You don’t have time for abstract data. You need to better understand kids. We use storytelling and humor to spark insight into challenging behaviors and illuminate strengths.
Information isn’t worth much unless it helps you get through your day. Stitch together insight with practical strategies that build your confidence and expand your toolkit.
Who has time to pore over the research? We do. We make brain science and research in child and adolescent development accessible and understandable.
Kids are growing up in a complex, networked world. You won’t find fear-based or utopian soundbites here. You will get real and relevant tips on what kids need for digital wellbeing.
Whether we are talking about screen time, resilience, or learning, connection is the active ingredient. So how do we stay connected to our kids? To each other?
Courage and connection are inextricably linked. You aren’t just raising a kid to grow up. You are raising a kid who knows how to show up.
Spark & Stitch Institute™ is a Walsh family project. It is the culmination of over thirty years of serving parents and educators by translating research in the fields of child and adolescent development, experiential education, digital media, and youth thriving. Spark & Stitch Institute was created by Erin Walsh, her parents Dr. Dave and Monica Walsh, and creative collaborators including artist Molly Van Avery. We are committed to sparking greater understanding of why kids need courage and connection to thrive and how to foster it in the digital age. Still curious about where we’ve been and where we are going?
To answer this question we have to go way back. Realizing that media and technology were becoming powerful forces in the lives of children and families, Dr. David Walsh started the National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF) in 1996. Its mission was to “maximize the benefits and minimize the harms of media’s impact on children’s health and development.” In the mid-nineties, it was hard to imagine the digital landscape that would soon unfold for families, schools, and policy makers in the coming decades. Guided by the belief that media are not inherently good or bad, but powerful, Dr. Dave and the Institute staff spent 14 years leading the national conversation about media’s impact on children and families.
As a teenager Erin was initially reluctant to acknowledge that media was impacting her generation. Before long she realized that technology was a powerful reorganizing force for youth, families, and schools. She quickly embraced the mission and joined forces with her dad after graduate school. During her time at NIMF she was instrumental to the development of the MediaWise movement – a national critical media literacy project.
You bet! When he isn’t biking or caring for his seven grandchildren, he is working with the Spark & Stitch Institute team. You will find his books, writing, online classes, and delightful storytelling here.
We are glad you asked! After the National Institute on Media and the Family closed in 2009, Dr. Dave and Erin went on to create Mind Positive Parenting. We focused mainly on bringing the information in Dr. Dave’s best selling books to communities across the country through speaking and keynote addresses. Ten years later, a few things have became abundantly clear:
- Dr. Dave and Erin are transitioning leadership roles as Erin’s national work in digital media’s impact on child and adolescent development, social justice education and equity, and positive youth development is increasingly guiding the work.
- We work as much with educators in schools as we do with parents and needed a brand that was more inclusive of our audiences and clients.
- We needed a brand that would allow us to grow, experiment, play, and collaborate as we create content and classes that evolve with the needs of today’s families and schools.
Every generation of parents has to redefine what it means to care for young people. Using brain science as our foundation and digital technologies as our focus, we created Spark & Stitch Institute to:
- Spark insight and understanding into what children and youth need to thrive
- Stitch together parent-child and educator-student relationships, the virtual and real worlds, research and practice.
Spark & Stitch is playful, creative and accessible. We believe that kids and grownups alike need and deserve this.
We are hardwired to connect. Study after study shows that warm and caring connections between kids and parents as well as students and educators are the active ingredient in healthy development and learning. Whether we are looking at Snapchat or Fortnite, teenage risk taking, or literacy development – connection is key.
We believe that courage is inextricably linked to connection. It takes courage to have difficult conversations with your teenager or set loving limits with your two-year-old. It takes courage to stand up to someone online or put your phone away to look into the hurt face of a friend. It takes courage to tackle the toxins to human connection – things like racism, sexism, homophobia, and other -isms.
While we focus a lot on media and technology, at the end of the day the research isn’t just about apps, tools, and games. It’s about what is means to be human.
Our Anti-Racism Commitments
Spark & Stitch Institute believes that courageous and connected kids confront bias, dismantle white supremacy, and care deeply for others. We know that young people need parents, teachers, and communities that practice up-rooting oppression. We want to equip educators and caregivers with understanding and tools to engage children in developmentally appropriate ways and model empathy, anti-racism and changemaking when it matters most. This work must happen daily in our homes and classrooms and neighborhoods, and it must happen strategically in our institutions and policies.
The fields of parent education and child development are not neutral, and never have been. Too often, parent education resources have centered middle class white cultural values as “normal” and caused damage to families that live outside of that limited notion of reality. It is our job to name and repair this history and practice while rooting out the ways those norms still show up in ourselves, in our business, and in our content.
We commit to…
- Donating 5% of sales goes to School Reform Initiatives (SRI). SRI’s mission is to create transformational learning communities, fiercely committed to educational equity and excellence.
- Amplifying BIPOC researchers who are doing urgent, valuable, and brilliant work in the field and influencing systems and policies that shape parenting resources and children’s outcomes.
- Citing BIPOC leaders in youth development and parent education and white leaders that explicitly name intersectionality, and help us all work towards liberatory practices.
- Using our networks, audiences, and business to broaden opportunities for BIPOC and/or GLBTQ+ writers, speakers, and trainers who want to partner with us.
- Ensuring that as we grow our family business, our speakers and instructors reflect the demographics of our communities and share our commitment to anti-racism and anti-oppression.
- Creating content that is supportive for families of multiple identities and combing through our offerings to ensure that people can overlay and integrate their spiritual, cultural, and religious wisdom with our content to make it fit for their lived experiences and aspirations.
Trusted by parents and educators across the country, we have been invited to speak by: