Brain Boxes

Looking for something new to offer your young families? Something ready-to-go and research-based to support early learning? Do you have a little money or grant funding?

What about a Brain Box?

New Directions Brain Box

In 2013, my library hosted Dr Jill Stamm, the founder and director of the New Directions Institute for Infant Brain Development. She came and spoke with parents and again with staff about her research and her book, Bright From the Start. It was a great program and I recommend reading her book–there’s lots of good information about healthy brain development for babies and toddlers.

Through Dr Stamm we learned about the Brain Boxes developed by the Institute. They are activity sets carefully designed for different ages: infants, babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. They include materials and instructions to foster the caregiver-child interaction that builds healthy brains.

They’re on the expensive side, but there’s lots of research behind them, and you could easily spend an equivalent amount of money in staff time putting something similar together in-house. We bought a set after Dr Stamm visited, set up a set of procedures for our staff for inventorying and managing all the pieces, and got them in the catalog. In a year, they have NEVER been on the shelf. They’ve been a great addition to our collection and offer a unique early learning experience for our families.

What interesting early learning materials does your library circulate?

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4 Responses to Brain Boxes

  1. Kathleen says:

    Thank you for sharing this info! I would be thrilled to get these Brain Boxes into our patrons hands – as soon as I can find a way to pay for them 😉 So many parents already benefit from the info we share at storytime, but I would love them to have something tangible they can take home to work with to extend it. I try to incorporate some homemade items in my activities now and again so that they can see you do not always have to spend big money on items that will encourage brain building – like say a homemade writing center: a squirt of shaving cream in a baggie, duct tape it to the high chair, and let baby “write”. But these brain boxes certainly do look like a wonderful addition to circulating items!!

    Thanks again for sharing your knowledge!!

  2. Lynette Christensen says:

    I would suggest taking a photo of everything in the box and making a copy of the page listing everything in the box because we have had problems with missing items. If you have a photo of items, you could replace that item or a similar one. And it’s nice to have an unmarked list of items that should be included so that it can be marked more than once.
    I attended one of Dr. Stamm’s workshops on the Brain Boxes, too, and am very impressed with her book. Parents love to get ideas from using these boxes with their children.

  3. Lynette Christensen says:

    You also asked about other early learning activities used. The AZ State Library recently held a workshop about wooden blocks presented by Cindy Christin of the Bozeman, MT, Public Library and I would highly recommend it as well. She has done a lot of research and utilizes community partners and she shares lots of great ideas.

  4. Melissa says:

    Kathleen, I love letting parents know that the inexpensive stuff is so beneficial. It is nice too to be able to get non-homemade materials out to families who might not be able to or choose to afford them, isn’t it?

    Lynette, thanks for the comments! We’ve instituted a special checkin/checkout procedure for the boxes, and I know an inventory sheet is used–a photo set is a great idea and super quick to scan visually. I’m going to check out Cindy Christin’s ideas as well!

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