Aug 22, Spatial intelligence: What is it, and how can we enhance it?

Spatial intelligence: What is it, and how can we enhance it? © 2011-2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Spatial intelligence is crucial for many tasks, yet it's often neglected at school. Can we improve visuo-spatial ability? Experiments indicate that we can. Here's what you need to know. Spatial intelligence: A definition and some examples Spatial intelligence, or visuo-spatial ability, has been defined "the ability to generate, retain, retrieve, and transform well-structured visual images" (Lohman 1996). It's what we do when we visualize shapes in our "mind's eye." It's the mental feat that architects and engineers perform when they design buildings. The capacity that permits a chemist to contemplate the three-dimensional structure of a molecule, or a surgeon to navigate the human body. It's what Michelangelo used when he visualized a future sculpture trapped inside a lump of stone. It's also the mode of thought we use to imagine ..
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Aug 22, Spatial intelligence: What is it? And how can we enhance it?

Spatial intelligence: What is it, and how can we enhance it? © 2011-2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Spatial intelligence is crucial for many tasks, yet it's often neglected at school. Can we improve visuo-spatial ability? Experiments indicate that we can. Here's what you need to know. Spatial intelligence: A definition and some examples Spatial intelligence, or visuo-spatial ability, has been defined "the ability to generate, retain, retrieve, and transform well-structured visual images" (Lohman 1996). It's what we do when we visualize shapes in our "mind's eye." It's the mental feat that architects and engineers perform when they design buildings. The capacity that permits a chemist to contemplate the three-dimensional structure of a molecule, or a surgeon to navigate the human body. It's what Michelangelo used when he visualized a future sculpture trapped inside a lump of stone. It's also the mode of thought we use to imagine ..
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Aug 15, The benefits of toy blocks: The science of construction play

The benefits of toy blocks: The science of construction play © 2008-2018 Gwen Dewar, PH.D., all rights reserved Toy blocks, also called "building blocks," are solid shapes used for construction play. Some are simple planks made of wood. Others are fancy, like the interlocking bricks of plastic made by Lego and MegaBlox. But whatever form they take, blocks can function as powerful learning tools. Studies suggest that toy blocks can help children develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination, spatial reasoning, cognitive flexibility, language skills, a capacity for creative, divergent thinking, social competence, and engineering skills. There is also evidence that complex block-play is linked with higher mathematical achievement. How does it all happen? It's easy to see how stacking and arranging toy blocks could stimulate a toddler's motor development. But for other skills, it's likely that kids need to do more than simply move blocks around. Research suggest..
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Aug 8, How video games affect school performance

The effects of video games on school achievement © 2018 Gwen Dewar, all rights reserved What are the effects of video games on school achievement? Are we doing kids a disservice by letting them play on a daily basis? Or does gaming actually help sharpen a child's mental faculties, and perform better in school? We need more research to answer these questions definitively. In particular, we need randomized, controlled experiments, and those are lacking. But based on the limited information we have now, it seems that extreme claims on either side of the spectrum are wrong. On the one hand, playing video games probably doesn't harm school performance -- not as long as kids don't play so much that they neglect school-related activities, like reading, or skimp on sleep. And not as long as the games they play are age-appropriate, and don't cause emotional troubles. On the other hand, video games aren't a magical pill for boosting IQ, or transforming poor stu..
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Aug 1, Positive parenting tips

Positive parenting tips Getting better results with humor, empathy, and diplomacy © 2018 GWEN DEWAR, PH.D., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Everyday encounter: Listening to the sounds of chewing, by David D / flickr Who needs positive parenting tips? What's the fuss about, anyway? Positive parenting means slightly different things to different people. But the core idea might be summed up this way: Positive parenting emphasizes warm, positive family interactions, and guides children by rewarding and reinforcing their better impulses. The goal is to empathize with children, offer them warmth and support, and create situations that make it easier for kids to behave cooperatively and constructively (e.g., Gardner et al 1999; Boeldt et al 2012). Is it worth the effort? The research is compelling on this point. For example, studies show that children with conduct problems are more likely to improve if their parents abandon harsh discipline practices in favor of positive parenting techniq..
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Tips for Motivating Children to do their Jobs

