Brain-building activities for under fives
Published on Wednesday, 01 September 2021
Last updated on Monday, 06 September 2021
Your child’s brain grows fastest from the time they’re born to the time they go to school, and in these first five years, there are many ways you can support their learning.
Everyday interactions, like mealtimes and bedtimes, offer extraordinary opportunities to build your child’s brain, and Vroom Tips™ are a great way to harness the magic in these moments.
Vroom is a global program of the Bezos Family Foundation, and they offer over 1,000 free, science-based activities for ages zero to five.
Different tips relate to different ages and areas – from counting to self-control – and today, we’re explaining the science of early learning and sharing 10 of Vroom’s school readiness tips.
How do the Vroom Tips tap into science?
Every Vroom Tip is grounded in the science of early learning and the tips are designed to help you:
- Turn ordinary or fussy times into fun, because there’s evidence that positive connections with you help your child’s brain grow strong and flexible.
- Do more with your shared moments, because back-and-forth moments with you build your child’s brain in ways that help their learning, health and behaviour, in their present and future lives.
- These tips also help you share the joy of learning with your child now while you prepare them for tomorrow, because building life skills (like focus, self control, problem-solving and taking on challenges) in their early years helps your child today and later in life.
Each Vroom Tip includes a Brainy Background™, which explains why the activity is beneficial for your child’s brain, and different tips remind you to Look, Chat, Follow, Take Turns and Stretch your child’s learning – five actions that help to grow their brainpower anytime and everywhere.
10 Vroom Tips to support school readiness
Vroom’s brain-building activities will help your child learn from birth, and when it comes to school readiness, it’s never too early to nurture school skills. There are tips to prepare babies, toddlers and young preschoolers for class, but as we near the end of the preschool year, let’s focus on ages four to five.
The following brain-building activities will support key school readiness skills in your preschooler, including Literacy, Maths, Science, Physical Activity and/or Working with Others, so read and learn!
- Vroom Tip #105 – Word of the Day
Come up with a word of the day, like “play.” As you and your child go through your day, point out moments or things you see that remind you of the word of the day. You might say, “Look, those dogs are playing!” Encourage them to find their own examples of the word of the day.
Your child must use their memory to remember the special word all day, and use focus and self-control to play the game. They’re also exposed to new words and learn about the different ways that words can be used. These are important parts of learning to read and write.
- Vroom Tip #590 – Menu Maker
Involve your child in meal planning. Ask them to choose how to organise the meal. Can they do it by colour or family favourites? For example, they could ask family members which dish is their favourite. Then help your child draw or write a menu based on everyone’s picks.
Your child is using important skills to make their menu. They’re grouping things and making connections. They’re learning how important language is in daily life and using early reading skills.
- Vroom Tip #108 – Guess My Number
Think of a number and see if your child can guess it based on your clues. Say something like, “My number is bigger than four and smaller than six.” Or “It is the number of fingers on my hand.” Make it harder by adding or taking away numbers. “My number is two more than the number three.”
Your child must think on their feet and use what they already know about numbers to play this game. Guessing games like this one ask your child to use their memory and focus to follow the clues and come up with the answer.
- Vroom Tip #199 – Nature Patterns
Have your child collect items like rocks and leaves. Arrange them in a pattern such as one rock, two leaves, one rock, two leaves. Then mix them up and ask your child to recreate your pattern. Can they remember the order? Have them take a turn making a simple pattern for you to remember.
Finding and repeating patterns builds focus and memory. It is a great way to make connections and solve problems. These are all important skills for learning. Playing with patterns also builds math skills like comparing sizes, numbers, and shapes.
- Vroom Tip #910 – Here to There
Ask your child to create a path to get from one side of a room to the other without touching the ground. Use pillows, newspaper, or whatever is handy. Make it harder by seeing how far or fast they can go. Or limit what they can use to make the path to make it more interesting. Don’t forget to take turns!
Your child is making a plan and testing it out. They’ll need to think flexibly to come up with different solutions to solve this problem. This is a great activity to do with friends too. It helps them practice solving problems with others.
- Vroom Tip #1006 – ABC Moves
Go through the ABCs with your child and make the shape of each letter with your bodies. How would you make the letter A? Make a triangle with your arms above your head and your legs standing wide. Can your child make the letter B with their body? Take turns making the other letters!
This game uses focus, self-control, and memory. These skills help your child imagine the shapes of letters and then make them with their body. It also helps build their language and reading skills.
- Vroom Tip #827 – Shelf Help
Ask your child to help you in the kitchen. Let them organise a shelf and find their own way to group things. If they need help, it’s OK to suggest things like “boxes here and cans there.” Or they could put crunchy food like cereal and crackers together. You can even give them a towel to wipe out the shelves to help you get started. Most children love to do grown-up things like this!
Your child is building their brain when they organise and put things in groups. These skills will help them with math, reading, and science later in life. When they take on grown-up jobs, it can help them see things from different points of view.
- Vroom Tip #195 – What Floats?
Are you near water? Even a big puddle works. Grab some rocks, sticks, or leaves and toss them in one at a time. Do they float or sink? Talk back and forth about how things like shapes or size may make a difference. Keep trying new things and test your ideas. What other experiments can you do together like this?
This game helps your child learn to think like a scientist. This kind of thinking helps them focus on understanding what they see, and make guesses based on that. Thinking-in-action like this helps them figure out if something is true or false, or even something in between.
- Vroom Tip #28 – Super Silly Handshake
Invent a super silly handshake for you and your child. Take turns adding a step (like shaking twice). Repeat it until you both have it down. Now change one of the steps. How do they respond? Go back and forth between the new and old way.
Creating and learning a super silly handshake helps your child remember and do what is needed to achieve a goal. This is a big step in learning self-control.
- Vroom Tip #40 – Practice Positivity
Practice saying things in new ways with your child. Take turns saying something negative, then try to talk about the same thing positively. For example, “I don’t like loud noises” can become “I like quiet sounds.”
This game is a good way to practice describing things and people in different ways. They’re practicing language skills and how to see things from someone else’s point of view. These skills are helpful in having good relationships now and in the future.
For more brain-building tips, visit Vroom.org or download the app.
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