Nov 14, Tangrams for kids: Educational tips and a printable template

Tangrams for kids: Educational tips and a printable tangram template © 2009 - 2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Tangrams for kids: A learning tool for building STEM skills Like building blocks, tangrams can teach kids about spatial relationships. They may help kids learn geometric terms, and develop stronger problem solving abilities. They might even help children perform better on tests of basic arithmetic. But what is a tangram? Invented in China approximately 200 years ago, a tangram is a two-dimensional re-arrangement puzzle created by cutting a square into seven pieces -- seven geometric shapes called "tans" (Slocum et al 2003). What are the seven shapes in a tangram? Each tangram puzzle contains the following: 2 large right triangles 1 medium-sized right triangle 2 small right triangles 1 small square 1 parallelogram Arranged correctly, these tangram shapes can be fitted together as a large square, rectangle, or triangle. They can also be arranged in a vari..
Read More

Nov 8, What happens when adults lie to children?

What happens when adults lie to children? © 2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Are children influenced by authority figures who tell self-serving lies? Does it set a bad example -- making kids more likely to tell lies of their own? There hasn't been much research on the question. But based on the limited evidence, the answer depends on a child's developmental level. Young children are capable of tracking the accuracy of your past statements. And by the age of four years, some kids show a preference for trusting individuals who have a proven history of telling the truth. But it's not clear that lying to young children will make them more deceitful. Perhaps that's because they lack the cognitive skills to fully grasp the concept of a lie. By contrast, school-aged kids react differently. When they discover we’ve lied to them, they become less truthful in their dealings with us. How do we know? Imagine this scenario. An adult meets a child, and says: “The..
Read More

Nov 1, What is colic? An evidence-based guide to excessive infant crying

What is colic? An evidence-based guide to excesssive infant crying © 2009 - 2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved What is colic? The quick facts are these: "Infantile colic" is the term that doctors use for excessive crying and fussing that has no obvious cause. To make a diagnosis, many use the "rule of three," which identifies a baby as colicky if he or she is "otherwise healthy and well-fed," but has fits of "irritability, fussiness, or crying" that take up more than 3 hours of time each day for more than 3 days each week (Wessel 1954). Caring for such an infant can be very stressful and frustrating, but doctors urge parents to remember: It's going to get better. The problem usually emerges around 2 weeks postpartum, and improves by 4-6 months. Doctors also like to note that colic isn't usually associated with any serious, underlying medical problems.The facts are reassuring, but they don't make colic go away, and it's vitally important not to triviali..
Read More

Oct 25, Why kids rebel: What kids believe about the legitimacy of authority

Why kids rebel: What kids believe about the legitimacy of adult authority © 2018 GWEN DEWAR, PH.D., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Rebel without a cause? Not really. Studies suggest that kids recognize our authority in certain matters. But they resist when they perceive us as trying to control their personal lives. Nobody is born per-programmed to defer to authority. During the toddler years, children are inclined to follow their impulses, and they often do. In fact, the most ancient approach to early childhood – practiced by hunter-gatherers – is to avoid issuing commands. Parents in tradition societies engage in a kind of collective, shrug when it comes to toddler discipline. Little kids can’t be reasoned with, and they lack self-control. So don’t knock yourself out trying to do the impossible. Around the world, societies wait until kids are older – between the ages of 5 and 7 – before attempting to hold them to strict behavioral standards. But let’s put preschoolers to one side. They h..
Read More

Oct 19, Vote for a better future

HomeAboutTerms of usePrivacyContactShopWhat's newSupportJoin a study Vote for a better future We must hold politicians accountable -- because our children cannot. © 2018 GWEN DEWAR, PH.D., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Our children can’t vote. They can’t compel the people in power to answer to the facts. They can’t hold politicians accountable for authoritarian power-grabs and incompetence. They can’t vote to ensure that their families will have access to affordable health care, or vote for politicians who will address the skyrocketing costs of higher education. They can’t fire politicians who condone racists, or break the law, or forcibly separate immigrant families – inflicting needless anguish and trauma on innocent young children. They can’t stop politicians from rejecting their birthright – a society that responds intelligently and responsibly to scientific data, a world that pulls together to fight the disastrous consequences of pollution and climate change. There’s a lot going wron..
Read More

Oct 11, Compassionate deception: Do children tell lies to be kind?

