Get Your Kids to Listen By Saying ‘Yes’ More!


How many times a day do we say the word ‘no’ to our kids? Probably way more than we would like to admit. So how can we turn some of those "no’s" into "yes’s", or at least say no a little less. What’s wrong with saying no so much in the first place? Here are a few tips to help get you on the right track:

1) Don’t Tempt Them

When you tell a child what not to do, instead of hearing what you want them to do, they are reminded of the behavior they shouldn’t be doing, and it is tempting. You know how you want that slice of cake even more when you just started a diet and you know you can’t have it? That is how children can feel when you tell them not to do something. Tell them the behavior you want from them so that they can remember it and deliver it.

2) Don’t Confuse Them

Telling a child what NOT to do instead of what TO DO can be confusing for young children. They have to first process what you are telling them NOT to do, then figure out what that means they SHOULD be doing, then DO  it.

If you express clearly and calmly what you want them to do, you’ll probably get better results quicker. Your child will hear exactly what you need from them and can process that message without any extra steps. For example, instead of saying “Don’t colour on the walls (or the table, or the floor, or your sister’s face…) you could try saying, “Use the markers to colour on paper.”

3) Encourage Rather than Discourage

Hearing no all the time is not fun. Children can get discouraged if all they are hearing is "no". Find opportunities to turn some of those "no’s" into "yes’s" so your children can feel encouraged.

For example, instead of “No, we are not having ice cream for dinner” you can try “That sounds yummy! How about I let you choose your favorite flavor and we can have some for dessert?’ Instead of “If your room is not clean, you are not going out to play”, try saying “When your room is clean, you can go play with your friends.”

The more you say yes (or avoid using the word no), the more positive the results, the happier everyone will be!

If you have any questions for I-yatah or any other Curious Neuron contributor, email us at 

Game: Smash the Lego tower

The first few months after giving birth to my son were not only challenging for me but for my daughter as well. Our day-long play dates had been taken over by a small baby who needed lots of "mommy time". I had to be creative in order to entertain her while also nursing, changing diapers or getting my baby to fall asleep. Now that my baby is 6 months, I noticed a spike in his interest to play with his older sister and I have been trying to think of activities that I can do with both children.

In fact, my son is now on the move and his mission is to take anything and everything his sister plays with! Until now, reading books, singing, and playing with puppets were the main activities we did together. These activities stimulated both my daughter and my son. However, the other day I got an idea from watching my son smashing his sister's Lego towers. This could become a game! We all had lots of fun playing this game and now my daughter will ask me to play "Smash the Lego tower"!

I hope you enjoy playing this game with your children as well!



Target Age:

A baby that can play on their tummy and a child who can build Lego Duplo towers.


Lego Duplo blocks and a Lego Duplo baseplate. (Baseplate can be bought at the Lego store)

Activity Layout:

Have the older child build a few Lego Duplo towers and have them place these towers to the side of a Lego baseplate (the green baseplate in the picture). We built about 10-12 towers. You could even ask them to build some towers of the same colour and others with mixed colours.

Place your baby on their belly (or sitting if they can) beside the baseplate and have your toddler say "1 2 3 GO". At "GO" you and your toddler (or only your toddler if you want to be the referee!) have to place ALL the Lego towers on the baseplate BEFORE your baby knocks down a single tower. You might have to model the sense of "speed" and winning for your toddler if this concept is new to them (email us at if you need help with this). Encourage your toddler to move quickly and if your baby isn't smashing the tower show them how to do it. The first person to reach 5 points wins. You can model the points using the single legos. You can ask your toddler if they are winning or their sibling is by looking at the "Lego point system". Ask them which one has more points (see picture). 

Point system to help toddler visualize who is winning. 

Point system to help toddler visualize who is winning. 

When we first started playing, I would place my towers closer to my son. As he began to understand the concept, I started placing them further away from him. 

If this becomes too easy for the older child, you can even blindfold them or have them place the Lego towers with their non-dominant hand. 






In this activity, we are targeting Social/Emotional and Cognitive milestones for both 6 months of age and 2 years (see images below).

We are also targeting executive functions skills for 2-year-olds. This activity fits in the "Active Games" category for executive functions where a child is required to speed up, slow down or even "freeze" (see image below). 

Developmental Milestones: 6 months

Developmental Milestones: 6 months

Developmental Milestones: 6 months 

Developmental Milestones: 6 months 

Developmental Milestones: 2 years 

Developmental Milestones: 2 years 

Development Milestones: 2 years

Development Milestones: 2 years

Have fun playing with you kids!

Cindy Hovington, PhD

Founder of Curious Neuron