As parents work to support their children’s learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, Drs. Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, share insights and guidance to foster crucial life skill development. Their book, Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children, published by the American Psychological Association, identifies the 6C’s.

As a parent, coping with the learning and childcare implications of the COVID-19 pandemic presents a big challenge. Even though schools and summer camps may be closed, children keep on growing and learning. It’s hard to imagine a silver lining, but there may be a time when you look back fondly on this brutal lockdown, remembering how much your children learned. 

When traditional, although online, schooling ends, some of that learning may not be obvious to parents. Being at home with you, and possibly siblings, creates a unique learning opportunity for your child to develop important life skills. They’ll need these skills, called the 6Cs, to succeed in school, but more importantly, in life.  The 6Cs are:

  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Content
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative innovation, and
  • Confidence.

These skills change the definition of what it means to be successful. Instead of thinking “if only my kid can get straight A’s’ his or her future will be assured,” the 6Cs incorporate skills needed to be happy, healthy, thinking, caring, and socially adept children who become collaborative, creative, competent and responsible citizens of tomorrow.

The crucible for the development of the 6Cs is playful learning—lots which is going on right now at home. It will happen sometimes when you least expect it, like when your 7-year-old helps her 4-year-old brother to do a puzzle without taking it over. This is the kind of collaboration that will serve her well in the world, as she takes her brother’s perspective into consideration and makes suggestions rather than just leaping in to do it herself. Look for times like these when you can encourage your child to collaborate, like when you are clearing the table. You show the importance of teamwork with what you ask of your child.  The world depends on collaboration—at home and even across international boundaries. 

In fact, international boundaries are melting away. That has never been more evident than now, as the virus spreads without regard to country of origin. Communication across international lines begins within family lines. For example, when your 11-year-old reads to your 5-year-old and actually explains words he thinks the 5-year-old may not understand, he is communicating effectively. Content is advanced, too.  Children need the 3R’s and more to become competent adults. Your 5-year-old learns new words that increase his vocabulary and your 11-year-old learns too, when he explains the meanings of the words in a way a 5-year-old can understand. Content and communication can also grow when you bake a cake or cook a meal with your child and talk about ingredients, measurements, and temperature. Science was never so delicious!  Content also includes those all important “learning to learn” skills like impulse control, or planning and problem solving—things we need to practice in a pandemic.

When children ask questions about why we have to stay in, and when they push you for more if your answer doesn’t satisfy, they are exercising critical thinking. That is a skill that will be crucial to solving the many problems that face us on this globe. But developing critical thinking can start small. Think about cleaning the house. Asking children to collaborate by making a list of what needs to be done, and then putting the items in order of importance, and deriving a system whereby everyone (even the youngest) chips in, exercises critical thinking as well as helping children learn to do those household tasks. Critical thinking also happens when you want to make that banana bread from the overripe bananas in the kitchen and work with your child to find a substitute for a missing ingredient. 

When the 11-year-old misses playing with her friends and you suggest that she make up a new game that can be played online with them, creative innovation is on the loose! One teacher told us that she is thrilled that children can now be bored. Boredom fuels critical thinking and creativity because children reach inside to develop their interests and creative urges. Coming up with a game to teach to your remote friends is also perfect for fostering collaboration and communication. If the game is not well received and your child goes back to the drawing board, she is showing confidence, or grit. Confidence is bred from learning from failures and trying that next iteration.  Grit and creative innovation work together—just ask any entrepreneur who has succeeded on the umpteenth try.

Maybe you love to do crossword puzzles. Download a puzzle appropriate for your child’s age and collaborate on it. Let your child see you thinking hard and not giving up and help them to do the same. A clue for “4-letter word for not difficult” gives you an opportunity to talk about words and antonyms! It’s “easy” to foster content, collaboration, and confidence all in one! 

The 6Cs are thriving at home. When you notice that your child is refining and growing them, it will make your time in isolation a happier one. It will help you think of all the ways in which your children—under your able guidance— are becoming better people and learning  crucial skills they will need to do better in school (when it resumes), in their interpersonal relationships (when we can interact in person again), and in their future careers.  

Now, during the COVID-19 lockdown, when we are less likely to be spending money for lessons or driving our children hither and yon, we can watch the 6C’s happen organically, in the context of family life.  But parents can do more than just watch. We can nurture our child’s learning and growth in precisely the skills they will need as they move through school and beyond. 

by Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, PhD

This Article's Author

Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, PhD, obtained her bachelor's degree at Brooklyn College, her PhD at Cornell University, and was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at the Learning Research and Development Center of the University of Pittsburgh. She is the Unidel H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Education, Professor of Linguistics and Cognitive Science, and Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Delaware. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, the James McKeen Cattell Sabbatical Award, the Urie Bronfenbrenner Award for Lifetime Contribution to Developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society, and two awards from APA: the Award for Distinguished Service to Psychological Science and Distinguished Scientific Lecturer. With her long-standing colleague Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Dr. Golinkoff was the 2015 recipient of the James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award for lifetime contributions to applied psychological science. She routinely travels worldwide to speak to academic as well as lay groups. Having written more than 150 articles and 16 books, monographs, and special journal issues, she is an expert on language development, playful learning, and early spatial knowledge. Three of her books are directed at parents and practitioners because she is passionate about dissemination. To bring the science of learning to the streets, Dr. Golinkoff cofounded the Ultimate Block Party movement to celebrate the science of learning.
by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD

This Article's Author

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD, is the Stanley and Debra Lefkowitz Distinguished Faculty Fellow in the Department of Psychology at Temple University and a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Her research examines the development of early language and literacy, as well as the role of play in learning. With her long-term collaborator, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, she is the author of 14 books and hundreds of publications. She is the recipient of APA's Urie Bronfenbrenner Award for Lifetime Contribution to Developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society, Award for Distinguished Service to Psychological Science, and Distinguished Scientific Lecturer award, as well as the Association for Psychological Science's James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award. Dr. Hirsh-Pasek is a fellow of APA and the American Psychological Society and the president-elect of the International Society for Infant Studies. She has served as the associate editor of Child Development. Her book Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Children Really Learn and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less won the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award as the best psychology book in 2003. Dr. Hirsh-Pasek received her bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh and her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.

Related Books from Magination Press

  • Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children

    Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, PhD, and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD

    In just a few years, today’s children and teens will forge careers that look nothing like those their parents and grandparents knew. Even the definition of “career” and “job” are changing as more people build their own teams to create new businesses, apps, and services. Although these changes are well underway, our system of K–12 education in the United States lags behind.

    Our education system still subscribes to the idea that content is king. The exclusive focus on content is reflected in what we test and how we teach, and even the toys we offer our children at home. Employers want to hire excellent communicators, critical thinkers, and innovators — in short, they want brilliant people. But they are often disappointed. So what can we do, as parents, to help our children be brilliant and successful?

    Stories about the failures of our educational system abound, but most of them stop after pointing out the problems. Becoming Brilliant goes beyond complaining to offer solutions that parents can apply right now.

    Authors Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek provide a science-based framework for how we should be educating children in and outside of school. Parents become agents of change for children’s success when they nurture six critical skills.

    Constructed from the latest scientific evidence and presented in an accessible way rich with examples, this book introduces the 6Cs — collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation, and confidence — along with tips to optimize children’s development in each area.

    Taken together, these are the skills that will make up the straight-A report card for success in the 21st century.