Expanding our Horizons

Category: play

The Daily Vroom App

Parents of kids age five and younger often find themselves juggling work and family, wondering if they’re doing enough of the important stuff kids need to learn and succeed. In our fast paced society, it’s easy to feel rushed, stressed, and overwhelmed. Daily Vroom, a mobile app created to be wherever parents and caregivers are, reminds us that we already have within us what it takes to help kids develop.

Vroom is based on the ideas that brain building moments are all around us and any moment can become a brain building moment. Some parents might benefit from using everyday moments a little differently while others may need new ideas to spark everyday learning.

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In the first five years of life, a child’s brain makes more than 700 neural connections every second. These neural connections form the foundation for future learning. Since each experience and interaction shapes the growing brain, we’re teaching our kids whether we’re trying to or not. Daily Vroom helps parents understand what happens in children’s brains during these experiences and interactions.

Three scientific principles comprise the essence of Vroom. The first principle is that positive relationships with caring adults are essential for brain building. There is no healthy social, emotional, and cognitive development in the absence of relationships.

The second principle is that back and forth interaction between a child and adult—especially pre-language—is the root of relationships. When parents respond to children’s sounds, actions, and expressions, children learn that their sounds, actions, and expressions have meaning. With or without words, kids learn to initiate communication, pay attention, respond, express clarity, and change topics.

The third principle is that children are not born with executive functioning skills, but they are born with the capacity to develop them. Executive functioning skills include working memory, self-control, and mental flexibility. The interactions and experiences children have in early childhood can help them focus, adjust, resist temptations, and manage emotions. These skills are essential in getting along, achieving goals, and becoming part of a civil society.

The Daily Vroom app gives you access to over 1,000 tips appropriate for your child’s age as well as the brainy background (or science) behind the tips. For example, during bath time, give your two year old different size containers to scoop and pour water. Encourage her to explore and compare the containers and talk about what she’s doing. The app will point out that children learn best through hands-on exploration in playful, commonplace ways. When you help your child set up experiments to learn how the world works, she’ll employ math and science concepts and develop critical thinking skills as well.

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You can choose tips related to changing diapers, cleaning up, doing laundry, going to bed, or being in the car, on foot, or at the park. Brushing hair can become math, getting dressed can improve self-control, and eating peas can explain cause and effect. Your child’s development begins and grows with you.

5 Brain Building Basics

  • Look: make eye contact with your child.
  • Chat: talk about things you see, hear, and do. Explain what’s happening around you.
  • Follow: let your child lead. Respond to her sounds and actions. When she starts talking, ask questions like “What do you think caused that?” and “Why do you like that?”
  • Stretch: make interactions last longer by building on your child’s words and actions.
  • Take Turns: use sounds, words, facial expressions, and gestures to go back and forth to create games or conversations.
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Limit Toys for Kids

Recent studies have shown that children ages five and under are often overwhelmed with too many toys. Too many options can be over stimulating and make children anxious. Kids can lose the ability to concentrate on one toy long enough to learn from it, and they can feel compelled to play with every toy in sight without fully engaging with each one.

When a nursery school in Germany agreed to remove all of its toys from their classrooms for three months, teachers reported that the children were initially confused but had ultimately begun to concentrate and communicate better and use their imaginations more.

This kind of research was prompted by the prevalent apprehension that parents are too often substituting toys and screens for their children’s development, creating childhoods that are not only defined by prescriptive (or predetermined) play and patterns of consumption but also lacking in meaningful personal interactions.

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With fewer toys in front of them, kids learn to be more creative. They tap into their imaginations and use their surrounding resources to invent games and activities. They also develop longer attention spans by spending more time per toy, letting themselves indulge in the toy and explore its value and possibility. If a particular toy seems too hard to manipulate or solve, kids are less likely to give it up for another toy. They show more patience, perseverance, and determination. And because fewer toys invokes scarcity, kids actually cooperate, share, and get along better.

Toys are an integral part of a child’s development; they shape the child’s character and value system. The kind of toys we give kids and why and how often we give them teach kids about the world, themselves, and our own values. By constantly giving kids more toys, we teach them to rely on material items rather than their own inner resources. We also establish a standard of consumption. Some psychologists argue that everything other than a first transitional object (like a blanket) is a socially generated want.

When toys are removed from the environment, kids will immerse themselves in nature and physical play. They will engage more deeply with their friends and parents, developing better interpersonal relationships. They learn to value what they have and find value in the things around them. They come to understand that happiness is not up to someone or something else to cultivate. Eventually, they might even learn that boredom is a gift.

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Tips to manage toys and play:

  • The optimum number of toys to have out at once is four.
  • Use a “one toy in, one toy out” policy.
  • Keep toys in boxes and rotate them for play.
  • Put old toys out in new combinations.
  • Avoid prescriptive toys that limit fantasy play (“found objects” offer creative potential for free play).
  • Auditory (background noise) and visual clutter can interfere with play.
  • Encourage reading, singing, dancing, coloring, drawing, and painting.
  • Allow children to be bored.