Resilience is the ability to overcome difficulties and return to a homeostatic state, i.e. return to a state of balance, in the face of adversities – and it can be developed from childhood. In our adult life, resilience is important to overcome life’s obstacles in a clever and kind way to yourself.
The story Fatima, from Truth and Tales, tells the life of Fatima, the main character who goes through many hurdles but always picks herself up and dusts herself off to continue on her path. The story doesn’t talk about resilience in itself, but it’s one of Fatima’s predominant traits, showing how she handles hard times, tragedies and frustrations while persisting to pursue her goals at the same time.
Let’s understand more about resilience? We have based our article on several materials from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child.
Resilience can be defined as “a good outcome in the face of adversity”. Linda C. Mayes is a professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology in the Yale School of Medicine. Linda defines resilience as the “ability or set of capacities for positive adaptation, allowing you to keep in balance”.
We are all born with the ability to be resilient, but since it’s a skill, it needs to be developed. Resilience is built over time just like our brain’s architecture is formed. It’s an individual skill, but it requires interaction between people and the child and the overall community. Resilience needs several factors in order to be developed: responsive relationships, safe community, qualified parents or legal guardians, healthy diets, etc.
To understand the development of resilience in a more precise way, let’s imagine a seesaw whose base, which is usually fixed in the center, can now move and slide to the left or to the right. On one side of the seesaw, there are protective experiences and skills to face challenges (which help us overcome periods of stress); on the other side, there are adversities.
Resilience is evident when the child’s health and development tend to yield positive outcomes, even when a load of factors is piled on top of the adversities side of the seesaw. Over time, the cumulative positive impacts of our life experiences and our ability to face challenges are able to move the position of the seesaw’s base, which starts to slide closer to the adversity side, making it easier to reach positive outcomes.
The most common factor for kids to develop resilience is by having at least one stable and committed relationship with their parents, caregivers or other adults. These relationships provide the base, protection and everything that is necessary to develop the responsive ability according to the moment’s need. This alleviates the kids’ halt in development.
They also build key abilities – such as to plan, monitor and regulate behaviors – which allow children to respond adaptively to adversities and, still, prosper. This combination of supportive relationships, the development of adaptive skills and positive experiences are the foundations of resilience.
Kids who handle difficulties well are usually resilient to adversity and have strong relationships with important adults in their family and in the community where they live. Resilience is the outcome of a combination of protection factors. Alone, not even individual traits or social environments can guarantee positive outcomes for children who go through long periods of toxic stress. It’s the interaction between biology and the environment that builds the kids’ ability to handle adversity and overcome threats and guides them towards a healthy development.
The abilities related to resilience can be strengthened at any age. The brain and other biological systems are more adaptable in the beginning of life. While its development establishes the bases for a wide range of resilient behaviors, it’s never too late to build resilience.
Activities that promote health and are age appropriate can significantly improve the chances of recovery of an individual whose experiences are stress-inducing.
For example, regular physical exercise, stress-reducing practices, and activities that actively build executive functioning and self-regulating skills improve both children and adults’ ability to handle, adapt to, and even prevent the adversities that can happen throughout life.
Adults who strengthen these skills in themselves may even serve as role models and show healthy behaviors in a more effective way to their kids, thus improving the next generation’s resilience.
In the face of the mishaps that occurred throughout Fatima’s life – which is a character from one of the Truth and Tales’ stories – many people can interpret that she is a poor thing persecuted by bad luck and a victim of so many tragedies. However, Fatima demonstrates a lot of power and wisdom by facing and overcoming these obstacles. Her ability to bounce back from all the challenges, despite the pain, exhaustion and adversity, is the result of resilience.
Stories that are filled with challenges and frustrations are important for kids to have contact with adversity without living them in their own skin. This helps to prepare them to face challenging situations in the context of their own lives.
Text: Luisa Scherer
Translation: Mariana Gruber
You’ve certainly already heard the stories of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel and Thumbling. Many of them have become classical kids movies that charmed different generations and remain present in children’s lives. These stories, among many others, are part of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
Since we have already talked about Aesop’s Fables, today we are going to discuss other popular kids stories: the Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
The Grimm’s Fairy Tales are composed of fairy tales, fables and other stories published by the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. There are 2 collections: the first, with 86 stories, was published in 1812; the second, with 70 stories, was published in 1814. Both collections had several editions and in each one some stories were added, while others were removed. In addition to these two volumes of short stories, the Brothers Grimm also published a small selection of 50 short kids stories in 1825.
Initially, the Brothers Grimm published the stories with the intention of preserving the oral culture of the popular stories they heard in Germany, the country where they lived. Therefore, many stories weren’t appropriate for kids: there were evil characters, violence and sexual undertones.
But all the stories were part of Germany’s collective imagination of the 19th Century and the oral culture that had survived until then. The stories helped people face challenges and transmitted the wisdom of that culture.
The Brothers Grimm also recorded these stories with the purpose of organizing all the linguistic elements that would ground the philological studies of the German language. To sum it up, they wanted the German traditions, culture and language to be recorded and preserved, since back then the lands that today are part of Germany were constantly threatened by the Napoleonic wars.
The most common tales that contain moral lessons are the Aesop’s Fables. The Grimm’s Fairy Tales don’t present moral lessons as openly, despite having something to teach. However, many adaptations of these stories add a moral lesson in order to make the teaching they are transmitting very clear.
As we explained in detail in the article about Greek Fables, we believe that giving a moral lesson to stories limits their teachings and what we can learn from them. After all, a story can yield countless interpretations and each person can see and absorb different wisdoms from the same tales.
Jacob and Wilhelm weren’t very concerned with the contents of the stories they were recording, after all, the purpose there was to keep the culture alive. It was common to find scenes of mutilation, mothers as villains, violent vengeances, terrorizing endings and a lot of tragedy.
The problem is that the first edition was published in 1812 as “the Children’s and Household Tales”, and it wasn’t an immediate success – you can imagine why. In the last editions published by the brothers, they adapted and modified the plots in order to make the stories more appropriate for kids.
The Grimm’s Fairy Tales remained part of Germany’s cultural imagery and crossed borders by charming the whole world. Walt Disney’s classic films are adaptations of Grimm’s Fairy Tales; the theaters of many countries welcome plays and musicals based on the brothers’ stories, and many different books adapting or reinterpreting the stories were published.
The fairy tales from today are different from the originals and even from the adapted versions created by the Brothers Grimm themselves. The stories underwent several changes over time in order to fit the historical and cultural context of each period and country.
In spite of that, Jacob and Wilhem managed to accomplish their initial goal: that the German oral tradition continue alive through generations.
Teaching Stories are also ancient tales, just like the ones from the Brothers Grimm. However, while Teaching Stories pass on wisdom from one culture and people, the Grimm’s Fairy Tales aimed to disseminate the social customs and rules. This isn’t the only difference between the Teaching Stories and the Grimm’s Fairy Tales – as they have many.
