BookPhoto3D_silo copyMind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs
by Ellen Galinsky

Every decade or so, a book comes along that completely changes how we parent. From Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care to T. Berry Brazelton’s Infants and Mothers, these landmark books have influenced our thinking about how children learn and develop and have dramatically transformed how we nurture our children’s social, emotional and intellectual growth.

How can families and teachers give kids the life skills they need to cope in our multi-tasking, multimedia, modern world? Ellen Galinsky felt compelled to seek an answer to this question more than a decade ago when her own research showed that far too many young people were turned off to learning—the fire in their eyes had dimmed, if not gone out. Since then, Galinsky has been conducting an extensive review of the research on how children learn best. With her partners at New Screen Concepts, she has traveled across the country filming researchers “in action” and interviewing them as they conduct groundbreaking experiments on child development. In Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs (2010, HarperStudio), she  has identified skills from child development research and neuroscience that help children thrive both now and in the future. Reviewers have called Mind in the Making  “must reading,” a “tour de force,” and “a book of incomparable quality.”

All order inquiries for MITM Materials should be forwarded to Marline Griffith.
Marline Griffith | Executive Assistant
Mind in the Making
mobile: 206-957-0156

 or from any of these retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound.

Now available: Download the free companion book club discussion guide or workbook.

Since the release of the best-selling Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs by Ellen Galinsky, leading authority on child development issues, people who are passionate about children’s learning have been using everyday moments and gadget-free activities to promote executive function skills in children. Research shows that executive function skills affect school readiness, school success, college graduation rates, work and life success; and Ellen’s book proves that these skills can be taught and encouraged at any age. In response to numerous requests, Mind in the Making has developed a companion discussion guide and workbook for readers to reflect personally on how these skills take shape in their own lives and what actions can be taken to continue to promote these skills in themselves and the children around them. The book and guide are a great pairing for parents and educators who want to inspire lifelong learners and anyone with an interest in understanding the Life Skills and how they can influence our thinking and behavior in positive ways.

Advance Praise for Mind in the Making:

Publisher’s Weekly

Galinsky has spent her career observing and analyzing how children learn. Collaborating with top researchers in the science of childhood brain development for the past decade, she identifies seven life skills that help children reach their full potential and unleash their passion to learn. The skills are presented in a readable and accessible volume enlivened by parents’ narratives about what works and what doesn’t, hints and tips, and over a hundred “suggestions” (games and family activities) for involving kids in the pursuit of learning. Each of seven chapters focuses on one skill, most of them involved with the “executive” (or management) function of the brain, such as focus and self-control, communicating, and critical thinking. Galinsky urges parents to instill in their children a grasp of different kinds of knowledge to best tap inborn “sense” and foster self-motivation. The big message is simple: teaching children to think may be the most important thing a parent can do. It doesn’t take a village and it doesn’t require fancy courses or equipment—Galinsky’s everyday, playful, parent-child learning interactions offer a place to start. Some of the advice may seem self-evident, but it is a valuable, worthwhile resource.

Adele Faber, coauthor of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

A valuable resource! Ellen Galinsky’s extensive research reveals important insights into the science of early learning.

T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., professor emeritus of pediatrics, Harvard Medical School and founder, Brazelton Touchpoints Center

I was so delighted when Ellen Galinsky first asked me to contribute to her Mind in the Making project, and am thrilled to have her share my research on infant and child development, and that of my colleagues, as broadly as possible. We need to get these important messages out, and parents are clamoring for it.

Judy Woodruff, senior correspondent for PBS NewsHour

Ellen Galinsky—already the go-to person on interaction between families and the workplace—draws on fresh research to explain what we ought to be teaching our children. This is must-reading for everyone who cares about America’s fate in the twenty-first century.

David A. Hamburg, M.D., Weill Cornell Medical College, and president emeritus of the Carnegie Corporation of New York

Mind in the Making is the central component of a creative, multifaceted initiative that clarifies paths to lifelong learning related to discoveries about brain development and how learning builds on the structure and function of the brain. It is a valuable contribution based on solid research that yields practical benefits.

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, professor of psychology, Temple University, and coauthor of A Mandate for Playful Learning in Preschool

Mind in the Making is a tour de force. In Galinsky’s hands, the latest scientific discoveries about how children learn are carefully molded into seven seemingly simple but profound skills that predict success in the twenty-first century.

Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, professor of education, psychology, and linguistics and cognitive science, University of Delaware, and coauthor of A Mandate for Playful Learning in Preschool

A book of incomparable quality about what is best for children and why in today’s world. Mind in the Making helps you assemble the ingredients in your own kitchen for rearing children who are intelligent, emotionally secure, and equipped to succeed.

Laurie David, producer of An Inconvenient Truth and author of Family Dinners

Mind in the Making presents some of the most important research that will help every parent teach their children the fundamentals of life. Ellen Galinsky has figured out some of the great mysteries to raising caring, compassionate, well-rounded children. This is a ‘must read’ operating manual for any parent!

Philip David Zelazo, professor, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota

The future of our society depends on how we treat our children, and this remarkable book—richly illustrated with examples from the latest scientific research—provides an engaging and well-informed characterization of the developmental challenges children face. It will be of enormous value to parents, educators and policy makers, and serious students of child development.

Michael Levine, executive director, Joan Ganz Cooney Center

Mind in the Making shows why early learning and development matter more than ever—a highly cogent, remarkably accessible, and important book.

Gaston Caperton, president of The College Board

Education goes far beyond the subjects we typically teach in school. Life skills like focus and perspective taking are essential to building human potential. Mind in the Making will be a powerful new resource for teachers and families.

Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology, University of California at Berkeley, and author of The Philosophical Baby

Ellen Galinsky has been one of our most thoughtful as well as passionate advocates for children. In this book she assembles the latest fascinating research from the very best scientists in the field, and presents it clearly and accurately, in a way that parents and others will find most valuable.

Cali Williams Yost, CEO of Work+Life Fit, Inc., author of Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You, and Fast Company blogger

This book is the antidote for anxious, busy parents who have limited time. It shows them where to put their effort and focus to ensure their children are prepared to thrive today and in the future.

Selected Reviews

Lisa Belkin, NY Times |  Dr. Michele Borba |  Maggie Jackson |  Judy Molland, |  Dr. Josh Coleman  |

Lisa BelkinThe New York Times Magazine, The Motherlode

You may have heard about Ellen Galinsky’s latest book, “Mind In The Making.” It may well be the next iconic parenting manual, up there with Spock and Leach and Brazelton, one that parents turn to for reassurance that all is more or less okay, reminders of how to make it better and glimpses of what’s to come.

Galinsky, a child-education expert and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute, has subtitled her book “The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs.” She breaks those skills down into chapters — “Focus and Self Control,” “Perspective Taking,” “Communicating,” “Making Connections,” “Critical Thinking,” “Taking on Challenges,” “Self-Directed Engaged Learning” — and lays out the activities of everyday life that foster those goals.

Self-control, for instance, can be taught through games likes Simon Says. To encourage perspective, which Galinsky defines as “figuring out what others think and feel”, you can read to your children then talk about what the characters were thinking and feeling. communication means asking “who, what, where and why” questions. Making connections can be strengthened through sorting games. Critical thinking results from such things as watching TV with older children and asking them to evaluate the truth of the ads. Taking on challenges means praising their efforts or strategies (“you worked hard to find the right piece of the puzzle”) rather than their talents (“you are so smart.”) And learning from decisions and experiences means allowing children to make plans — what toys they want to play with next, what activity they want to do next weekend, how they will allot their study time — then look back and evaluate those plans, with an eye toward what worked and what they would do differently next time.

Sounds simple, no? With no need for fancy gadgets or the involvement of professionals? Perhaps it sounds a lot like what you are doing now, just a bit more directed?

That is the point, Galinsky says. Too much of the parenting conversation has served to raise the bar beyond what is reasonable or necessary, to tell parents there is one right way, and you’d better learn it fast before you ruin your child for good. Galinsky’s goal, as she writes in a guest essay today, is to ratchet down that frenzy and reduce the guilt by sending parents the message that they already know most of what they need to know, and they are already doing pretty darn well.

Dr. Michele Borba, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, is an internationally renowned educator, award-winning author, parenting expert and child and adolescent expert.

Let me start with full disclosure: I adore Ellen Galinsky’s work. I’ve read all her books, follow her on twitter, love her website,, and have been an avid fan of the Families and Work Institute (of which she is President and Co-founder) for over a decade. Her commitment and research that focuses on early learning is stellar. But her latest book, Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs just put her in the “Child Development Expert Hall of Fame.”

Ellen has spent her entire career studying early childhood development. She’s visited leading research centers, met with the top child experts and researchers, filmed their experiments and studied their results. She also found a huge gap between what researchers have discovered in the child development field and what parents know about these crucial findings. That is until now.

