No matter how young or how old we are, we all have unique gifts and talents. When 16-year-old Jack Andraka took the stage at a TED talk I attended years ago, I was impressed by this young man’s ability to develop an early detector for pancreatic cancer. I wondered: what sort of encouragement must this child have received at home to dogmatically pursue lab access from 200 different professors before finally receiving a positive reply from Dr. Anirban Maitra of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine?

Andraka’s mother once told the Baltimore Sun, “…we’re not a super athletic family. We don’t go to much football or baseball. Instead we have a million (science) magazines and sit around the table and talk about how people came up with their ideas and what we would do differently.”

This sort of encouragement follows the Discovery Learning Model. Discovery Learning is a way of exploring concepts in order to develop new ideas and new models of thinking and behavior. Instead of being given concrete answers, children learn by trying and discarding; they learn through investigating options and discussing possibilities.

For example, when my children were young, my husband would drive a different route to school each day. This simple activity showed my children that there was more than one way to solve a problem. Andraka’s family, by providing a print-rich environment with exposure to science books and magazines, created easy access to exploration and experimentation.

While your child may not necessarily develop a medical breakthrough as Andraka did, encouraging your child with activities that support the Discovery Learning Model can help foster the discovery of their unique gifts and talents.

Here are six simple ways you can incorporate the Discovery Learning Model into your family life today:

  1. After school, ask your child to share one thing they enjoyed about their day. What surprised them about that one thing? How did they feel about it?
  2. The next time you read a book to your elementary school age and younger children, pause and ask them what they think will happen next, or how they think a character is feeling or what a character is thinking at that moment.
  3. When your child is faced with a problem that has them stumped, do not give them a definite answer, but instead ask questions such as “what would happen if you chose Path A versus Path B? How would that choice make you feel?”
  4. If a toy or machine breaks in the house, ask your children to help come up with different solutions to fix it.
  5. Have your child(ren) cook dinner and allow them to decide what to cook, what ingredients to use, and how the meal should be prepared. When your child asks a question about the proper way to cook something, respond with another question that helps them figure out the answer on their own.
  6. Let your child experiment with different creative opportunities without judgment or commitment. For example if your child is interested in trying a new musical instrument, rent the instrument instead of buying it. Another example is visiting your local interactive museums, such as the Museum of Science in Boston. Childhood is a time for creative play, and children must test themselves against their environment without formal instruction or constraint.

The Discovery Learning Model is a simple, yet effective way of engaging your child’s brain in a thoughtful way. By encouraging your child to seek out answers, tap into their innate curiosity, removing the roadblocks of what is correct and incorrect, you allow room in your child’s brain for the associations that stimulate creativity and innovation. This can lead to amazing discoveries of your child’s unique gifts and talents that might otherwise never have come to the forefront.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.