The main one is the need to adapt. Teaching Stories travel through generations without needing major adaptations, since the wisdom transmitted is connected to the structure of the story. In the Teaching Stories, it’s possible to switch the characters’ genders and change the animals in the stories, for example, without it losing its essence. The Teaching Stories’ adaptation need is in the details, since the transmission of wisdom transcends the characters and narrative details, making them more adequate throughout generations.
The Brothers Grimm’s Fairy Tales, on the other hand, need more and more adaptations in order to adjust to each generation. The need to adapt is becoming necessary increasingly fast due to the changes in paradigms regarding misogyny, racism, and the search for equality, for example. It’s difficult to find an old tale that doesn’t require any adaptation for today’s kids, but the Grimm’s Fairy Tales are structured in a way that they lose their meaning in the face of too many narrative changes.
Many elements of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales are tied: from the characters and their physical and personality traits to the narrative and its structure. This makes it harder for the main goal of the tales to remain after the necessary tweaks have been made to adjust them to future generations, since the social customs and rules have changed a lot since the publication of these stories.
The Truth and Tales app has Teaching Stories for kids! They’re offered in two formats: interactive stories and audio books. In the interactive stories, kids can listen and read the story at the same time – and even have fun with the interactive aspects and mini games; the audio books, by contrast, allows kids to only listen to the story, which can be used in moments that require more peace and quiet, such as before going to bed or during car trips.
Text: Luisa Scherer
Translation: Mariana Gruber
The word empathy has gained a lot of popularity in the last few years and, because of this, you must have heard of this expression. However, despite its new-found popularity, have you ever wondered what it means?
Have you ever questioned how is it possible to develop empathy and from which age does it start to manifest?
We can feel empathy in several situations from an early age. When we come across completely different realities from ours, such as when we see someone being insulted by someone else or going through a situation that causes someone some kind of discomfort, we feel empathy. You can do this exercise and try to remember situations that made you feel empathy.
According to the University of Cambridge’s dictionary definition of empathy, it is “the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation”.
The Greater Good magazine, from the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) from Berkeley, published an article in which it pointed out that “emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling”.
Feeling empathy is an emotional and cognitive experience. The emotional components of empathy are the first to emerge in the human being. Babies immediately start to reflect on the emotional states and the facial expressions of the people around them. Thanks to mirror neurons, babies as young as 18 hours usually show some response capacity regarding other babies in danger. We don’t teach babies how to do that; they are born programmed to map other people’s experiences onto their own brains and bodies.
According to Lawrence Kutner, North-American child psychologist and author of six books, kids as young as 2 years old might see their mothers crying, for example, and move to offer her what they have in hand, such as a toy or food. However, in the face of this action, it isn’t clear whether the 2-year-old kid recognizes their mother’s feeling as she cries.
The author writes, “By the time a child is about 4 years old, he begins to associate his emotions with the feelings of others. While one child says he has a stomachache, some 4-year-olds may come over and comfort him. Others, much to the bewilderment and horror of parents and teachers, will walk over to the child and punch him in the stomach.”
“Yet in each case the healthy child is demonstrating his empathy for the one who is ill. The aggressive child does not know what to do with the skill he’s been developing. The other child’s pain makes him feel uncomfortable. Instead of running away or rubbing his own stomach, as he might have done a year earlier, he feels frustrated and lashes out.”
1. “Empathize with your child and model empathy for others.”
Children learn empathy both from watching us and from experiencing our empathy for them. When we empathize with our children they develop trusting, secure attachments with us.
Those attachments are key to their wanting to adopt our values and to model our behavior, and therefore to building their empathy for others.”
2. “Provide opportunities for children to practice empathy.“
Children are born with the capacity for empathy, but it needs to be nurtured throughout their lives. Learning empathy is in certain respects like learning a language or a sport. It requires practice and guidance.
Regularly considering other people’s perspectives and circumstances helps make empathy a natural reflex and, through trial and error, helps children get better at tuning into others’ feelings and perspectives.”
3. “Expand your child’s circle of concern.”
As parents and caretakers, it’s not only important that we model appreciation for many types of people. It’s important that we guide children in understanding and caring for many kinds of people who are different from them and who may be facing challenges very different from their own challenges.”
4. “Help children develop self-control and manage feelings effectively.” Often when children don’t express empathy it’s not because they don’t have it. It’s because some feeling or image is blocking their empathy. Often the ability to care for others is overwhelmed, for example, by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings.
Helping children manage these negative feelings as well as stereotypes and prejudices about others is often what “releases” their empathy.”
He reached these definitions based on research done by the Harvard Medical School. These studies also present the existence of a social brain, which can be explained as parts of the brains that interact in order for us to engage with one another.
The psychologist explains that the social brain isn’t made of one small part of the human brain, since varied parts of the brain interact to perform the functions involved in social coexistence. The term “social brain” encompasses several active parts that cover the entire human brain. These active parts are implied in the actions we execute when we interact with other people.
According to the researcher and author, these three types of empathy directly related to the social brain are paramount for communication in different types of environments, whether that’s at work, at home or in school. “When two people are in such a state, giving each other their full attention, it creates a feeling of well-being and makes space so that exchanges can happen, since they’re feeling safe and supported,” he states.
The author reiterates that our ability to truly connect with people, regardless of the situation, is extremely important for us to understand what others are telling us and what they feel. In order to improve this connection you need to know how to listen to others and ask questions.
Daniel Goleman states: “I literally feel your pain. My brain patterns match up with yours when I listen to you tell a gripping story.”
To reach this conclusion, the doctor created a program that taught other doctors how to concentrate and breathe deeply through the diaphragm in order to observe interactions. “Suspending your own involvement to observe what is happening allows you to interact with “conscious awareness”, without being completely reactive”, affirmed Dr. Riess.
She states in the research that if a doctor notices she is feeling annoyed, for example, it may be a sign that the patient is also feeling disturbed.
Michelle Borba, an educator, parenting child expert and author of more than 20 books, in an interview to Revista Crescer explained that “the last scientific discoveries have shown that the ability to be empathetic positively affects healthy and finances, brings happiness and contributes to the satisfaction that relationships offer, in addition to increasing the ability to overcome adversities in the future. Empathy also prepares kids to live in a globalized world and provides them with a boost to do better career-wise.”
In her book Unselfie, Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, the author dedicates an entire chapter to the importance of kids being in contact with literature.
According to her, “Books have the power to transport kids to other worlds and transform their hearts. Books can be portals to understanding distinct universes and points of view, helping our kids to be more open to differences and to cultivate new perspectives. We always feel what the characters feel. It’s like walking in their skins – emotionally, at least – identifying ourselves with their discomforts and feeling their pains. (…) That is why we need to find time for kids to read and put them in contact with books.”
By reading or listening to stories, kids can broaden their perceptions regarding their own lives and, therefore, experience empathy. Our app Truth and Tales also shares this vision since it encourages kids and adults to perceive themselves more and more. By doing so better, we can also see others more easily and, that way, be more empathetic.
Written by Débora Nazário
Translated by Mariana Gruber
Empathy is popular right now and we can see it being mentioned in several lectures of the most varied genres. People claim it’s the “skill of the future”. Despite many talking about empathy, however, in practice, most still confuse it with sympathy.
