Lessons from The Beginning of Life: Shaping Future Generations

Posted by Manda Pawelczyk on Mon, Dec 19, 2016 @ 01:42 PM

Just before this Thanksgiving, my family welcomed a baby girl into our hearts and home.  As I sat there holding my new niece, I couldn’t help but wonder what this experience of joining our world has been like for her and what I can be doing as an aunt to ensure she grows up with a bright future ahead of her. 

With the long Thanksgiving weekend and thoughts of my new niece, I finally curled up to watch a documentary that had been on my Netflix watch list for months.  The Beginning of Life is a film that documents the early lives of children and their families across the globe, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Italy, Kenya and the United States.  Through interviews with families and specialists from early childhood development, the film depicts how the earliest years of a child’s life may have more of an impact on their future than originally believed.   

Not only is it a beautifully shot film showing some of the most inspiring moments of children interacting with the world around them (I particularly loved the little girl talking to a flower and asking it its name), but it also shares important insight into how we as a society, whether a parent, aunt, grandparent, neighbor, company or organization, can help this youngest generation grow into fruitful human beings.

Here are some of my favorite takeaways from the film:

  1. It is often said that children have a hard time paying attention, but the opposite is actually true – they have a hard time not paying attention. They are very sensitive to all of the patterns of information going on around them.  From an early age, the brain is making between 700-1,000 connections per second. Within a baby’s brain there are many pathways for these neural connections.  The pathways that are used at this age get maintained and strengthened, while the ones that don’t disappear.  We need to think about what we can be doing to make sure as many of these pathways get strengthened as possible.
  2. Children aren’t a blank slate that you just place your knowledge on; rather they learn best through co-developing their knowledge with the people around them. A process called “Serve and Return is where a baby does something and the adult responds.  As the baby gets older they learn to respond back.  It is this back and forth that is critical for brain development.  Think of ways you can help parents turn these small everyday actions into meaningful experiences for growth.
  3. The best way to develop language is through conversation. Instead of answering a child’s question with a simple yes or no, ask them a question back to keep the child engaged in dialogue so their vocabulary grows.  Find ways you can keep conversations flowing, even when life is hectic and busy.
  4. Play is a child’s major vehicle for learning – it is their work and what they are supposed to be doing. But it is important to create interesting contexts for children.  Instead of always giving them a specific or staged setting for play, allow them to be inventive.  A child turning a pen and a ruler into an airplane does more for a child’s development then simply giving them an airplane to play with.  Consider how you can add a dose of inventiveness to your products. 
  5. Rooting is very important for children; they must feel they belong – to life, to a family, to a story, to a place. Grandparents in particular play an important role in rooting as they often are the storytellers, passing on stories of family memories and history. Stories are important as they broaden children’s horizons and give them a sense of belonging.  How can you help children feel more rooted in the world around them?
The best way to help today’s children is by also helping the adults raising them.  Children aren’t raised by social programs but by people.  By investing in these people and giving them the space to spend quality time with their children, that is how we can make sure we build a stronger next generation.

Brands Capitalize on Youth Influencing Parents

Posted by Jane Ott on Thu, Dec 01, 2016 @ 09:37 AM

The more technology proliferates our lives, the more native kids become to any aspect of technology, often putting them in the position of being the in-house “experts” and helping mom and dad with setting up and programming devices.  Combined with Gen Z kids having an increasing say in non-traditional household matters (such as travel and tablets) as we’ve seen in our YouthBeat parents’ data, this generation has been dubbed as “reverse influencers” – they influence their parents just as much as their parents influence them. 

Marketers have been capitalizing on this trend by engaging kids in their advertising from the ground up – influencing parents by giving their kids a role in the marketing game.  It’s not a new concept, engage kids to ask for something to spur parent purchases, or even use kids to market a product not at all related to them.  And, parents hear multiple requests in a day, even in an hour.  So what is it about these marketing campaigns that look different with this generation? 

  • They break away from products that kids traditionally have had influence on
  • They offer parents a new way to connect with their kids and tug at emotional ties by sharing a kids’ point of view of something that parents may take for granted
  • They give kids an opportunity to push boundaries and shine in a grown up world by validating their feelings, dreams, and imaginations
  • They focus on simple tenets of childhood that every kid, and parent, can relate to
  • They take it beyond traditional media into new formats or tie ins with relevant causes to reinforce the message   

What are some of the brands that are doing this well?   Some of our favorites include:

  • Dove’s Love your Curls. This commercial, as well as their related book of poetry and curly hair people emojis reminds us that parents and kids win when we show kids how to love themselves, just as they are:

Tags: advertisment, parents, Youth, TV, marketing, brands