Author speaks at college about ‘essential’ skills for children

Lessons and skills learned at an early age can greatly affect the success of individuals as they go into adulthood. Ellen Galinsky, author of “Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs,” spoke to about 350 individuals at Lycoming College Friday about how to develop such skills.

“The important thing is these are simple, every day things that you can do that don’t a lot of money – don’t cost anything most times – don’t require any fancy equipment and don’t take a lot of time,” Galinsky said.

She said developing the seven skills – focus and self control; perspective taking; communicating; making connections; critical thinking; taking on challenges; and self-directed engaged learning – at an early age affect school readiness and success.

These skills, which derive from executive function skills, are “the how of learning,” while content is “the what of learning,” Galinsky explained.

During interviews, employers reported new workers are not always equipped with the necessary skills to perform jobs. Galinsky said employers believe workers have “a fill-in-the-blank mentality.”

“Life is not a multiple choice answer to questions,” she said. “… Knowledge is changing so quickly that we need to teach children to be innovative thinkers, to think outside of the box.”

It’s important that parents keep the “sparkle” in children’s eyes.

“I hope they take away a passion to keep the fire burning in children’s eyes,” Galinsky said after the presentation.

Galinsky demonstrated a few exercises that helps develop the needed skills.

Games like “Simon says” help students focus, she reported. To mix it up, instruct the child to touch their feet when you say to touch their head.

Even lessons of self-control don’t have to force children to sit in a chair.

“Kids are learning through activity,” Galinsky said. “It’s often through physical activity that we learn focus and self control. Don’t think they have to just sit still.”

And from parent reaction, children learn to deal with stress, she said. But challenges aren’t only about dealing with stress, they also must want to push themselves.

“Taking on a challenge is going to that next level and taking on something hard,” she said.

And children will take their cues from parents, she said. And it’s important for the parent to look at their own skills to help their child.

“When you see how important it is in your life, you see how important it is in the child’s,” Galinsky.

When asked, Galinsky said it’s important for parents to learn about developing these skills because children that do are more likely to thrive in their adult life.