As it was said in the article above, we feel empathy when we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes – when we are able to see the situation from someone else’s perspective. It’s the ability to experience the same feelings as others.
Sympathy, on the other hand, isn’t a shared experience. Sympathy concerns our own feelings from our own judgment of a situation. To feel sympathy is to express that, despite not knowing what the other person is going through, you feel for them.
For empathy to occur, a connection between two people is indispensable, whether they know each other or not. In a world where online connection is getting easier and easier, physical ones are getting lost. We advise, therefore, that you spend some quality time with your kids away from screens and the internet.
Truth and Tales, our original app, develops empathy through interactive kids stories. This is done through the customization of the main characters, which allows kids to choose the character’s skin, eye and hair color, the hairstyle, the clothes, the accessories, etc.
Kids could come up with the craziest combinations, but they usually put together characters whose physical traits are similar to themselves. That makes it easier for kids to put themselves in the character’s shoes, thus developing empathy.
Many parents have probably already heard the game Fortnite be mentioned by their own kids or by others, just like Among Us and Roblox. Fortnite was created in 2011 and has since seen its number of players increase more and more.
In August of this year, the game’s producer, Epic Games, stated that it had reached 500 million user accounts – while, last year, the number was 350 million.
Fortnite is a multiplayer online game (i.e. it allows several players to play one match at the same time) of the battle royale genre, that is, it gathers a big group of players who stay in one place searching for weapons, wood and building tools. Of this starting group, only one player or team survives and wins the match.
For this reason, whoever plays Fortnite gets very focused and tense during the match, since it’s not possible to pause. Aside from this Fortnite narrative, it’s possible to explore and discover map elements of the game, and, parallel to this, defeat enemies. In a simplified way, we can say that the last player wins – in other words, the one who survived all the battles and managed to escape other players.
The main goal within the game is to be the last one surviving, usually by winning combats against other players. In order to do that, users can play in solo mode, in pairs or in teams of four participants maximum.
Those who better explore the map, win resources, acquire items and/or establish their bases have an advantage in combat. Knowing the map is extremely important since this keeps players alert during moments of combat.
The game is free and can be played on a PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android. To download the game in the computer, you need to access Fortnite’s main page, select the option “play free now” and then select PC/Mac.
The next step is to create an Epic Games account, which is the platform that hosts the game, similar to a game store. Some data are requested, such as country, full name, user name, email address and password. The game also offers the possibility of creating an account with your Facebook or Gmail logins. After filling out this information, the user must choose a destination folder where the game will be saved in the computer.
Once the process of installation and user and password creation is complete, it’s time to start playing. In order to do that, you need to select the Battle Royale mode, which appears on the home screen.
After selecting the character and their skin, there are a few game mode options for the user to choose from: solo, duos and squads – i.e. the player can choose to play alone, with another player or in a team.
The game starts as soon as these steps are completed. The player starts the match on a hot air balloon or flying bus in the sky from where they’re airdropped, landing right on the game’s map.
We know games and apps have a few ways to monetize their creations, i.e. to “make money” from them, as explained in this article.
Fortnite is free to download and play – and it’s free of advertising. Then how does it make money? Through in-game purchases. Fortnite sells some items that you can use inside the game.
In the item shop inside Fortnite, it’s possible to buy Skins (character clothes), weapons and accessories to customize your character and even improve your performance in battles. The game’s currency is V-Bucks. As of when this article was written, you can buy 1,000 V-Bucks for $7.99; 2,800 V-Bucks for $19.99 and so on and so forth.
Besides the items already mentioned, loot boxes can also be bought in the store. Loot boxes are boxes with random items to customize your character. These items are sold separately in the shop, but users are attracted to loot boxes due to the possibility of finding rare items there. Loot boxes use the same mechanic used in casinos and they can be harmful to kids.
In the United States, purchases made inside Fortnite have become an issue for many kids, who are being bullied for having “default” characters – i.e. whoever plays with the character skin that they started the game with, without customizing them with items sold in the shop, is derogatorily called “default”.
This social pressure to customize characters generates a false need for consumption among kids, if only to protect themselves from being bullied in school or inside the game.
In other words, kids are not even safe and protected at home, where they’re attacked online through the Fortnite chat. This needless consumption encouraged by the game is one of the main causes of concern with respect to kids.
As we have mentioned, the player who’s the last one standing at the end of the match wins. Therefore, in addition to having to think about defense strategies, you need to shoot enemies so that they’re destroyed, which implies violent scenes.
Despite all the shootings and players “dying”, the game isn’t very realistic. The game graphic doesn’t show blood and then a player dies, what appears on the screen is the items such player was keeping and which are now available for the other player to collect.
In Brazil, the game matches were rated for people over 12 years old. In the United States, on the other hand, the recommended age is 13 years old, which is the same age that Epic Games, the company that created the game, suggested.
Similar to Among Us, Fortnite has a chat feature during the game, where it’s possible for players to talk during matches. In this case, however, it’s possible to silence the chat in the following manner:
The most important tip that encompasses not only Fortnite but many other games is to have constant, open dialogues with your kids. Communication builds trust in the little ones and it will make it easier for them to talk about any type of situation that happens in the game that seems unusual.
Written by Débora Nazário
Translated by Mariana Gruber
We can’t say that Fortnite is a violence-free game, because it’s not. There are weapons, shootings, and the game winner is the one who survives. Therefore, we reinforce that it is necessary for parents and kids to have conversations about the game.
Being interested in what your kids like and even playing with them is something that brings you closer and makes them comfortable enough to seek adult help if they feel the need.
It’s important to always be attentive when it comes to the chat feature in case it isn’t silenced, even if your kids aren’t showing any concerning signs. Asking what they talk about and agreeing with them that you’re going to check it once in a while are very important in order to protect them from ill-intentioned people.
Talking about what your kids think about that violence is also worth it, since the game tries masking this issue by giving it an air of fantasy. Many kids don’t even notice the violence and henceforth don’t treat it as such.
But violence isn’t the game’s most fragile issue. How it monetizes – in other words, how Fortnite makes money – is what parents should always be concerned about.
Therefore, our stance regarding Fortnite is that kids under 10 don’t play the game, since they don’t understand how the monetization works, i.e. that each item actually costs real money. They’re not prepared yet for this type of game model.
For older kids, talking about this issue and establishing limits are paramount. Agreements like these will change according to each family’s reality, but it’s important that they understand clearly that each item bought is worth money.
It’s also important to talk about how this affects your kids’ social lives. We’ve seen many who are bullied in school for using the “default” character in the game. Keep an eye out for this, talk about this issue and be attentive to how your kids seem before and after playing Fortnite. Many kids become anxious and only play it because they “need” to be in the same environment that everyone else is.
In spite of all this, there’s no denying that Fortnite helps to develop certain skills.
Shooting games in general develop spatial vision, since the game’s point of view is usually first-person and you need to pay a lot of attention to all the elements around you in order to shoot and hide. Agility is also developed, as well as global and focal attention, since you need to focus on one target and search for a secure place at the same time.
