According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, child-adult relationships that are responsive and attentive build a strong foundation in a child’s brain for all future learning and development. During a time when so much investment in early childhood development is underway throughout West Michigan, what started as a social media campaign launched by a local therapist has grown into a new physical center created in part to provide a space in the community for healthy parent-child interaction through play-based learning activities.
Takara Taylor is the founder of Cognificent Kids, a start-up business that promotes strong cognitive development skills in young children through various enrichment activities and learning experiences. “Three years ago, I started the hashtag campaign #cognificentkids on Instagram where people all over the world would tag photos of cool learning activities with children,” says Taylor. “When I noticed people were embracing the movement, I decided to stick with the concept and turn it into a business model.” The name Cognificent itself, she adds, “stems from the importance of cognitive development – tied with how magnificent kids’ minds are!”
Cognificent Kids’ play-based learning experiences are thoughtfully developed for children up to age 8. Its classes and workshops are themed around activities such as Lego club, arts and crafts, mindful movement, music, literacy, and STEM – all of which facilitate high levels of cognitive function, including problem-solving, logical reasoning, and conceptual tasks. Studies show that while brain development is an ongoing process that starts before birth and continues into adulthood, during the first several years of life, more than 1 million new neural connections form every second, making it a prime time for learning.
Research also shows that the most important interactions a parent can have with their child can happen through play; and as the saying goes, a parent is a child’s first teacher.
“Parents and caregivers have a crucial role in a child’s cognitive development,” says Taylor, who is also an ABA (applied behavioral analysis) therapist at a local nonprofit organization and treats young children diagnosed with autism. “Although I believe a child’s introduction to various experiences and tasks should begin in the home, being the mother of two sons who both were extremely hands-on tactile learners made me wish there were more places in the community for them to build, create, and explore in settings other than school and home,” she adds; “especially when they were between the ages of 2 and 4.”
Taylor’s experience with her own children served as additional inspiration to create a platform dedicated to play-based cognitive development; and on March 1, Cognificient Kids expanded into a real-life space with the soft opening of its physical location in Caledonia. With community engagement at the heart of Cognificent’s mission, Taylor has already started to connect with members of the community whose work compliments various cognitive development activities and can be used as enrichment opportunities for children.
For instance, on March 11, Cognificent Kids will partner with a local yoga instructor to offer a family storytime where children will be exposed to poetry while being led through various yoga poses to promote mindful meditation. “We are not a daycare or preschool,” says Taylor. “We are focusing on cultivating parent-child experiences and community engagement through enrichment classes and open-play.”
Cognificent Kids is autism-friendly and also offers opportunities for playdates and themed celebrations.
Takara Taylor holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Eastern Michigan University and is currently completing a master’s in counseling psychology at WMU. To learn more about Cognificent Kids, visit its Facebook page or join its #cognificentkids movement on Instagram by tagging your own photos of cool child learning activities!
Photos courtesy Cognificent Kids.