Several weeks ago, I blogged about a simple experiment from the 1960s that you can run on your four-year-old and that researchers believe is a reasonable predictor of future success. The USA Today on September 2 published a story about another neat, little game you can play with your four-year-old that is supposed to be another reliable indicator of success in early schooling. It is called Heads-Toes-Knees-Shoulders. It is a lot like Simon Says but with a twist. According to research papers, those kids who excel in this game also will likely excel academically in pre-school and kindergarten in math, vocabulary, and literacy.
It goes like this: you call out “touch your head” your child is supposed to touch their feet, and vice versa. When you call out “touch your knees” your child touches his shoulders, and on like that. The point of the game is to test your son or daughter’s ability to self-regulate and control their impulses.
I tried it yesterday on my four-year-old nephew who can be quite an impulsive character. For starters, he refused to try the game without a promise of candy at the end. I explained the rules and had one of my older sons show him how it is played. When his turn came, I called out “touch your head” and he went straight for his head. I corrected him, and then called out “touch your toes” and he went straight for his feet. After being corrected six or seven times in a row, he was ready to quit. I told him he hadn’t earned the candy yet and he reluctantly went back for another round. His next attempt was better as he slowly began to grasp the necessity to think first. But as soon as he got his candy, he was done.
I like this game because it teaches something to kids that parents since the dawn of time have struggled to ingrain in their children: to think before they act. This is an important skill to practice and learn early in life so that when your child is grown and has to decide whether to drive home after too many drinks, or perhaps to practice safe sex, they will stop and think before they act so that you don’t become a grandfather long before you are ready.
Play this game at home and report back to me in the comment section how it went. If you liked this game, then try the Stanford experiment I wrote about earlier. I liked trying out both of these games on my kids, but there is something especially brilliant about the Stanford experiment.