There’s one more thing that even Fortnite itselfs awards: buildings. The user can collect wood, rocks, ropes and tools in the game to build fortresses – hiding places that assist you in the game – and the player profits from each building. Similar to Minecraft and Roblox, this “Sandbox” type of game that allows kids to build things is very beneficial to both their spatial vision and creativity. We’ve talked about spatial vision in games here.
If your kids are starting to play computer games, it is possible that soon you’re going to hear about Discord. Here is some important information about Discord for you to know what kids are doing to play online.
Discord is a chat app. It’s quite popular within the gaming community, but it has gained popularity within other niches as well since many companies and schools have adopted the program for remote work and teaching.
Discord allows users to communicate over text, voice and/or video, through channels, groups, or private chats.
The app became popular among gamers for being a good meeting point option: it is possible to play online and talk to people on a Discord voice channel at the same time. In addition, there is the streaming option, which is when someone streams their computer screen live so that other people can see their game.
Another strength is the communities Discord forms. There are servers of the most varied themes, where users can discuss news, ask questions, give out advice and even find other players to play together.
To better understand how it works, we are first going to explain its structure. If your kids are on Discord, it is important to know the following details.
According to Discord’s Terms of Service, it requires that users are at least 13 years old to access the app or the website. This is done by date of birth confirmation during the registration that gives access to Discord. If the user is under 13 years of age, the account is blocked. Of course, many kids know this and type in another date of birth so that they can create an account, just like in many other websites and apps.
Discord takes some precautions to make their user’s experience safer, regardless of age:
If your kid is younger than 13 and is already on Discord, be aware that this is not in accordance with the platform’s rules. Maybe you can both reach an agreement to migrate to another platform where kids are allowed, but we know this may be a challenging task. If they don’t budge and you decide not to forbid your kid from playing with their friends on Discord, you need to pay attention to the following issues:
Discord doesn’t have parental controls, but there are some settings that can make your kids safer there. In order to do that, open Discord and search the navigation menu for User Settings, which has a gear icon, and then click on Privacy and Security. There are many options there that you can either turn on or off. Here are some tips:
If you or your kids see hate messages, threats, or any act that goes against Discord’s rules, it’s possible to report it. In order to do that, you need to copy the message link. You can get this link by right clicking on the message, selecting the option “copy message link” and pasting the message over DM (Direct Message, when you send a message directly to Discord) or over the Discord server, both within the platform.
It’s also possible to send an email by filling out a form that describes what happened. Here, in the option What we can help you?, select the option Trust & Safety. We recommend attaching screenshots of the chat and saving all the message links. The message should be written in English.
Written by Luisa Scherer
Translated by Mariana Gruber
Discord was created for people over 13 years old. At this age, teenagers are mature enough to deal with subjects like bullying, they notice more easily when they’re being tricked and they are aware that anyone could be on the other side of the screen. Kids under 13 don’t have the necessary skills yet to notice some of these warnings.
Despite that, Discord is a great platform to play online with friends, and we know it’s one of kids and teenagers’ favorites. If your kids are younger than the minimum age and use it either way, it’s up to each parent to decide whether or not your kids are allowed to be on Discord.
We believe it’s possible to keep kids on the platform so long as you’re very attentive. Therefore, make sure your kids know all their Discord friends from real life or make sure that they’re all the same age. It’s also worth asking your kids if you can arrange to talk to their virtual friends’ parents one day, in order to ensure that the kids are, in fact, the same age and that all parents from “both sides” are on the same page.
If your kids are under 13, we suggest they don’t use headphones when they’re on Discord. It’s easier for you to be attentive this way and notice what is being said in the channels and servers they are a part of.
Keep an open and recurring dialogue over your kids’ games and the experiences on Discord. Talk to them, be interested in what they play. This makes it all easier when they need your help. Always mention some precautions they should take, such as not accepting friend requests from people they don’t know, asking for your help when they stumble across something unusual and this type of thing.
Remember that your kids and their friends can also create servers. We recommend reading this to learn how to create a safe Discord server.
Roblox is a virtual platform that makes many possibilities available to users, from creating new games to playing other users’ productions.
According to a report published by Roblox Corporation this year in August, the platform has reached the mark of having 48 million active users playing daily. This number is expressive not only in terms of the quantity of players, but also in the hours that players spend connected to the platform: more than 4 billion hours were spent playing during the analyzed period.
This universe of possibilities has attracted many kids – as well as parents’ attention. We have already written a complete guide for parents to help them pay attention to certain aspects of Roblox when their kids are playing it.
In this article, we are going to talk about how to make your kid’s experience safer and understand a little more about how the platform works.
Roblox offers some parental control possibilities, such as limiting chat functions, account restrictions (so that the user can access only Roblox’s curated content) and age visibility, which determines the settings for kids.
Click on the security option within settings. Next to account restrictions, switch the button position to activate the restrictions. The button will turn green and the following message will appear on the screen: “Account restrictions are currently enabled”. This means you have successfully enabled account restrictions.
By doing so, no other user can send you messages, either in the Roblox app or in the game, in addition to preventing the account from being found by its phone number. All these settings can be adjusted individually, as soon as the restrictions are activated.
Blocking users is very simple: you must simply open the profile of the user you wish to block and click on the three dots on the top right corner where there is the username and friends information. A menu of options will appear on screen and among them there will be the option to “block user”. By selecting it, you block the user.
There is also the option of blocking users inside the games. In the list in the top right corner of the game screen there is a list of players, select the profile you wish to block and a menu will be displayed on the screen. After that, choose the option: block user. It is also possible to report abuse directly in the same menu, by clicking on report abuse.
It’s necessary to report abuse through this button when some user uses inappropriate language or addresses other players in a threatening or intimidating way.
Roblox offers kids parents another safety possibility: the creation of a PIN number associated with the guardian’s email address to block user settings. To activate it, you need to click on the gear icon on Roblox’s home page and then choose settings.
After doing so, type the guardian’s email address and the kid’s account password in the corresponding fields. Then, click on add email. A confirmation email will be sent to the given email address. After the confirmation process is complete, you need to refresh the settings page to activate the PIN number. Then, to activate it, click on account PIN. Once it’s activated, every setup in the future will be activated only after the password is typed in. The settings are now blocked by the PIN number.
Now that you already know how to keep your kids safe on Roblox, we are going to explain how the game works, so that you can talk to your kids and be a part of their online life as well.
How does game creation happen on Roblox?
Before anything else you need to create an account on Roblox’s main page. After that, you will already have access to your main profile, where you can change your personal information, send and receive messages, change your profile picture and create your own games.
To start creating games, you need to download the program Roblox Studio. This program is what makes it possible to create games with the available objects and map models, which later can be published in your profile within Roblox.
