Inspiring, Troubling and More: Research and Stories on Child Learning and Development

Inspiring, Troubling and More: Research and Stories on Child Learning and Development

“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.” ~ Stacia Tauscher

For a while now, participants in my keynotes and playshops have asked me to share the growing collection of research and stories I have on child learning and development. Teachers, in particular, want to share these finding with parents and education faculty to broaden perspectives on the importance of such things as play and nature in learning and development.

Each piece below is listed as an excerpt of useful information with a link to its associated article making your perusing easier. Feel free to come back to this page as I will add new findings regularly, listing them at the top of their respective category.

Scattered amongst the research and stories you will see a few articles I have written that create further context. They are separated out by lines like the one just below.

Please do share using the social links at the top and bottom of this page. This information is an important step in creating a new paradigm for how we see and engage children.

Related reading: Inspiring Quotes on Child Learning and Development



“If you trust play, you will not have to control your child’s development as much. Play will raise the child in ways you can never imagine.” ~ Vince Gowmon

“Psychologists at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver studied the schedules of 70 six-year olds, and they found that the kids who spent more time in less-structured activities had more highly-developed self-directed executive function.”

Study: Too Many Structured Activities May Hinder Children’s Executive Functioning | Ellen Wexler, Education Week


“There was a significant difference in the quality of toddlers’ play between the two toy conditions,” the study reports. “As measured by sustained play and variety of manners of play, toddlers had a greater quality of play in the Four Toy condition compared to the Sixteen Toy condition.”

New Study Underscores Why Fewer Toys Is the Better Option: When it comes to toys, in terms of development and creativity, less is more.Susan Newman Ph.D., Psychology Today


Here’s more concrete research showing that kids are “happier” when they have “increased opportunities for risk and challenge… reduced rules, and added loose parts.”

Change of School Playground Environment on Bullying: A Randomized Controlled TrialVictoria L. Farmer, Sheila M. Williams, Jim I. Mann, Grant Schofield, Julia C. McPhee, Rachael W. Taylor, Paediatrics


“The findings are in a survey by the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, which asked 1,500 children aged between 5 and 11 to rank their favourite summer-time activities in order of preference. Playing in the park or in the garden was ranked as the top pastime. Mud pie-making, tree-climbing and feeding the ducks also came in the top ten.”

Children prefer simple pleasures to organised trips, research finds | James Hall, The Telegraph


“Kids naturally like to play make-believe. Studies have now shown how imaginative playing may be used to prepare kids for school. In a number of studies, Singer and Singer’s (1992, 2001) research team trained parents, teachers, and home care providers in make-believe games that included lessons about numbers, colors, shapes, vocabulary, and reading. These researchers found that children who play with their caregivers in these imaginative ways make significant gains in readiness skills, as compared to a control group whose caregivers did not learn these play skills. Playing is also good for caregivers, because it involves them as full partners in children’s development.”

Playing Make-Believe Prepares Kids for the Real World | Singer & Singer, 2001; Singer & Singer, 1992


“In the 1970s, the German government sponsored a large-scale comparison in which the graduates of 50 play-based kindergartens were compared, over time, with the graduates of 50 academic direct-instruction-based kindergartens. Despite the initial academic gains of direct instruction, by grade four the children from the direct-instruction kindergartens performed significantly worse than those from the play-based kindergartens on every measure that was used. In particular, they were less advanced in reading and mathematics and less well adjusted socially and emotionally.”

Early Academic Training Produces Long-Term Harm | Peter Gray, via Psychology Today


“We find that a one-year delay in the start of school dramatically reduces inattention/hyperactivity at age 7 (effect size = -0.7), a measure of self regulation with strong negative links to student achievement… The results… indicate that delays in school starting age imply substantial improvements in mental health.”

The Gift Of Time? School Starting Age And Mental HealthThomas S. Dee Hans Henrik Sievertsen, National Bureau Of Economic Research


“Eagle Mountain Elementary in Fort Worth, Texas, has been giving kindergarten and first-grade students two 15-minute recess breaks every morning and two 15-minute breaks every afternoon to go play outside. …not only are the students paying better attention in class, they’re following directions better, attempting to learn more independently and solve problems on their own, and there have been fewer disciplinary issues.”

Texas School Triples Recess Time And Sees Immediate Positive Results In Kids | Elizabeth Licata,


“Roughhousing triggers a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which really is like fertilizer for our brains. It activates multiple areas of the brain and promotes healthy brain development, including stimulating neuron growth within the cortex and hippocampus regions of the brain, responsible for memory, learning, language, and logic. It ups a child’s academic and emotional smarts, motor skill development, and a feeling of being happy.”

6 Benefits of Roughhousing for Kids | Therese Borchard, PsychCentral


“Two major studies confirmed the value of play vs. teaching reading skills to young children. Both compared children who learned to read at 5 with those who learned at 7 and spent their early years in play-based activities. Those who read at 5 had no advantage. Those who learned to read later had better comprehension by age 11, because their early play experiences improved their language development.”

The Disturbing Transformation of Kindergarten | by Wendy Lecker, Education Columnist for Hearst Connecticut Media Group


“Children’s formative years are similar to those of a butterfly in metamorphosis. In the same way a butterfly pumps blood into its strengthening wings by pushing the boundaries of its chrysalis, children pump blood into their own wings by giving themselves fully to their play. Climbing along fences, balancing on tree branches, skipping across large boulders, and hanging upside down from monkey bars pushes the edges of possibility, and charges the mind and body with life energy—life blood—or Chi as the Chinese call it. Consistent, active, free play ensures that vital life force doesn’t get stuck—that it flows as it is meant to, and that it nourishes the ideas, innovation and gifts swirling and forming in the womb of imagination.”

Remembering the Soulfulness of Play ~ Trusting the Intelligence of Play to Raise a Child | Vince Gowmon


“Today’s children are enclosed in school and home, enclosed in cars to shuttle between them, enclosed by fear, by surveillance and poverty and enclosed in rigid schedules of time.” Since the 1970s the area in which children roam without adults has decreased by almost 90%. “Childhood is losing its commons.”

Children in our towns and cities are being robbed of safe spaces to play | George Monbiot, The Guardian, UK


“Parents who joke and pretend with their children are teaching them important life skills, research by the University of Sheffield has revealed. The study showed that children as young as 16 months old naturally learn the difference between joking and pretending by picking up on their parents’ cues. It also showed understanding the difference between the two allows children the opportunity to learn, imagine, bond, and think in abstract ways.”

Want to boost your toddler’s development? Put a toy chicken on your head | Science Daily ~ Study from the University’s Department of Psychology


“In a research study published a few years ago, Twenge and her colleagues analyzed the results of many previous studies that used Rotter’s Scale with young people from 1960 through 2002. They found that over this period average scores shifted dramatically—for children aged 9 to 14 as well as for college students—away from the Internal (locus of control) toward the External end of the scale. In fact, the shift was so great that the average young person in 2002 was more External than were 80% of young people in the 1960s. The rise in Externality on Rotter’s scale over the 42-year period showed the same linear trend as did the rise in depression and anxiety.”

The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental Disorders | Peter Gray, Psychology Today  


“A long-term study conducted by developmental psychologists David Harrington, Jeanne Block, and Jack Block, in the 1970s and ’80s, revealed that young children whose parents allowed them a great deal of freedom to play and make their own choices grew to be far more creative, when assessed years later in middle school and high school, than did children whose parents were more directive and controlling.”

Backing Off Is Hard To Do | Peter Gray, TocaBoca


“A study of more than 400 children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has found a link between the children’s routine play settings and the severity of their symptoms, researchers report. Those who regularly play in outdoor settings with lots of green (grass and trees, for example) have milder ADHD symptoms than those who play indoors or in built outdoor environments, the researchers found. The association holds even when the researchers controlled for income and other variables.”

For kids with ADHD, regular ‘green time’ is linked to milder symptoms | Diana Yates, Illinois News Bureau 


“Separating play, and our playful Self, is like trying to chop Life or nature into pieces. It is a disregard for what is naturally intrinsic and true. Play is our natural state; it is meant to be infused in every moment. When we play we paint our life from the myriad of colors that is our spirit; we sing the song that our planet longs to hear; and we dance our bodies moving with the rhythms of this moment. We align with and say an emphatic Yes to Life by connecting to, celebrating and expressing the creative power that is our life force.”

The Disappearance of Play ~ 7 Reasons We Play Less Than Ever | Vince Gowmon


“Superintendent of Manchester (N.H.) schools, L. P. Benezet…showed that children who received just one year of arithmetic, in sixth grade, performed at least as well on standard school calculations and much better on math story problems than kids who had received six years of arithmetic training. This was all the more remarkable because those who received just one year of training were from the poorest neighbourhoods—the neighbourhoods that had previously produced the poorest test results.”

How Early Academic Training Retards Intellectual Development | Peter Gray, via Psychology Today 


“Other research has found that early didactic instruction might actually worsen academic performance. Rebecca A. Marcon, a psychology professor at the University of North Florida, studied 343 children who had attended a preschool class that was “academically oriented,” one that encouraged “child initiated” learning, or one in between. She looked at the students’ performance several years later, in third and fourth grade, and found that by the end of the fourth grade those who had received more didactic instruction earned significantly lower grades than those who had been allowed more opportunities to learn through play. Children’s progress “may have been slowed by overly academic preschool experiences that introduced formalized learning experiences too early for most children’s developmental status,” Dr. Marcon wrote.”

