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Posts tagged children

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Children overwhelmingly prefer playing with their friends and parents over watching TV.
When children across the world were asked to choose between watching TV or playing with friends or parents, they overwhelmingly choose to play with friends (89%) and parents (73%) with TV a very poor substitute for social interaction at only 11%.

Nearly half of the parents think play should be educational. Children disagree.
Nearly half (45%) of all parents think that play is best when it’s educational. This rises to two thirds of parents in China, Slovakia, Czech Rep, Spain, Hungary, Russia, Poland and Portugal. A further minority at 17% (China, Italy, Russia and US) actually prefer their children to learn things rather than to simply play. 27% think play should always have a purpose. As for the children, 51% actually prefer to play rather than learn.

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from "Kids Overimitate Adults, Regardless of Culture," by Gisela Telis, ScienceNOW, 7 May 2010

In previous studies, dogs and chimps taught to open a box and retrieve a toy copied their teacher’s toy-seeking behavior only when it proved efficient. When the instructing adult added irrelevant actions, such as brushing a feather along the edge of the box before opening it, the animal trainees skipped them, doing only what was necessary to get to the hidden toy. But human children copied every detail, even the pointless brush of the feather.

“Animals focus on getting the job done,” explains Mark Nielsen, a psychologist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. “Humans seem to almost forget about the outcome and copy everything we see.”

W. David O. Taylor on For the Beauty of the Church,” interviewed by Christy Tennant, International Arts Movement, 15 April 2010

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image Axe Cop!
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from "Axe Cop: Episode 1," by Malachai and Ethan Nicolle, Episodes, 2009–2010 :: via GeekDad
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Newsprint and laminated schoolroom posters, 2–50 Rupees each, from the vast semi-online catalog of Indian Book Depot (Map House), New Delhi, India :: via things magazine
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from "The truth about grit," by Jonah Lehrer, The Boston Globe, 2 August 2009 :: via 3quarksdaily

Lewis Terman, the inventor of the Stanford-Binet IQ test, came to a similar conclusion. He spent decades following a large sample of “gifted” students, searching for evidence that his measurement of intelligence was linked to real world success. While the most accomplished men did have slightly higher scores, Terman also found that other traits, such as “perseverance,” were much more pertinent. Terman concluded that one of the most fundamental tasks of modern psychology was to figure out why intelligence is not a more important part of achievement: “Why this is so, and what circumstances affect the fruition of human talent, are questions of such transcendent importance that they should be investigated by every method that promises the slightest reduction of our present ignorance.”

Unfortunately, in the decades following Terman’s declaration, little progress was made on the subject. Because intelligence was so easy to measure - the IQ test could be given to schoolchildren, and often took less than an hour - it continued to dominate research on individual achievement.

The end result, says James J. Heckman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the University of Chicago, is that “there was a generation of social scientists who focused almost exclusively on trying to raise IQ and academic test scores. The assumption was that intelligence is what mattered and what could be measured, and so everything else, all these non-cognitive traits like grit and self-control, shouldn’t be bothered with.”

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from "All That," by David Foster Wallace, The New Yorker, 14 December 2009

At any rate, the best analogy for the experience of hearing these childhood “voices” of mine is that it was like going around with your own private masseur, who spent all his time giving you back—and shoulder—rubs (which my biological mother also used to do whenever I was sick in bed, using rubbing alcohol and baby powder and also changing the pillowcases, so that they were clean and cool; the experience of the voices was analogous to the feeling of turning a pillow over to the cool side). Sometimes the experience of the voices was ecstatic, sometimes so much so that it was almost too intense for me—as when you first bite into an apple or a confection that tastes so delicious and causes such a flood of oral juices that there is a moment of intense pain in your mouth and glands—particularly in the late afternoons of spring and summer, when the sunlight on sunny days achieved moments of immanence and became the color of beaten gold and was itself (the light, as if it were taste) so delicious that it was almost too much to stand, and I would lie on the pile of large pillows in our living room and roll back and forth in an agony of delight and tell my mother, who always read on the couch, that I felt so good and full and ecstatic that I could hardly bear it, and I remember her pursing her lips, trying not to laugh, and saying in the driest possible voice that she found it hard to feel too much sympathy or concern for this problem and was confident that I could survive this level of ecstasy, and that I probably didn’t need to be rushed to the emergency room, and at such moments my love and affection for my mother’s dry humor and love became, stacked atop the original ecstasy, so intense that I almost had to stifle a scream of pleasure as I rolled ecstatically between the pillows and the books on the floor. I do not have any real idea what my mother—an exceptional, truly lovable woman—made of having a child who sometimes suffered actual fits of ecstasy; and I do not know whether she herself had them. Nevertheless, the experience of the real but unobservable and unexplainable “voices” and the ecstatic feelings they often aroused doubtless contributed to my reverence for magic and my faith that magic not only permeated the everyday world but did so in a way that was thoroughly benign and altruistic and wished me well. I was never the sort of child who believed in “monsters under the bed” or vampires, or who needed a night-light in his bedroom; on the contrary, my father (who clearly “enjoyed” me and my eccentricities) once laughingly told my mother that he thought I might suffer from a type of benign psychosis called “antiparanoia,” in which I seemed to believe that I was the object of an intricate universal conspiracy to make me so happy I could hardly stand it.

