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A Book Review of Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky

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Mind in the Making book review

The Bottom Line

Ellen Galinsky's Mind in the Making synthesizes a variety of research on child development and learning into clear advice for helping children develop into happy, confident, high-achieving adults pursuing meaningful lives. Mind in the Making identifies "the seven essential life skills every child needs" for success in school and our complex, always-on world.

Galinsky offers practical suggestions for helping children attain these skills through games, conversation and the moments of everyday life. Authoritative and accessible, Mind in the Making is a must-read for any parent.

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  • Fascinating research on child development and learning
  • Clear, easy-to-understand voice and well-organized structure
  • Practical advice for parents and educators on how to implement research findings
  • Real-life examples and quotes from other parents make it accessible to any reader


  • Can be redundant, with some findings or ideas repeated in different sections
  • Unclear who some of the quotes are from. It might be nice to have less anonymity


  • Accessible, authoritative book on how to use child and brain development research in your parenting
  • Author Ellen Galinsky is president of the Families and Work Institute
  • Trade paperback published by HarperStudio, 352 pages, priced at $16.99
  • Easy to read, with stories from parents and teachers punctuating the text
  • Useful for parents, educators and anyone interested in early learning
  • Launched with a companion Vook (video book) that includes interviews with the scientists Ellen Galinsky interviewed

Guide Review - A Book Review of Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky

Any parent who has sought an alternative to flashcards can stop looking. Ellen Galinsky's latest book, Mind in the Making, presents dozens of simple ideas for building your child's love of learning and resilience to life's challenges, backed up by authoritative research in child development.

Drawing on eight years of interviewing the leading developmental researchers, Ellen Galinsky's book Mind in the Making identifies "the seven essential life skills every child needs" as:

  • Focus and self control
  • Perspective taking
  • Communicating
  • Making connections
  • Critical thinking
  • Taking on challenges
  • Self-directed, engaged learning

Each chapter focuses on a single skill, recounting fascinating research on brain development and babies and then making suggestions for strengthening the skill in your child. Mind in the Making is chock full of gee-whiz moments, such as the finding that toddlers can remember and mimic a researcher's gesture four entire months later -- after first seeing it for just 20 seconds. I was blown away by the research on how much babies understand about language, numbers and people's intentions, long before they become verbal.

Children are born with innate temperaments and abilities, but the way we respond to them can either foster their success, or undercut their natural drive to learn. Ellen Galinsky explains the importance of using rich, complex language to improve children's memory and communications skills. Playing pretend strengthens their cognitive flexibility. And since a simple game of I Spy can develop your child's focus, no expensive toys or curricula are needed!

Understanding the different stages of brain development can not only help us become more effective parents, it can give us much-needed patience with the normal developmental stages -- like the white lies of early childhood and teenage rebellion -- which can otherwise be so maddening. Mind in the Making lives up to its promise to bridge the gap between the early childhood laboratories and the homes in which parents are raising the next generation.

Ellen Galinsky effectively intersperses quotes from real-life parents and educators with her own memories of raising two children. At times the book can feel repetitive and choppy, but overall I found it remarkably readable -- especially given the number of PhDs quoted and the complex concepts involved.

A book review of Mind in the Making must note that the author, Ellen Galinsky, is president of the Families and Work Institute. As such, her perspective extends beyond childhood and I take to heart her conviction that these same skills are much sought after in the working world.

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