Let the Kids Learn Through Play | David Kohn, The New York Times


“The experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain,” says Sergio Pellis, a researcher at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. “And without play experience, those neurons aren’t changed,” he says.”It is those changes in the prefrontal cortex during childhood that help wire up the brain’s executive control center, which has a critical role in regulating emotions, making plans, and solving problems,” Pellis says. “So play,” he adds, “is what prepares a young brain for life, love and even schoolwork.”

Scientists Claim Time On The Playground Is More Beneficial Than Time In The Classroom | Sunny Skyz


“To learn more about how preschoolers spend their day, University of Washington researchers monitored the activities of 98 children attending 10 preschools in Seattle. The scientists spent an average of seven hours a day for at least four days at each school. They tracked the amount of time children were given for active play, and students were equipped with accelerometers — wearable devices that measure movement — as a way to gauge the children’s level of physical activity during play time.

The study showed that most of the time children were in preschool, they were not given the opportunity for active play either indoors or outdoors. Even when they were given play opportunities, much of the activity was sedentary. Over all, children did not have the opportunity for active play for more than six hours of the school day. Just under two of those hours were spent in nap time, but during another 4.5 hours a day when the children were awake, they did not have an opportunity for active play. On average, only about 48 minutes in a child’s day — about 12 percent of the time he or she spent in child care — were set aside for active play time.”

Preschoolers More Likely to Sit Around Than Run Around at School | KJ Dell’Antonia, The New York Times  


“The core reason we ready children too early and too much is because we lost our innocence, and in this, we lost faith in play. At some point in our lives, we were pulled away from the playful, imaginative, expressive parts of ourselves we embodied so well as children; the ones we explored freely through our creative twists and turns. We were told “No!” enough times to narrow our lives to the straight line, to where we “ought” to be. Usually unwittingly, and without the intent to harm, our parents, teachers and others taught us that our squiggly impulses—our emotions, dreams, needs and desires—were not valid. Some of us may have fought hard to resist, as more and more kids are doing today. And some of us may have conceded early on. But for all of us, we chose to believe that we were wrong or bad for being who we naturally were. In an act of shame and self-preservation we tucked our squiggly impulses away and conceded to the laws of linearity.”

The Core Reason We “Ready” Children Too Early and Too Much | Vince Gowmon


Creativity / The Arts

“Are we forming children who are only capable of learning what is known, or should we try to develop creative and innovative minds?” ~ Jean Piaget 

Research suggests that children who are the most creative are less likely to garner favouritism from teachers than students who conform more to teacher/behavioural expectations.

Creativity: Asset or Burden in the Classroom? | Creativity Research Journal


“Children with a photography background were 30% more likely to have a patent. The researchers found 93% of the STEM graduates reported musical training at some point in their lives, as compared to only 34% of average adults, as reported by the National Endowment for the Arts. It’s no coincidence that Albert Einstein played the violin religiously since childhood.”

Childhood Creativity Leads to Innovation in Adulthood | Christopher Bergland, from Psychology Today


“A team of researchers studied a group of Michigan State University Honors College graduates from 1990 to 1995 who majored in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). They found that people who had their own business or patents received up to eight times more exposure to the arts as children than the general public. Those who had been exposed to metal work and electronics during childhood were 42% more likely to own a patent than those without exposure. Those involved in architecture were 87.5% more likely to form a company.”

Childhood Creativity Leads to Innovation in Adulthood | Christopher Bergland, from Psychology Today


“Boston Philharmonic conductor Benjamin Zander…found a creative solution for this built-in ‘expectation of failure.’ He decided to give all his students ‘A’s on the first day of class for the work they would perform in the coming year. There was one condition: On the first day of the school year, they had to write him a letter explaining why they would earn that ‘A’ by the end of the year. Zander has since accumulated stacks of compelling letters from his students. More important, he discovered that his students’ performance dramatically improved. The pre-assigned ‘A’ instantly empowers the inspired students; their capacity to perform is triggered.”

Optimism: There’s always a way


“Questioning is a natural and necessary part of any change process. Asking “Why?”, wondering, imagining, dreaming new dreams, engaging in healthy open discussions, and challenging existing worldviews all open an array of doors into new paradigms. And kids, with their innovative spirits burning brighter than ever, are at the frontier of the burgeoning creative revolution we are currently in. They are reimagining our future daily by increasingly asking, “What if” and “Why not?””

Why Kids Need to Question, Not Conform ~ Unleashing Creativity and the Rascal Within | Vince Gowmon


“One study compared the families of children who were rated among the most creative 5 percent in their school system with those who were not unusually creative. The parents of ordinary children had an average of six rules, like specific schedules for homework and bedtime. Parents of highly creative children had an average of fewer than one rule..”

