7 Parenting TED Talks You Need to Watch Now

Family Matters on 03.15.12
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Image: TED

Since 1990, the global Technology, Entertainment, and Design Conference -- or TED -- has been gathering the world's thinkers, scientists and other luminaries to give various talks on "ideas worth spreading." Freely disseminated online, the talks have become a source of inspiration for many, including parents. From why babies are linguistic geniuses to why it may be important to let your kids do "dangerous" things, here are seven TED talks on parenting that might give you some good food for thought.

1. Why letting your kids do some dangerous things is good for them

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Whether we like it or not as parents, life involves risk. And as we've said before, letting our children explore the world around them does entail some nail-biting moments for parents. It's a delicate balance, but as Gever Tulley, a computer scientist and founder of the Tinkering School insists, it's a necessary step to let our kids take if they are to develop into people who are "creative, confident and in control of the world around them." Tulley's school is an interesting one: the program basically involves kids taking things apart and tinkering with things. See the video here.

2. The linguistic genius of babies

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Babies are incredible learners. Co-director of the Institute for Brain and Learning Sciences Patricia Kuhl studies how language learning informs early brain development. In this talk, Kuhl describes her findings on how babies literally take mental "statistics" on the all the sounds they hear in those early months, preparing them to learn the language(s) most spoken around them:

Babies all over the world are what I like to describe as ‘citizens of the world.’ They can discriminate all the sounds of all languages, no matter what country we’re testing and what language we’re using.

See the video here.

3. What adults can learn from kids

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In this impressive presentation from 12-year-old prodigy Adora Svitak, she asserts that "childishness" is not a quality that should be frowned upon as much as it usually is. Svitak, who started reading at the age of three, and started prolifically writing and blogging at age seven, believes that so-called childishness is a great source of creativity; bold, unexpected ideas; and undiminished belief in dreams. The only hitch to all this unbridled creativity and hope for a better world: unsupportive adults who insist that kids "grow up." See the video here.

4. Schools kill creativity

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The subject of author and educator Ken Robinson's talk may not be a surprise to some, especially to those who have chosen to homeschool or enroll their children in alternative schools. It's no secret that our public education system needs a major overhaul; Robinson says that we need to change the basic principles the whole system is predicated upon in order to recognize and nourish the multiple kinds of intelligence which exist. “Creativity is as important as literacy and we should treat it with the same status,” he says. "[In the academic system,] we stigmatize mistakes, as a result, we are educating people out of their creativity.” See the video here.

5. Talking about about parenting taboos

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Babble founders Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman let it all hang out in this eye-opening talk about parenting taboos -- you know, the things that happen to parents and never get talked about. Like miscarriages, the isolation that new mothers can and do feel after giving birth, and why there is definitely some "false advertising" when it comes to the picture-perfect happiness that society foists upon parents and their children. (Sorry, no returns!) See the video here.

6. Let's raise kids to be entrepreneurs

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In the same vein as Ken Robinson's talk on school stamping out creativity, serial entrepreneur Cameron Herold -- who as a child was a terrible student -- extolls the virtues of raising kids as entrepreneurs. Not only does it help kids learn many life's lessons about creativity, human behaviour, logic, reasoning, thrift, negotiation, problem solving, tenacity, and responsibility in entrepreneurial activities -- it also teaches them independence. See the video here.

7. Why child carseats may not be as safe as seatbelts

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Author and economist Steven Levitt presents compelling data on why carseats over a certain age may not be as effective as seatbelts in preventing death during car crashes, and how their use is based more on marketing, public perception of their safety and paranoia rather than on actual safety data. See the video here.

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