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).


YouTube Preview Image


One of the favorite games for babies is play dough.  In honor of National Play Doh Day on September 16, this post will look at the benefits of play dough for fine motor skill development.  Observe the baby in the above video from Jordan Lee’s you tube channel.  One of the easiest activities for a baby to do with the dough is to press his fingers into it.  This develops strength in the fingers and awareness of the changing depth of the dough.  Eventually you can teach baby to pull small pieces off of a larger piece of dough, developing finger dexterity.  Learning to press a cookie cutter or a stamp into the dough also teaches coordination and develops strength.  Babies also learn colors from playing with play dough.  Even the play dough containers can be instructional tools if you teach baby to put the dough in and take the dough out of the containers.  Play Doh commercial brand is sold in small canisters. For homemade play dough see if you can purchase some interestingly shaped and/or colored small containers for each color of dough.


Babies play with play dough usually after the age of one year old.  At this age they are rapidly developing their fine motor skills.  They also use their fine motor skills for picking up food when they are eating.  I recommend keeping the play dough off of the high chair tray.  That is a place for food and therefore the things placed here and picked up or squished with fingers usually go into the mouth.  Try playing with the play dough on a small table about the height of a coffee table.  Baby can stand and play with it or it can be placed on one of the small tables that comes with chairs for toddlers.  Show them with your fingers how to press into a small ball of dough and then let them explore the texture.  Keep your eyes on baby so he does not put a piece in his mouth!


There are an abundance of homemade play dough recipes available on the internet.  It is worthwhile to find one and make it for your baby.  The homemade version is made from simple edible ingredients such as flour and salt and should pose no problems if baby put the play dough in his mouth when you are not looking.  Simply google “best homemade play dough recipe” or search youtube if you prefer to watch someone make the recipe.  You can even find gluten free play dough recipes if you have a baby allergic to gluten.


Infant Massage by Vimala McClure book


In our busy world today many adults have learned the benefit of a massage.  It has become a treat to indulge in while on vacation, a part of healing an injury while in physical therapy, or a way to reduce the stress of daily life.  There is also an increasing awareness of the benefits of massage for babies.  Many new parents are now seeking instruction in the art of massage for their baby.  However, massaging your baby is a custom that has a very long tradition in some cultures such as India and Sweeden.  They knew the benefits of a daily massage for baby and passed down the technique from one generation to the next.  In her book Infant Massage:  A Handbook for Loving Parents, author Vimala McClure shares the technique she evolved after spending time volunteering in an orphanage in India and learning about the benefits of massage for babies.  McClure’s book is considered a classic and her technique is taught internationally.


In her book, Vimala introduces massage as a method of communication between mother and baby, facilitating the process of bonding.  She also explains that babies benefit in numerous ways from massage.  In fact, numerous research studies have been published that substantiate the benefits of a daily massage for baby.  Some of the studies focus on the benefits for babies born premature and show that babies in the NICU unit receiving daily massage gain weight faster and are released from the hospital sooner that those who do not receive massage.  Other benefits of massage for babies that McClure mentions in her book include:

  • Bonding between mother/father and baby
  • Decreases fussiness or colic
  • Improves sleep
  • Decreases digestive discomfort
  • Releases muscular tension as the body develops


McClure’s book is complete with step-by-step instructions of her massage technique for babies.  Beautiful photos illustrate each of the strokes along with clear and detailed instruction.  How to choose a good massage oil, how to massage a baby with special needs, and how to adapt the massage for the baby as she becomes more physically active and grows older are also topics of discussion.  This book makes a wonderful gift for a new mother.  You might include a gift certificate for a series of classes in infant massage with a local instructor.  Contact Infant Massage USA for an instructor in the United States or the International Association of Infant Massage (founded by Vimala McClure) for an instructor in your country.  Both organizations teach Vimala McClure’s method.

The gift of nurturing touch is a beautiful gift.

Infant Massage:  A Handbook for Loving Parents:  by Vimala McClure (New York:  Bantam Books, 1979).