Once Roblox Studio is downloaded, in the creation start menu there are the map options, where it is also possible to choose a theme or gameplay map. Players who are new to the platform can choose the gameplay option, since the game’s visuals and rules will already be established. The gameplay mode offers seven available models: Racing, Obby, Line Runner, Infinite Runner, Capture The Flag, Team/FFA Arena and Combat. Some edits are allowed, such as changing objects, switching the background between day and night and customizing the avatar. In the lateral tab, located in the left part of the screen, there are buttons to create a new map or visualize already existing ones.
After selecting the game option, it is possible to change elements within the game, such as objects and the avatar, by clicking on the “toolbox”. At this stage, it’s possible to style the game according to how the player had pictured it. To do so, the user must enable the toolbox on the left part of the screen. With it, the player can add objects and choose where to place them. If you want to alter the object surface or add effects, you must simply click on “model”.
In the theme option, the user can create a game from already existing terrains, with the following available themes: Baseplate, Flat Terrain, Village, Castle, Suburban and Racing.
By selecting this option, the elements of each terrain are filled automatically according to their own traits. Despite that, the elements can also be altered.
To those who have previous knowledge of game creation, Roblox Studio also offers the option to create a game from scratch. To do so, you should choose the base plate map, which is a blank map mode. After selecting this mode, the user can choose a terrain and, then, select the game’s objects, characters, visual and sound effects, and rules. This mode also allows the player to create gameplay mechanics with programming, especially HTML. There is the plugins tab, which offers a system to those familiar with programming and makes a more autonomous creation possible.
Kids who have learnt or are learning programming and coding can benefit a lot from this Roblox mode.
Testing the game created on Roblox Studio is an extremely important part of the creation process. In order to do that, click on the top of the Roblox Studio window and open the toolbar called testing and then play. Now it’s possible to walk with your character through the map, observing the game from a wider point of view. To leave player mode you need to simply click on stop. By doing so, the user will go back to editing mode.
Putting objects in non-strategic places – which hinder movement within the game – is one of the most frequent errors. That is why testing the game is extremely important, since that is the only way such errors can be fixed.
Don’t forget to save the game:
After following these steps, it’s time to save the game. And, similarly to other types of work that use programs, saving a copy is key. To do that, you need to click on file and then save.
Now that a copy has been saved, it’s time to publish the game. On the top menu, on the file tab, the user must click on the option “publish to Roblox”. The next screen will ask you to choose a genre for the game, whether it will be private or public, and other details such as the name and the devices it will be available to play. After that, you can simply click on create for the game to go online!
Written by Débora Nazário
Translated by Mariana Gruber
Roblox is an amazing tool and it can be very beneficial for kids. We can start by considering it’s an active activity in which kids can create new things instead of only consuming content passively (of which watching a video is a good example).
With Roblox, kids have access to games created by other users, which is an incentive for them to create their own games. The game creation process involves much more than programming. You need to think about the goal of the game, its format, characters, rules, all of its visuals, and, of course, in the technical aspects of it, which is programming in itself. All of this requires organization and focus.
By building a simple game, kids develop many skills like planning, organization, and storytelling skills; and the ability to see a project from a broader point of view and, right afterward, move on to an activity in which they need to focus in only one aspect (we call this global and focal attention) – in addition to a lot of creativity.
However, it’s a platform to which many people have simultaneous online access – and there’s a chat feature. All the games and platforms that have chats and kids using them must trigger a warning light on a parent’s mind. This is because ill-intentioned people can make contact with kids and try to take advantage of them somehow.
Therefore, read about Roblox (and all the games and apps your kids have), understand how it works and keep yourself informed about parental controls in order to activate whatever is necessary to protect them within the platform.
Fables exist in cultures all over the world and are used as an instrument of wisdom transmission. Greek fables are quite famous, mainly in Western culture, and have been present in many people’s lives since their early childhoods. They appear in kids books and educational materials and are transmitted orally in the classroom and at home.
The origin of Greek fables can’t be traced back exactly, but history mentions Aesop, a storyteller supposedly born in the sixth or seventh century B.C in Asia Minor, who was later brought to Greece as an enslaved man.
One of the earliest known books printed in Guntenberg’s press in 1476 was Aesop’s Fables. French poet Jean de La Fontaine, who lived in the seventeenth century, was a great promoter of Aesop’s Fables.
According to Theon of Alexandria (math and astronomy professor as well as scholar of books from classic authors, who lived from AD 335 to 400): “The Fable is an invented story that illustrates the truth”.
Fables rely on animal characters with human traits.
According to InfoEscola, fables “make an analogy between human reality and the situation lived by the characters with the intent of teaching something or proving a well-established truth”, as Theon of Alexandria pointed out. Many call this well-established truth a moral lesson.
Storytelling is an old and universal form of entertainment. For this reason, the fable’s purpose is to impact and clarify moral, ethical and social values in a pleasant, gentle, effective and non-threatening way.
Greek fables are used as an educational tool in order to illustrate a society’s ethical, moral and social rules, so that people (usually kids) learn them without the need to live through a similar experience.
Due to their ancient nature and to the fact that they have been spread orally throughout history, Greek fables suffered alterations and transformations with time. Its “moral lessons” at the end of the fables didn’t use to exist and people were free to interpret the story and reflect on it as they wished.
The moral lesson might be the most popular aspect of the fables. The moral lesson is an item which is present in every single article published about fables, in every research website, information books, in how to create a fable, and so on and so forth.
I can even remember some sentences that originate from the fables’ moral lessons: “Slow and steady wins the race”; “All actions have consequences”; “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted”.
In the book “A Companion to the Works of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing”, the author John Pizer brings up some important issues raised by Lessing, a German poet, playwright, philosopher and art critic who lived in the seventeenth century.
According to Lessing, the fables’ moral teachings have to be intuitive. Describing a fox as astute, a dog as loyal and a rooster as proud, is for him part of the semiotics of allegory, which “presuppose a need for relatively overt narrative description in linking an animal’s moral attributes to its character”.
Lessing says that, in a simple fable, in which there are no semiotics of allegory, “such associations are directly intuited”. In other words, there’s no need to label the character because the reader will perceive its traits. According to the author, the semiotics of allegory “would block the intuitive cognition of a moral truth by now allowing the reader’s imagination to do its own work. This process of intuitive cognition is at the core of Lessing’s famous summary definition of the fable”, which “presupposes the perceptions of the narrated event as real, a perception that detailed description, given its ‘inanimate’ quality, can only obscure”.
Considering Lessing’s stance on the subject, we leave a few important questions here:
According to Theda Detlor in the book “Aesop´s Fables – Reproducible Read-Aloud Tales With Instant Activities that Get Kids Discussing, Writing About & Acting on the Important Lessons in The Wise & Classic Stories”, fables help kids in many aspects:
The grasshopper liked to sing and enjoy life without worrying about the future. The ant, on the other hand, worked hard to store food, mainly during the summer, in order to have enough to eat throughout the winter.
While the ant worked, the grasshopper sang. It also tried to persuade the ant to stop working and come sing with it.
When winter came, the grasshopper had nothing to eat. The ant, however, since it had worked all summer long, was well-prepared to survive the winter.
