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Hello Brain Builders,
 
We at The Baby Box Co. are passionate about providing universal access to education and needed resources for new moms and dads, in order to help all babies across the globe have the best start in life.
 
That’s why we’re excited to collaborate with Vroom. Together, we share a mission to improve outcomes for young children—from ensuring safe sleep to boosting babies’ brain development—by supporting, assisting, and educating parents.
 
This year, The Baby Box Co. launched the first of many statewide programs to provide free Baby Boxes to all new families across the states of New Jersey and Ohio. These Baby Boxes, which are made from a durable cardboard, can be used as a baby’s bed for the first months of life and help to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Although they're vital for families to have, it’s the education behind the boxes that is equally—if not more—important. That’s where Vroom comes in.

With our online education platform, Baby Box University, families view their community’s online curriculum related to prenatal health, breastfeeding, safe sleep practices, and newborn care before receiving a free Baby Box. Vroom tools, resources, and scientific videos on early childhood brain development are woven into the platform to help extend parenting preparedness.
 
Vroom tips are included in the boxes and customized to show parents how different items, such as diapers and wipes, can be used as a prompt to build babies’ brains. Many of the Baby Boxes themselves are also designed by the Vroom team with specific colors and patterns to promote cognitive function in infants, and feedback from families has been overwhelmingly positive!
 
We hope you join us in this journey of supporting children and families! 
 
Jennifer Clary
CEO, The Baby Box Co.

Vroom on the Ground

We love having the opportunity to meet Vroom families. Recently, the Vroom team spent time with two on-the-go families, joining them on their daily activities and capturing on film how brain building can take place anywhere and everywhere.

From this, we’ve created a new series of videos that show how small, positive interactions between a parent and child can help build their brains. These short, one-minute videos bring Vroom tips to life and illuminate how easy it is to turn shared moments—at home, at the park, or anywhere in between—into moments that nurture our children’s growing minds.

I invite you to watch the videos and hope they help spark new ideas. Be sure to follow Vroom on social media to share these tip videos with your family, friends, co-workers, and others passionate about supporting children and families.
 
Do you have a story about Vroom to share? We'd love to hear from you! Contact us at newsletter@joinvroom.org.

Announcements

We’re excited to team up with Kindermusik to foster family engagement through the incredible power of music and brain building moments!

Each month, friends of Kindermusik and Vroom social media communities can find a new, themed set of kid-friendly downloadable free songs, award-winning activities, and Vroom brain building tips to enjoy with children anytime, anywhere.

Make sure to like the Vroom Facebook page to see the latest monthly activities, like February’s “Peekaboo, I love you.

Brain Building in the News

Yahoo News: Kindermusik® Partners With Bezos Family Foundation to Inspire Brain Building Moments for Families
PRNewswire | February 13

Kindermusik International and Vroom have partnered to turn singing and dancing into brain building moments through free monthly access to songs and Vroom brain building tips.
The Moore County Pilot: Reading Advocates to Launch Early Childhood Initiative
Jaymie Baxley | February 13

A countywide literacy initiative seeking to improve grade-level reading skills will measure success based on how many local parents download the Vroom app.
Quartz: Finland’s adorable and much-envied "baby boxes" are making a debut in the US
Jenny Anderson | January 26

Baby Box Co. and Vroom have partnered to include Vroom tips in New Jersey's baby boxes—maternity packages filled with resources, including diapers and baby clothes. New Jersey is the first state to offer baby boxes to all new mothers.
 
The Chronicle Of Philanthropy: Podcast: Putting ‘Human-Centered Design’ to Work Against Poverty
Denver Frederick | January 6

Jocelyn Wyatt discusses IDEO.org's work developing Vroom: conducting research across the country on how to support parents in engaging their young children.

Brainy Background

Science is at the heart of Vroom!
 
Recently, Ellen Galinsky, Chief Science Officer at the Bezos Family Foundation and Vroom Advisor, spoke with Dr. Philip David Zelazo of the University of Minnesota, a Vroom advisor and leading researcher on executive function.
QUESTION: What are executive function skills?
 
ZELAZO: Executive function (EF) skills are the attention-regulation skills we use when we deliberately try to do something. These skills make it possible for us to consider our options and their consequences, to keep goals and other relevant information in mind, and to resist distraction and withstand the temptation to respond impulsively.

EF skills contrast crystallized intelligence—which is based on facts and knowledge such as knowing vocabulary words—and allow us to put our knowledge to practical use to solve problems.

Researchers focus on three facets of executive function:
  • Cognitive flexibility involves considering something from multiple points of view. For example, understanding somebody else’s perspective when it differs from our own or solving a math problem in different ways.
     
  • Working memory involves holding information in mind so we can use it as a guide for understanding and responding. For example, recalling ideas we are reading about or remembering a plan until it is carried out.
     
  • Inhibitory control is important for ignoring distractions, resisting the temptation to behave impulsively, or to go on automatic.
QUESTION: Why are executive function skills important?
 
ZELAZO: EF skills provide a foundation for learning and adaptation. There’s evidence that children with better EF skills learn more efficiently; they get more out of learning experiences. 
 
Kids who come into a classroom without well-developed EF skills may be distracted, fail to remember rules, or act out in class. And the consequence is that they’re going to end up learning less efficiently than kids with stronger EF skills.
 
QUESTION: What are some of your recent experiments?
 
ZELAZO:  We have been studying reflection, which involves noticing a challenge, pausing, considering our options, and then responding. We use our EF skills when we switch out of “autopilot” and pay attention to what we are doing; when we go from being reactive to being reflective
 
In a randomized experiment, we provided 3-year-olds with brief (20-minute) opportunities to practice a game that required switching flexibly between rules for sorting pictures by color or by shape. In the reflection training condition, children were given feedback and encouraged to reflect on the rules. In the other conditions, children were either simply told they were right or wrong or given no feedback. After training, children who received reflection training showed better EF skills, and their brain activity now looked like the brain activity of older children. 
 
QUESTION: What can parents and teachers do to promote the development of executive function skills?
 
ZELAZO: Parents and teachers can give children opportunities to practice reflection and using their EF skills:
  • Provide children with challenges that are appropriate to their skill level—challenging but not overwhelming.
  • Encourage children to notice when EF skills—like considering different viewpoints—are needed. 
  • Encourage them to reflect by stepping back, considering what happened, and learning in positive ways from their mistakes. You can do this in the context of a game, such as Simon Says.
QUESTION: What would you say to parents and teachers based on your research?
 
ZELAZO: Executive function skills can be cultivated and strengthened, and the preschool years are a prime time for this!
 
These are skills that you learn by doing. You can’t simply be told about EF skills and then know how to use them. I like to say that we grow our brains in particular ways by using them in particular ways. So if we want to improve our executive function skills, we need to practice these skills.

Vroom Tip

Vroom Tip #317

Nightly Routine
Ages 0-1
Tip: As you get your child ready for bed, talk about what you’re doing—taking off daytime clothes (“night night clothes”), turning the lights down (“night night lights”), closing the shades (“night night outside”).

Brainy Background: Regular routines help children learn to go to sleep more easily. When you name the activities you’re doing, you're helping your child learn words for these activities—even before they can say those words themselves!
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