: ★★★☆☆


8 langugaes

8 languages to choose from!

ages 0-5

Broken down into specific age categories for 0 to 5.


Key skill areas that the information is focused around include: Social emotional learning, Language & Literacy, Number sense, Physical (motor) development, and Learning styles.

screen shot of SEL 0 to 8 months

Each skill area has video, audio, text of key highlights and text of in-depth strategies for parents.Very dense material.

ReadyRosie – Video Products For Parents & Caregivers of Kids Age 0-5

Name: ReadyRosie

Company structure: For profit, sells directly to schools and nonprofits, who share the video content with their members and parents. Company structure was born out of many foundations not funding non-profits that were newer and less proven. This business model allowed ReadyRosie to build a fully functional product that was easy to use and very accessible for parents.

Background: Austin, Texas. ReadyRosie was started by the founder Emily who built the product out of her own experience of raising her first daughter, Rosie, and not having a good solution herself as a parent about where to get high quality strategies to prepare kids for school.

Goal & intended use of the product: Anyone can sign up for a free trial where you will have 4 daily videos sent to you. Currently ReadyRosie is only being purchased BY SCHOOL DISTRICTS and COMMUNITIES as a service to their local parents, teachers and caregivers. It is not available to individual subscribers. Individuals however can subscribe for the free trial by clicking this link.

The goal of the product is shown below with a screenshot from their website. One of the biggest value adds is that the videos are modeling how to use a strategy, which is much more effective than reading about a strategy and then guessing about how to model and deliver it to kids.

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User interface & Design: Simple. Which is brilliant. You get a daily email in your inbox with a link to the video. Videos are short and well modeled. There is a “more resources” link where parents can click and see the standard the video is modeling and more videos from experts. In the screenshots below the expert video is from a former principal talking about language development.

Simplicity factor: The simple interface and design might be the best feature of ReadyRosie, along with the high quality videos and content.

Best feature: The best feature is how well the product works. One minimal daily email. 90 seconds or less watching a video.

How it can be improved: Individual subscriptions for parents who want to access and work through at their own pace. Having to wait for a daily email to work all the way through the curriculum might not be best for some parents. Also a button to mark “I did this!” that would fill up a progress bar would be a nice feature so parents feel a sense of mastery and progress and they work through the daily videos.

Bottom line: ★★★★★


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This video was showing about building alphabet awareness by having kids stomp out the letters as questions are asked. For example the mom says “What letter does your name start with?” and the kid stomps out a “J.”

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This is the optional page parents can click to after watching the video. Great feature that this is optional information and not shown when you first click the video link from your email.

Vroom App for Parents

Name: Vroom

Background: Non-profit startup. App was built by funding from the Bezos Family Foundation (Amazon).

Goal & intended use of the product: Parents download the free app on iOS or Android. Once a day the app sends a daily tip to try out with your child to build their cognitive function in their brain. See screenshots for examples.

Cost: Free

User interface & Design: Colorful, minimal

Simplicity factor: Very simple, you earn basic badges as you complete more daily Vroom’s, the app starts by asking for Child’s name and birthdate and then all Vroom daily tips are personalized using your child’s name.

Best feature: Simple. Parents can access, read and mark completed on this app in 2-5 minutes (including the time to do the activity with your baby)

How it can be improved: For parents who want it, go deeper and provide a way to measure, capture and track data about your child.

Bottom line: ★★★★☆


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