The hare and the tortoise lived in the woods. The hare would always tease the tortoise for being slow and, one day, the tortoise said enough. It decided to challenge the hare to a race, who accepted, sure that it would win.
Once the race started, both started running. The hare was way quicker than the tortoise, to the point it decided to lie down to rest right next to the finish line. However, the tortoise kept going at its slow pace and eventually reached the finish line before the hare, which woke up when it was already too late.
Starving, the fox walked through an orchard until it spotted a bunch of grapes. It noticed the grapes were ripe and perfect to be eaten. Since the path was clear and no one was around, the fox decided to pick the grapes.
The grapes were hanging high in the vines, but the fox spared no effort to try to catch them, despite its own limitations. It tried to reach the grapes through many ways.
After several failed attempts, the fox was exhausted and disappointed, as well as still starving. Admitting defeat, it shrugged, turned around and left. It felt so frustrated by its unsuccessful attempts that it tried to comfort itself by saying, scornfully: “Actually, looking carefully, the grapes were rotten and not as ripe as they seemed to be when I saw them for the first time.”
There was a lion who lived in a forest and who was feared by all the animals. One day, he was sleeping with a full belly under the shade of a tree when a little mouse woke him up as he tip-toed past him.
Startled, the lion caught the mouse beneath his paw. The little mouse begged the lion not to eat him. He begged him so much, the lion let him go.
Some time later, the lion was strolling through the forest. Suddenly, he got trapped in a hunter’s net. He roared in anger because he couldn’t escape.
The little mouse, who was close by, went to check what was happening and spotted the lion stuck in the trap. He quickly gnawed at the ropes until the lion was free.
Written by Luisa Scherer
Translated by Mariana Gruber
Knowing the fables are tools to develop many functions during childhood, we have brought them to Truth and Tales, our kids stories app that has many interactive stories for kids.
Leo, the Lion is one of the stories available in the Truth and Tales Library, as an interactive story and in audiobook format as well. Leo, the Lion has many similarities to Rumi’s stories, to Aesop’s fables and to Indian and Afghan fables. The interactive story is an adaptation to technology in which kids can roar as lions, make music with flowers and even see themselves as a lion with the Augmented Reality tool.
There is no moral lesson in Truth and Tales’ stories because we believe that kids are free to perceive the teachings and wisdoms of the story, which can be infinite.
Download the app and try out one of the interactive stories or audiobooks!
You have probably heard of TikTok, the social media network that keeps expanding and growing in popularity among people of all ages, but mainly among teenagers. That’s where all the famous dances started coming from – and it looks like they’re not going anywhere for a while, but instead will continue to get more and more popular.
In early July, Fernanda Rocha Kanner posted a long text in her social media accounts speaking about her and her 14-year-old daughter Nina’s experience with TikTok. Fernanda decided to delete Nina’s TikTok account, which had garnered about 2 million followers, and her Instagram account.
In Fernanda’s post, she explains the reason behind this: she doesn’t want her daughter to go through her teenage years getting emotional over compliments or criticism from strangers. She also believes that that would hinder her daughter’s search for her own individuality.
The post went viral and a lot of people reacted both in favor or against Fernanda’s decision and stance. We thought this is an interesting theme to reflect on the social media use by teenagers. To what extent is it okay? Is the limit that obvious? Is taking TikTok away from the teenager worth it?
We think everything should be discussed. After all, teenagers are their parents’ responsibility – and parents value their kid’s safety. Taking this into consideration, we think the best way forward is to sit with your kids and discuss boundaries and consequences. Teenagers may even cross these lines (they most likely will), but they will know they violated what was agreed upon together and they will have to deal with the consequences.
Before making any decisions, it’s worth remembering that the childhood and the teenage years are stages in which we want to belong to a group, we want to be accepted and perceived, to show our worth and to feel valued. That is why teenagers like social media networks like TikTok so much – with all its likes, views and followers. All of this in excess can be harmful, but we believe every generation of teenagers had a “dangerous factor”, something that the adults worried about because they didn’t quite know it, or didn’t like it, or even didn’t understand it.
Because of that, maintaining open communication is important. Okay, teenagers don’t like to talk to their parents. However, pushing a little when it comes to this subject is worth it – it makes it easier to notice when your kids might be needing help, in addition to showing them they have got their parents’ support. You see, it’s not a matter of convincing kids so they think like their parents. Instead, it’s about clarity and understanding the rules and what was agreed upon.
The minimum permitted age to use TikTok in Brazil and the United States is 13 years old. Users younger than that may have an account but are not allowed to post any kind of content. Unfortunately, this rule is not very effective, since it is possible to create an account with a different age. Kids know this, of course, and create accounts on TikTok and other social networks with dates of birth that allow them to post content.
When we create an account on TikTok or another social network, we choose between two types of profile: public and private. A public profile allows anyone to view your content and you have no control over who is able to access them. In a private profile, only your friends and followers can see what you post. If someone wants to be your friend/follower, they need to request to do so and you need to accept. In other words, you have total control over the people who access your profile and your content, and you know exactly who sees what you post.
Having a private profile keeps random strangers from seeing what your teenager posts – and it keeps you from waking up and seeing your kid’s social media accounts have gained 2 millions followers overnight.
Private profiles on TikTok and other social media apps allow only those who are friends or followers of the profile owner to view its content. Therefore, take it as a rule: only add people you already know.
The internet is still a place full of judgment, including those body-related (regardless of body type). Caution your kids against posting intimate or sexy photos that expose too much of their bodies, even if that’s not their intention.
Other users may interpret their pictures in many ways and your kids, mostly girls, can become targets of slut-shaming (which is to be called a “slut” or other derogatory terms for violating certain socially-accepted clothing codes) or body shaming (another term in which the body is ridiculed and criticized by other people).
Slut shaming is the act of humiliating, belittling or degrading someone, usually a woman, for their sex life, the way they dress, talks, or expresses themselves. An example of it is when a woman wears clothing considered short and hears complaints or negative comments about her appearance, her body and her behavior as a woman in society.
Body shaming, on the other hand, is the act of controlling other people’s bodies, i.e. when someone is bullied for being considered too fat, too skinny, or as having too much cellulite, or breasts that are too big or small, etc. It’s bullying in the form of appearance pressures. Body shaming occurs more between girls than boys, but you need to always stay alert regardless.
Both of these types of bullying target teenagers’ bodies and can contribute to them developing perceptual distortions of their own bodies and even eating disorders.
It’s also worth cautioning your kids against posting pictures of where they live, their school uniform, and other things that could identify the places they frequent and their routines. The same goes for personal information such as their IDs and social security numbers.
By doing so, you can be closer to what they post and to the people who follow them. They will most likely have a “Close Friends” group on Instagram without you, in order to post things they don’t want you to see, but that’s okay, isn’t it? We don’t want to share absolutely everything with everyone!
Dive into this world and try to understand why your kids like it so much, including the TikTok dances – if they’re important to them. Show them you’re interested in what they like. You don’t have to force yourself to enjoy it, but show an interest in getting to know their world and, above all, in understanding that it has value to them. Many teenagers don’t want their parents to like what they do, but they feel at peace when they know their parents understand that it is important to them.
