The University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) is putting its research into action by offering parents and other caregivers virtual lessons in how they can support early brain development.
A series of free online training modules is now available on the I-LABS website. Some of the tips:
- Keep it simple. Parents need not spend a lot of money on toys and gadgets to have an impact. “While there are many products on the market that claim to boost a child’s learning or brain development, the data consistently shows that the people in a child’s life are the most important ‘toys’ in the room.”
- Eye contact is key to helping babies with language development. Caregivers should establish eye contact with a child and then direct their gaze to the object they are talking about. This helps the child make the connection between the word and object.
- Imitation, defined as the ability to learn behaviors by observing other people’s actions, can be used to teach young children about family rules, cultural values and more — even before they are old enough to talk. “Imitation is a key component of early interactions because it is what allows us to understand and respond when another person is coordinating their actions to ours,” researchers note in the training modules.
The outreach is part of the Ready Mind Project, a new effort that includes six research initiatives ranging from bilingualism to the impact of digital learning tools. Sarah Roseberry Lytle, director of outreach and education at I-LABS, plans to release 50-60 training modules in the next five years.
“We want parents, teachers, policymakers and others to know that everyday moments are special moments,” Lytle said in a news release. Earlier research from I-LABS has shown the more face-to-face interaction a baby gets from her caretakers, the more words she will know by the age of 2.
UW recently announced a $10-million grant to The Ready Mind Project from the Bezos Family Foundation, a Seattle-based nonprofit run by Jackie and Mike Bezos, the parents of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The Bezos Family Foundation has a longstanding interest in brain research and recently launched a pilot program to provide similar early learning tips to parents in South King County.
I-LABS is working with local and national groups to get the 20-minute training modules in front of more parents and caregivers.