Opportunities for Engagement with Early Childhood Development App

Aaron Grigg, MD, FAAP
Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic – Pediatrics, Clinical Informatics

As a pediatrician serving in a Community Health Center in Yakima County (Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic), there are many challenges my patients and their parents face on a daily basis.  It seems that barriers are constantly making it harder for them to access healthcare, education, parenting support and employment.  When we heard about this grant to provide free access to early childhood development resources, we were excited to participate!

VROOM (https://vroom.org) is a free, app-based program available in English and Spanish that gives parents instant access to age-appropriate developmental activities right from the phone.  Available on android and iPhone, it is as simple as creating a login, adding child’s name and date of birth, and then setting a reminder for the app to send you a notification every day.

Each day the app presents new activities for the family to try with their child.  The library section lets the caregiver explore ideas based on topics, time of day, specific daily routines, or just fun activities. I have two children under 5 years of age and have really enjoyed seeing some of the ideas that are presented via the app.  I timed the reminders to come to my phone when I am more likely to be home with them after work.  This allows me the opportunity to interact in a more educational playtime with them.

Having seen the sometimes disappointing rate of parents to interacting with the EHR patient portal in the past, it would be easy to be pessimistic about the level of interest among our population.  However, my experience has been an overwhelmingly positive response from parents and siblings alike.  I spend anywhere from 10-30 seconds describing this app to the parent and most of them light up when I tell them they can have free access to this resource on their phone.  Those who are less tech-savvy tell me that they will have their oldest child download it on both the parent and child phone so everyone can use the activities.

It will be interesting to see how this access affects the development of children in our practice, but so far, it is a huge win to see how this is creating an opportunity for parents to spend much-needed time interacting with their young children in a way that will make memories and strengthen parent-child bonds in those small moments.

Our practice was selected to work with the WCAAP on the grant “Strengthening Family and Community Engagement through Early Childhood Brain-Building with Vroom” from the Washington State Department of Health.