North Suburban Child and Family Resource Network

 The Brain Building in Progress Campaign is a public/private partnership of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and a growing community of early education and childcare providers, academic researchers, business leaders and individuals. 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 economic development and prosperity for everyone in Massachusetts.  For more information, visit  Enjoy these brain building fun ideas with your family.                   By:  Evonne Lack from

Blocks:  Blocks are possibly the world's oldest toy. They help develop experimentation – the ability to form a hypothesis ("What happens if I put this big block on top of this little one?"), test it ("It tips over!"), and form a new one ("Big on top of small goes crash"). Parent tip: Keep things challenging with blocks in a variety in shapes, weights, and colors.
Sand & Water: A bucket of water, a basin of sand, and a few cups and scoops can keep your child mesmerized for hours and all along, he is learning about volume and texture, liquids and solids.  Parent tip: Try an open-ended question every now and then to engage your child. ("Those sticks you added are standing in the sand all by themselves. I wonder why?").
Reverse follow-the-leader:  This activity lets your child be in charge. She wants to drag a leaf across a puddle for ten minutes? No problem. Dig a hole with a stick? Do not interrupt. In addition, you can do this together in a park, a playground, or even your own backyard.  Parent tip: Let your child lead, and ask an occasional observational question. ("You're digging really hard. What did you find?").
Dress-up:  Playing dress-up develops imagination, creative thinking, and even impulse control, which is vital, as your child gets older. When children put on costumes, they step outside themselves.  Parent tip: Encourage your child to try on clothes you have put aside for dress-up during his next play date and watch his imagination really take off.
Pretend cooking: Hand your little one an empty pot and a wooden spoon, and let her "cook." She knows it is just pretend, but not only is she entertaining herself, she is developing pre-literacy skills.  Parent tip: If your child asks for "real" food, but you are not ready to deal with a big mess, try stand-ins. A sponge can serve as a sandwich, for instance, and playing cards could be pieces of chicken.
Hide-and-seek: This age-old game is probably the most fun way to develop navigation, mapping, and spatial skills. Parent tip: For a toddler who does not quite grasp the idea of hiding, try hiding an object. Put a sippy cup or a stuffed animal under a pillow as he watches.  Then ask him to find it.


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