How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off | Adam Grant, NY Times


“…(adults) scoring in the ‘above-average’ creativity bracket reported spending 15% of their total childhood leisure time playing informal sports versus 13% playing organized sports. The participants with ‘below-average’ creativity, on the other hand, spent only 10% of their childhood leisure time playing informal sports versus 22% in organized sports..”

Making your kid play organized sports could cost them their creativity | Matthew Bowers Quartz


“Over the last three decades, while schoolchildren K-12 have become better test-takers, they’ve also become less imaginative, according to many experts in education, including Kyung Hee Kim, a professor of education at the College of William and Mary. In 2011, she analyzed scores from the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking and found that: “children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle. The largest drop,” as author Hanna Rosin points out in The Atlantic, “has been in the measure of ‘elaboration,’ or the ability to take an idea and expand on it in a novel way.”

Why Playful Learning Is The Key To Prosperity | John Converse Townsend, Forbes


“Instead of art as a stand-alone subject, teachers are using dance, drama and the visual arts to teach a variety of academic subjects in a more engaging way. Middle-school students in Arlington have built sculptures to learn about exponents, and students have used art to express their thoughts and opinions about police brutality and racial equality. A study by the American Institutes for Research found that students in classes headed by Wolf Trap-trained teachers (math is taught through creative movement) performed better on math assessments than did their peers being taught by teachers who were not in the program. (They) gained about 1.3 months of math learning in the first year over their peers. By the second year, they were 1.7 months ahead.”

Teachers are using theater and dance to teach math — and it’s working | Moriah Balingit, Washington Post


Nature and Physical Activity

“Movement isn’t a break from learning; movement is learning, and the opportunities for thoughtful exploration in the classroom are endless.” ~ Aleta Margolis

“A study of 169 girls and boys in a public housing development in Chicago found that girls who had greener views from their apartments did better on tests that measured self-discipline. Of the range in test scores, one-fifth of the variation could be explained by the differences in the “greenness” of the kids’ surroundings.

These benefits may be even greater for children with attention-deficit disorder. A survey of 96 families in the Midwest asked parents which activities appeared to decrease their child’s symptoms and which seemed to increase them. Parents consistently chose “green” activities as having a positive effect on their child’s symptoms.”

How gardening can help build healthier, happier kidsShannon Brescher Shea, The Washington Post


“A study of 337 rural 8-11 year olds revealed that even when there was a relative abundance of natural surroundings in their lives, more exposure to nature was still better. The study found that regardless of a family’s socioeconomic status, the greener the home surroundings, the more resilient children appeared to be against stress and adversity. The protective effect of nature was strongest for the most vulnerable children who experienced the highest levels of stressful life events.”

Children and Nature | Nature Rocks Education


“For the large study involving 2,623 schoolchildren in Barcelona, researchers first assessed the amount of greenery around the children’s homes, along their commutes to school, and surrounding the schools themselves. They then measured the children’s working memories and attention spans using a series of word and number tests. The children who had more vegetation around their schools showed more progress in working memory and attention over the course of a year, a finding that held true even after the authors controlled for socioeconomic status. (The associations with the commute and home-based greenery were not as strong.)”

Green Spaces Make Kids Smarter | Olga Khazan, The Atlantic


“Researchers enlisted the help of 12 schools throughout China to take part (in a study). Half of the schools were asked to give their first graders an extra period of recess every day while the other half did not. In all, 1,900 first graders, aged 6 and 7, were evaluated over the course of the three-year experiment. …researchers found that 40 percent of the kids in the school who did not have extra recess developed myopia compared to 30 percent of the kids who did get the extra time outdoors. This means that about 45 minutes of extra outdoor play resulted in a 23 percent decrease in the development of myopia.”

Outdoor play reduces myopia risk for kids | Jenn Savedge, Mother Nature Network


“…at Hotchkiss Elementary School in Dallas, passing rates of fourth-graders in an environment-based program surpassed by 13 percent those of students in an earlier, traditional class.…teachers had once made 560 disciplinary referrals to the principal’s office in a single year. Two years later, as the environment-based program kicked into gear, the number dropped to 50.”

Last Child in the Woods | Richard Louv


“More than one in nine children in England have not set foot in a park, forest, beach or any other natural environment for at least 12 months, according to a two-year study funded by the (UK) government.” “The enthusiasm of parents for green spaces strongly influenced whether children visited natural environments. In households where adults were frequent visitors, 82% of children followed their lead. In households where the adults rarely or never visited the natural environment, the proportion of children visiting fell to 39%.”

Concerns raised over number of children not engaging with nature | Patrick Barkham and Jessica Aldred, The Guardian


“Children love until they are taught otherwise. They love themselves enough to be okay with their body, capabilities and feelings until they are taught to doubt and sublimate themselves. Core beliefs such as I am not (good) enough, I am not worthy, I am inadequate, I am not valuable, I am not loveable take shape in, and fragment, the child’s psyche. They unconsciously shape the child’s present and future experiences, and cause so much suffering in her life. These beliefs, these core fears, are part of the current human condition on our planet, and they impede our ability to make empowering choices and create fulfillment.”

