Making Connections

Discover the skills that every child needs.

Making Connections

Discover the skills that every child needs.

What is Making Connections?

The Life Skill of Making Connections is central to learning. The ability to make connections underlies the ability to see that symbols—such as numbers, letters and words—stand for real objects (symbolic representation). Making Connection involves executive function skills, including drawing on what you know (working memory) figuring out what’s the same and what’s different (cognitive flexibility) and sorting these things into categories (inhibitory control).

All children and adults can benefit from improving their capacity to make usual and unusual connections—a core component of creativity.

Promoting Making Connections

Here are some research-based ways to help children improve the Life Skill of Making Connections:

Everyday Routines

  • Meal time is a great time for making connections. Ask children how many people will be at dinner, thus how many forks or napkins they need on the table—then show them the symbol for that number.
  • While getting dressed, invite children to select two pieces of clothing and figure out all the ways they are the same and all the ways they are different.
  • Out for a walk? Ask children to point to three things they see, then ask what’s similar in them. Keep going and find new things that are alike and different; it is a great way of learning how to make connections.

Playful Learning Activities

  • Write down children’s words as they say them so they see the connection between what they say and written words.
  • Invite children to play sorting games where they put big things in one pile and small things in another pile. Then change the rules and sort by color.
  • Play “guess that song.” Clap the rhythm of a song and ask children to guess the what the name of the song is.

Learning Strategies

  • Encourage children to think about why they made a mistake and what they can learn from it. This helps them reflect on the connections they are making in learning.

There’s nothing that sets human beings apart from any other species on the planet more than our symbolic capacity. If you think about what you know about the world, a vast proportion of what you know comes through symbolic representation.

Judy S. DeLoache

University of Virginia

Get More Tools & Resources to Build This Skill

Skill-Building Book Tips

These free, downloadable resources offer tips for building the Seven Essential Life Skills based on classic and diverse children’s books that promote the skills. Designed for three age groups, infants and toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age, Book Tips are available in English and Spanish.

See Our Full List

Skill-Building Opportunities

Picky Eating, Bedtime Fears, Meltdowns, Constant Crying, Sibling Rivalry! We’ve researched the questions families and teachers most frequently ask and created short free guides, available in English and Spanish, for professionals and families to help turn common behavioral issues into opportunities to promote critical life skills in children.

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Vroom Tips

Vroom, another program of the Bezos Family Foundation, translates the science of early brain development into 1,000+ free tips for adults with children ages 0-5, turning any moment into a brain-building moment.