“How can I help my child develop mentally in the best possible way?” This is a question that faces all parents, and Zahra Kassam was no exception. She had achieved an impressive list of accomplishments—BA in Psychology and Master of Education from Harvard University, and international certification as a Montessori teacher for children from birth to age six. She had achieved her life-long dream of being a teacher, and had worked as Assistant Director and Lead Teacher at Copper Beach Montessori School for almost four years.
But then her first child Musa was born. Kassam wanted to provide him with the benefits of all she had learned and practiced, but the preschool where she was teaching started at age three. According to studies done by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 85% of human brain development occurs between birth and age three. The environment in which this development happens and the provision of age appropriate stimuli helps maximize a child’s potential and lays the best foundation for future development (Zero to Three: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families, 2014).
While on maternity leave, Kassam was teaching “Baby & Me” classes at a local parent center, and many other parents expressed their concern about exactly how to provide their children with the best possible learning environment. Kassam had already put together a home version of Montessori toys to use with her own son, and knew that other parents would be interested in having access to professionally developed and research-based toys that supported healthy mental development. Kassam spent several years developing Monti Kids and launched it officially in 2013. A Facebook Page was created on October 26, 2013 and Monti Kids, Inc. was incorporated in 2014.
Monti Kids provides toys, video and written guides for parents, free access to online classes, and one-on-one support by development experts and internationally certified Montessori educators. A subscription provides eight levels, each one based on three months of child development. The toys are made with sustainably-forested wood and non-toxic paint, and contained in 100% recyclable packaging. They meet or exceed US-safety standards (ASTM & CPSC) for babies 0-3 years old.
Kassam reports that Monti Kids has received broad notice and the opportunity to share her knowledge and concern for healthy child development. She has been invited to the White House Early Education Summit, the Goldman Sachs Global Leaders of Education Meeting, and Harvard Cutting Edge of Early Education Research Meeting. Monti Kids was also nominated for the Dalai Lama Unsung Heroes of Compassion Award.
Kassam is well aware that many parents may not be fortunate enough to be able to access the type of high-quality toys and developmental information that Monti Kids can provide. Her subscribers can donate their outgrown toys and program materials so they can be given to programs serving vulnerable infants and toddlers, such as the Lumin Wesley-Rankin Community School in East Dallas.