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Utah parents can sign up for texting service for ideas to stimulate kids' minds

Sunday , May 06, 2018 - 5:15 AM

OGDEN — Utah parents and caregivers of young children 5 and under now are able to receive a handful of free text messages a week with tips on how to stimulate their children’s brains.

United Way of Northern Utah has teamed up with Bright by Text, a national agency, to bring its parenting-help-by-text service to Utah.

Those interested in the service may opt in or out by texting to 274-448.

Text “utfamily” to opt-in and then “stop” to opt-out. 

The service started in February and already 400 have registered, Butler said.

“It’s gone really awesome,” said Tabatha Butler, partnership coordinator at Ogden United Promise Neighborhood, a part of United Way of Northern Utah. “A lot of families have really enjoyed it. These are simple activities that families can do to help children develop their brains.”

Butler said the activities are important because from before birth to age 5, a child’s brain grows at a fast rate.

“The interactions that a child has with adult caregivers at this stage of their life set the foundation on which all later learning, behavior, and health depends,” said a news release from United Way of Northern Utah.

“These little activities sent by text are very simple to do and help to connect the neurons in their brain to make them stronger and get the kids ready for school,” Butler said.

 

“Bright By Text provides quick, practical parenting tips tailored to children’s developmental stages to help parents support school readiness skills,” said Shelia Anderson, assistant early childhood professor in the Department of Child and Family Studies at Weber State University.

Julie Trickett, an Ogden resident, was one of the first to sign up for the service.

The mother of a 3-year-old son, Trickett said even though she prides herself on being an informed parent, she has learned much from the service.

“There is so much more we can find out about our kids,” Trickett said. “This service brings the information to you. You could go search for the information but Bright By Text is something that gives you the information, right to you.”

One of the ideas Trickett appreciated from the service was a suggestion that parents use parks as learning spaces.

“I say ‘Hey, I see this color. Do you see this color too?’” Trickett said. 

“Every moment you have with your child is a learning opportunity,” she said. “That is something Bright By Text helped me realize.”

Trickett said she appreciates all the new ideas.

“There are great things on the internet about how to improve literacy but I have a hard time with improving his math skills,” Trickett said.

When a suggestion pointed her toward sequencing and measuring, she set her son up to pour water back and forth between different sized cups in the sink.

“Bright By Text helped me realize that it’s an important skill for life and volume is very important,” Trickett said.

She also learned to ask her child to predict what would come next in a story as they read.

“I realize this is a reading comprehension skill,” she said. “It is amazing that these are things he is doing at 3 years old.”

Trickett said she learned not to worry about if it’s too early to try a skill. “If they are not ready, then put it away and try again later,” she said.

Another mother who has joined the service is Amanda Butler, who is sisters-in-law with Tabatha Butler.

In a blog posted on the United Way of Northern Utah site, Amanda Butler recommended the service to other mothers.

“You can start using the service as early as your third trimester and they will send out messages for children from zero to five,” she wrote.

Amanda Butler said she signed up both for her toddler and her baby on the way.

“I'm a busy person, and it's hard to try and think up new activities to keep my little one occupied that aren't too complicated,” Amanda Butler wrote. “This text line does all the work for me for free.”

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at jfrancis@standard.net or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or on Facebook at Facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis.

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