Free Bright Tomorrows app helps families understand child development under 5
The Bright Tomorrows parent app reached a significant milestone recently, having been downloaded more than 10,000 times by parents, grandparents and those who care for children under five years old.
The app was released nationally in October 2019, and was developed in partnership with the Bezos Family Foundation, Minderoo Foundation, the Raising Children Network and Better Beginnings, to deliver more than 1000, science-backed tips to “turn everyday activities into opportunities to develop essential life skills”.
Containing ‘practical and fun ideas’ to turn family routines, outings, shopping, and household chores into experiences that bolster children’s ability to focus, organise, plan, respond to emotions and communicate, the app uses evidence based content drawn from Vroom, a global program of the Bezos Family Foundation based on the work of leading child developmental researchers, foremostly that of esteemed US-based early learning expert Ellen Galinsky.
Ms Galinsky has “spent a lifetime unlocking the science behind how children learn as well as the skills essential to helping them thrive and, sharing that knowledge with others,” a CoLab for Kids spokesperson said, noting her belief that “it is not just the content of what a child learns but, importantly, how they go about learning that is predictive of later life success”.
Through an examination of findings across multiple fields of child development research, including child development and cognitive neuroscience, literacy, numeracy and more, she was able to identify behaviours that, when present or promoted, made children much more likely to reach their potential.
The skills most important to promoting a child’s overall success were focus and self-control, perspective taking, communicating, making connections, critical thinking, taking on challenges and problem-solving, as well as self-directed and engaged learning.
The central pivot point for these skills involves the executive functions of the brain, which manage our social, emotional and cognitive capacities.
“It can be a baby trying to reach for something or learning to walk, or it can be a much more consciously intentional set goal with an older child, but executive function skills are always around achieving goals,” Ms Galinsky said.
Children who are able to master these “life skills” are more likely to do well in life, she added. The good news is that these skills can be nurtured and developed, even before a baby begins to talk.
“One of the important things about executive functions is that they can be taught, they are malleable. I began to see this as a way to intervene,” Ms Galinsky said.
She said there was a persistent problem in the United States with children; a widening achievement gap that begins early in life.
“Although all children are born with incredible potential, that potential is less likely to be realised when families are struggling with poverty or other adversities for example, than families who don’t have those constraints. One of the main differences seems to be the opportunities to practice these skills,” she said.
Therefore, it is important to teach not only content, but also executive function-based life skills. Executive functions skills are important for parents too, Ms Galinsky explained.
“We think it is critical a parent works on developing these skills and understand why these skills are important in his or her life, not just the child.”
That was why the Mind in the Making training program run by the Foundation begins with adults — parents and the professionals who work with children, sharing the science behind the value of executive function-based life skills and how to promote them in themselves and in children.
“If we know in our heart why these skills are so important, we are much more likely to want to promote them in ourselves and our children,” she said.
“If I had a magic wand, I would share the science of learning in ways that help families keep that fire for learning burning brightly in their eyes and their children’s eyes!”
To learn more about executive function in the early years visit the CoLab website.
The Bright Tomorrows app is free to download in Australia from the App Store or Google Play. For more information please see brighttomorrows.org.au