Playing “peek-a-boo” with an infant is sure to generate smiles and laughs. And counting bus stops on the commute home or pointing out colors in the produce aisle are fun ways to keep your toddler engaged. But did you know activities and interactions like these are also laying a critical foundation for future brain development?
“Many parents and caregivers know instinctively what activities are fun, engaging and educational for their children,” said Sunindiya Bhalla, director of the Brain Building in Progress campaign, a partnership of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “But what they don’t always know is just how important these activities and the interactions between children and caregivers are to the developing brain.”
Science shows that engaging back-and-forth interactions between a child and an adult, like cooing, smiling and playing peek-a-boo, actually build connections in a developing brain. And just as a strong foundation for a house supports all that is built on top of it, these connections in the brain for the foundation for a child’s social and emotional well-being – and school success.
That’s why Bhalla recently developed an “I Am A Brain Builder” parent workshop, designed to help parents in local communities gain an understanding of young children’s brain development and the activities that support it. To bring the success of these workshops to scale, the Brain Building in Progress campaign recently trained and provided parent materials to 76 Coordinated Family and Community Engagement (CFCE) programs across the state.
So far, 12 parent workshops have been offered, including two at shelter-based programs. The workshops are designed to help parents realize that as caregivers, they are the ultimate Brain Builders, provide them with strategies to turn any moment (like that grocery store trip or bus ride) into a Brain Building moment, and help them find “Brain Building zones,” or enriching environments, in their own community by connecting them with the Brain Building in Progress campaign.
Evaluations show 92% of parents indicated a greater understanding of young children’s brain development after attending the workshop and 97% very likely to try at least one of the activities presented in the workshop at home.
Fun activity guides to help discover Brain Building moments every day are available at www.brainbuildinginprogress.org. And we’d love to see even more brain building in action! Tweet us your fun ideas and activities @speakunited or post to our Facebook page and use #IAmABrainBuilder.
About Brain Building in Progress
The Brain Building in Progress campaign is a public/private partnership of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and a growing community of early education and child care providers, academic researchers, business leaders and others. Our work is based upon the latest science and research on early childhood development. Our mission is to raise awareness of the critical importance of fostering the cognitive, social and emotional development of young children by emphasizing its future impact on the economic prosperity of everyone in Massachusetts.