Psychology for Kids: The Science of the Mind and Behavior
The shiny cover of Psychology for Kids invites us in with greens, bright yellows, and purple. We open the book and see colorful gears on the white background end papers. The title page is teal against white, followed by the Table of Contents, revealing nine parts of the book, made up of 21 chapters. Some of the chapters have intriguing titles, such as “Is Putting on your Socks a Superpower?” and “What Does It Mean to be a Boy or a Girl?”
Each chapter has the main text, along with sidebars labeled Try This, Check Out the Research, Did You Know, Now You Know, and occasionally Explore Further. Spot art is sprinkled along the margins in bold colors.
Although the book speaks in a general way about most topics, it also states some interesting facts, such as these:
“For people with certain medical conditions that interfere with their sense of smell, food can have weird flavors or not much flavor at all.”
“It’s pretty cool to think that a person might be able to make changes to their brain through changes in behavior.”
“When you listen to music, your temporal lobes are hopping.”
Chapter Five is the “me” chapter, where it discusses how doctors used to predict people’s personalities (by head bumps), the big five personality traits, and the nature vs, nurture debate.
Chapter Six takes on the timely question, “What Does it Mean to be a Boy or a Girl?” It throws in some colorful pie charts to show how the world’s gender expectations are changing.
Chapter Seven is called “How Did You Know That?” and discusses Pavlov’s dogs and “Learning Gone Wrong” when you associate a food or smell with a bad experience. It discusses conditional and operant conditioning, shaping and modeling, some big stuff for a ten-year-old to understand.
Chapter 8 talks about IQ and the eight types of intelligence.
Chapter Nine discusses “How Do You Remember?” with a Try This experiment of covering up a picture and then naming the things in the picture. The Try This feature could be the key to developing a curriculum around the book, if anyone cared to teach psychology to kids in the name of science.
Chapter 12 discusses feelings and emotions. Chapter 13 talks about motivation and has a long Now You Know page.
Chapter 14 is about stress, caring for yourself, and how nature helps.
The sleep chapter (15) discusses REM sleep, sleepwalking, nightmares, and body clocks. “Almost everyone outgrows sleepwalking and, in the meantime, it’s important for those who sleepwalk not to sleep on the top bunk!” This chapter might become a favorite since it discusses concrete things in children’s lives – nightmares, sleeping, dreaming.
Chapter 16, “What Helps People Do Well,” mentions the glass half-empty or half-full debate and states that “excitement about a subject and stick-to-itiveness are more important than intelligence for high achievement.”
Chapter 17 states that “anxiety disorders are the most common childhood mental illness.” It discusses autism, ADHD, eating disorders, and anger-management issues.
Chapter 18 is about living with others. Peer pressure is discussed in regards to asking for a pet rock for Christmas in the ’70s. Chapter 19 is about social norms, race, stereotypes, and prejudices. Chapter 20 is about empathy, conflict, bullies, and helping strangers. Chapter 21 is about saving the planet.
The book ends with a 14-page glossary and an eight-page index. Although this is not the type of book most kids would read from cover to cover, some budding scientists will. For others it will be a reference book when the focus is on one topic or one chapter.
For adults, it’s a crash course in psychology. There’s a lot of knowledge packed into the 256 colorful pages of Psychology for Kids: The Science of the Mind and Behavior.