Saying that the TikTok dances (which are very popular in the app) are useless or passing any type of judgment over what teenagers do online creates a negative charge around them. Think about it: if they seek validation through this content, imagine how they feel when their parents say it is ridiculous or diminish it in any way.
It’s easy for teenagers to think lowly of themselves when they hear their parents talk about the things they like in a derogatory way. For example: “TikTok dances are awful and I like TikTok dances. Therefore, I’m awful.” Of course that is not true, but it is easy to fall into this trap since it’s an age in which their identity is intricately connected to their behaviors and interests. Moreover, this drives parents away from their kids. If parents are constantly demeaning the things you like, why would you still share your interests, the things you do, etc. with them?
By taking the measures mentioned above, it won’t be necessary to make any drastic decisions such as deleting all your kids’ social media.
If this happens, deleting your kids’ social media accounts is an option, but bear in mind that they might not like this decision and may feel that you do not value something they worked hard to build. We believe that it is possible to try a few measures before doing something drastic:
If you still decide to delete their social media accounts, allow them to say goodbye to their public. Many teenagers consider their followers their support network or even their friends. Help your kids write a post or record a video saying goodbye to their followers and informing them of what is going to happen.
We know kids don’t want their parents around during their teenage years, and that’s okay. But it is important to monitor and look after them without suffocating or invading their privacy. That’s what we hope for – for everyone to be able to deal with this in a healthier way.
Written by Luisa Scherer
Translated by Mariana Gruber
When we offer to help someone or look at someone else with compassion and decide to do something about it, we are practicing genuine kindness.
Such acts which can go unnoticed in our day-to-day lives are beneficial not only to others but also ourselves. Do you know that feeling that you feel after you do something kind? It’s part of the effects caused by genuine kindness in our brains.
In 2018, a group of British researchers from the University of Sussex stated that acts of generosity activate brain regions associated with reward.
The study analyzed 1,150 participants whose brains were scanned through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) throughout a 10-year period, but the analysis had a particular aspect: it compared between altruistic and strategic giving – i.e. attitudes aimed at getting something in return or receiving some kind of recognition.
“This major study sparks questions about people having different motivations to give to others: clear self-interest versus the warm glow of altruism,” said the research leader Dr. Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn in a statement released right after the study was published.
He continued, “The decision to share resources is a cornerstone of any cooperative society. We know that people can choose to be kind because they like feeling like they are a ‘good person’, but also that people can choose to be kind when they think there might be something ‘in it’ for them such as a returned favour or improved reputation.”
The researchers found out that “strategic decisions showed greater activity in striatal regions than altruistic choices”, which are those from which nothing is expected in return. The striatum acts on nondeclarative or implicit memory, which is the subconscious memory and certain skills such as riding a bike or ice skating. In other words, activities we do “without thinking”.
On the other hand, “altruistic giving, more than strategic, activated subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC). Studies showed that “the mean gray matter volume of this “subgenual” ACC (sgACC) cortex is abnormally reduced in subjects with major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder, irrespective of mood state.
Ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) is involved during generous decisions and is responsible for differentiating between these two types of kindness. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex participates in the processing of risk and fear, since it plays an important role in the regulation of amygdala activity. The vmPFC is also important to inhibit emotional responses and to the process of decision-making and self-control, in addition to being involved in our sense of morality.
In other words, people who practice genuine kindness activate more of the part of the brain that regulates the amygdala – thus maintaining stress levels in balance. By practicing genuine kindness, the brain also operates in regions that, if rarely active, are related to depression and bipolar disorder. Therefore, after such analyses, the researchers concluded that it’s much more pleasurable when we act in a selflessly kind manner.
By researching about the effects of kindness in our brains, we came across the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, a non-profit organization that invests resources into turning kindness into something widely practiced by people, whether at home, in school or at work. This initiative is based on scientific research that proves we can live better by practicing kindness.
Other proved functions that involve practicing kindness:
Kindness Increases the Love Hormone:
Oxytocin, the love hormone, is released when we practice acts of kindness. This release helps to reduce arterial pressure and to improve the heart’s overall health – Natalie Angier, The New York Times.
Half the participants of one study felt strengthened and more energetic after helping others. Some reported that they also felt calmer and less depressed – Christine Carter, UC Berkeley, Greater Good Science Center.
The authors of the study recruited 115 undergraduate students who presented high levels of social anxiety. These participants were split randomly into three groups for an intervention that lasted four weeks.
One of the groups was encouraged to carry out acts of kindness; another group was exposed to social interactions; and the third group got no instructions, all they were asked to do was to keep a record of their routines. The results showed that a greater reduction in the desire to avoid social interactions was observed amongst the individuals who were encouraged to do acts of kindness.
“The main goal of social anxiety treatment is to increase involvement in social situations, which socially anxious individuals tend to avoid. The exercises of social exposure may be improved by encouraging anxious individuals to focus on loving actions. Therefore, opening the door to a neighbor who’s pushing a baby stroller, thanking the cashiers at the grocery store for their help or offering coffee to a colleague can be good ways for them to start their social exposure,” reported the professor.
Professor Lynn Alden also explained that acts of kindness may help someone who is socially anxious face the fear of being negatively assessed by others, promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of how people will react to them.
“We discovered that any kind act seemed to have the same benefit, even small gestures such as opening the door to someone or saying “thank you” to the bus driver. Kindness doesn’t need to involve money or long efforts, although some of our participants did that. Kindness didn’t even need to be “face to face”. For example, acts of kindness can include donating to charity or adding a coin to someone else’s parking meter when you notice it is blinking. Studies by other researchers have suggested that it is important for the kind act to be done by and of itself, and that it doesn’t look coerced or for the giver’s own personal gain. Aside from that, everything counts”
Oxytocin, a hormone produced through emotional heat, acts in the reduction of the body’s levels of free radicals and the inflammation of the cardiovascular system. This way, it slows aging at its root. Free radicals and the inflammation of the cardiovascular system play an important role and we can therefore say that kindness is also good for the heart.
Some scientific journals have already published studies about the strong link between compassion and vagus nerve activity. The vagus nerve, in addition to regulating the heart rate, is also responsible for controlling the body’s inflammation levels.
One study analyzed the Tibetan buddhists’ meditation and found that kindness and compassion help reduce body inflammation, probably due to their effects on the vagus nerve.
These analyzes are present in the book “The Five Side Effects of Kindness: This Book Will Make You Feel Better, Be Happier & Live Longer” written by Dr. David R. Hamilton, who has a PhD in Organic Chemistry and worked in the pharmaceutical industry for several years developing drugs for treating cardiovascular diseases.
Written by Débora Nazário
Translated by Mariana Gruber
All this information refers to genuine kindness. “Genuine” means pure, real, true. It’s important to take this into consideration because no one can demand acts of genuine kindness from others. These actions happen spontaneously, from the heart.
⚠️ Dear parents: being an example really is a way to show kids how doing good is good for you – however, forcing this type of situation is not the solution.
