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Brain Building Tips

Vroom distils early learning research into bite-size activities that support children’s brain growth from birth to age five. With the backing of the Bezos Family Foundation, vroom.org was developed by a group of dedicated scientists, community leaders and trusted brands, with input from community organisations and families, early childhood experts and neuroscientists.

Alphabet Moves

Playtime

With your child, go through the alphabet and make the shape of each letter with your bodies. The letter “A” can be a triangle with your arms above your head and your legs standing wide. Ask your child to make the letter “B” with his/her body. Take turns making the other letters!

Your child must use focus, self-control, and memory to recall the shapes of letters to represent them with his/her body. Through firsthand experience, he/she is learning about language and literacy.

Babbling Baby

Playtime

Does your child babble or make lots of sounds? This is a first step in learning to speak. Set these sounds to music. If he/she is saying, “Ba, ba, ba,” sing this sound to “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” or another tune. Watch his/her eyes light up. Guess what? His/Her brain lit up, too!

Your child will love the fact that you’re singing along with him/her. By doing so, you and your child are having a conversation with sounds, which helps him/her listen carefully and copy you. This gets him/her ready for conversations with words, which will lead to better reading skills.

Balancing Feat

Playtime

Take turns with your child standing on one foot and then the other, trying to balance. You can say, “Your turn,” and “My turn.” See if you can do it with your eyes closed. What else can you do?

You and your child are having a conversation with actions as you take turns standing on one foot, then the other. When your child practices doing this, he/she is learning about balance—what it takes to stay steady and not fall down.

Be a Fixer

Playtime

Pretend to fix things with your child. With a plastic spoon, pretend to fix a hinge on a kitchen cabinet. “I’m fixing this broken hinge on the cabinet door. Now it’s your turn to be a Fixer.” When he/she has had a turn, hold out your hand. “My turn.” Keep taking turns, smiling while you work.

Pretending is an important way that children make sense of their experience—that broken things need fixing. And, when children pretend, they learn that one thing (a plastic spoon) can “stand for” something else (a tool to fix a broken hinge). That is the basis of understanding symbols, which is important to literacy and math.

Can You Find It?

Playtime

Use your cell phone to take pictures of things in your room, like a chair, a table, or the refrigerator. Ask your child to look at your cell phone picture and say, “Can you find it in the room?” As your child gets good at this, you can make it a little harder.

This game helps your child make connections between pictures (symbols) and real objects. This skill is a basic for reading (where written marks stand for words) and math (where numbers stand for quantities of things), and is essential in learning.

Cup Tower

Playtime

You don’t need much to build fun things around the house. Grab a few plastic cups and stack them into a tower and then show your child how fun it is to knock them all down. Hand the cups over and let him/her have a go. Take turns building all kinds of new towers!

Supporting children as they explore and discover will help them become learners for life. This game also helps your child discover how the physical world around him/her works. Have a back and forth conversation about his/her discoveries!

Dance Copy Cat

Playtime

Put on a song both of you like and watch your child move. As he/she dances, copy what he/she is doing. When he/she stops, you dance around and let him/her watch you. See if you can create a back and forth dance, taking turns copying each other.

As your child copies your dance, he/she is paying attention to your movements, using his/her working memory, and controlling his/her actions—all important for learning the skill of focus and self-control.

Dance Duet

Playtime

Let your child pick a fun, fast song to dance to. Take turns making up dance moves. Your child can start, then you copy him/her. Keep going back and forth by repeating the moves and adding new moves. Before you know it you will have a whole dance routine!

When you and your child build on each other’s moves, your child is using his/her memory and focus to follow and remember the moves as well as his/her flexible thinking skills by making up his/her own moves. These skills are important for creativity and learning.

Dance Moves

Playtime

Playtime can become a dance party. Turn on some tunes on your phone or radio and start doing a silly dance: shake a leg, wiggle your hips. Can your child copy your moves? Next song, it's his/her turn to lead. Go back and forth until you’re danced out!

Believe it or not, dancing games can be great brain builders! This one in particular teaches your child to pay attention to sounds and rhythm and to imitate you using his/her body. It also gives him/her the chance to be the leader and that’s a good feeling.

Dancing Feet

Playtime

Sing, or turn on music, and dance with your child! See if he/she can copy what you do with your feet. Try stomping one foot three times. What does he/she do? Copy his/her moves and build on them by adding a jump or going on tiptoe. Does your child do it too? Keep the dance going!

This kind of conversation with movement is one way for your child to learn about the importance of listening and responding when interacting with others. He/She is also practicing the life skills of focus and self-control as he/she copies your actions.

Do as I Say, Not as I Do

Playtime

Ask your child to listen to your words and do what you say, instead of following what you do. Say, “Stomp your feet” while you clap your hands. Your child should stomp his/her feet and try not to focus on the clapping. Try new words and new actions when your child learns to do this. Take turns!

Your child has to focus carefully on what you say and use self-control to not be distracted by what you do. It’s hard, but playing this game helps children develop life skills that they will use now and in the future, and will help them thrive.

Face-to-Face Time

Playtime

You can talk to your child about anything! Use his/her name as you share face time. Your attention is like a hug from the inside that helps him/her focus and feel calm and settled. Pay attention to what is happening around your child and talk to him/her about it.

Your child is learning he/she can count on you to help him/her feel calm and settled. It's a big part of trust and helps him/her begin to learn to settle himself/herself.