12 Ways Children Live and Love Fearlessly (and Teach Us to Be/Do the Same!) | Vince Gowmon


“A Canadian study showed that “(o)nly seven percent of 5 to 11-year-olds and five percent of 12 to17-year-olds met recommended guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily. Walking quickly, skating and biking are examples of moderate activities, while running, basketball and soccer are considered vigorous activities…. Another study found Grade 5 and 6 students who were often or always allowed to go out and explore unsupervised were 20 per cent more active than kids who were constantly supervised.”

Canadian children in dire need of outdoor play | Lauren La Rose, The Canadian Press


“…compared to children from the early 1980s, only one out of twelve children had normal (core) strength and balance. Only one! Oh my goodness, I thought to myself. These children need to move!… Children are going to class with bodies that are less prepared to learn than ever before. With sensory systems not quite working right, they are asked to sit and pay attention. Children naturally start fidgeting in order to get the movement their body so desperately needs and is not getting enough of to ‘turn their brain on.’”

Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today | Valerie Strauss, Washington Post


“More and more research underscores the invaluable and positive impact recess can have on teaching and learning. In early 2009, researcher Romina Barros of Einstein College found that third grade students who had at least 15 minutes of recess every day behaved better in the classroom than their peers who did not get daily recess.”

To Improve School Climate, Examine Recess | Jill Vialet, Edutopia


“One in two children spend an hour or less outside per day, in contrast to prisoners who are guaranteed two hours in the open air every day, a global study has revealed. A survey of 12,000 parents with children aged from five to 12 years old, in 10 countries, found almost a third of children play outside for just 30 minutes or less a day.”

Children Around The World Spend Less Time Outdoors Than Prisoners, Global Study Reveals | Amy Packham, Huff Post


“According to a Gallup poll commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 77 percent of school principals report that they withhold recess as punishment, even as they simultaneously sing the praises of recess as a factor in academic, cognitive, and social development. In that same report, eight in 10 principals acknowledge that time to play has a “positive impact on achievement,” and two-thirds of principals state that “students listen better after recess and are more focused in class.”

Students Who Lose Recess Are the Ones Who Need It Most | Jessica Lahey, NY Times


“The quality of being able to enjoy life’s simple moments is not far away. In fact, it is our natural state to do so (or should I say, be so!). Children in their innocence and purity are powerful mirrors that show us what is innately within, and what we long to reconnect to—a presence that has never left us. They help us release a familiar spark from within that says, this is who I am, and always have been, deep inside.”

6 Ways Children Live in the Present Moment | Vince Gowmon


“Recess also brings academic benefits, both in actual learning and improved behavior. When kids return to the classroom their accuracy and factual recall shoots up. They can pay attention and absorb new material better. They goof off less and test scores typically rise since recess is an ally for memory and focus. In fact, research on third-graders conducted by the University of Minnesota found that kids grow increasingly inattentive the longer they have to wait for recess.”

Parents want recess for their kids. Here’s why they should keep fighting for it | Heather Shumaker, Washington Post


“A study from the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health finds students with standing desks are more attentive than their seated counterparts. In fact, preliminary results show 12 percent greater on-task engagement in classrooms with standing desks, which equates to an extra seven minutes per hour of engaged instruction time.”

We think better on our feet, literally | Science Daily, Texas A&M University



“Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then, if you have understood well, perhaps teaching will be different from before.” ~ Loris Malaguzzi 

“Still, you’ve probably felt the pressure – whether from media reports or other parents — to teach your child to read as soon as possible. Less often reported is that children taught to read at an early age have more vision problems, and those taught at age five have more difficulty reading than those taught at age seven. Moreover, the research shows that usually by third grade, and certainly by middle school, there’s no real difference in reading levels between those who started reading early and those who started later.”

Debunking the Belief That Earlier Is Better | Rae Pica, Parent Toolkit


“A study in Psychological Science shows how conversation — the interplay between a parent or caregiver and a child — ignites the language centers in a child’s brain. It’s the first study to show a relationship between the words children hear at home and the growth of their neural processing capacities — showing, in effect, that how parents talk to their children changes children’s brains.”

The Brain-Changing Power of ConversationBari Walsh, Harvard Graduate School of Education


“The primary cause of the extraordinary difference between the brains of these two three-year-old children is the way they were treated by their mothers. The child with the much more fully developed brain was cherished by its mother, who was constantly and fully responsive to her baby. The child with the shrivelled brain was neglected and abused. That difference in treatment explains why one child’s brain develops fully, and the other’s does not.”

