We have introduced a new feature on Baby Loves Science – Your Child’s Strengths. In this blog we explain what it is and how it’s made.

If you have completed enough surveys for your Child’s Strengths Chart to show up, Outcome #1 at the top of the chart is what your child is best at for their age. So in this example, the child is best at Pretending Comprehension. That is, compared to the other surveys, the child is pretty good at understanding different types of pretending for their age. Outcome #2 is what your child is next best at for their age. So in this example, the child is second best at Pretending Production. That is, compared to the other surveys, the child is pretty good at pretending themselves for their age, but not as good as they are at understanding different types of pretending. Outcomes #3 is what your child is third best at, following the same logic.

**Which Surveys Count Towards My Child’s Strengths?**

In order for your chart to work you need to complete at least three of the following surveys:

-Early Humour Survey

-Early Pretending Survey

-Early Social Cognition Survey

-First Actions Survey

Don’t worry if you missed any – they will be repeated. So as long as your child is still under 48 months when they are back, you’ll have another chance.

Across these four surveys, there are seven different possible strengths:

Humour Appreciation - How many types of jokes your child understands

Humour Production - How many types of jokes your child makes

Pretending: Comprehension – How many types of pretending your child understands

Pretending: Production – How many types of pretending your child makes

Social Cognition – How well your child can read other people’s minds

Actions Understood – Your child knows how this many object are supposed to be used, whether or not s/he can do so proficiently him/herself

Actions Produced – The numbers of objects your child can use proficiently by his/herself

Out of all those scores, we figure out which three your child is best at, for your child’s age.

This part gets a bit complicated! If you like maths, read on. If you don’t, you might want to skip this section. To do this we calculate *standardised residuals* for each possible strength based on your child’s original scores and your child’s age when you completed the survey. To calculate standardised residuals, we first run a *regression analysis*. The equation it gives tell us what score you’d expect on average for a child at a certain age. So, if we had a score, let’s say, vocabulary, we might get an equation like this (please note this is a fictional example!):

Expected Vocabulary = 1.3 + (0.027 X age in days)

So for a child of 350 days (almost a year), we would expect them to understand on average:

Expected Vocabulary = 1.3 + (0.027 X 350) = 10.75 words

But of course not every child will know this exact number of words. Some kids will know more, and some will know fewer. And actually, no child will know this many words – what is 0.75 words anyway?

We can then compare the number of words we’d expect a child to know by a certain age to the number of words their parent reported. So let’s say a child knows 14 words at 350 days, the *residual* would be the number they actually know, minus the number we’d expect them to know, or:

Residual = Actual Vocabulary – Expected Vocabulary

Residual = 14-10.75 = 3.25

Finally, every survey has a different numbers of questions, different averages across ages, and different numbers of participants. So this means we have to *standardise *the scores so we can compare surveys to each other. To do this, we subtract the *average residual* (when we add up every participant’s residual and divide it by the number of participants) from each child’s residual, and then divide it by the *standard deviation *of the residual, which basically means how similar or different all the children’s scores are to each other. This might look something like this:

Standardised Residual = (Child’s residual – Average residual)/standard deviation of residuals

Standardised Residual = (3.25 – 0.30)/(2.67) = 1.10

Now that we have standardised residuals for each child on each potential strength for each potential survey, we can compare them. So let’s say we know this about the child (from some imaginary surveys):

Vocabulary: 1.10

Motor skills: -0.57

Memory: 2.58

Trying new foods: -1.27

Math skills: 3.71

Then we can see which standardised residual is the highest; that is, what the child is best at for their age from all the surveys completed. In this case, Math skills is the highest with a score of 3.71, so that would be their top strength, because they are really good at Math skills for their age. The next highest score would be Memory at 2.58. Finally, their third strength would be Vocabulary, at a score of 1.10.

You won’t see the standardised residuals – instead, you’ll see the much more readable Strengths Charts!

We have included these charts for your interest, but we urge you to take it with a pinch (or handful) of salt. There are lots of reasons these may not be too accurate. The first reason is that these are new surveys that no one else has done before. This means that they haven’t been ironed out yet, and so some of the questions might not be very good, giving you slightly different scores to what you might expect. This can be for lots of reasons. For instance, we might have written a question in a confusing way, so that no one really understood what it meant, and just guessed the “answer”. Or maybe we wrote a question that can be interpreted in different ways, so one person might answer “yes” while another answers “no” even if their children do the same things. Finally, maybe some of the questions just don’t belong. For instance, if we asked if your child ever sings on the humour survey, your child might get a point for this where other children would not, but it would be hard to say it’s really about humour.

Another thing to consider is that these surveys only cover some very specific areas of development. It’s possible that your child could have strengths across all these areas, or that they could find all of these skills difficult. Perhaps your child isn’t that interested in humour or pretending, but is excellent at sports and dance. Our chart won’t capture that because we never asked about your child’s other abilities. So the strengths here are limited to the surveys we’ve offered you. If you complete all four surveys, the strengths are likely to be a more accurate reflection of your child than if you just complete three, but this will still be limited because we are only asking you so many things about your child.

We chose not to include the Early Deception Survey because you could see deception as a strength or not depending on your viewpoint. While a child who has tried to deceive in lots of different ways may show that they have good thinking skills, and also understand other people’s minds pretty well, some parents may also worry that it’s not the best “strength” to have from a moral point of view. It is normal for children to try to deceive, but it does feel debatable whether it should be considered a strength like the other skills.

We could not include the Early Learning Styles Survey because it’s more about individual preferences than development. In that survey, scores reflected, for example, whether children like to explore or focus in. Neither is “better” than the other, and can be useful in different situations. If you’re looking for new information, exploring can be useful. However, if you’re looking to learn about something in more depth, focus can be more useful. So it doesn’t really make sense to include those kinds of scores as “strengths” – it really depends on the situation.