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from "A Common Nomenclature for Lego Families," by Giles Turnbull, The Morning News, 4 November 2009 :: via languagehat.com
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Then, when another seven-year-old came round for tea after school one day, I overheard the two of them, busy in the spaceship construction yard that used to be our living room, get into a linguistic thicket.

“Can you see any clippy bits?” my son asked his friend. The friend was flummoxed. “Do you mean handy bits?” he asked, pointing.

“Yes,” replied my boy. “Clippy bits.”

Of course! This language of Lego isn’t just something our family has invented; every Lego-building family must have its own vocabulary. And the words they use (mostly invented by the children, not the adults) are likely to be different every time. But how different? And what sort of words?

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from "'Reading Rainbow' Reaches Its Final Chapter," by Ben Calhoun, NPR, 28 August 2009 :: via The Morning News

[T]he funding crunch is partially to blame, but the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. ... PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read — but that's not what Reading Rainbow was trying to do. "Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read," Grant says. "You know, the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read."

Linda Simensky, vice president for children's programming at PBS, says that when Reading Rainbow was developed in the early 1980s, it was an era when the question was: "How do we get kids to read books?" ... Research has directed programming toward phonics and reading fundamentals as the front line of the literacy fight. Reading Rainbow occupied a more luxurious space — the show operated on the assumption that kids already had basic reading skills and instead focused on fostering a love of books.

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from "Guilt and Atonement on the Path to Adulthood," by John Tierney, The New York TImes, 24 August 2009 :: via 3quarksdaily

Guilt in its many varieties — Puritan, Catholic, Jewish, etc. — has often gotten a bad rap, but psychologists keep finding evidence of its usefulness. Too little guilt clearly has a downside — most obviously in sociopaths who feel no remorse, but also in kindergartners who smack other children and snatch their toys. Children typically start to feel guilt in their second year of life, says Grazyna Kochanska, who has been tracking children’s development for two decades in her laboratory at the University of Iowa....

“Children respond with acute and intense tension and negative emotions when they are tempted to misbehave, or even anticipate violating norms and rules,” Dr. Kochanska said. “They remember, often subconsciously, how awful they have felt in the past.”

In Dr. Kochanska’s latest studies, published in the August issue of The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, she and colleagues found that 2-year-olds who showed more chagrin during the broken-toy experiment went on to have fewer behavioral problems over the next five years. That was true even for the ones who scored low on tests measuring their ability to focus on tasks and suppress strong desires to act impulsively.

by Nate Barksdale for Culture Making

University of Colorado psychologist Geoffrey Cohen has done a couple of studies showing an easy way to help black students perform better on standardized tests. Simply having them spend 15 minutes writing about a value they held dear (family, music, sports, politics, friends, art), either right before the exam or just several times a semester, led to a jump in test scores compared to peers (majority culture students did not experience a similar boost).

Meanwhile, a study from Radbound University Nijmegen showed that students playing a computerized word game performed better if they took a step backward before each round than if they took a step to the side or no step at all. The physicality of adding distance to widen one’s view apparently triggers a mental analogue.

:: via VSL:Science, 27 and 28 May 2009

Finally, a joint Canadian–American study suggests the ways that exposure to brands can elicit certain types of improved performance: “Participants primed with Apple logos behave more creatively than IBM-primed and controls; Disney-primed participants behave more honestly than E!-primed and controls.”

