Though many toddlers don't enter school until they're about 5 years old, Fort Wayne's Early Childhood Alliance is promoting an app called Vroom that introduces at-home learning to younger children.
The app, according to its website, encourages parents and caregivers to boost early learning and development through “easy-to-use learning tips and activities.”
Vroom allows parents to create their child's profile. Based on this information, tips and activities specialized to the child's developmental stage are generated and sent to designated mobile devices. The tips are based upon brain science research on how to promote optimal engagement and development, said Lanissa Maggert, Early Childhood Alliance engagement coordinator.
The tips fall into various categories such as Everyday Routine, Little Scientist and Fun With Chores. After an activity is completed, Vroom explains what the activity teaches and why it is beneficial.
Maggert said she is particularly enthusiastic about Vroom's ease of accessibility and practicality, outlined in the app's tagline, “You already have what it takes.”
“The nice part is letting families know they don't have to spend a lot or buy things for the app, but it's just about interacting and having conversations and engaging with your child,” she said.
Early Childhood Alliance helps families searching for child care, provides professional training programs and other services. It was introduced to Vroom through its parent company, Child Care Resource and Referral. After submitting a proposal to Child Care Aware of America, the agency was one of 10 Child Care Resource and Referral agencies selected nationally as a Vroom ambassador.
Early Childhood Alliance is sharing Vroom with its partner child care programs and asking those organizations to share it with their families.
“We're pretty fully sharing it in every aspect we can,” Maggert said.
The free app is available on Google Play and the App Store and can be accessed from a computer, laptop and other mobile devices. Maggert clarified that there is another Vroom app available, but it is for car sales. Parents should go to www.vroom.org to download the correct app and to look for its orange logo.
For families unable to use the web-based version, Early Childhood Alliance has printed copies of Vroom tips. Additionally, Child Care Resource and Referral coordinator Maricela Madden said the app is available in many languages, allowing families to read the app in their primary language.
Maggert and Madden said they hope Vroom helps families understand the importance of their role as their child's first teacher and shows them that teaching doesn't have to be complicated.
Shelly Meredith, a specialist on infants and toddlers for Early Childhood Alliance, says she has been using Vroom with her 2- and 5-year-olds the past few years.
“Their reaction is interesting, because it's almost like so natural that they don't even realize it's coming from an app,” Meredith said. “It feels like a natural interaction with my child.”
While responses to the app have been “very positive,” Maggert said Early Childhood Alliance wants to expand promotion of Vroom.
“We certainly want to continue to gain momentum,” she said. “We still have a lot of ground to cover, and we will continue to look for opportunities to share and to hear back from people who are using (Vroom),” she said.