The Freeze Game: Diamant-Cohen recalls a speaker at a brain development conference talking about how movement creates connections in the brain. She uses freeze games to help children understand the word "stop." The idea is that as her participants walk, crawl, or are carried around a circle to music and instructed to stop, as "the drum says stop," the repetition will help them absorb the meaning of the word.
"What you are doing is teaching them the word 'stop' in a fun, non-threatening way. All children need to learn the word 'stop,' rather than waiting until something potentially dangerous like sticking their finger into an electrical outlet happens. Saying the word 'stop' in a very urgent, angry voice could be frightening to a child and may not convey the message that they need to stop."
She tells the story of a colleague seeing a toddler run off through a grocery store. The colleague heard the father calmly call out, "And the drum says 'stop.'" When the little girl froze, the librarian knew the pair had been to Mother Goose.
Knee Bounces: Diamant-Cohen encourages adults to sit on the floor, with their legs extended out and children on their knees. In class, as everyone sings "The Grand Old Duke of York," the children are bounced up and down as the Duke's men march up the hill and back down again.
In addition to teaching concepts like up/down, Diamant-Cohen says knee bounces have another positive outcome. She refers to the book Neurons to Neighborhoods by Jack Shonkoff and says, "Research suggests that the connection between the child and the primary caregiver has all sorts of important implications for development later in life. Having a strong positive connection with the caregiver can help your child get a good start in life. And playing together is one way to build this connection."
Read! Read! Read!
Long before children can identify words, Diamant-Cohen explains reading aloud teaches early literacy skills; little ones learn that written symbols are connected to something.
She encourages parents to read in a joyful manner to help children develop a love for reading.
And, if you hear the word, "again," after a story, night after night, science sides with your child. "Brain research findings say children learn best with repetition," says Diamant-Cohen. "At Mother Goose on the Loose, 80 percent of the activities are repeated from week to week. Brain research tells us not only do people learn better when they are building on what they already know, but that it creates a safe and secure environment when you have something that is familiar."