Common Situations Do you dread getting your children to do all of the things they need to do? Are you tired of reminding them to do their chores? Do you wonder how you can motivate them to complete their tasks without your help? The Tip If so, today’s tip may be just the answer you are looking for: Use clear instructions, encouragement and praise to motivate children to do chores. How it Works Be Clear First, make sure your children really understand: what they need to do. how they need to do it. what constitutes a job well done. Often children want your help because they are unsure about what they should do and how to do it. They need your clear instructions in order to proceed. At the beginning, you may need to work with your children before they are ready to work on their own. It can take a while, longer than you’d expect or like, before they are ready to work independently. Be patient. Encourage them Next, help your children to know and understand what the benefits are to t..
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Jul 27, Can babies tell when parents are fighting?

Can babies tell when parents are fighting? Yes, they can, and the consequences aren't good. What can we do about it? © 2018 GWEN DEWAR, PH.D., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Babies sometimes overhear our heated arguments. Can babies tell when parents are fighting? Or does it go over their heads? Experimental research confirms that babies can sense when their mothers are distressed, and the stress is contagious. Experiments also show that 6-month old infants become more physiologically reactive to stressful situations after looking at angry faces (Moore 2009). So it's likely that babies can tell when their parents are embroiled in a nasty argument, and no, it doesn't go over their heads. On the contrary. They feel our stress. How might this stress affect babies? It can be hard to tell what's going on inside an infant. They can't tell us in words, and they don't always provide us with easy-to-read signals. For example, babies can experience physiological str..
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Jul 19, Can babies sense our stress?

Can babies sense our stress? © 2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Can babies sense stress in the people who care for them? Yes, they can. And babies don't just detect our tension. They are affected by it. Stress is contagious. It's one more reason to look after your own well-being -- and to calm down before interacting with your child. Here's what every caregiver needs to know. Empathic stress: How social observation can raise your cortisol levels You've probably experienced it yourself: Becoming unsettled because someone else is stressed-out. Is this a superficial reaction? A fleeting mind-trick that mother nature has played on us? Hardly. In a series of experiments on adults, Veronika Engert and her colleagues discovered they could induce a "full-blown physiological stress response" by merely asking people to watch someone else get stressed. More than 200 volunteers participated. They took turns sitting in an observation area, watching through ..
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Jul 11, Emotion coaching: Helping kids cope with negative feelings

Emotion coaching: Helping kids cope with negative feelings © 2018 GWEN DEWAR, PH.D., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Emotion coaching is the practice of talking with children about their feelings, and offering kids strategies for coping with emotionally difficult situations. The goal is to empathize, reassure, and teach. Does it make a difference? Yes. Here's is review of the evidence, and some tips for becoming a more effective emotion coach. Tuning in: Why kids need emotional support Their bodies might be small, but they same can't be said for their emotional reactions. Young children encounter lots of frustrations and reasons for negativity. They are frequently beset by emotions like anger, sadness, anxiety, and fear. What can we do about it? Obviously, kids are works in progress. Parts of the brain that specialize in self-regulation are still developing, so we shouldn't expect a 3-year-old child to handle disappointment in the same way that a 30-year-old does. More..
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Jul 5, Fun activities to help kids communicate, negotiate, and connect

Social skills activities for children and teens: Evidence-based games and exercises © 2015-2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Social skills activities that help kids forge positive relationships How can we help children develop social competence -- the ability to read emotions, cooperate, make friends, and negotiate conflicts? Kids learn when we act as good role models. They benefit we create environments that reward self-control. But there is nothing quite like practice. To develop and grow, kids need first-hand experience with turn-taking, self-regulation, teamwork, and perspective-taking. Here are 17 research-inspired social skills activities for kids, organized loosely according to age-group. I begin with games suitable for the youngest children, and end with social skills activities appropriate for older kids and teens. For more information about boosting social competence, see these tips for fostering friendships, teaching empathy, and encouraging kindness. ..
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