Wooden and tiled floors may tick the box for chic interior design but they're bad for babies, according to Ollwyn Moran, founder of Cognikids.
“Crawling is a key stage of natural development and modern floor-coverings cause unnecessary difficulties for little ones trying to crawl,” says Moran, a neurological developmental therapist. “Wood, tile and laminate floors may be better for the respiratory system but they offer no traction. This means babies slip and slide and bruise themselves and many give up trying to crawl.”
In 2012 Moran set up Creeper Crawlers to produce functional development products for infants and toddlers. The company’s first product was the Easy Grip Crawl Suit, which has special patches on the shins and feet to provide traction on modern flooring.
Effects of gravity
“I am absolutely passionate about brain development,” Moran says. “I understand the importance of the crawling phase and there’s a link between non-crawling and an increased risk of developing a learning and/or behavioural challenge. Babies are new to the world and to the effects of gravity and don’t really know which parts of their bodies belong to themselves. We pop them on these cold, shiny and slippery floor surfaces and expect them to be able to get up on their knees and crawl without having their knees slip out from beneath them. It’s a bit like adults walking on ice. They just want to get to a grippier surface. That’s when I had my ‘Aha!’ moment for the company.”
The business started trading in 2013 but it was a slow burn as Moran was on her own and still working full-time as a therapist. Things changed in the middle of last year when she rebranded the company as Cognikids to extend the product range. This in turn led to support under Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Ups programme and the company is now steaming ahead with four employees and two more hires in the pipeline.
Its patented products are designed in Ireland but made in the UK and China as Moran tried but couldn't find suitable Irish manufacturers.
Moran has a science background and trained as a teacher before specialising in neurological development at the Institute of Neuro-Physiological Psychology in the UK. She now lectures on the subject and works with children and adults with learning and behavioural difficulties.
Cognikids’ second product is Grip, a feeding bottle cover that makes it easier for the baby to hold it securely. “Bottles are so big in little hands and can be very difficult to hold, especially when filled with milk,” Moran says.
“I was also aware that teachers of junior infants were finding that many students had not developed their pincer grip. This is the grip required to hold a pen or pencil or cutlery. It is a fine motor skill and its development has been impacted by the modern world in much in the same way as the ability to crawl has been interfered with by modern flooring. The pincer grip is not being developed because of tablet play – everything is tap, tap and swipe, swipe.”
Cognikids has just added a third product (a sensory teething bib) and each one addresses a different developmental issue for infants and toddlers. The products are available in Mothercare and Lloyds Pharmacies in Ireland and talks are under way with UK retailers.
Parents worldwide are the main target market for Cognikids' products, but Moran is also hoping they will be bought as alternatives to traditional baby presents. The business has been a bootstrapped start-up but nevertheless Moran estimates costs to date at about €250,000. Early funding came from her family and the Dublin LEO. The DCU Ryan Academy and Enterprise Ireland are investors/share -holders in the firm which also has a private investor.