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

Think About the Answer, Don’t Tell Me

Kids learn to stop and think

“Sit down and pay attention!” Is there a parent who hasn’t uttered these words? When we think of promoting the life skill of paying attention in children—of having the self-control to focus—why is it that we tend to think of making them sit still?

As this video illustrates, researchers have discovered that we can actually best promote focus and self-control by playing active games with children. The video demonstrates the Day/Night Task, courtesy of Adele Diamond, a pioneer in research on brain development from the University of British Columbia, who has long advocated for addressing skills and attitudes in a school setting, not just class content. The essence of the Day/Night Task is that, to promote focus, children have to remember a specific instruction and inhibit the impulse to do what they would naturally do. The experiment is one of 40 examined in Ellen Galinsky’s book and DVD Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs.

Video courtesy of Ellen Galinsky and Mind in the Making

Galinsky, president and cofounder of the Families and Work Institute, urges parents to try their own “experiments” at home too. Besides the Day/Night Task, other games that help children learn to pay attention include Red Light/Green Light, Simon Says or even Do the Opposite, where the child has to do the opposite of what Simon says, such as touching her toes when Simon says “touch your head.”

Galinsky 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 each fascinating. And yield some unexpected wisdom.