In her recent book, Mind in the Making, world-famous family-and-childhood researcher Ellen Galinsky distills her last eight years of data to give the latest on child development and what parents can do to facilitate their children’s intellectual growth.
Here are 5 quick videos featuring the principal researchers themselves explaining critical factors in kids’ language acquisition, awareness of others’ perspectives, and stick-with-it-ness. We’ve also included Galinsky’s commentary on the studies.
Why Efficiency in Processing Language Matters
In this video, professor Anne Fernald of Stanford University explains her research on the difference between understanding when children know words and how effectively and quickly they can recognize the words.
From Ellen Galinsky: “This experiment measures the child’s efficiency of processing or fluency of processing. But why is this important? As Fernald explains, if a child doesn’t need to wait until the end of a word to “grab it,” he or she is ready for the word that comes along next: ‘When you’re a very young language learner, what comes next is likely to be new, so the [more efficiently] you can process familiar words, the [better able you are] to attend to the new information that comes along and potentially make use of it.'”
How to Promote Communication in Children
In this video, professor Fernald dissects how parents speak to their babies and toddlers to demonstrate what helps children learn language quickest.
From Ellen Galinsky: “The findings of what families can do to promote [communication abilities] come from a longitudinal study of Spanish-speaking children. Fernald and her colleagues found that the children of mothers who spoke more, used different words for the same object, used different types of words, and spoke in longer phrases to their children at eighteen months, not only had larger vocabularies but were faster at processing words at twenty-four months.”
How to Teach “Perspective-taking”: Part 1
In “Crackers vs. Broccoli,” Professor Alison Gopnik of UC Berkeley uses facial expressions to convey her point of view to children.
From Ellen Galinsky: “Alison Gopnik of the University of California at Berkeley has been a leader in understanding how we develop ‘theory of mind’ – becoming aware that others have different beliefs, desires, and intentions from our own. This awareness is essential to what I call perspective-taking. One of Gopnik’s first questions was: When do children understand that one person might want one thing and another person might want something else? When she began to pursue her studies, young children were typically seen as egocentric and self-absorbed. One reason this view held sway for so long is that very young children aren’t facile with language. So Gopnik needed to find a nonverbal way to delve into what children understand.”
How to Teach “Perspective-taking”: Part 2
In this video, Professor Galinsky describes a strategy for promoting perspective-taking that she used with her own children.
From Ellen Galinsky: “One of our main jobs is to teach children to understand others’ perspectives as an essential aspect of learning to live with others. That “dance” we engage in with our children from the moment they’re born is the beginning of their lifelong engagement with others. And through that caring dance, we can help children learn how to build bridges of understanding among people.”
How to Teach Focus and Self Control: Lara and her Lemonade Stand
In the video, Professor Galinsky explains how giving children a project (such as a lemonade stand) can teach them the attention skills of focus and self control.
From Ellen Galinsky: “How well would we walk and run if we weren’t allowed to do so until our legs were fully grown? When we see children crawling, pulling themselves to stand, and demonstrating other cues of readiness, don’t we naturally encourage them to strengthen and train their bodies to perform these complex skills by helping them to (literally) take ‘baby steps’? It should be no different with the skills of focus and self control – and the good news is, it’s possible. Researchers are increasingly convinced that families and teachers should be much more intentional about promoting these life skills, especially in the preschool and school-age years, and they’ve begun to experiment with ways to do so.”