Critical thinking for children is more than an academic subject. That youthful, but annoying, ‘why?’ that follows you ever is what will enable humans to travel to Mars. It is also the main thing that top employers look for. Facts are readily available on the internet, but the ability to get the key ideas and truth is harder than ever. With the upcoming wave of AI in education and even more information accessible, the critical analysis of it will become ever more important to ensure that what is presented is factual.
In this article, we’ll show you why critical thinking is important for children and how to encourage critical thinking in your child.
What is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is the ability to objectively consider a single idea from two or more sides and draw conclusions from available information while remaining open to the emergence of new evidence.
To do a better job of encouraging critical thinking in your child., you need to understand the stages of cognitive development by the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget.
- The first stage, known as the Preoperational Stage, ranges from two to seven years old. In the intervening years of this stage, the child spends a lot of time pretending, symbolizing items, and communicating a lot by speaking about themself. Around age 7, the child learns to see things from other people’s perspectives.
- The next phase, the Concrete Operational Stage, will see the child develop some logical thoughts and draw conclusions.
- While in the next stage, the Formal Operational Stage, the child will begin to think abstractly and explain outcomes.
Understanding these stages will help you as a parent to do a better job of encouraging critical thinking in your child.
Why Critical Thinking is Important for Children
Developing critical thinking skills in children is essential for the following reasons:
- It enhances self-reflection: Self-reflection is the ability to examine our feelings, emotions, thoughts, and actions neutrally. It allows us to assume some distance to look at ourselves with curiosity and openness. This ability lets your child grow as an individual. It improves their chances of leading a meaningful life as they become a fully integrated adult in society.
- It improves decision-making: Making sound decisions requires critical thinking skills. A study revealed that critical thinking enabled adolescents to identify their health needs, develop a healthy body image, and prevent poor eating patterns. What’s more, critical thinking made adolescents more pragmatic about media messages and thus less likely to internalize some distorted messages regarding beauty standards.
- It trains them to hold well-informed opinions: Your child will unavoidably form their own opinions as they go through life. On the surface, opinions can seem commonplace. But our views guide the way we move through the world and interact with people. Through critical thinking, your child can dispassionately examine their ideas to make sure they are based on facts.
- It helps them keep better relationships: Emotions can easily cloud one’s judgment, causing them to cultivate or keep relationships that have since lost all meaning. Critical thinking allows your child to examine how they treat others and vice versa. This two-sided interrogation helps your child remain mindful in maintaining and choosing friends and partners.
- It promotes career success: Critical thinking skills are integral to almost every career option. Your child will have to employ necessary thinking skills in whichever position they find themself. In fact, critical thinking is one of the first skills recruiters are looking for because it enables employees to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions to new problems. We look here at what employers want from applicants.
How to Develop Critical Thinking in Children
Developing critical thinking skills in children requires sustained effort. Below are steps on how to teach children critical thinking:
- Start early and patiently provide answers: To develop critical thinking skills in your child, you need to start early. It begins by reading to the child as early as possible. Then when they enter Piaget’s second stage of cognitive development, make sure to attend to their curiosity. This is when the child wants to know how everything in their surrounding work and why certain things happen. Some of the questions they ask you at this point might not even make complete sense. But still, do your best to answer their questions and explain stuff to them even when they don’t ask directly. Although it can be tiring curious children develop into interesting adults.
- Allow the child to agree or disagree: Because your child is young, it can be easy to demand that they do what you say. You’re their parent, after all. But this demand for them to obey doesn’t encourage critical thinking. Instead of getting cross when they disagree, encourage them by asking why they disagree. You can do one better. Peter Worley, the co-founder of educational charity The Philosophy Foundation, encourages parents to ask, ‘Do you agree?’ to encourage them to evaluate someone else’s claim or idea. He adds, “Ask them whether something is right or wrong, true or false, okay or not okay: in other words, have them take a position, evaluate and, if necessary, eliminate.”
- Play together: When parents play with their children, they learn a lot, including critical thinking skills. A study published in Hindawi reveals that adolescents learn better ways of thinking, reasoning, and solving problems from more competent peers and adults when compared with performing the task alone. A lot of trial and error occurs when playing, and that’s how children learn. As the child gets older, play board games with them, have more conversations, and collaborate on specific tasks. ‘Being present’ with your child is the best way to form a relationship.
- Instill open-mindedness: The hallmark of open-mindedness is the understanding that there are different sides to everything and different approaches to solving a single problem. Children should have a healthy interest in current affairs. When working on a task or just having a conversation with your child, challenge them by suggesting different solutions they may not have thought about. Encourage them to solve problems in new ways. This will improve their analytical and creative thinking skills, which will help develop their critical thinking skills.
- Employ Riddles and Games: Certain games and riddles invite the child to think hard by analyzing and conceptualizing in a fun and engaging way. Riddles employ misdirection to try and send the child’s train of thought in a different direction. It’s left for them to decode this and find the correct answer to the riddle. At the same time, games like chess teach children to anticipate their opponents’ movements by seeing through their perspective. Poker is another popular games that help develop it. Interestingly, perspective-taking is one of the components of critical thinking. Here we discuss further why board games are great for children.
Final Thoughts on Critical Thinking for Children
Developing critical thinking in children is a long-term endeavor, and you’ll need all the help you can get. You can encourage them to join a debate club either in school or in your area. Because it pushes the child to think and present their ideas to others logically. During debates, the child will have to anticipate objections, produce counterarguments, and consider the evidence on both sides. All of these combine to develop their critical thinking skills.
Critical thinking skills are sometimes used as a form of assessment. One way this might happen is in verbal and non-verbal tests. We have advice here on how you might support your child to prepare for these.