Mind in the Making by Ellen Gallinsky


Ellen Galinsky, president and cofounder of the Families and Work Institute, is one of the most noted experts on child development today.  She has published more than 40 books, including the classics The Six Stages of Parenthood and Ask the Children:  The Breakthrough Study The Breakhthrough Study That Reveals How to Succeed at Work and Parenting.  She is a noted keynote speaker and recipient of numerous award and honorary degrees.  Her book Mind in the Making:  The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs is one of Galinsky’s most unique and valuable parenting books.  We highly recommend it for the parents of our Stellar Caterpillars.  For more info, visit


Galinsky examines how our interactions with children in conversation and play potentially cultivate seven valuable life skills.  The book is organized with each chapter devoted to one of these seven skills.  Tips for parents and specific activities for children are included in each chapter for play with children. These seven life skills are:

  1. Focus and Self-Control:  Includes paying attention, remembering rules, and maintaining self-control.  This is necessary for achieving goals in life.
  2. Perspective Taking:  Learning to figure out what other people are thinking and intending.  Children who learn this skill are less likely to engage in conflicts.
  3. Communicating:  More than just speaking and writing, communicating is the ability to know what one would like to express and then figuring out how to make that understood by others.
  4. Making Connections:  Sorting into categories what is the same, what is different, what is unusual, and then using this information.  This skill is at the core of creativity.
  5. Critical Thinking:  Learning to search for accurate or reliable information to guide decisions, beliefs, and actions.
  6. Taking On Challenges:  Some children learn to avoid challenges and others learn to take them on.  Accepting challenges and working with them is an important part of learning and development.
  7. Self-Directed, Engaged Learning:  We will not always have someone like a teacher to direct us in life.  As children learn to follow their own curiosity and learn they thrive in school and outside of school.


Through several examples Galinsky teaches the concept of guided play with children.  This means that parents can not be the boss and tell the child exactly what to do such as “put that block over here.”  Instead they must guide the child to see more clearly what is in front of them.  For example, if you explain to the child that a particular block in their hand does not fit because it is “too long,” then you can ask them to find a shorter one. They now learn the difference between short and long.  Focus on describing the experience rather than telling them what to do.  This is part of their learning process.

Mind in the Making:  The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs:  by Ellen Galinsky: (New York:  Harper Collins, 2010).

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