A toy for the newborn mind

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - November 17, 2011

Graphic artist Mies Hora has a toddler son, and he noticed that his little boy wasn't paying much attention to the pastel-colored toys and mobiles in his room. But he did pay attention to the black beams against the white ceiling.

Hora started asking experts and came away with the conclusion that simple, high-contrast images are best for babies. That sparked his invention of BabySymbolizer. At its simplest, BabySymbolizer is an application you can download for 99 cents.

It runs on smart phones, tablet computers, etc. The program has text for parents in English and Spanish, with more languages planned.

It also has a library of 34 high-contrast images, each embedded with its own distinctive sound.

You can change images by touch, or program a slideshow. As babies develop and learn to touch the screen, they get a sense of interactivity from their play experience.

Hora says research indicates this sort of play actually improves brain development, and that there's evidence children who get to play in this way will have better brain function as they grow.

Hora has a website that lets you download a pattern for a mobile. It's filled with the same symbols as the play device, and you can quickly turn it into something that hangs above a crib or changing table. Making it can be a family craft.

The site also offers products for sale, like a well-made quilt featuring Huggamind's distinctive shapes. It's an ideal play mat just right for a parent and a little one. Hora hopes to develop other educational toys for older children.

For now, all his products are geared to the youngest. For more information, visit Huggamind.

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