Monkey See, Monkey Do: How kids learn through observation and immitation

Have you ever watched a toddler mimic their father shaving in the mirror? Or have you seen them carrying their mom’s purse around the house as they pretend they’re busy shopping for groceries? If so, you’ve observed authentic socialization in action.

It’s easy to gloss over the terms socialize and socialization because we often use them interchangeably. Although the terms are closely related, it’s important to notice how they are distinguished in academic theories and research.

The word socialize is a verb used to describe social activities among groups of people. For example, we socialize when we play games, go to work, build relationships, engage in conversations, etc. While also a verb, the term socialization is used by sociologists to describe the process of inheriting the norms, customs, and behaviors of a larger social group.

When considering the terms in these ways, socializing is what leads to the socialization of individuals within any given society. As adults who work with children, it’s important for us to understand the social nature of child development and to question how our interactions with children are contributing to their socialization.

With these ideas in mind, it’s interesting to consider how our actions affect how children perceive the world and interact with others. In 1961, psychologist Albert Bandura conducted an experiment in which children observed an adult beating up an inflatable clown. Then, the children were given the same toy and observed as they interacted with the clown. Not surprisingly, the children who observed the adult abusing the clown were likely to show aggression, too.

Bandura’s study confirmed that children can learn by observing and imitating others’ behaviors.  Since children act out the behaviors they observe from others through their interactions with other children, the adult world strongly influences the socialization process.

Want to learn more about Bendura, the Bobo Doll Experiment, and child socialization? Check out this video by Crash Course:


Three Excellent Documentaries About How Children Use Technology

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve witnessed the phenomenon of children online. As a generation who’ve had access to screens before they could even crawl, today’s children are digital natives. Despite its undeniable benefits and endless possibilities, the effects of technology on children’s physical, mental, and social development is a hot topic for researchers and adults across multiple arenas.

Not surprisingly, some excellent documentaries have been produced that explore the ins and outs of how children are using, consuming, and interacting with technology in different ways.

Here are five of our favorite documentaries about children and how they are using technology:

  1. Minecraft: The Story of Mojang   There’s just something about kids, computers, touchscreens, and pixelated building blocks. If you’ve ever wondered why in the world kids spend so much time building worlds on Minecraft when they could be playing in the woods, this documentary will show exactly what this game is all about and why it’s all the rage with kids and adults alike.
  2. Screenagers: Growing up in the digital age   When kids grow up with constant access to screens, do the benefits outweigh the risks or should we be more concerned about the influence of screens on their development? In Screenagers, the filmmakers ask these questions and explore issues like social media, internet safety and cyber-bullying.
  3. #BeingThirteen: Inside the Secret Lives of Teens  Do we really understand the effects of growing up online for today’s kids? That’s the question explored by CNN as they studied the social media use of a group of 8th grade students across the United States. They collected over 150,000 social media posts and investigated the content to better understand the online language today’s teens are developing.

These documentaries are not only eye-opening, but they share insights into the digital lives of children in the 21st century. As adults, we must be aware of the multiple ways children are using technology within their social groups so we can provide the skills and tools they need within these digital social settings.

**Disclaimer: These documentaries should be previewed by adults to determine how and if they should be viewed with children.


“When was the last time you were called CHILDISH?”

When was the last time you were called childish?  That’s the question Adora Svitak wants to ask adults.

Based on her observations, it’s not an adjective that should be associated with kids because adults can be just as irrational, compulsive, and immature as the images that come to mind when the word “childish” is used to condemn an individual who is acting irresponsibly or foolish.

Svitak wants to reclaim the word “childish” and expand its meaning to reflect the hopefulness, inspiration, and inventiveness that children bring into the world. It’s precisely this kind of “childish” thinking that drives innovators to imagine new ideas and to create new possibilities. Svitak acknowledges that kids already do a lot of learning from adults, but she presents a very convincing case for her argument that adults should start learning more from kids.

If you’re looking to be inspired and aren’t afraid to be called childish, take eight minutes to hear this kid out. But, beware: sometimes the truth hurts.


