CEHD start-up partners with game maker to improve school readiness

Reflection Sciences, a Minnesota start-up founded by two CEHD professors, has announced a new partnership that aims to measure and improve school readiness through games developed specifically for early learners. The collaboration pairs an Executive Function (EF) measurement tool developed by Reflection Sciences with Kiko’s Thinking TimeTM games in order to track students’ progress in EF as they play.

Executive Function capabilities are key developments in the preschool years. Sometimes called the “air traffic controller of your brain,” EF is the set of neurocognitive functions that help the brain organize and act on information. These functions enable us to pay attention, control behavior, and think flexibly—abilities necessary for success in kindergarten and beyond.

Kiko Labs, which worked with University of California–Berkeley and Harvard neuroscientists to develop educational games for young learners, offers activities targeting skills essential to cognitive learning and school readiness for children ages 3 to 7.

Stephanie Carlson

Reflection Sciences—founded in 2014 by child development professor Stephanie Carlson and professor Phil Zelazo of the Institute of Child Development—provides professional development, training, and tools for assessing and improving Executive Function skills. Their Executive Function measurement tool, called the Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFSTM), is the first objective, scientifically based, and normed direct assessment of executive function for ages 2 and up.

MEFSTM is already used by educators in 32 states to track growth in EF and effectiveness of methods and curriculum. This new partnership hopes to bring schools and early child advocacy organizations a complete solution for building and measuring skills essential to school success.

“We pride ourselves on having the first nationally normed objective measure of EF for preschool children, but caregivers also want solutions they can try to help improve children’s EF skills and prepare them to succeed in school,” Carlson says. “I am delighted to be able to recommend Kiko’s Thinking TimeTM games as a natural complement to the MEFS.”