Jul 25, Can a preschool board game boost math skills?

Can a preschool board game boost math skills? Studies suggest the answer is yes...if the game has these particular features. © 2008 - 2017 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved You might not expect much from a preschool board game. Players roll dice, or spin a spinner, and move their game tokens around a board. But when a young child plays a number-based board game, something exciting can happen. If the game requires the child to move her game token along an ascending sequence of numbered spaces -- and speak these numbers out loud as she moves -- she can gain a crucial sense of the number line. She can develop an intuitive appreciation for "how much" different numbers represent. A feeling for numbers gets encoded in the brain. That bodes well for a child's long-term prospects. Studies show that early "number sense" predicts long-term achievement in mathematics. The stronger a youngster's mathematical intuitions about quantity and the number line, the better he perform..
Read More

Jul 20, Are confining social rules and stereotypes interfering with your child’s intellectual growth?

Stereotype threat: Yes, children notice stereotypes about race, gender, and wealth. And the effects aren't good. © 2008-2017 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved The everyday reality of stereotype threat Societies everywhere sort people into categories, and children are paying attention. Not only do they notice cues about gender, wealth, and ethnicity, they also perceive the stereotypes that go with these categories. And it starts early. Toddlers are quick to pick up on cultural norms about gender, and apply them to roles, activities, and toys (Halim et al 2016). Four-year-olds expect wealthy students to be more competent in the classroom (Shutts et al 2016) Elementary school children are familiar with racial stereotypes, and have a bias for assuming that members of cultural out-groups are more likely to commit moral wrongs (Liberman et al 2017; Wegmann et al 2017). What price do we pay for these attitudes? There are the conspicuous costs: Hate crimes, bullying, blatant ac..
Read More

Jul 18, The authoritative parenting style

The authoritative parenting style: Warmth, rationality, and high standards An evidence-based guide © 2010 - 2017 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved What is the authoritative parenting style? Frequently hailed as the best way to raise kids, it's an approach that emphasizes sensitivity, reasoning, setting limits, and being emotionally responsive.
Read More

Jul 11, Why talking with our hands can help children reason and learn

The science of gestures: Why "talking" with our hands can help children think and learn © 2017 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Do you motion with your hands when you talk? Most people do. The movements come naturally to us, and often happen without any conscious planning. We speak, and our hands get into the act. Undoubtedly, a lot of this behavior is learned. If you raise a child in Italy, she'll grow up learning different gestures than if you raise her in Japan, Nigeria, or Canada. She'll also learn different social norms about the desirability of gesturing. By the age of two years, Italian children produce about twice as many communicative gestures as do English-speaking Canadian kids (Marentette et al 2016). But cultural variation doesn't change the fact that gesturing is a species-normal behavior. Like speech, music, or dance, gesture is part of our biological heritage. Children who are blind from birth use gestures when they talk, even when speaking t..
Read More

Parenting Tip: Give Short Explanations

Just yesterday I was at the grocery store and I heard the following conversation between a mother and her first-grader: Now, Suzie, I am sorry but you cannot buy any candy. It isn’t good for your body, which needs certain nutrients for you to grow big and strong. Plus sugar is not good for your teeth. If you eat that candy now, you won’t be hungry for dinner when we get home. . . . All the while, Suzie was whining and complaining that she wanted to buy this special candy. Each point the mother made was countered with an argument from Suzie. If you have ever found yourself in a situation like this one, you could benefit from this tip: Rather than give a long explanation, repeat a simple phrase. Parents often find themselves trying to reason with their kids. If you say just the right thing, then perhaps your children will see the wisdom of your words. What happens more often than not, however, is that your children either tune you out or they use your words as ammunition to argue wit..
Read More