Photos courtesy Bezos Family Foundation
by Lydia Rueger
Research shows that the first five years of life are critically important to children’s future learning and success. In fact, young children’s brains form more than 700 new neural connections per second. Based on this, the Bezos Family Foundation wanted to help parents seize as many opportunities for early childhood learning as possible. With the help of families, scientists, and community leaders, they developed a website and mobile app called Vroom, that teaches parents and caregivers to create brain building moments all throughout the day.
“While genes make up the brain’s blueprint, positive early experiences with adults create the foundation for lifelong learning,” says Elyse Rowe, communications manager for the Bezos Family Foundation.
The website, for parents with kids ages birth-five years, features all of their resources for free download, and the free daily Vroom app delivers personalized, age-appropriate tips that work for families’ routines. You might see the suggestion, “When you’re doing laundry, have your child help you match the socks. Ask them to help you match them by size,” or “Before leaving the house today, let your child be the one to turn off the lights. Help them flip all the switches and talk about how their actions turn the lights off for darkness and on for light.” Each tip is paired with a “brainy background” highlighting the science behind the activity. Parents can also earn badges and unlock new features with repeated and continued use.
“We’ve brought the science out of the lab and put it into the hands of those most poised to benefit from it—parents and caregivers,” says Rowe.
Locally, Vroom and Parent Possible (formerly Colorado Parent & Child Foundation) are collaborating with organizations to include Vroom materials into their work with Colorado families.
The Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus incorporates Vroom’s ideas, too. Bilingual brain building tips have been placed throughout the museum in bathrooms, near water fountains, lockers, stairs, and the parking lot, providing parents and caregivers with location-specific activities that support early brain development.
Vroom also partners with well-known products. For example, Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States, sells their Maria cookies with Vroom tips on the packaging. The tips encourage parents to explore shapes and sizes with their kids, simply while giving their kids a snack.
“We want every parent to know they already have what it takes to be a brain builder for their child,” says Rowe. “Each of us has a role to play in this work, and we all have assets to bring.”