Children and Kids articles catalog


How Our Children Really Learn And Why They Need To Play More And Memorize Less - By Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PH.D., And Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, PH.D


Now that we know the scientific data about how children`s brains develop, several lessons emerge. One is a cautionary note, and the others offer ways in which you can see the world differently and stimulate your child`s brain growth in a more natural way.

Let the buyer beware! Don`t let yourself be taken in by the messages about enhancing your baby`s brain development that appear on flashy product lines. Just as sex is used in advertising to sell products to adults, marketers have figured out that brain development sells to parents. There is no evidence, however, that particular educational programs, methods, or techniques are effective for brain development.

For example, listening to Mozart is not bad for your child. That is, if you like Mozart, there is no harm in playing it and exposing your child to music. But you could just as well sing lullabies, play Simon and Garfunkel, the Indigo Girls, or any other band you like. Music is wonderful. There is no doubt about it. But the evidence from research says that listening to Mozart, Madonna, or Mama Cass will not make your child a math genius or budding architect, or even increase his general intelligence.

Think outside the box -- literally. Your child will learn more when you play with him than when you buy him fancy boxes containing self-proclaimed "state-of-the-art" devices with exorbitant claims to build his brain. So what is an appropriate way to use playtime? Take your cues from your children. By taking the time to notice what they are interested in, you can begin to see the environment in a whole new way, as a series of natural opportunities that are stimulating your children at all times. You can then build on these opportunities to make them even more enriching.

Switch from Sesame Street to Barney and Teletubbies. We love Sesame Street, but there are also lessons in slow-moving, repetitive programs like Barney and Teletubbies that children enjoy. The developers of the famous show Blue`s Clues, for example, actually studied what children prefer in order to make their episodes maximally appealing. They found that children love repetition. Indeed, although it may be deadly for us (how many of us have fallen asleep midsentence?), children love to hear the same stories night after night -- they get something new each time and enjoy finding predictable patterns. Furthermore, recent research suggests that limited (1 hour a day) educational television actually has advantages for our children, and these advantages show up in later reading and number skills when our children enter school.

Here`s your assignment: Watch an educational program with your children and see what they enjoy. Research indicates that children get more out of television when their parents watch alongside them. What does your child find exciting in the show? Use it to build on your child`s interests. Perhaps take out some children`s library books on those topics. These interests can also yield conversational material your child will love to talk about.

Move from memorizing to learning in context. If we really want to promote learning and brain growth in babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, we must help them learn in context and not through online game for kids cards. Memorizing does not do the trick and often is mistakenly thought to be true learning. One example of toddler "genius" comes to mind. This child was touted by his mother as an extreme intellect -- a child who could already read many words just after his third birthday. He was asked to visit the neighborhood psychologist, who happened to be me, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, to show off his academic talents. When he arrived, he showed me his Speak and Spell, and the mother proceeded to have him read each word (book, shoe, cup . . . the list went on). After the performance, I applauded and asked the child to go to my television, on which the familiar words "color, volume, channel" were written in large letters. I politely asked him to read these. After all, a child who truly knows how to read should be able to read any new w ord. You can read the nonsense word "thurld" because you know the sounds of the letters and how to combine them. However, the child got so flustered after looking at the words on the set that he fled, and the performance was over. He had learned how to memorize words, perhaps from their shape (for example, "ball" has two tall letters), but he had not really learned to read.

There is no pressing need to have our children read before they go to school. But if we read to them and for them when they ask us what is written on that cereal box or street sign, we are implicitly teaching that reading is fun and has utility. This is what we mean by learning something in context. The other "reading" is simply memorization and has little merit beyond the performance. Thus, some of the gadgets and gizmos on the market offer wonderful opportunities for performing, but fail to create genuine learning. Learning is always more powerful and lasting when it occurs in context.

Plan a field trip -- to your own backyard. It`s great to travel to exotic locations or expensive theme parks, but we don`t have to go there to build brains. We can get a tremendous amount of stimulation in our own backyards, where we can witness the miracle of blades of grass blowing in the wind, of ants building homes, of all that teaming life that lives right down in the dirt. The film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids illustrates the wonderful hidden life that goes on beyond our notice. For children, the yard is a world of bustling activity, science lessons, physics lessons, and lessons about nature and color.

While you`re in the backyard, you can stimulate creativity in your 4- and 5-year-olds by asking them to imagine what it would be like to be the size of an ant. What would look different? What could you hear? What would you be afraid of? Children often love to imagine the fears others may have, so they know they`re not alone.

