- Associated Press - Thursday, September 24, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - Shakira, a longtime promoter of early childhood development and education, says being a mother has given her an even stronger connection to the issue.

The Grammy-winning performer and her soccer pro-partner Gerard Pique are the parents of 2-year-old Milan and 8-month-old Sasha.

“I’ve been an advocate for education long before I became a mother, so imagine how I feel now,” the Colombian singer said in an interview Thursday in New York City. “I’ve been focusing on education for other kids and now that I’m a mother, my kids’ education is such an important topic of conversation, such an important thing in my life.”

Shakira and Fisher-Price debuted the Moms’ Hopes & Wishes Study and previewed a new app to assist teachers and educators. The global singer, whose hits include “Hips Don’t Lie” and “Whenever, Wherever,” launched a toy line with the company last year.

The study of 3,500 new and soon-to-be moms measured parental attitudes and approaches to early childhood development.

“It’s so important because I’ve really seen firsthand the power and the transformation that education performs in the lives of not only in the children but also the families who benefit from it. I’ve seen it through my foundation and the projects that we have in Colombia, but I’ve also seen it in my own children,” she said.

Shakira has made early childhood development a top priority for her organization, Barefoot Foundation, launched in 1997. A UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, she also promoted early childhood development at the United Nations on Tuesday.

The app the 38-year-old singer developed called “Grow” will feature 2,000 tips and will be available later this fall. Her First Steps collection of toys and baby gear with the Mattel Inc.-owned company includes a bouncer that plays music, alphabet blocks and a musical soccer ball. All of the proceeds benefit her foundation.

“Sometimes when we buy a toy for our kids, it’s not that we are spoiling them. A toy is not frivolous, superfluous thing. A toy is such an important tool for a kid to develop his senses, sight, touch, auditory senses, coordination, motor skills, fine and gross motor skills,” she said. “A child’s most primary obligation is to play and to discover the world around him and to know how the world works, and sometimes a toy plays a significant role in that.”

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