Galinsky put those top 100 scientific findings into a valuable resource that brings the science of early learning to families and to the professionals who work with children. Mind in the Making:The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs shows parents how to use that research with their children from birth until age eight making it an absolute must-read.

But she takes her findings another step by identifying seven essential life skills that will help our children reach their full potential. (Earth to parents: These skills must be taught to our children and do not come naturally). These are the skills we MUST teach our children in this twenty-first century. But the best news is that Galinsky shows busy parents ways they really can teach those skills using simple everyday things in just new ways.

Galisnky’s  Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs

Here are the seven life skills Galinsky identified as essential for every child to learn based on her review of hundreds of scientific studies. I’ve taken the liberty of using her exact definitions.

Skill One: Focus and Self-Control: Children need this skill in order to achieve their goals, especially in a world that is filled with distractions and information overload. It involves paying attention, remembering the rules, thinking flexibility, and exercising self-control.

Skill Two: Perspective Taking: Perspective goes far beyond empathy: it involves figuring out what others think and feel, and forms the basis of children understanding their parents’ and teachers’ intentions. Children who can take others’ perspectives are also much less likely to get involved in conflicts.

Skill Three: Communicating: Communication is much more than understanding language, speaking, reading, and writing–it is the skill of determining what one wants to communicate and realizing how our communications will be understood by others. It is the skill that teachers and employers feel is most lacking today.

Skill Four: Making Connections: Making connections is at the core of learning (what’s the same and what’s different) and making unusual connections is at the core of creativity. In a world where people can goggle for information, it is the people who can see the connection who will succeed.

Skill Five: Critical Thinking: Critical thinking is the ongoing search for valid and reliable knowledge to guide beliefs, decision, and actions.

Skill Six: Taking on Challenges: Life is full of stresses and challenges. Children who are willing to take on challenges (instead of avoid them) do better in school and in life.

Skill Seven: Self-Directed, Engaged Learning (Pursuing Ongoing Learning): It is through learning that we can realize our potential. As the world changes, so can we, for as long as we live–as long as we learn.

Ellen has made an invaluable contribution to parents and educators. These findings are essential to ensure that our children–all children–reach their potential. The findings in this book will also be presented to Congress and at events in every state.

My recommendation: get a copy of this book, give a copy to another parent, and recommend that every library and early childhood educator has one on their shelf. Mind in the Making is one of those rare and glorious books that will make a difference on our children’s lives and future.

Maggie Jackson, Journalist and Author, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age

Ellen Galinsky’s new book isn’t for the faint-of-heart. Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs is inspiring, even joyful, and an essential handbook for any parent. But it’s provocative. In essentially teaching adults how to instill a love of learning in children, Galinsky also may change how we see learning – for the better.

Consider the seven skills that Galinsky chooses: focus, perspective-taking, communicating, making connections, critical thinking, taking on challenges and self-directed learning. These essential and complex skills are a far cry from the reading, writing and arithmetic goals and drills that still dominate teach-to-the-test schools. They’re also a gentle, crucial reminder of the importance of “upgrading the human” in a world mesmerized by computational, tech-driven and store-bought lessons. Finally, as Galinsky notes, these seven skills are capabilities for lifelonglearning.

“These skills are not only important for children; we as adults need them just as much as children do,” she writes. “And, in fact, we have to practice them ourselves to promote them in our children.”

That true of perspective taking. We teach children etiquette and problem-solving, even discussion and debate. But rarely do we help kids learn how to understand the perspectives of others, despite the importance of this skill to social relations, school learning, and even a child’s sense of security. After all, understanding how other people operate helps you get along with peers, parents, teachers and later with bosses. It’s the starting point of lifelong “emotional intelligence.”

By highlighting the work of top researchers, Galinsky shows how parents can teach perspective-taking, and how infants and toddlers are astonishingly ready to learn. Even 6-month-olds have a rough sense of others’ goals and intentions, and 18-month-olds understand that people can have different tastes than they do. Cultivating this nascent skill can be simple: the kids of parents who talk about people’s feelings more, have better perspective-taking skills.

Galinsky isn’t the first to begin thinking about new literacies for the digital age. I recently discovered the important work of Guy Claxton, a UK professor who argues that we have to prepare students for lifelong learning by teaching them dispositions – such as curiosity, courage or reflection.