And along these lines, ask them if they can hear the music of the backyard. Are there instruments to be made from sticks and stones? Whistles from leaves and rhythms from the raindrops? Bring out a blanket and lie down with your eyes closed. What can you hear? Do you hear the leaves rustling in the wind? A bee buzzing? A car grinding? The timpani of thunder? The chickadees` chatter and the mockingbirds` trills? Even 2-year-olds love these games.

Where do the animals and insects in your yard live? Discover each creature`s home. In a wonderful book, A House Is a House for Me by Mary Anne Hoberman, the author asks us to think about a house for a bee and a house for a bird. How do the animals build their homes? Can our 4-and 5-year-olds build nests, too? Would they like to tell us about something they saw that we could write for them? Children love to tell stories as we type them into the computer. "Can we make up stories together about Irving the Ant and how he finds his friend Libby on the forest floor?" There are hours and hours of fun and games in each patch of backyard, no matter how small. And if you can find this much in your backyard, imagine the stimulating environment you`d encounter at the zoo. Or at a children`s museum.

Move from city malls to tennis balls. Sure the malls are fun for us, but they are a buzzing and blooming confusion for our children. Imagine what it must be like to be in a world where all of the people tower over you, where the sounds and the colors rush by, and where adults are more interested in their friends than they are in you. There is no reason to exclude the mall, but we often fail to realize what we can do with everyday objects that surround us all the time. Furthermore, what do you do in the car as you travel to the mall? This is a wonderful time to play children`s music on your tape or CD player and sing along. When your child is a little older, you can play the "I Spy" game. "I spy a . . . dog!" "I spy a . . . policeman!" Oops, mommy better slow down.

At home, an activity as simple as rolling a ball back and forth on the living room carpet can be fascinating to your young child. How do you roll it so that it lands near the other person? How hard do you have to push? What is the angle you have to use? Will the ball hit other objects along its trajectory? This is experience-expectant learning at its best, with physics and math concepts thrown in for free. And it costs no more than the price of a ball.

And before you spend $25 on that educational toy at the mall, think of all the things you have around the house that baby will find very stimulating indeed. Pots and pans and plastic containers are a blast in the kitchen and make a great symphony with a wooden spoon (we never said this would be restful). Laundry baskets on their sides are great for climbing in and out of, as are the large boxes that appliances arrive in. For some reason, children love hiding in and under things and climbing in and out. Blanket forts made by spreading a blanket over a few chairs can be fun for hours if you join in the make-believe and make it grandma`s house. Adding a pillow and a few stuffed animals and books inside can make it a friend`s house or a room at preschool. And why do babies always like to pull things out of drawers? To see what`s inside! Take one low drawer and fill it with surprising and fun things (stuffed animals, books, cars, pictures of family members, and so on) that you change periodically, and let baby hav e a ball unloading it all. Never underestimate the power of ordinary objects when examined with a child`s eye. For children, they are not ordinary at all. And these experiences -- free and fun and unfettered with concerns about doing something educational -- all build better brains.

Reprinted from Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn - And Why They Need to Play More And Memorize Less by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D., and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Ph.D., with Diane Eyer, Ph.D. C 2003 Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098.

To listen to an audio interview with the authors, please visit Written Voices at:

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D., is a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia and director of the Temple University Infant Lab.

Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Ph.D., directs the Infant Language Project at the University of Delaware.

Both are authors of EINSTEIN NEVER USED FLASH CARDS How Our Children REALLY Learn?and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less and internationally recognized scholars on how children learn language. They have worked together on research since 1980, while serving as each other?s best child-rearing advisor. In addition to contributing scores of articles to professional journals, they have written and edited a total of 10 books, including How Babies Talk.

How to test the patience of a parent - to the Limit! - By Julie Kyte

Copyright 2004 Julie Kyte

How to test the patience of a parent - to the Limit!

If you are a parent you will know that it is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. But have you also found that from the minute your child is born there is always somebody ready and willing to give you "their" advice.

Unfortunately most of the advice is not asked for or wanted.

Whether it is your mother, aunt, grandmother, your neighbour down the road, or the postman, everyone is only too willing to tell you, "You`re not quite doing that right," "Well I wouldn`t do that if I were you," "Well in my day "

Even your best friends who are parents themselves make you feel guilty when they say, "Well I didn`t do that with my children." And you look at their children and they are models of perfection and you then worry that yours will turn out delinquents because you forced them to eat all their brussel sprouts.

