Engaging Young Minds

Engaging Young Minds

Finnley Wilson
by Finnley Wilson
Published on Mar 25, 2024
0 min read

Applying psychology to work with children and young people

Whilst working with children and young people, one of the biggest challenges is keeping them engaged, and ensuring the work you do is effectively remembered. This blog aims to outline some psychological research, and how we can apply this to our work with children.

Personal Construct Psychology

Personal construct psychology (PCP) is a theory of personality developed by George Kelley. It proposes that individuals perceive the world through a set of unique constructs, and this shapes how they make sense of their experiences. As a result, if we can tap into a child’s own personal constructs, we can make our involvement more relatable and understandable, in turn increasing engagement and understanding.

An example of this is ‘The Ideal Self’ task, created by Heather Moran. This gives the child a chance to express their constructs on what an ‘ideal’ and ‘non-ideal’ person is. This allows adults to understand how a child perceives good and bad, and what constructs they can focus on to achieve the most progression.

This is the link to Heather Moran’s website, where you can find lots of information and resources on PCP: https://drawingtheidealself.co.uk/

By using this thought process, and techniques such as the ideal self, we can make sessions much more engaging for a child and use their own constructs to increase engagement and encourage progress. This also helps remove our own personal constructs from the dynamic, and the work is much more child focused.


Working with children can take many forms, but regardless of the aims/goals, ensuring the child is understanding and remembering what you are saying is critical. Below are three research-driven methods of improving memory.

Generation effect (Slamecka & Graf, 1978): Information is better remembered if it is generated from a person’s own mind, rather than just read.

By ensuring sessions are interactive and require the child to solve a problem, and generate the solution themselves, they are much more likely to store the information.

Enactment effect (Engelkamp, et al. 1994): Information is better remembered when it is paired with performing a related physical action.

By making sessions interactive and practical based, a child can act out certain coping strategies through roleplay, and they will be more likely to remember the action and the information as one.

Aha! Effect (Auble, et al.1979): Information is better remembered when something is initially not understood, but later comprehended.

When dealing with particularly difficult or complex topics, allowing the child the opportunity to comprehend the information at their own pace, will improve the likelihood of them remembering it.

 According to these psychological ideas/techniques, the ideal session would be as follows:

• Relevant to a child’s own personal constructs.

• Interactive and practical.

• Incorporates problem-solving and mental effort on the child’s behalf.

Combining this all together allows for sessions to be fun, engaging and will often result in deeper understanding. This provides a firm, research-based structure to build upon, which can lead to more beneficial and sustainable progress.