If you are not having a good day, don’t force yourself to do anything that you don’t want to do in order to “be a good example for your kids”.
This won’t be good neither to you nor to your little ones. In addition, avoid demanding good deeds from your kids. No one is going to stop being a good person just because they didn’t hold the door to let someone in.
Allow these qualities to manifest of their own accord, without effort or encouragement. The beauty and the benefits of genuine kindness are in letting it manifest itself spontaneously. Don’t worry about “being kind” or “teaching your kids to be kind”. There is kindness inside everyone, you must simply perceive it and allow it to manifest.
The term cognitive development is frequently used by therapists, doctors and educators. We have also used those two words together in a lot of content published here in our blog. But do you know what it means?
In an interview from December 2019 for the Maria Cecília Souto Vidigal Foundation — which has worked for the cause of early childhood and the first stages of child development since 2007 — doctor Drauzio Varella explained a little about cognitive development.
“We are born with our entire neurological equipment set up, but not ready: our brain is a miniature of the adult brain, i.e. morphologically speaking, the shape is well-established. However, what allows for the development of cognitive activities isn’t brain shape but the neurons. It is the links between them, because it is through them that information is communicated, through these established connections. If you stimulate these connections with games, made-up stories and by reading to children, they will start to develop their cognitive ability based on the stimuli of synapse formation, which is the interaction between neurons,” he explained.
In order to explain these connections that happen in our brains a little further, we will present three core concepts of early childhood development, developed by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child from Harvard University.
These three concepts show how the advancement of neuroscience, molecular biology and genomics offers a much more thorough understanding of how our first experiences are built in our bodies and brains, for better or worse.
The experiences lived by children during their first years of life have a lifelong impact on their brain architecture and development. Genes represent the diagram to be performed, but experiences shape the process that will define whether the brain will build a strong or weak foundation for learning, behavior and health throughout their lives.
During this important stage of development, billions of brain cells called neurons send electrical signals that communicate among themselves. These connections build the circuits that establish the brain’s basic architecture. Circuits and connections are multiplied quickly and are strengthened by their frequent use.
Our experiences and the environment we live in determine which circuits and connections will be used more. The most frequently used connections get stronger and become permanent, whereas rarely used connections disappear through a normal process called pruning. Simple circuits are built first, forming the foundation upon which more complex ones will be built later.
It is through this process that neurons build circuits and connections for emotions, motor skills, behavior control, logic, language and memory. All of this happens during the early stages of development.
With repeated use, the circuits become more efficient and connect to other areas of the brain more quickly. Despite originating from specific areas of the brain, the circuits are interconnected and there cannot be one type of skill without others that complement it. It is similar to building a house, everything is connected, and whichever comes first builds the foundation for what will come later.
A solid architecture of the brain is shaped through the serve and return interaction between the child and the adult. In this game of development, the neurons create new connections in the brain as the child instinctively makes face expressions, sounds, and gestures, and the adult reacts in a very significant way and with a focus on the child’s action.
This starts quite early in life, when babies try to express themselves and the adults interact by calling the babies’ attention to their faces or hands. This interaction shapes the foundations of the brain circuitry upon which all future development will take place.
The serve and return interaction helps to create connections by means of the neurons from all brain areas, establishing the emotional and cognitive skills that children need to live. For example: language and literacy skills are formed when a baby sees an object and the adult utters its name. This builds connections inside the baby’s brain between the specific sounds and their corresponding objects.
Later, adults show to kids that such objects and sounds can also be represented by marks on a page. With the adults’ constant support, children learn to decipher the writing and, then, to write themselves. Each stage is built from the previous one.
Ensuring children’s caregivers are involved in the serve and return interaction from their first few months is to promote the construction of a solid foundation in the brain for learning, behavior and health — for the rest of their lives.
Learning to deal with stress is an important part of healthy development. When we experience stress, our response system is activated, the body and brain become alert, adrenaline takes over and heart rate increases, as well as the stress hormone levels.
Stress is relieved when children get the nurturing support they need from an adult. Their bodies react to the adult’s response and slow down, returning to homeostasis in no time. In severe situations, such as continuous abuse and negligence or when there is no nurturing adult to soften the impacts of stress, the response to stress remains activated. Even when there is no apparent physical damage, the prolonged lack of care and attention on the part of the adults is able to activate the stress response system.
The constant stress response activation overwhelms the developing systems. As a result, there are serious long term consequences for the children, and this process is known as toxic stress. Over time it results in a stress response system that is permanently on alert.
Science shows that the prolonged activation of stress hormones during early childhood can reduce the number of neuron connections in these important regions of the brain in a period that children should be developing new connections. Toxic stress can be avoided if we ensure that children grow up and develop in warm, reliable and stimulating environments.
When questioned about early childhood development and lifelong health on The Brain Architects Podcast by Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, the center director, Dr. Jack Shonkoff, explains that one of the new science’s most important messages compels us to connect the brain to the rest of the body. “Because what happens early on is not only important for learning and social and emotional development and school achievement, but it’s an important influence on your physical and mental health for the rest of your life. .”
Jack also says that there are no perfect brains or immunological systems. “How we grow up, how we learn, what our health is like is related to the interaction between how we are individually wired to begin with and what our life experiences are about. And the important part of our life experiences, the most important, is the environment of relationships that we grow up in. And then also of importance is the physical environment in which we grow up. How safe is it? How protected or exposed are we to toxic substances in the environment, lead, mercury? How much space do we have to move around? So all of these things together, interacting with how everybody is unique from a genetic point of view results in a wide, wide range of normal development.”
In order to understand how pedagogy explains cognitive development, we talked to Carol Mota, who is an educator, clinical psychopedagogue, and author of the book “Autism in Children’s Education: an Outlook on Social Interaction and School Inclusion” (loosely translated). She explained that play is the best way to stimulate this development.
“As children play, they are continuously learning. When they play by exploring a specific toy that involves spatial or sensory matters, for instance, their logical thinking and memory are stimulated,” she said.
“While playing amongst themselves, they are also learning a way to engage with others, which in turn expands their cognitive processes. We need to think that, even though cognitive processes exist, they don’t expand outside a cultural context of social interaction. It is by interacting with others, with an interactive exchange between pairs, between children and adults, that kids take ownership of new skills,” explained the educator.
Carol highlighted that, more than games that stimulate logical reasoning, what is key and most important is the social interaction that happens during these moments.
“Social interaction and interactive exchange: that is how we are going to approach these matters in a more significant way. As we interact, communicate and talk to each other, we need to reflect about our behavior, we need to think about which answer to give to specific questions. When we reflect and formulate questions, our cognitive processes are active and it is in this dialogue between me and the other person that these processes expand, and that cognitive development starts to emerge.”
“It is through play that children will learn how to use their bodies, from the contact with different languages that may involve music, visual arts, etc. Therefore, children will get to know others and the world through several different perspectives, which helps to develop cognitive skills,” said the psychopedagogue.
Written by Débora Nazário
Translated by Mariana Gruber