There may be disagreement about whether or not telling teenagers to not have sex works but that could be due to puberty. In younger kids, cookie abstinence works just fine. Even the Cookie Monster can get kids to eat fewer cookies, and cookies are kind of his thing.

Deborah Linebarger, an associate professor in Teacher and Learning at the University of Iowa, studied a group of preschoolers who repeatedly watched videos of Cookie Monster practicing ways to control his desire to eat a bowl of chocolate chip cookies.

"Me want it," Cookie Monster sings in a video, "but me wait."

found that preschoolers who viewed the Cookie Monster video were able to wait four minutes longer than their peers who watched an unrelated Sesame Street video. They were also better able to control the impulse to shout out character names and to remember and repeat back longer number sequences.

Linebarger says learning to master these executive functioning skills are critical to school readiness.

"A formal school situation requires that children control impulses, follow directions, transit smoothly between activities, and focus on relevant task information," she says. "These skills also predict other academic skills including reading, math, and science."

The work involved 59 preschool children who were recruited from six child-care centers in and around a small city in the Midwest. The study involved a new curriculum developed by Sesame Street that features Cookie Monster and is designed to teach preschoolers executive function skills such as self-control, working memory and switching gears between activities.

"These are the non-academic skills that help make a child successful at school," Linebarger says. "They help children manage their behavior, sit still and pay attention."

Kindergarten teachers report that more than half of children entering school suffer deficits in these areas.

Presented November 10th during the London International Conference on Education. Source: University of Iowa