Compassionate deception: Do children tell lies to be kind? © 2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved There are times when we approve of lying, when we believe it’s the better option. For instance, suppose a would-be murderer comes to your door. He asks you to tell him where his intended victim is hiding. Should you tell him the truth? Throughout the world, adults have the same intuition: Truth-telling isn’t an absolute moral imperative. Sometimes, the good of preventing harm to others outweighs the good of telling the truth. But how do children wrestle with these considerations? The youngest kids will have trouble because they lack the developmental skills to tell lies. As I explain elsewhere, an effective liar needs to have solid “theory of mind" skills, and show advanced levels of self-control. But as children approach the age of 4, they become more adept with lying, and eventually they may begin to tell prosocial lies: fibs designed to spare other people's feelin..
Read More

Oct 4, Punitive environments encourage children to tell lies

Punitive environments encourage children to tell lies © 2018 GWEN DEWAR, PH.D., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED It's natural for young children to experiment with telling lies. But their readiness to lie depends a lot on the social environment. When adults attempt to control children through threats and punishments, kids are more likely to cover-up their transgressions. By contrast, children are less likely to lie when they believe adults value and celebrate truth-telling. How powerful are these effects, and what can we do to harness them? Here's a closer look at the research, and some evidence-based insights for motivating kids to tell the truth. The costs and benefits of truth-telling We've all experienced the impulse: We've done something wrong, and we want to hide it. Should we lie about it, or confess? Victoria Talwar and her colleagues knew that children, like adults, are savvy to the costs and benefits of truth-telling. But what influences them the most? Are kids ..
Read More

Sep 28, At what age do children begin to tell lies?

At what age do children begin to tell lies? © 2018 GWEN DEWAR, PH.D., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Little kids sometimes say goofy things. They sometimes say things that aren't true. But being goofy or mistaken isn't the same thing as telling a lie. As commonly understood, the act of lying requires both insincerity and the intention to deceive. In other words, you have to make a statement that you don't believe yourself, and you must intend to make someone else accept that statement as true (Primoratz 1984). When do children start meeting these criteria? Studies reveal that some toddlers begin lying before they are two and half years old. And by the age of four, more than 80% of children lie -- at least sometimes. But the timing varies from one individual to the next, and no, it isn’t a reflection of a child’s moral character. The evidence strongly suggests that kids begin experimenting with lying as a natural consequence of cognitive development. In particular, lying..
Read More

Sep 19, Marshmallow test: Delayed gratification isn’t just about willpower

The marshmallow test: Delayed gratification isn't just a matter of willpower © 2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Sometimes the smart thing is to reject an immediate reward in order to wait for something better. But this isn’t always the case, and delayed gratification isn’t always a matter of willpower. Studies show that children’s choices depend a lot on our own behavior. When adults appear unreliable – or downright untrustworthy – kids choose instant rewards over future benefits. Here are the details. If you’ve read about self-control and delayed gratification in children, you’ve probably heard of the marshmallow test. Sit a child down at a table, offer him a marshmallow, and make the following promise: “You can eat this now if you want, but if you wait 15 minutes until I come back, and I see you haven’t eaten it, I will give you another one. You’ll end up with two marshmallows." What do kids do? Some show great powers of delayed gratification, not touching that m..
Read More

Sep 12, Growth mindset: Can a theory of intelligence really boost achievement?

Growth mindset: Can a theory of intelligence change the way you learn? © 2008-2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved What you believe about cognitive performance - the theory of intelligence that you adopt - can have brain-altering effects, and enhance your ability to learn. Yet programs designed to promote the right, "growth mindset" in students haven't always worked. Why not? I think the answer has to do with follow-through. Merely believing that you can grow doesn't turn you into an achiever. You have to apply yourself, too. Here is a look at the research, and some suggestions for helping students reach their full potential. What is your theory of intelligence? What do you believe makes people smart? Years ago, anthropologists and cultural psychologists noticed that people hold very different beliefs depending on their cultural upbringing. For example, in Western countries, people often take the view that intelligence is innate and fixed: Individuals are born..
Read More