NHSA is excited to introduce a new national initiative called Vroom. Vroom provides tools highlighting the science behind early brain development and empowering parents to turn everyday activities, like bath time and mealtime, into brain building moments for children. For each of the next five issues of News You Can Use, NHSA will share materials and tips inspired by the Brain Building Basics.
For more fun tips and materials, visit joinvroom.org.
As Head Start staff, this is a resource that will help you support the families you work with, especially when you are not around. Designed by a team of experts, Vroom Materials deliver fun, interactive tips parents can use to support early brain building that are simple enough to fit into their daily routines. The tips are centered around the five Brain Building Basics, an easy way to explain the types of interactions that promote children’s development (download here). For each of the next five weeks of News You Can Use, NHSA will share materials and tips inspired by the Brain Building Basics.
Watch a video about Vroom and download the Daily Vroom app. The app is available on iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire Phones and delivers customized tips to parents every day. For access to even more resources and to receive fun updates from the Vroom team, visit VROOM's website, become a fan on Facebook, and follow VROOM on Twitter at @joinvroom.
Welcome to Part Two of the NHSA/Vroom summer partnership. This week, our Vroom Activity is Look. When parents and caregivers are interacting with children, encourage them to make eye contact so that they are looking at each other or sharing a point of focus. Dr. Rechele Brooks and Dr. Andy Meltzoff, from the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, released studies on this subject in 2002 and 2008. Their research shows that children love to follow their parents' gaze and that those who regularly do so have larger vocabularies as they grow.
This week's Vroom Tip is Park Sensations! When a family plays in the park, encourage parents to watch where their child looks or points. Parents can talk to their child about what they are doing together and how it feels. For example, "The sun is warm on our faces," or "The sand is rough on our feet." When children hear and see new ways to describe everyday things, they are learning new words and concepts that will help them understand the world!
This week, the Vroom Tip is Babble On: Encourage parents to babble with their children. When a child starts to make noises, a parent can mimic the sounds right back. See how many times parent and child can go back and forth with babbles and imaginary words! By following a child's lead and responding, parents spark the neural connections children need for language and communication.
Here's the Brainy Background: In a 2014 study, Dr. Nairan Ramirez-Esparza at the University of Connecticut showed that children whose parents actively chatted and used "parentese" had larger vocabularies, discernible as early as 24 months.
This week’s Brain Building Basic is Follow. In a 2009 study, Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek of Temple University showed that children learn best through playful learning and exploration, guided by adult’s open-ended questions. These conversations help children come up with creative ideas and develop critical thinking skills—useful in solving problems and communicating with others.
Caregivers can use this strategy by having open-ended conversations with children during everyday moments—for example, during their commute. While waiting for the bus or train, caregivers can ask their child: “If this bus could go anywhere, where would you like it to go?’ and follow up with questions like, “why do you want to go there?” and “who would we see there?”
This week’s Brain Building Basic is Stretch. Dr. Susan Landry and her team show that children learn best when caregivers “scaffold,” or elaborate on what children say and do. By extending moments and going beyond questions with yes or no answers, children develop reasoning skills, challenge their assumptions, and see familiar people and things in new ways.
Parents and caregivers can stretch moments with children by playing imaginative games and engaging in follow-up questions. Try asking questions like, “Would you rather be a bird or a fish? Why?” Have him or her give you a few reasons from real-life experience like, “I love the water, so I want to be a fish!” These kinds of questions build your child’s brain, and are fun too!
This week’s Brain Building Basic is Take Turns. “Serve and Return” interactions—using sounds, words, faces, and actions to go back and forth—create conversations and games while building a child’s brain. Dr. Jack Shonkoff, at the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, has shown that these simple interactions are far more effective brain builders than any toy or video.
Try this: ask a child to mimic motions, like a pointed finger or fist. After going back and forth, ask him to do the opposite. See how long you can last! To mimic actions, children use memory and self-control. Asking a child to do an opposite action promotes flexible thinking—an executive function skill important for learning and life.