There also seems to be a multitude of books written on the subject of child rearing, most of which seem to be written by either Psychologists or Paediatricians, who I suspect have never had any children of their own.

When does anyone ever say, "You are doing a great job you have lovely children keep up the good work."

Have you also noticed that before you had children you were not usually noticed, you could blend in anywhere, but once you have a child with you, everyone seems to notice you and wants to make your acquaintance. Usually at the most inconvenient and inappropriate times.

Supermarkets are particularly good for this. Picture the scenario, you are with your baby, who has just at that moment decided to wake up and scream.

You have a heavy shopping trolley, you need to get to the bank before it closes, and you are struggling to stop your toddler from picking up and eating every chocolate bar within it`s reach - which the supermarkets so cleverly place in easy reach, and low down for this very reason.

And also to stop them from toppling over a very precariously balanced five-foot stack of baked beans. If this wasn`t stressful enough just at that moment someone decides to come up to you and start cooing over your children.

They want to know names, ages, sexes, and will you be having any more! Sometimes they will part with information about their own children or worse still their relations.

You finally manage to politely escape and breath a sigh of relief, only to find another person in the next aisle is waiting to pounce. And just wait until you get to the checkout!

There also seems to be an unwritten code as to how you should dress children even in this enlightened age.

By this I mean blue for a boy and pink for a girl and heaven forbid if you dare to break this code. I have lost count of the number of times my two daughters have been referred to as boys because I choose to dress them in blue. When I politely correct people as to the right gender of my daughters all I receive is a hurt look and a silent "Well how was I supposed to know if you will dress your child in the wrong colour!" If a child wears a beret does that make them French!

Just being in a public place seems to make you fair game for prolonged stares, comments, and advice. You can`t even go for a walk in the park on a summer`s day without someone coming up to you and telling you that you should put a hat on your baby, or a walk on a winter`s day without someone telling you that your baby should have something warmer on. As an adult you wouldn`t dare go up to a complete stranger and tell them they needed to wear a warmer coat! Well would you?

You are walking with your toddler and they are happily playing safely some distance away but clearly within your eyesight and a complete stranger tells you that you need to keep a closer eye on them.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of "Ooh isn`t your child small for their age?" "Ooh isn`t your child big for their age?" "Well I think your child should be doing this by now, is there something wrong with them?" or, "Well I`d take them to the doctor if I were you."

You go for a quiet meal in a restaurant and the people on other tables seem more interested in you than their own meals, they even stop eating to turn round to look at you. Even the waiters and waitresses start flocking around you - not I might add to take your order - but to coo over your children.

Almost everywhere you go people seem to stare at you, transfixed by your children.

But why is it then, that when you are struggling to get onto a bus with a heavy pram, baby and toddler in tow, trying to get through a heavy swing door to enter a building, or your child has just thrown themselves onto the floor in a fit of tantrums, that nobody bothers to lift a finger to help you!

Suddenly you become invisible again, except for a tut and a mutter as people step over your prostrate screaming three year old.

Where are all these people and advice givers at five o`clock in the morning? When you`ve been up all night because your child has been ill, to help you because you are exhausted due to the fact that you have been up every two hours breastfeeding, or to comfort your toddler who has had a particularly bad nightmare?

Where are they to help wipe tears and put a plaster on a grazed knee, to take a worried child to it`s first day at school, to help sooth the pain of a screaming baby with colic or teething pain.

I think the moral here is,

If you are a criticiser and advice giver, ask yourself why you need to do this - is it because you think you made such a bad job of bringing up your own children?

If you are a child watcher - have some of your own, then you won`t have the time to watch other peoples ;-)

And finally -

If you are a parent - you are doing a great job, you have lovely children, keep up the good work!


Renew your Vitality and Passion for Life in the next 90 days!

Would you like to know in detail which things are healthy to eat, to use, and which to avoid? What if you could change your life for the better - in the next 90 days? Reveals Confidential Truths about environmentally friendly living.

Julie Kyte

Pendulum dowser and Environmentalist

Copyright 2004 Julie Kyte

Please feel free to reprint this article unedited in your newsletter or website.


Julie is a qualified Midwife and Nurse - now practicing Allergy dowsing and therapeutic massage. She promotes environmentally friendly living and natural Health remedies. You can find out more about her new book -"101 tips for environmentally friendly living" and sign up for her monthly newsletter at;


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