"Find a Rainbow Day" Encourages Early Learning

by Carles Cavazos Brito

National Find a Rainbow DayApril 3 is National "Find a Rainbow Day" in the US. Perhaps you'll be lucky enough to spot one! Your chances will probably increase as the April showers come our way.

Rainbows can be elusive, but here are a couple of handy tips. If the sun's behind you on a rainy day, you might catch a glimpse of that beautiful and colorful arch. On a sunny day, you can use prisms or sun catchers to see a rainbow projected on a wall.

Warmer weather brings out the sprinklers. While your children are enjoying a watery romp, the droplets of the sprinkler dazzle them as they separate into the various colors of light.

Mindy, a pregnancy.org member shares a story about her little girl. "My toddler squealed with delight as she ran under the sprinkler's falling water. 'Rainbow! Rainnnbow!' accompanied bunches of giggles. She twirled, pausing with rapt attention as it briefly disappeared with her movements. She stepped again; it reappeared. She seemed completely fascinated that she was dancing with the rainbow. At that moment, I was captivated at the innocent discovery of my child."

Grownups know all about light and rainbows. What's going on in children's brains when they discover a rainbow for the first time. Let's take a look at the research about how kids think.

For toddlers, their brain growth depends on more than just a stimulating situation or good nutrition. Here's how you can provide an environment for healthy brain growth.

Toddler Brain Basics

According to Dr. John Medina, author of "Brain Rules for Baby," your toddler's brain is more interested in surviving than learning. Mindy's rainbow chaser felt safe. Her mom was involved and connected with her daughter.

Since birth, your child has been sorting and sifting information in his or her head that equates to, "Am I being fed?" "Am I being touched?" "Who is safe?" If your baby's needs are being met, the brain develops one way. If they're not, genetic instructions tell the brain to develop another way. A child who feels safe, can devote brain energy to the task of learning. A child who feels threatened focuses on survival.

Intelligence is More Than Just IQ

Besides the ability to store information and adapt that information to other situations, intelligence involves other skills.

Exploration skills: Parents have figured out that toddlers are natural explorers. Young children learn about the world by looking, deciding what will happen and then testing it out. Babies around the world drop toys to see if they fall. Nobody teaches them.

Hal Gregersen, head author of a study called, "Innovator's DNA" says that if you watch 4-year-olds, they're constantly asking questions. By the time they're 6 1/2-years-old, they've stopped asking because they discovered that teachers value right answers more than provocative questions. Your job as a parent is to encourage your child's natural desire to explore, just like Mindy did. She chose to allow her tot to dance with the rainbow, even though she probably turned into a soggy mess.

Self-control skills: In the "cookie challenge," a researcher placed two cookies on a table. He told the child that he had to go away for five minutes, but if both cookies were there when he got back, and the child hadn't eaten anything, they'd get both of them. If they ate one while he was gone, the deal was off. You'll find videos of some of the children online. Their coping techniques are unique and often adorable.

This type of challenge allows researches to look at impulse control. It turns out that impulse control is a better predictor of academic control than IQ. A child's brain can be trained to enhance self-control and other aspects of executive function.

Recent studies show that kids whose parents connect with and who empathize while their children take on frustrating tasks, do better in school and have higher IQs.

Creativity skills involve the ability to conjure up new ideas from old things. It involves a healthy dose of risk-taking called functional impulsivity. Fostering creativity can mean challenging your child to experiment with new uses for things and it can mean encouraging them to take healthy risks.

Communication skills: Babies and children learn language the best through social interaction. A real live person has to come into the room and talk directly with the child. Add in a warm, loving hug and you've set up the perfect environment for verbal communication.

The brain contains a switch between gestures and speech circuits. Studies of babies show that they don't gain a sophisticated vocabulary until fine-motor finger control improves.

Researchers wondered if the opposite was true. Could learning physical gestures improve other thinking skills? One study indicates it could. Kids with normal hearing took a sign language class for nine months. Their focus, spatial abilities, memory and visual discrimination scores improved as much as 50 percent compared with controls who had not taken the class.

Encourage these skills and you can practically see your child's brain grow!

"Find a Rainbow Day" Activities

National "Find a Rainbow Day" can go beyond hunting rainbows. You and your child can create or eat one! These activities will help you celebrate this magical day.

  • Look for a rainbow
  • Experiment with colors
  • Paint a rainbow
  • Make a rainbow veggie tray
  • Read a rainbow of a story
  • Play with a sun catcher
  • String a rainbow of beads
  • Send a rainbow card
  • Dress up like a rainbow

Did you and your child enjoy the wonder of a rainbow? How do you encourage and engage your tot's inquisitive side?