accomplishments · RESEARCH · slice of life

Save the Purple Ones!

Have you ever heard of the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment? It was a research study about delayed gratification, self-control, and willpower.  Here’s more about it:

It began in the early 1960s at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School, where Mischel and his graduate students gave children the choice between one reward (like a marshmallow, pretzel, or mint) they could eat immediately, and a larger reward (two marshmallows) for which they would have to wait alone, for up to 20 minutes. Years later, Mischel and his team followed up with the Bing preschoolers and found that children who had waited for the second marshmallow generally fared better in life. For example, studies showed that a child’s ability to delay eating the first treat predicted higher SAT scores and a lower body mass index (BMI) 30 years after their initial Marshmallow Test. Researchers discovered that parents of “high delayers” even reported that they were more competent than “instant gratifiers”—without ever knowing whether their child had gobbled the first marshmallow (Retrieved from on 3/13/15.)

So what does this have to do with my kid?  Well, I’ll tell you.  While she can be impulsive (She’s four!), I think she’d wait the 20 minutes for the two marshmallows.  Here’s why:

Isabelle’s favorite color is purple.  Last summer, she wore purple nearly ever day.  (The only days she didn’t wear it was when I needed to do laundry.)  She has a purple winter coat, purple backpack, and purple quilt.  Even her lunchbox carrier is purple!  Purple, purple, purple!

IMG_1764Every day, Isabelle selects a Flintstone’s Vitamin to take. They come in three colors: orange, pink, and purple.  When she started taking Flintstone’s vitamins, she would select the purple ones.  Then the pink.  Finally, her bottle was filled with orange ones.  She didn’t like the color of them, but she ate them anyway.  (Little does she know my mother allowed me not to eat the orange ones when I was a kid because I claimed I didn’t like them.)  She didn’t like getting to the end of the bottle with just orange vitamins left. On her own, she developed a mantra in late December in an effort to make sure she had purple vitamins by the end of the bottle.  I’d present her with the several vitamins in the cap and I’d let her choose one.  Suddenly, she began saying “Save the purple ones!”  And wouldn’t you know it?  The last bottle of vitamins she finished ended with a purple one.  Her favorite.

The “save the purple” mentality continues.  It’s interesting to shake out a few vitamins into the cap every day to see which one she’ll pick.  Inevitably, she always selects a pink or orange one since she wants to save the purple ones.  But this morning, her hands had food in them when I came over with her vitamins.  I said, “tell me with your voice.”  She tried to put her banana and napkin down, but she looked like she couldn’t move fast enough.  So instead she blurted out, “purple.”  I was shocked.  I’m wondering if having she choose purple since I told her to pick with her voice, not with her fingers today.  Or maybe she felt she had picked enough pink and orange ones this week so she could treat herself to a purple one.  Whatever the reason is, I am still confident she’d pass that marshmallow test.

Head over to  for more slices of life.
Head over to for more slices of life.

16 thoughts on “Save the Purple Ones!

  1. What a little thinker. I don’t think I have ever before heard of a four year old who thinks though about the way vitamin colors distribute over time. I agree, she would pass the marshmallow test. Just wondering: are there purple marshmallows?

  2. I think this is why I am such a proponent of student choice and voice. This might seem like an unimportant choice, but kids learn much more than saving purple vitamins when they are given choices early.

  3. I live in purple-land too with my two girls! (Perhaps influenced by me? My favorite color is also purple.) We also chew on the Flintstone vitamins every morning, but my girls are the opposite! Purple first, please! Then the red and orange with knowing it would time to buy a new bottle with more purple! I love Isabelle’s thinking in this matter and I think she would pass the marshmallow test too!

  4. At dinner, my 5 year old saves the item he likes best for last. I think he would pass the marshmallow test, too. Thanks for sharing this!

  5. Pretty impressive willpower that little girl has! Wow! I’m listening to a book on tape about the adolescent brain. It cites this study numerous times!

  6. I think I could hold out for the twenty minutes…if I could have a pretzel in the meantime. 🙂 Love to read about the thought process Isabelle goes through in making her decisions.

  7. This was a thought provoking post. Just had a discussion with my husband about teaching kids the value and importance of delayed gratification. You should send this to Dan Pink. He would like it for his show, Crowd Control.

  8. I suspect Isabelle has learned her willpower by her consistent lessons over these past months. The persistence and patience she’s been rewarded with by new skills in language must have had an effect. It’s terrific to hear about the purple & her plan.

  9. Very interesting. I like your personal connection to the research. Kids are too funny and when you think you might have them figured out – think again! Cute slice!

  10. Isabelle is a quick learner. She experienced dealing with a bottle of orange vitamins and then figured out how to make her life better. I think she’d definitely pass the marshmallow test!

  11. Mea has had to take this test quite a few times. I am always very proud of her ability to wait until it is over. It’s a seemingly little thing, but a huge accomplishment.

I'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s