“With her dry wit and good common sense, Principe explains how the new science of brain development undercuts the claims of those who believe that children need extraordinary, and extraordinarily early, stimulation to develop the skills they will need to succeed in school and in life. Other books have issued similar calls to give childhood back to our children, but none have done it as well, or as persuasively, as this one. This is a book that parents and educators of young children should take very seriously. I recommend it highly.”
—Laurence Steinberg, Distinguished University Professor of Psychology, Temple University, and author, The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting
“With well-researched developmental science at its core, this deliciously written book aims to take children off of the endangered species list and to return them to their natural habitats. A must read for anyone who has a child or who has ever been one.”
—Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, professor of psychology, Temple University, author, Einstein Never Used Flashcards, founder, Ultimate Block Party
“Gabrielle Principe is an accomplished scientist, a gifted writer, and, I’m sure, a great parent. She achieves the very difficult task of conveying the latest in scientific research about children and childhood to parents in a way that is fun, easily understandable, and can be readily applied to rearing children. She does so with humor, humility, and the hope that we can all raise happy, ‘normal’ children and enjoy the journey ourselves along the way. Your Brain on Childhood is a must-read for parents, teachers, and anyone concerned about the welfare and happiness of children.”
—David Bjorklund, professor of psychology, Florida Atlantic University; author, Why Youth Is Not Wasted on the Young; editor of, the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
“Humans evolved to grow up outdoors, exploring actively. But today's kids are tightly scheduled, screen-addicted, test-saturated, and sedentary. In Your Brain on Childhood, Gabrielle Principe brilliantly reveals this disconnect and shows how we can raise children in ways that work with our biology, not against it. An eye opening read!”
—Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age
For more than 99 percent of human existence childhood was spent in a natural environment. Children spent their days roaming in packs and playing on their own in the out-of-doors. They improvised their play, invented games, and made up their own rules. Education was informal and new skills were learned through interacting with peers and encountering the natural world.
Today, infants find themselves strapped into bouncy seats and plunked in front of the TV set; preschoolers are given talking doll houses and battery-powered frogs that teach them their ABCs; and older children sit in front of computers with iPods in their ears texting friends.
Although such artificial environments have made life easier and more secure for children, scientists are finding that this new lifestyle is having unwanted side effects on children’s brains. In Your Brain on Childhood, developmental psychologist Gabrielle Principe reviews the consequences of raising children in today’s highly unnatural environments and suggests ways in which parents can learn to naturalize childhood again, so that a child’s environment gels with how the brain was designed to grow.
In a clearly presented, accessible narrative, Principe marshals scientific evidence from a wide array of fields to explain why there is a disconnect between the brain’s evolutionary history and the technology-centered present. Research from both human and animal studies indicates that brain development is fostered by consistent opportunities for face-to-face communication and freewheeling pretend play.
The startling implication is that today’s structured, controlled, and fabricated surroundings are exactly wrong for developing brains. Instead of emphasizing technology and organized activities, parents and teachers could better help children learn by encouraging exploration, experimentation, and exposure to the real world. Recess, now often dismissed as a waste of time, should be considered an essential part of children’s cognitive and social development; lessons should be individualized as much as possible; and the current focus on homework and letter grades should be de-emphasized and eventually eliminated altogether.
Fascinating and controversial, this well-researched discussion by an expert on child development will make parents and school systems rethink how we are raising our children.
Shipping Weight: 1lbs
Gabrielle Principe, PhD (Spring City, PA), is associate professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at Ursinus College. She is the author (with A. F. Greenhoot, and S. J. Ceci) of the forthcoming Children’s Memory: Psychology and the Law, in addition to numerous articles in scientific journals.