Supporting your baby’s development with the Oliiki app

Home-Start is really proud of our partnership with Oliiki. When Clare (Oliiki app creator, contacted us to talk about how the Oliiki app aligned with Home-Start’s work, we couldn’t have agreed more. Just like Home-Start, the Oliiki app recognises the power that parents have as their children’s first educators. Home-Start volunteers spend much of their time helping parents to feel able to focus on their children, supporting their development through play and interaction and the Oliiki app compliments this work brilliantly. Working with Oliiki means that our volunteers and the parents they support get to use the app and access all the incredible content within it.

We are really excited that Clare has agreed to become a guest writer for our website. Look out for the new series titled “Building Your Baby’s Brain”. And what better place to begin our “Building Your Baby’s Brain” series, than with the story about where the Oliiki app came from.

Clare is passionate about helping children to find their adventure in learning. She recognises the crucial role that parents have in their children’s development, right from conception, and the Oliiki app was developed with this in mind. When we first met with Clare, she told us the story behind the Oliiki app. We loved it and we asked her to share it again for our supporters to enjoy as much as we did.

The history behind Oliiki’s creator

We’re hopping around the classroom with one leg bent up to make us look like an ‘h’. We are saying the ‘h’ sound and saying any ‘h’ words that come to us when one boy shouts out with sparkly eyes, ‘h,h,h,h,h like h for Henry!’ There was a tiny pause as I watched what he had just said sink in. We did a massive high five (there were tears in my eyes) and he ran to his book to draw himself right next to the letter ‘h’ that was sitting in the middle of the page.

For the rest of the day, that little boy was on fire, he was so excited by what he had learned.

The magic of that moment more than 25 years ago has never left me!

But why do some children find learning just happens for them without them even having to really try whilst others, like Henry, seem to have to really work to just gain the basics?

It’s a question that has been at the centre of my professional life. How do we help children spark THEIR adventure in learning?

I thought the answer was in the classroom and in the way that we taught there, and to some extent it is. But then I saw the science of learning in the first 1000 days of life and the work of Jack Shonkoff and his team at Harvard, Center on the Developing Child

That changed my career.

I realised that if I wanted to support children on their learning journey and help them find their learning adventure, I needed to work with parents not once their baby was born, but before their baby was born and right through the first 1000 days of life. We know that although what happens later matters, children’s outcomes at 22 months old, predict their academic outcomes at 26 years and the input a parent has with their child can be more impactful than their early years education given that children spend 70% of their time at home.

The science behind the Oliiki app

What I saw in the research was the power that parents have to build their baby a strong brain; to support their baby’s development from the ground up. The power parents have to spark their baby’s enquiry and investigation as well as the curiosity that a child needs in order to become an independent learner in every sense of the word.

What I also realised, was the need to show parents in an easily accessible way, the learning their child gains from the everyday play and interactions they have with their child and how that impacted on later life learning.

Children need to learn everything. That sounds obvious until you unpick it.

A child needs to learn words and vocabulary, but before they can do that, they need to be able to tune in to sounds. They need to be able to associate those sounds with words. They need to be able to distinguish the sounds and extract the ones they need for that particular word. They need to apply meaning to that word and they need to remember that meaning in the context of the conversation that they are having. Along with understanding the words comes the need for understanding of the body language and the facial clues. These are important in developing an understanding of what’s expected of them in that moment.

And all that has to happen before we even begin to think about reading and writing.

Learning happens from the ground up. One small skill builds as the foundation for the next small skill. Havard likens learning to building a house, if we have strong foundations, then the walls of the house will be strong and the roof will go on well. If we ensure that the foundations of learning are strong then a child is able build on those strong foundations with all the other learning that they do going forward in their lives.

But parents are not trained in child development. They often have no idea how to stack skills on top of skills to build a learning journey for their child and why should they? Rather they play instinctively, as they should, with their child. In the past, parenting was often done within a community of other family members and people living close by who acted as mentors and role models. It was through others that parents learned the skills to hone their child’s development and support their learning.

More and more now we are parenting alone, behind closed doors with social media and google to guide us. 70% of parents with children from 0-5 feel judged by others in their parenting. Perinatal, maternal and paternal mental health as well as infant mental health is becoming more and more of an issue. Supporting parents from before birth to equip them with skills and confidence in their parenting seemed to me to be not only important, but morally correct and the impact that will have on their children’s outcomes will be huge.

Parents who are confident in their parenting (parental self-efficacy) are at a lower risk of post-natal depression and provide a greater environment for home learning than those who have low parental self-efficacy.

Which is why I built the Oliiki app.

So, what is the Oliiki app?

The Oliiki app has over 1000 tiny activities, one for every day of the first 1000 days from conception to two. Each is designed to either build the parents parenting confidence and or build the child’s brain and support their development.

Each activity is easy to do in and around the home and requires little or no resources.

As the activities are sequential, they build skill on skill. They are written by teachers and education researchers as well as mothers.

Each activity shows the parents not only what they are doing but most importantly WHY they are doing it and the research behind the learning. This is what instils the confidence for the parent. There is huge power and confidence development in knowledge. The Oliiki app gives parents bite-sized knowledge that is evidence-based and is written in an accessible way.

The research Oliiki carried out with UCL Institute for Education also found that the Oliiki app gave parents significant parental self-efficacy when compared to a control group. Parents who are confident in their parenting are more able to support their child’s development through life.

I built the Oliiki app to impact the lives of children. To enable children like Henry to find learning easier. To ensure that every child arrived at school with a strong foundation on which to hang the rest of their life learning and reach their full potential but also to support parents in their parenting journey.

The tiny activities provide BIG IMPACT.

I partner with Home-Start, Royston, Buntingford & South Cambridgeshire to be able to get that big impact out into the world. Together we can be life changing one baby at a time!

Clare Stead, founder of Oliiki

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