Ellen Galinsky
Ellen Galinsky
President and co-founder
Families and Work Institute (FWI)
FULL BIO >

Give Me Broccoli!

A window into a child’s perspective

Do you ever listen in on your child when she is engaged in make-believe play? What do you think she’s learning when she pretends to be the mommy?

Imagine this scenario: A “mommy,” “daddy,” and “baby” are going down the pretend street to the pretend store, when they see a “policeman” who tells them to stop and wait because it’s a red light. Then, when the light changes and they cross, the policeman decides to leave his post and go off to the store with the others.

“You can’t do that,” says the baby. “You have to stay and direct traffic.” The mommy responds, “How do you know — you’re just a baby?”

In that small moment are many opportunities for children to learn about the world — what a mommy, daddy and baby do and the policeman’s job. But another kind of learning is going on, too. When children pretend, they are learning the life skill of perspective-taking — of figuring out what someone else thinks or feels, knows or doesn’t know.

A child who can understand what the teachers and other children expect does better and is less likely to get into conflicts in school. The ability to take perspective develops in all children, as the experiment in this video shows, but its use must be promoted. And pretend play is one of the best ways for children to practice.

It’s a skill that is criticallly important in all aspects of life, including success in school, notes Ellen Galinsky, author of the book and DVD Mind in the Making: The Sevel Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs. Galinsky examined — and videotaped — 40 experiments in child development research, including this one, in which Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology at the University of California, shows how infants begin to develop this importatn skill of taking perspective.

Video courtesy of Ellen Galinsky and Mind in the Making

Ellen Galinsky, president and cofounder of the Families and Work Institute, spent the past 11 years honing Mind in the Making, talking to child development experts across the country. In the process, she led the team who taped the DVD’s 40 important experiments in child development research — from the classics to the cutting edge — to create these videos LearnNow shows here. They’re fascinating. And yield some unexpected wisdwom.