What’s the difference between these two brains?Alasdair Palmer, The Telegraph


“Multiple research studies on emotional contagion have found that it only takes milliseconds for emotions like enthusiasm and joy, as well as sadness, fear, and anger, to pass from person to person, and this often occurs without either person realizing it (Goleman, 1991, Hatfield et al., 2014). Kids especially pick up on their parents’ moods. If we are stressed, distracted, down, or always-on-the-verge-of-frustrated, kids emulate these moods. When we are peaceful and grounded, kids model off that instead.”

Not Naughty: 10 Ways Kids Appear to Be Acting Bad But Aren’tErin Leyba LCSW, Ph.D., Psychology Today


“Ever say to your kid, “Don’t throw that!” and they throw it anyway? Research suggests that the brain regions involved in self-control are immature at birth and don’t fully mature until the end of adolescence, which explains why developing self-control is a “long, slow process” (Tarullo, Obradovic, & Gunna, 2009, 31). A recent survey revealed that many parents assume children can do things at earlier ages than child-development experts know to be true. For example, 56 percent of parents felt that children under the age of 3 should be able to resist the desire to do something forbidden, whereas most children don’t master this skill until age three-and-a-half or four (Zero to Three, 2016). Reminding ourselves that kids can’t always manage impulses (because their brains aren’t fully developed) can inspire gentler reactions to their behaviour.”

Not Naughty: 10 Ways Kids Appear to Be Acting Bad But Aren’tErin Leyba LCSW, Ph.D., Psychology Today


“The findings, published in the journal Developmental Psychology, follow over 700 kids from around age 9 all the way to 40, noting their sense of entitlement, studiousness according to teachers, defiance against their parents, and tendency to break the rules. Guess who earned the highest salaries in the end? The kids who ignored both rules and their parents.”

Why Your Stubborn Kid Will Probably Be A Wildly Successful Adult | Jillian Rose Lim, Fast Company


“Shawn Achor’s research at Harvard shows that college grades aren’t any more predictive of subsequent life success than rolling dice. A study of over seven hundred American millionaires showed their average college GPA was 2.9.”

Wondering What Happened to Your Class Valedictorian? Not Much, Research Shows | Eric Barker, Money


“A finding by Sara Konrath at Michigan University shows that young people are becoming less empathic than ever; American College students showed a 48% decrease in empathic concern and a 34% drop in their ability to see other people’s perspectives.”

The one crucial skill our education system is missingBelinda Parmar, World Economic Forum


“Reams of research show that kids who are praised for being smart fixate on performance, shying away from taking risks and meeting potential failure. Kids who are praised for their efforts (process) try harder and persist with tasks longer. These “effort” kids have a “growth mindset” marked by resilience and a thirst for mastery; the “smart” ones have a “fixed mindset” believing intelligence to be innate and not malleable.”

The Stanford professor who pioneered praising kids for effort says we’ve totally missed the point | Jenny Anderson, Quartz


“Researchers Lisa Blackwell of Columbia University, along with Kali Trzesniewski and Carol Dweck of Stanford University, published a study in the journal Child Development in 2007 that found that both morale and grade points took a leap when students understood the idea that intelligence is malleable. Not only did those students who already believed this do better in school, but when researchers actively taught the idea to a group of students, they performed significantly better than their peers in a control group.”

Neuroplasticity: Learning Physically Changes the BrainSara Bernard, Edutopia


“Hsu explained that the school spent more than a year ‘analyzing studies focused on the effects of traditional homework’ and decided that it was more important for the Pre-K through fifth grade students to do activities that ‘have been proven to have a positive impact on student academic performance and social/emotional development’ such as reading at their own pace and playing. ‘In fact, you may be surprised to learn that there have been a variety of studies conducted on the effects of homework in the elementary grades and not one of them could provide any evidence that directly links traditional homework practices with current, or even future, academic success.'”

Elementary School Dumps Homework and Tells Kids to Play Instead | Heather Holland, DNAInfo


“New research at Stanford University encouraged middle school teachers to take on an “empathetic mindset” when students were being disciplined. The study found that the number of pupils who were suspended across the academic year halved, from 9.6% to 4.8%. The lead author of the study was Jason Okonofua, a Stanford psychology post-doctoral fellow, who joined with David Paunesku, a psychology researcher, and Gregory Walton, an associate professor of psychology. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

Study: Focus on Empathy, Not Punishment, Improves Discipline | Grace Smith, Education News


“A core reason we want to fix and pull someone out of their experience is because we, unconsciously, have a hard time being with their feelings, whether they are sadness, fear, anger, confusion etc. And we have this difficulty because we struggle to be with these feelings in ourselves. What you cannot be with within, you will avoid or seek to remove in others. Unwittingly, we rescue others from the feelings we rescued ourselves from many years ago when it was not safe to feel, feelings we continue to avoid today.”

