Over the years, parents have tried everything under the sun to give their kids a head start in school and boost their brain power. Playing classical music in the house, early exposure to foreign languages and cultures, and educational media and toys are just a handful of the strategies that have trended among parents in the past decade or so.
However, according to Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, professor of psychology at Temple University who has studied child development for nearly four decades, “It doesn’t quite work that way.”
Hirsh-Pasek and co-author Roberta Golinkoff wrote Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children, which dispels many of the myths surrounding childhood intelligence. Instead of thinking about kids as sponges, passively absorbing the information around them, they reframe learning as both a social and emotional experience.
In a recent episode of NPR’s Life Kit podcast, Hirsh-Pasek explained this new framework, and the “Six C’s” that every child needs to succeed within it. “Play is active, not passive. And it turns out the way we learn is active, not passive. When we’re sitting there like a couch potato we aren’t learning as much as when we’re doing,” says the child development expert.
The Six C’s outlined in Becoming Brilliant are intended to refocus parents on more interactive types of learning. They are as follows;
- Collaboration – Learning is primarily a social activity, so solving a problem together leads to more learning than doing it alone.
- Communication – Collaboration leads to communication, and strong communication skills facilitate more learning. A child who is confident in their ability to communicate with others will have an easier time of accessing the third C, content.
- Content – This category includes obvious skills like reading and writing, but even more importantly it includes learning how to learn. A kid who can easily focus their attention on content will learn more about it.
- Critical Thinking – This skill overlaps in many ways with content. If a child is exposed to a new concept, their ability to think critically about what they’ve learned will reinforce their knowledge.
- Creative Innovation – This C builds on content and critical thinking skills to produce something completely new. A kid with finger paint isn’t just making a mess…they’re using their learning skills to innovate!
- Confidence – This one can be difficult for many parents, because it involves letting their children fail in order to learn. A child who learns from an early age that it’s ok to fail and try again will develop grit and perseverance, which are qualities that lend themselves to greater lifelong learning.
Hirsh-Pasek urges parents to remember that learning should be joyful. Turning ordinary tasks into games, encouraging creativity, and working on projects together are just some of the ways to build lifelong habits of learning that make kids successful.