- Ayyam-i-Ha is a Baha’i festival that is joyously celebrated in countries and territories all over the world. It is a time of hospitality, generosity, and caring for the needy. This year Ayyam-i-Ha runs from February 26-29.
I have loved every note of Shadi Toloui-Wallace’s music and I’m excited that she’s embarked on a whole new musical venture. As a mother of young kids, I’m always on the lookout for meaningful media to share with my children and Tiny Souls ticks all the boxes–and then some!
Shadi graciously agreed to tell us all about her app called Tiny Souls:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Shadi Toloui-Wallace. I’ve been writing and performing music for most of my life. I’ve spent over a decade producing devotional music inspired by the Writings and teachings of the Baha’i Faith. I’ve performed a lot, around the world, I probably performed in your house, community or conference at some point. Sharing my music to live audiences (big and small) was a big part of my life for a very long time, travelling and making new friends, visiting youth groups and running music workshops for communities brought me so much joy and purpose. Until COVID hit and all that was put on pause.
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us about Tiny Souls?
TinySouls is an iOS and Android app for families, caregivers and educators, that fosters positive values and morals in children, by nurturing meaningful relationships through intentional media. Tiny Souls App features carefully written songs that explore a range of empowering themes and characteristics such as truthfulness, equality, friendliness, patience, helpfulness and navigating big feelings. The app also includes a portal where you can learn to play and sing the songs, and access additional resources and materials that build on the themes explored in the songs, like games, art activities, conversation guides, and relevant learning and developmental milestones.
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to create it?
Right before COVID hit, I’d already started thinking about pivoting away from a life on the road, imagining a more settled one that was conducive to having a family of my own. Long before however, I’d always been asked by eager parents if I’d ever consider making music for children. I’d always dismissed the idea because I didn’t understand the need or the market. But when I started to think about a life of music that was coherent with my purpose to serve through my music, and having a family, it only seemed natural to explore music that was designed specifically for children. When I began to explore music that young growing minds are exposed to I saw a real need for the kind of music that is engaging and meaningful, and one that my family and I would enjoy listen to. I also wanted to make music for the world, and bring the teachings that I was brought up with, to a wider, impressionable audience.
So I set off on a writing spree, and started to hold workshops with families in my area, to learn about how they and their children engage with music, what moved them, what was catchy, and what they wanted to see more of. Then COVID hit and my research sort of halted. But then I started to see all these families stuck at home, desperate for content that was meaningful and engaging for their children. I also saw a LOT of kids on screen time which was concerning (but also, totally understandable given the circumstances). So I started to question how these songs that I was writing–which touched on themes like patience, justice, kindness, and perseverance–could be more than just passive songs that children listened too. I wondered if I could build a tool that was easily accessible–a one stop shop if you will–that would empower parents and educators to have meaningful conversations and interactions with their children, related to the themes and narratives in the songs. I explored this idea with my husband, Jason, who’s a software developer, and we decided to see how far we could take this idea. Two years and countless hours later, designing, programming, researching and creating content – we’re excited to bring you Tiny Souls!
Baha’i Blog: Who is its target audience? How is it meant to be used?
Good question! I think what we’ve created at Tiny Souls is really unique. I’ve scoured app stores throughout this process and I haven’t found anything quite like it. While the content of the app is designed for children ages 2 to 7, the app is intended to be used by grown-ups. My intention is that Tiny Souls empowers adults to take advantage of the little moments, foster their child’s moral development, and make meaningful and purposeful connections, by using Tiny Souls as a resources to access its ever-growing catalog of resources. There are so many scenarios and moments where I could see the Tiny Souls App being a helpful guide for parents, caregivers and educators to navigate their child’s social and emotional development. You could be driving in the car, listening to the music, and exploring some of the lyrics and how they apply to your own life, or you recognize an opportunity for your child to practice perseverance and you’re looking for a relevant activity, or your running a children’s class and simply looking for resources–Tiny Souls has it all.
Baha’i Blog: What was something you learned in the process of creating it?
As a new mum, I’ve learned to lower my expectations of what I an accomplish in a day or a week. I used to set myself up with so many tasks in the beginning, in addition to all the massive learning curve of being a new mum, and I would end the day or week so deflated and disappointed because I didn’t get round to doing all the things I wanted to get done. I had to learn that my child and family comes first (as well as my mental/physical health), and that everything will get done in the time and way that it was supposed too. But at the same time I had to learn to take advance of the moments where I could get work done even if I was a little exhausted or drained. It’s such a balance. I also think that finding healthy ways of communicating with my husband Jason–who’s the developer of the app–has been a growing journey. We’re both putting whatever time we have left in the day into building the app, and I’m definitely learning as I go, so we’ve had to learn how to lovingly and gracefully share our wishes, plans and parameters. But fortunately we’ve grown closer to each other through the process. Also learning to lean on my friends, family, and community for support, particularly with child care. Starting a business with a toddler is no joke! But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so very much, Shadi, for taking the time to tell us about Tiny Souls.
Find Tiny Souls on its website: https://tinysoulsmedia.com/app
And lastly, here’s a beautiful video that captures some of the thoughts and ideas Shadi shared with us about the app:
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