Or consider the words of the new Rhode Island School of Design president, digital designer John Maeda: “I sense a real shift going on in the world from the global and technological back to the local, the human and the authentic. … Policymakers and employers should take note: the power of the visual, the tactile, the nonlinear – of the artful, open-minded thinking – is something that we can no longer afford to discount.”

These important thinkers all understand that “how” we learn is as crucial as “what” we learn. And the impact of this change in mindset is enormous, as Galinsky’s compilation of research shows repeatedly. Focus can predict literacy, vocabulary and math skills in preschoolers. Rich, idea-laden talk between parents and children is correlated with higher IQ at age three. Motivated learners see setbacks as chances to try harder or use different strategies. They don’t “wilt” in the face of challenges.

Again and again, I was surprised and delighted by these and other research findings in Mind in the Making. They underscore the growing realization today that babies and children are highly capable creatures, ready and eager to learn. As Galinsky teaches us, we all need to be their partners in learning.

Judy Molland, — With more than 13 million members, Care2 is the largest online community of people following critical issues and using the information they acquire to work for change.

Imagine a combination of an extremely knowledgeable and compassionate child psychologist and the parent you most respect advising you on the best way to raise your child. That’s what you get with Ellen Galinsky’s insightful new book, Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs (Harperstudio, 2010).As an education journalist, I’ve read numerous research reports on the latest discoveries about child development, and even more manuals on parenting skills. What this book does brilliantly is to bring these two perspectives together. As President of the Families and Work Institute, Galinsky has written extensively on child psychology; in this book she closes the gap between what researchers have discovered and how parents have been informed about these findings. Coming up with seven essential life skills, she describes the work of over seventy research scientists in terms easy for the layperson to understand, and follows this with practical tips for parents to put to use immediately. Importantly, she emphasizes that “We don’t need expensive programs, materials, or equipment to promote these skills. We can promote them in everyday ways through the everyday fun things we do with children.”

Although she agrees that children do need to learn specific information such as facts, figures, and concepts, she believes that we have neglected the learning skills that are equally essential: Focus and Self Control, Perspective Taking, Communicating, Making Connections, Critical Thinking, Taking on Challenges, and Self-Directed, Engaged Learning. A child’s approach to knowledge is as crucial as the information itself, the author believes.

Here’s how a typical chapter works: the topic of chapter two is Perspective Taking. We read about Galinsky’s work on this skill, along with anecdotes from several parents (A Parent’s Perspective: What would Captain Hook do?) and select exercises in which we, the readers, can test our awareness of this skill. This is followed by a discussion on why perspective taking is important for children, how other researchers have explored the issue, and how perspective taking develops at different stages of childhood. Finally come the suggestions for parents ( Suggestion 2: View Teaching Children To Be With Others As Equally Important As Teaching Them Independence. Suggestion 5: Talk About Feelings – Yours and Theirs) with plenty of ideas on how to implement this skill. What could be (and often is) dry research is instead presented in a way that is both easily understood and user-friendly.

Galinsky writes with compassion in a clear, concise manner. Her pace is brisk, and rather than the guilt trip that parenting books seem to like laying on parents, this book is rooting for parents to understand children’s development in new ways by providing numerous how-to suggestions that don’t cost a penny.

Teachers, too, will find much of practical use in Galinsky’s work. As a high school teacher, I related particularly to the author’s interviewing several researchers on their results, and discovering that the most highly rated programs were those that led to a community where administrators, teachers, parents and children were all learning together. Many teachers will tell you that those are the best teaching days. As Galinsky states, “My interviews revealed that the adults fostered children’s motivation by being motivated themselves.”

WIth her fresh approach, Galinsky brings joy and excitement to the hard work of parenting and teaching. Yes, parenting is a challenge, but it can also bring enormous rewards. Galinsky brings this spirit to her important book.

Dr. Joshua Coleman, Council on Contemporary Families

I have long been an admirer of Ellen Galinsky’s work. As president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute, Ellen and her colleagues have produced some of the most interesting and important findings on the relationship between work and family functioning that we have. I often cite her research in my interviews and she has become one of the most important go-to people in the field. So I was not surprised by how much I liked her new book, Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Skills Every Child Needs. Mind in the Making summarizes the best of what we know about how children develop the capacity for thinking, learning, developing good judgement, and succeeding in life. Unlike most parenting books, Mind in the Making backs up each one of its assertions with research on child development, neurology, and parenting. It is written in a warm, engaging style that reads more like a conversation with the reader than a dry treatise on child development. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Mind in the Making provides the reader with multiple ways to help a child develop the seven essential life skills that she describes. Highly recommended!