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Roberta Golinkoff - University of Delaware. Newark, DE, US

Roberta Golinkoff

Unidel H. Rodney Sharp Chair and Professor | University of Delaware


Prof. Golinkoff studies language development, playful learning, effects of media on children, spatial development, and applying her science.




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Speaking of Psychology - Raising Children Responsibly in the Digital Age with Roberta Golinkoff, PhD 2019 AERA Fellows: Roberta Michnick Golinkoff Roberta Golinkoff - Early Childhood Development Roberta Michnick Golinkoff & Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Pt 1: How Did “Play” Become a Four-Letter Word? Roberta Michnick Golinkoff & Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Pt 2: Say What? Measuring Children’s Language Skills




Dr. Roberta Michnick Golinkoff is the Unidel H. Rodney Sharp Chair and professor in the School of Education at the University of Delaware. She also holds joint appointments in the Departments of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Linguistics and Cognitive Science. Dr. Golinkoff is also founder and director of the Child’s Play, Learning, and Development Lab.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Institute of Education Sciences, the National Institutes of Health, and the LEGO Foundation, Dr. Golinkoff’s research on language development, the benefits of play, effects of media, and preschoolers’ early spatial knowledge has resulted in numerous articles, book chapters and books. Passionate about the dissemination of psychological science, she also writes books for parents and practitioners. Examples include How Babies Talk (1999), the award-winning Einstein Never Used Flash Cards (2004), and A Mandate for Playful Learning in Preschool (2009). Her penultimate book, Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children, reached the New York Times best seller list in 2016. Her newest book is Making Schools Work.

Dr. Golinkoff also co-founded the Ultimate Block Party movement to celebrate the science of learning as well as Playful Learning Landscapes to transform cities into playful learning centers for children to prepare them for success in a global world. These installations marry the science of learning with architectural design and make learning science come alive.

In 2023, she created a website for Ukrainian children and families called, Stories with Clever Hedgehog, to help children retain some normalcy in their lives and learn in a playful way. That website is also in English and ideal for any child between 0-10 who speaks English.

Dr. Golinkoff has received numerous honors and awards, including the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Service Award, and the Urie Bronfenbrenner Award for Lifetime Contribution to Developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society. Most recently, she was awarded the American Educational Research Association’s (AERA) Outstanding Public Communication of Education Research Award in 2018 and named an AERA Fellow in 2019 movement to celebrate the science of learning.

Areas of Expertise (7)

Early Childhood Education

Early Spatial Development

Playful Learning

Benefits of Play

Effects of Media on Children

Language Development

Child Development

Media Appearances (4)

University of Delaware professor creates website addressing Ukrainian childhood literacy

Delaware Public Media  radio


To help dispersed Ukrainian families and their children’s development, UD’s Roberta Golinkoff, Chair of UD’s College of Education and Human Development, has partnered with Sesame Workshop and others to develop “Stories with Clever Hedgehog,” a website with free, interactive e-books, games, and various resources.

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What is ‘sad beige,’ and why do some parents love it so much?

Yahoo! News  online


Dr. Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, a psychologist and professor at the University of Delaware, tells TODAY.com that she doesn't understand the trend, but thinks it seems harmless. "This is not a trend that I can endorse, but it’s not a trend that would be harmful to children," she says.

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Winning the 'reading wars' is just the first step

Yahoo! News  online


“The reading wars, it turns out, created a false dichotomy between meaning versus phonics as primary drivers of beginning — and later proficient — reading. The scientific answer is more nuanced. It takes both phonics and meaning to create strong readers. … Meaning making is the key to finding richness in the narratives and the motivation for wanting to read.” — Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Brookings

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UD professor’s book on improving schools drops Friday

Milford Live  online


“COVID has had an effect on our children’s test scores and there’s no question that kids with fewer resources suffered the most, plus teachers are fleeing the field,” Golinkoff said. “But what if you could keep the same curricula, and you could make teachers feel more empowered, have more agency, and make kids more invested in their education.”

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Articles (3)

International Journal of Educational Development

International Journal of Educational Development

2023 Korean society values skills such as creativity and confidence, but the current education system fails to support children in developing these skills. We present a model of Playful Learning that leverages "how" children learn to support not just content but other skills needed for 21st century success. We contextualize the innovative model of "what" and "how" of learning within longstanding Korean value systems and discuss the successful adaptation of Playful Learning. By addressing pervasive misunderstandings about play, providing safe spaces for play, and allocating time for play, Korea can emerge as a leading paragon of the International Playful Learning Movement.

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Sensitivity to visual cues within motion events in monolingual and bilingual infants

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology

2023 It is well known that infants undergo developmental change in how they respond to language-relevant visual contrasts. For example, when viewing motion events, infants’ sensitivities to background information (“ground-path cues,” e.g., whether a background is flat and continuous or bounded) change with age. Prior studies with English and Japanese monolingual infants have demonstrated that 14-month-old infants discriminate between motion events that take place against different ground-paths (e.g., an unbounded field vs a bounded street). By 19 months of age, this sensitivity becomes more selective in monolingual infants; only learners of languages that lexically contrast these categories, such as Japanese, discriminate between such events. In this study, we investigated this progression in bilingual infants. We first replicated past reports of an age-related decline in ground-path sensitivity from 14 to 19 months in English monolingual infants living in a multilingual society. English–Mandarin bilingual infants living in that same society were then tested on discrimination of ground-path cues at 14, 19, and 24 months. Although neither the English nor Mandarin language differentiates motion events based on ground-path cues, bilingual infants demonstrated protracted sensitivity to these cues. Infants exhibited a lack of discrimination at 14 months, followed by discrimination at 19 months and a subsequent decline in discrimination at 24 months. In addition, bilingual infants demonstrated more fine-grained sensitivities to subtle ground cues not observed in monolingual infants.

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From green to turquoise: Exploring age and socioeconomic status in the acquisition of color terms

First Language

2023 Previous research demonstrates that children delineate more nuanced color boundaries with increased exposure to their native language. As socioeconomic status (SES) is known to correlate with differences in the amount of language input children receive, this study attempts to extend previous research by asking how both age (age 3 vs 5) and SES (under-resourced vs advantaged) might impact color name acquisition of preschool children. The results confirm the findings of previous research, showing that older children labeled the color continuum more accurately than did younger participants. In addition, we found that while SES did not make a difference in how children labeled the continuum using basic color terms (e.g. blue), basic color terms with achromatic modifiers (e.g. light blue), and compound terms (e.g. blueish-green), 5-year-olds from more advantaged economic environments used significantly more non-basic color terms (e.g. turquoise) compared to their counterparts from under-resourced environments. We suggest that, as children hear more non-basic terms, these world-to-word mappings become solidified, and exposure to such labels may contribute to the timing of when children can map those terms to the color continuum.

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Accomplishments (4)

AERA Fellow


Outstanding Public Communication of Education Research Award, American Association of Educational Research (AERA)


Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Child Development Award, Society for Research in Child Development


James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award, Association for Psychological Science


Education (3)

Cornell University,: PhD, Developmental Psychology 1973

University of Pittsburgh: Postdoctoral Fellowship, Learning Research and Development Center 1971

Brooklyn College: BA, Psychology 1968

Affiliations (2)

  • University of Stavanger in Norway : Adjunct Professor
  • National Academy of Education : Member

Languages (1)

  • English