Start With Empathy ~ The Gift of Being With Others in Their World | Vince Gowmon


“An analysis of 213 studies showed that students who received SEL (social and emotional learning) instruction had achievement scores that averaged 11 percentile points higher than those who did not. And SEL potentially leads to long-term benefits such as higher rates of employment and educational fulfillment.”

What are the 21st-century skills every student needs? | Jenny Soffel, World Economic Forum


“Children under two spend, on average, more than two hours every day watching TV or using other screen media like computer games and video games. But according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under 2 should not be watching TV, videos, or DVDs at all. In fact, the Academy recommends no “screen time” for babies and toddlers.”

National Centre for Health Research 


“Between 0 and 2 years, infant’s brains triple in size, and continue in a state of rapid development to 21 years of age (Christakis 2011). Early brain development is determined by environmental stimuli, or lack thereof. Stimulation to a developing brain caused by overexposure to technologies (cell phones, internet, iPads, TV), has been shown to be associated with executive functioning and attention deficit, cognitive delays, impaired learning, increased impulsivity and decreased ability to self-regulate, e.g. tantrums (Small 2008, Pagini 2010).”

10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12 | Cris Rowan, Huff Post


“…delaying kindergarten for one year reduced inattention and hyperactivity by 73 percent for an average child at age 11 and it virtually eliminated the probability that an average child at that age would have an ‘abnormal,’ or higher-than-normal rating for the inattentive-hyperactive behavioral measure.”

Delaying Kindergarten Until Age of 7 Offers Key Benefits to Kids — Study | Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post


“According to Daphna Bassok, an assistant professor of education and public policy at the University of Virginia, in 1998, 30% of teachers believed that children should learn to read while in kindergarten. In 2010, that figure was at 80%.”

Why are our kids so miserable? | Jenny Anderson, Quartz


“A 30-year longitudinal study of more than a thousand kids – the gold standard for uncovering relationships between behavioral variables – found that those children with the best cognitive control had the greatest financial success in their 30s. Cognitive control predicted success better than a child’s IQ, and better than the wealth of the family they grew up in… These human skills include, for instance, confidence, striving for goals despite setbacks, staying cool under pressure, harmony and collaboration, persuasion and influence.Those are the competencies companies use to identify their star performers about twice as often as do purely cognitive skills (IQ or technical abilities) for jobs of all kinds. The higher you go up the ladder, the more emotional intelligence matters: for top leadership positions they are about 80 to 90 percent of distinguishing competences…”

What Predicts Success? It’s Not Your IQ | Daniel Goleman


“Hundreds of students were involved in (an) experimental study (Cohen & Garcia, 2014) of high school English classes. All of the students wrote essays and received critical diagnostic feedback from their teachers, but half the students received a single extra sentence on the bottom of the feedback. The students who received the extra sentence achieved at significantly higher levels a year later, even though the teachers did not know who received the sentence and there were no other differences between the groups. The sentence: ‘I am giving you this feedback because I believe in you.’”

How Showing and Telling Kids ‘I Believe in You’ Can Empower Them at School | Jo Boaler, MindShift 


“Conversation is gold. It’s the most efficient early-learning system we have. And it’s far more valuable than most of the reading-skills curricula we have been implementing: One meta-analysis of 13 early-childhood literacy programs ‘failed to find any evidence of effects on language or print-based outcomes.’ Take a moment to digest that devastating conclusion.”

The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids | Erika Christakis, The Atlantic


“One major study of 700 preschool classrooms in 11 states found that only 15 percent showed evidence of effective interactions between teacher and child. Fifteen percent.”

The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids | Erika Christakis, The Atlantic


“(A) study, titled “Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?,” compared kindergarten teachers’ attitudes nationwide in 1998 and 2010 and found that the percentage of teachers expecting children to know how to read by the end of the year had risen from 30 to 80 percent. The researchers also reported more time spent with workbooks and worksheets, and less time devoted to music and art.”

The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids | Erika Christakis, The Atlantic


“Drawing/doodling can help us to focus on the task at hand. Listening or reading with pencil in hand leads to a 29% better memory recall. Draw/doodling offsets the effects of ‘selective memory blockade’.”

Journal of Applied Psychology, February 2009


“Doodling is powerful because its very nature is one of lightness and play. We are not attached to any outcomes, and abide in a present moment state of flow, and in the joy of expression. This flow, joy and lightness loosens the mind and allows us to freely open to inspiration and the unexpected—we open to the unseen world of potentiality!”

Doodle, Dream, and the Dance of Co-Creation ~ 3 Stages to Unlocking the Gifts of Free Unstructured Play | Vince Gowmon


“A study from Stanford University shows that Danish kids who postponed kindergarten for up to one year showed dramatically higher levels of self-control, and reduced inattention and hyperactivity by 73% for an average child at age 11.”

Stanford researchers show we’re sending many children to school way too early | Jenny Anderson, Quartz


“Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego…says most most kids younger than 7 or 8 are better suited for active exploration than didactic explanation. “The trouble with over-structuring is that it discourages exploration,” he says. Reading, in particular, can’t be rushed. It has been around for only about 6,000 years, so the ability to transform marks on paper into complex meaning is not pre-wired into the brain. It doesn’t develop “naturally,” as do other complex skills such as walking; it can be fostered, but not forced.”

Let the Kids Learn Through Play | David Kohn, New York Times


“A study published in the journal Neuron suggests that the brain’s chemistry changes when we become curious, helping us better learn and retain information. There’s this basic circuit in the brain that energizes people to go out and get things that are intrinsically rewarding. This circuit lights up when we get money, or candy. It also lights up when we’re curious. When the circuit is activated, our brains release a chemical called dopamine which gives us a high. The dopamine plays a role in enhancing the connections between cells that are involved in learning. Indeed, when the researchers later tested participants on what they learned, those who were more curious were more likely to remember the right answers.”

What’s Going on Inside the Brain Of A Curious Child? | Maanvi Singh, NPR, Mind/Shift


“Schools have also begun experimenting with the practice and discovering that its techniques can help its students. When a school in New Haven, Connecticut, required yoga and meditation classes three times a week for its incoming freshman, studies found that after each class, students had significantly reduced levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in their bodies. In San Francisco, schools that participated in Quiet Time, a Transcendental Meditation program, had twice as many students score proficient in English on the California Achievement Test than in similar schools where the program didn’t exist. Visitacion Valley Middle School specifically reduced suspensions by 45 percent during the program’s first year. Attendance rates climbed to 98 percent, grade point averages improved, and the school recorded the highest happiness levels in San Francisco on the annual California Healthy Kids Survey. Other studies have shown that mindfulness education programs improved students’ self-control, attentiveness and respect for other classmates, enhanced the school climate, and improved teachers’ moods.”

Should Schools Teach Kids to Meditate? | Amanda Machado, The Atlantic


“Data were available for 1278 children at age 1 and 1345 children at age 3. Ten percent of children had attentional problems at age 7. In a logistic regression model, hours of television viewed per day at both ages 1 and 3 was associated with attentional problems at age 7, respectively.”

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 2004


“Four years after “Quiet Time” was introduced, the school saw a 79% decrease in suspensions, a 98.3% increase in attendance, and an increase to students’ GPAs by 4. Wow!”

A School District Decided To Get Troubled Kids Meditating Everyday – The Results Were Amazing | Alanna Ketler, Collective Evolution


“60% of parents do not supervise their child’s technology usage, and 75% of children are allowed technology in their bedrooms (Kaiser Foundation 2010). 75% of children aged 9 and 10 years are sleep deprived to the extent that their grades are detrimentally impacted (Boston College 2012).”

10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12 | Cris Rowan, Huff Post


“Research has found that interest is a more powerful predictor of future choices than prior achievement or demographic variables….A study of 257 professional musicians, for example, found that most important characteristics of the musicians’ first teachers (and, of course, parents are often kids’ first teachers) was the ability to communicate well—to be friendly, chatty, and encouraging—and the ability to pass on their own love of music, through modeling and playing well. Try sharing your own personal interests with young people through casual conversations, hands-on demonstrations, and special trips.”

How the Power of Interest Drives Learning | Annie Murphy Paul, Mind/Shift


“An impressive body of scientific research has shown that the more we reward people for doing something, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward. Now the point isn’t to draw, to read, to think, to create – the point is to get the goody, whether it’s an ice cream, a sticker, or a ‘Good job!’… Researchers keep finding that kids who are praised for doing well at a creative task tend to stumble at the next task – and they don’t do as well as children who weren’t praised to begin with.”

Five Reasons to Stop Saying “Good Job!” | Alfie Kohn


“In teaching kids to self-regulate, we must be careful—we can make a subtle, or not so subtle implication that they “over there” are the unruly or damaged ones, and that they, only, need the skills to pull themselves together and calm down. Not us. We’re just fine over here. Forgotten is the fact that we are part of this relationship system. We are not separate from it. More than ever, Mother Earth is teaching us this in dramatic and traumatic fashion. In the same way the planet is an ecosystem, the classroom or family unit is a system where one part affects the other, no matter how separate pieces may seem. Our clouds cast shadows on children’s’ worlds, and vice versa. Inner rays of sunlight illuminate hearts and minds of others. Our attitude, and over all energy, impacts the ecosystem without our knowing.”

The Co-Revolution: Teaching Kids to Self-Regulate is Not Enough ~ It’s Time to Heal Our Own Trauma and Co-Regulate | Vince Gowmon 

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