This is the final article in the series about the Seven Essential Life Skills that children need to do better in school and in life, from the book Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky, PhD. Decades of research into early learning and child brain development has been extensively reviewed and distilled into the book, which outlines the developmental and neurological premise behind each skill and pairs them with real-world practices. The skills are based in the science of executive functions, a set of cognitive abilities that reside in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain (the goal-driven area of the brain which manages attention, emotions, and behavior).
Dr. Galinsky reveals that building social and emotional skills along with intellectual competencies in the preschool years gives children the tools to grow into their full potential and become compassionate, capable and adaptable young adults.
“It is through learning that we realize our potential”
Parents and caregivers serve a critical role in stimulating a child’s desire to learn. Dr. Galinsky offers seven principles to guide this endeavor:
Establish a trustworthy relationship. Children depend on parents to keep them safe and feel secure, which are basic ingredients to foster learning. Even through difficult times, a process of repair and reconnecting can be positive and present opportunities for growth. Parents are also role models for children from infancy. A desire to emulate parents has important implications for the emotional development and early education of a child.
Help children set and work on meeting goals. Every young child is an explorer and seeks to master their environment; nurture an enthusiasm for continuous initiation and exploration. Support learning to plan by suggesting or demonstrating a sequence of steps to reach a goal. Ask child to articulate a plan, follow it through, and evaluate how the plan worked after reaching the goal (as child is developmentally ready).
Involve children socially, emotionally, and intellectually. Connect all types of learning through hands-on, repetitive experiences to aid child in remembering what was learned. A sequence of purposeful actions is easier to recollect than random acts, and even better when combined with social (discussion) and emotional engagement.
Extend learning. Have conversations that involve “why”, “what”, “where”, “when”, or “who” questions, discuss back and forth, provide feedback, repeat often, and show genuine interest in child’s commentary. Select early childhood programs that utilize a formula of observing the tasks a child attempts to master followed by introducing activities to challenge and extend the learning (within comfort zone). Repeat at home to fuel curiosity. The keys are how a child is encouraged to discover and how the information is provided.
Help children practice, synthesize, and generalize. People need to build knowledge over and over in order to retain information. If a child has trouble understanding a concept, coaxing them to explain it to you or another person often aids comprehension.
Assist children to become increasingly accountable. Make expectations for success clear. Acknowledge child when he or she does something positive. Praise effort, not intelligence. Grant freedom to make mistakes; the word “fail” merely identifies areas for improvement.
Create a community of learners. Learn together. Model “practice what you preach” and try to do your best. Promote a service mentality by asking child to give back as well as receive from others.
As this series concludes, hopefully you are now more aware of the extent to which parents can support their children. The skills don’t require expensive equipment, elaborate programs, or complex materials. It’s simply about doing everyday things that parents do with children, in new ways. Remember, cultivating these seven skills are as important for adults as they are for children. Learn for a lifetime!
ABOUT MIND IN THE MAKING: Decades of research into early learning and child brain development has been extensively reviewed and distilled into the Seven Essential Life Skills children need in order to thrive in school and in life. In her book, Mind in the Making, Ellen Galinsky, PhD, outlines the developmental and neurological premise behind each of the skills and pairs them with real-world practices to help children grow into their full potential. These seven life skills are based in the science of executive functions, a set of cognitive skills that reside in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain (the goal-driven area of the brain which manages attention, emotions, and behavior).