How to choose the best STEM gift


During the gift-giving craze of the holiday season, it’s easy to get overwhelmed on the toy aisles. According to the Toy Industry Association, the U.S. toy market exceeded $19.48 billion in 2015 and the final numbers are expected to rise when the data is compiled for 2016. Since Americans are also expected to spend an average of about $800 on gifts, it’s safe to say that most U.S. consumers will be purchasing at least one toy during the holidays. The Toy Industry Association also projected STEM to be a top tend in the 2016 toy market because of the increasing emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math skills in the changing economy.

With this surge in STEM toys in the marketplace, how can gift-givers choose toys that best support the critical thinking skills that children need to create and innovate?

Here are three tips that will help you select the best STEM toys for the all the children on your list:

STEM toys should promote inductive and deductive thinking.

Inductive thinking encourages kids to build off their observations to test and generate larger theories. Deductive thinking challenges kids to start with a general theory or hypothesis and then test it within the context of their own experiment. Does the toy encourage children to formulate, test, or generate different theories or hypotheses about how something works?

STEM toys should develop systems thinking skills.

Systems thinking requires creators and innovators to consider how different parts and linkages work together within a larger network or system. Modern technology is built off complex systems that can be understood through smaller segments and parts, so it’s important for children to practice these skills. Does the toy help children learn how smaller parts work together to create a more complex whole?

STEM toys should encourage kids to solve problems.

This might seem obvious, but STEM thinking is about solving problems and creating innovative solutions. Therefore, STEM toys should allow kids to solve problems by creating their own solutions. Does the toy promote problem solving skills?

Hopefully, these simple tips will make your shopping duties easier, but if you’d like some more specific examples of the latest STEM toys, check out this GIFT GUIDE we found at

10 Picture Books That Demonstrate Creative & Innovative Thinking


Picture books combine both visual and written mediums to create texts that bring stories to life for children and adults alike. When we reminisce about childhood, we’re bound to remember the experiences surrounding at least one particular picture book: the person who read it with us, the feelings it evoked, or how it piqued our imaginations.

As we seek to cultivate children’s creative lives, picture books are a simple–but powerful–way to model how they can innovate and think creatively. Here are 10 of our favorite books that demonstrate creative and innovative thinking:

1. Not A Box by Antoinette Portis

Have you seen a child build a cardboard fort? If not, you’re missing out! In this whimsical picture book, Antoinette Portis shows readers that a cardboard cube is anything but a box.

2. Round Trip by Ann Jonas

Typical early childhood reading skills include understanding how to hold a book with the correct orientation, and reading the book from front to back. In Round Trip, author-illustrator Ann Jonas, surprises readers with a story that can be read from top-to-bottom and front-to-back, but when it’s flipped upside down, the story continues through words and images that reflect into a new plot.

3. Bad Day At Riverbend by Chris Van Allsburg

What happens when a story incorporates a secret threat from outside the pages of its book? You get an amazing story with rogue crayons attacking the characters. In this often overlooked picture book, author-illustrator Chris Van Allsburg demonstrates some of his most creative thinking as he re-imagines how a reader can affect a story’s plot.

4. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

There’s nothing more frustrating for a child than feeling like they can’t draw. But, when a teacher intervenes to show them the genius of their “dot,” a child’s despair is transformed into a creative drive that leads to a gallery of work. Who says it’s just a dot?

5. Press Here by Herve Tullet

When toddlers can unlock a smart phone and understand the power behind the tap of their finger, what’s so cool about a picture book? Author-illustrator, Herve Tullet shows children that the pages of a book can be just as responsive as a mobile app.

6. Duck Rabbit by Amy Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

There’s nothing like a good ole’ optical illusion to get your brain ticking. Don’t let the simple text and images fool you! This book gets a room full of children asking: is it a duck or a rabbit? Well, it depends on how you look at it…

7. Big Frog Can’t Fit In by Mo Willems

Who says a picture has to be stuck on a page? Not Mo Willems. In this whimsical “pop-out” book, poor Big Frog just won’t fit! Based on this hilarious story, it looks like it might be time to make a bigger book.

8. Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

Every artist understands the frustration of making a mistake–too much shadow, the wrong shade of green for that leaf, or a splatter of paint in the middle of that white cloud. Barney Saltzberg shows readers that the most frustrating mistakes can be transformed into our most creative work.

9. What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom

When you’re trying to explain how an idea comes to life, there’s nothing handier than a metaphor. In this delightful picturebook, the author and illustrator work together to create a visual metaphor that shows children how their ideas are like an egg that needs to be  protected, nurtured, and given the time to grow before it can hatch.

10. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Every creator and innovator knows that their process is magnificent, but painful. Things don’t always go according to plan, the ideas in our heads don’t come out the way we imagine them to be, and sometimes, our ideas just don’t work. In The Most Magnificent Thing, children can see that even though the process can be frustrating, when we step back and relax, we can see our work with a fresh eye and sometimes, we find the perfect solution!

The Arts Participation Divide


The Washington Post recently published an article indicating a “Great Creative Divide” in the United States: people living in the Southern portion of the country were less likely to be involved in the arts than those living in the Northern portion. While we see creativity as encompassing much more than just the arts, it’s interesting to dig a little deeper into the data behind the WAPO article to get a snapshot of Georgians’ arts participation. Although the data doesn’t present a complete picture, it can point us in new directions as we consider children’s creative lives—or perhaps recommit us to paths we are already on.

Here are the numbers for Georgia:

* Percent of U.S. Adults Who Attend Visual or Performing Arts Events or Go to the Movies by State in 2015

  • Georgia: 57.6% (statistically less than U.S. average)

* Percent of U.S. Adults Who Attend Live Music, Theater, or Dance Performances by State in 2015

  • Georgia: 20.8% (statistically less than U.S. average)

* Percent of U.S Adults Who Attend Art Exhibits by State in 2015

  • Georgia: 9.5% (statistically less than U.S. average)

* Percent of U.S. Adults Who Go to Movies by State in 2015

  • Georgia: 53.3% (not statistically different from U.S. average)

* Percent of U.S. Adults Who Visit Buildings, Neighborhoods, Parks, and Other Sites for Their Historic or Design Value by States in 2015

  • Georgia: 20.3% (statistically less than U.S. average)

* Percent of U.S. Adults Who Read Literature (Poetry, Plays, Short Stories, or Novels) by State in 2015

  • Georgia: 36.8% (not statistically different from U.S. average)

* Percent of U.S. Adults Who Personally Perform of Create Artworks by State in 2014

  • Georgia: 34.2% (statistically less than U.S. average)

* Percent of U.S Adults Who Use TV, Radio, and /or Internet to Consume Art or Arts Programming by State in 2012

  • Georgia: 50% (statistically less than U.S. average)

Why are there variations in arts participation across states? The answer, of course, isn’t simple, but the National Endowment for the Arts, which published the data, links participation in the arts to education and poverty, as well as availability and access to arts organizations. The NEA also draws “strong association” between adults’ likelihood of attending arts events and their experiences with the arts as children. “Adults who visited an art museum as a child were 4.8 times more likely to visit an art museum or gallery as an adult,” the report states.

While creativity isn’t limited to the arts, the arts certainly are crucial components of a creative and innovative education. Perhaps the first step in providing children with more experiences with creativity in general and the arts in particular is to work together as adults to begin that cultivation.


How do we define American Education?

MACIE from College of Education & Human Dev on Vimeo.

According to its mission statement, the U.S. Department of Education seeks “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” This statement is punctuated with powerful actions like preparation, achievement, global competition, excellence and equality–actions we hope all students have opportunities to experience.

But, in the midst of a growing technological and creative revolution, are there more actions students should experience in order to develop the skills they need to thrive in a global creative economy?

Creativity and innovation require different actions: making, tinkering, doing, practicing, searching, exploring, and diversifying. In addition to achievement, preparation, and excellence, how can we also make space for creative and innovative thinking?

Our program is designed to create new learning spaces where people who are passionate about cultivating children’s creative lives can come to find inspiration, information, and connection. Will you join us?