Signs of toilet training readiness: When to start, and when to wait

© 2021 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved When children show signs of toilet training readiness, they may learn toileting skills more easily or quickly. But not all signs are equally helpful — or even relevant — to your family’s needs. Before you begin training, it’s important to decide on your individualized goals for potty Read More »

Preschool science experiment: Using ice to teach kids about scientific concepts (with crucial safety tips)

© 2008 – 2021 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved A preschool science experiment is an opportunity to introduce children to the concepts of observation, prediction, and testing (Gelman and Brenneman 2004). Exciting? Yes. But it’s also tricky. On the one hand, research suggests that young children don’t think as creatively or as critically when Read More »

What’s the right age to start potty training? It depends on your goals


© 2021 Gwen Dewar, all rights reserved In Western countries like the United States, many children begin toilet training sometime between 24 and 36 months.  But from an historical and cross-cultural standpoint, this timing is very late, and it comes with a downside. So what’s the right potty training age? It depends on your child, Read More »

When does peer pressure start? Early. Very early in life.


© 2020 Gwen Dewar, all rights reserved Peer pressure and social conformity starts long before adolescence. When faced with a choice between telling the truth and backing a popular falsehood, even 4-year-old children will buckle. You and three other people are sitting in adjacent booths, and you’ve each got a copy of the same book. Read More »

Preschool social skills: Evidence-based tips for raising kind and competent kids

© 2020 Gwen Dewar, all rights reserved Preschool social skills depend several core competencies, including self-control, empathy, and verbal ability. And while they include a knowledge of basic etiquette — like knowing when to say “please” and “thank you” — the most crucial skills are psychological. To become socially adept, kids need to learn a Read More »

“Fast-track” toilet training techniques: An evidence-based review

© 2020 Gwen Dewar, all rights reserved “Fast track” toilet training techniques can be effective, but they aren’t right for everyone. Children shouldn’t begin unless they are healthy, motivated, and developmentally ready. And caregivers must be prepared to coach their children through hours of intensive, focused training. To determine if fast-track training is right for Read More »

Working memory in children: What parents and teachers need to know

young boy holding chin in contemplation, image by Personal Creations (flickr)

© 2019 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Working memory is often likened to the RAM in a computer. The more you have, the faster you can process data. But young children have smaller working memory capacities than adults. And some kids face special challenges. What’s at stake? How can you tell if a child Read More »

Homework for young children: Is it justified?

Sepia young girl doing pencil and paper homework by ND Strupler flickr

© 2019 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Is homework for young children helpful? Some schools assign homework to kids as young as 5 or 6. But there isn’t any compelling, scientific evidence in favor of the practice. Here’s a critical look at the research — and the difficulties that homework can pose for families. Should Read More »

Bed-wetting (nocturnal enuresis) in children: An evidence-based guide

Wet bed sheets in a child's bed, copyright 2019 Parenting Science

© 2019 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Is bed-wetting — also known as “sleep enuresis” — a sign of illness? Does it indicate a child is lazy or defiant? Trying to get attention? Suffering from behavior problems? The answer — in most cases — is no. Kids who wet the bed aren’t lazy. Stress Read More »

Preschool number activities: How do you introduce numbers to preschoolers?

© 2008 – 2019 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Preschool number activities often involve counting, but merely reciting the number words isn’t enough. Children also need to develop “number sense,” an intuitive feeling for the actual amount associated with a given number. Where does number sense come from? Experiments suggest that even 6-month-old infants Read More »

Correcting behavior: The magic words that help kids cope with mistakes

sad, thoughtful toddler, head down, looking into the middle distance

© 2011 – 2019 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Sometimes children disappoint us. They make mistakes, misbehave, or simply fail to meet our standards. How to handle these disappointments? You might be candid and tell kids how you feel. “I’m disappointed in you.” But experiments suggest this is not the best approach. The trouble Read More »