The Gardener and The Carpenter

by Alison Gopnik

Recommended by ONCDC


Alison Gopnik has written a few books about her research into child development and children’s brains. Her third widely popular book “The Gardener and the Carpenter” dives into deep ideas about what it means to be a parent and the paradoxes of love and learning. Gopnik’s reflections on childhood are inspiring and challenging for parents and teachers who want to reflect on how to best serve young people in our care.

“From an evolutionary perspective, parenting isn’t a good model for parents and children. Caring for children, nurturing them and investing in them, is absolutely crucial for human thriving. Teaching children implicitly and explicitly is certainly important. But, from the point of view of evolution, trying to consciously shape how your children will turn out is both futile and self-defeating.” pg 55-56

Key Points:

  • Learning is happening all around us; it is something we can foster but not force.
  • Play is children’s work and a deeper learning occurs through children’s play.


Like most of Gopnik’s writing, this book will leave caregivers with questions and thoughts, but not answers. This is intentional and the reader should know this is not a book of strategies.