:: via The Annals of Improbable Research

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The rise in texting is too recent to have produced any conclusive data on health effects. But Sherry Turkle, a psychologist who is director of the Initiative on Technology and Self at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and who has studied texting among teenagers in the Boston area for three years, said it might be causing a shift in the way adolescents develop.

“Among the jobs of adolescence are to separate from your parents, and to find the peace and quiet to become the person you decide you want to be,” she said. “Texting hits directly at both those jobs.”

Psychologists expect to see teenagers break free from their parents as they grow into autonomous adults, Professor Turkle went on, “but if technology makes something like staying in touch very, very easy, that’s harder to do; now you have adolescents who are texting their mothers 15 times a day, asking things like, ‘Should I get the red shoes or the blue shoes?’”

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a Tomorrow Museum post by Joanne, 26 March 2009

Residents of a Nottinghamshire housing estate have installed pink lights which show up teenagers’ spots in a bid to stop them gathering in the area. Says Dan Lockton, pointing out its resemblance to the Mosquito, “I don’t understand why Britain hates its young people so much. But I can see it storing up a great deal of problems for the future.”

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A village shopkeeper is marking sweet wrappers and drinks bottles with the names of children who buy them in a bid to discourage them from littering.

Yvonne Froud, 52, took action after becoming fed up with the rubbish collecting in Joys Green in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire….

Mrs Froud said if named wrappers were found on the streets, she had a chat to the “offender” who was temporarily banned from the shop or asked to pick up some litter as a consequence.

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from "A Star is Made," by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, New York Times Magazine, 7 May 2006 :: image and link via this Freakonomics post
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[Psychologist Anders Ericsson’s] work, compiled in the Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, a 900-page academic book that will be published next month, makes a rather startling assertion: the trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers — whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming — are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect. These may be the sort of clichés that parents are fond of whispering to their children. But these particular clichés just happen to be true.

Ericsson’s research suggests a third cliché as well: when it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love — because if you don’t love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good. Most people naturally don’t like to do things they aren’t “good” at. So they often give up, telling themselves they simply don’t possess the talent for math or skiing or the violin. But what they really lack is the desire to be good and to undertake the deliberate practice that would make them better.

from "Ironworkers at Dana-Farber resume a beloved ritual, providing moments of joy for young cancer patients," by Michael Levenson, The Boston Globe, 21 February 2009 :: via Tomorrow Museum
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from "Till Children Do Us Part," by Stephanie Coontz, NYTimes.com, 4 February 2009 :: via The .Plan: A Quasi-Blog

Parents today spend much more time with their children than they did 40 years ago. The sociologists Suzanne Bianchi, John Robinson and Melissa Milkie report that married mothers in 2000 spent 20 percent more time with their children than in 1965. Married fathers spent more than twice as much time.

A study by John Sandberg and Sandra Hofferth at the University of Michigan showed that by 1997 children in two-parent families were getting six more hours a week with Mom and four more hours with Dad than in 1981. And these increases occurred even as more mothers entered the labor force.

The Red Balloon (Le Ballon rouge), directed by Albert Lamorisse, 1956 :: via swissmiss
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excerpt Rich objects
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from "The Romance of Objects," by Sherry Turkle, Seed, 9 January 2009
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Science is fueled by passion, a passion that is often attached to the world of objects much as the artist is attached to his paints, the poet to her words. From my first days at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976, I saw this passion for objects everywhere. My students and colleagues told how they were drawn into science by the physics of sand castles, by playing with soap bubbles, by the mesmerizing power of a crystal radio.

Since this was the early days of computer culture, there was also talk of new objects. Some people identified with their computers, experiencing these machines as extensions of themselves. For them, computers were useful for thinking about larger questions, questions of determinism and free will, of mind and mechanism ...

Objects don’t nudge every child toward science, but for some, a rich object world is the best way to give science a chance. Given the opportunity, children will make intimate connections, connections they must construct on their own ...

If we attend to young scientists’ romance with objects, we are encouraged to make children comfortable with the idea that falling in love with things is part of what we expect of them. We are encouraged to introduce the periodic table as poetry and LEGOs as a form of art.

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from "Growing Up in Haiti," a photo essay by Alice Smeets :: thanks Pooja!
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