YouTube Preview Image


Babies prepare their bones and muscles for the motor skill of crawling through achieving mini milestones. One of these is the activity of scooting around in circles with the belly on the floor.  How does this prepare the body for crawling on the hands and knees or on the belly?  If baby is pushing with her hands to move in a circle she is developing the use of a flat palm which is necessary to support her weight on her hands and knees.  The action of pushing with her palm teaches the shoulder muscles to work.  She also learns that by pushing part of her body against the floor she moves around on the floor.  This is the beginning of learning skills of locomotion.  When she looks over one shoulder and scoots in that direction she is also developing the movement of the ribcage.


One of the most important developments that occurs when baby is scooting in a circle is the movement between the ribcage and the pelvis.  Observe the baby in the above video from joshandkarale’s youtube channel.  Look at the wrinkles that develop in the baby’s shirt on the sides of his ribcage.  If he looks to the right and scoots to the right you will see the wrinkles that appear on the right side of his T-shirt.  This happens because the right side of the ribcage is moving closer to the right hip joint.  The baby is slightly closing the right side of her body.  When the baby learns to crawl on her belly or on her hands and knees you may see this distance (between the ribs and pelvis) alternating between opening and closing.  A baby that is very articulate in this movement often crawls very fast.  The motor skill of sitting up may also be more graceful in a baby that can articulate this relationship between the ribcage and the pelvis.  Allow baby to spend time scooting in circles on the floor.  Try inviting this movement by placing toys a bit off to the right or left since the movement begins with baby looking over one shoulder.  When does baby learn to crawl?  Maybe after scooting in circles!


cosco pink car seat


Safety is one of the top priorities of a parent when choosing a car seat.  With several models available on the market that is no easy choice to make.  Who do you listen to?  Your friends, your mother, the reviews online?  We recommend collecting as many pieces of information as possible.  A car seat is one of the most important investments to make for baby’s safety.  These photos show the Cosco car seat which was highly recommended by parent reviews on as well as by the highly respected publication Consumer Reports.  It is also helpful to talk with parents who have used a product for awhile rather than to someone who just purchased the product.  Experience with a product over time may result in advice containing more pros and cons for your consideration.  You may also want to ask the parent how the product suited the baby as she grew.

closeup of  the upper back portion of a car seat


Please choose your car seat with the consideration of baby’s development of  bones and muscles.  Today many car seats are on the market with little if any padding behind baby’s back.  There may be padding under the hips and legs, but there may not be any padding under the back.  It is extremely important to keep baby comfortable and cushion her developing bones and muscles.  Try and purchase the product in a store or view one in person before ordering so you can take your hand and run it along the back of the seat.  You should be able to push down and have the fabric spring back.  If you push on it and you feel the hard plastic right under the thin layer of fabric then you know it is not soft enough for her to be comfortable.

Occasionally the padding may be asymmetrical from right to left side, which may lead to asymmetry in the skeleton if baby spends enough time in the car seat.  Once in a while a piece of one of the straps may get stuck under the padding and cause discomfort to baby.  Take a moment every so often, specially if she is crying in the car seat, and run your hand along the padding to see if anything is poking up which may cause pain.  The above photo shows a well-padded portable car seat.  Baby should be both comfortable and safe.


  • Read parent reviews on sites such as
  • Ask the opinions of other parents experienced with the product
  • Research Consumer Reports studies on the product
  • Consult teachers of infant classes
  • See the car seat in person before purchasing
  • Feel the padding with your hands to ensure baby’s comfort


YouTube Preview Image

A friend of mine who is also a grandmother and nursery school teacher shared with me which of the songs for baby she felt brought the most emotion to the mothers.  “Your Are My Sunshine” does it every time.  “Each time a mother sings this song to her baby she can not help but feel so much love and joy for her beautiful child,” she explained.  I decided to find an easy to learn version of the song for the mothers of our stellar caterpillars to learn.  The above video from Cedrique Rababut’s youtube channel is a sweet version of the song that includes the lyrics for you to sing along.  The accompanying photo essay includes gorgeous nature shots, adorable animal pics, and visual images of love and affection.


You Are My Sunshine
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away

The other night, dear,
As I lay sleeping
I dreamt I held you in my arms.
When I awoke, dear,
I was mistaken
So, I hung my head and cried.

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.