We tend to think of critical thinking as a catch-all for our everyday problems, especially at work.However, we tend to forget how important it is to develop in young students. Even if they are not crunching account numbers at a desk or managing a team of employees, kids need to learn how to think critically and practice their skills early on. Critical thinking can teach kids that there can be more than one right or wrong answer to a problem.
What Is Critical Thinking?
Basically, critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about a topic or idea and analyze it in a way that helps to solve a problem. These problems tend to come up naturally in the course of a day. For example, your child may have an argument with a friend that they need to consider carefully to mend the friendship. Or your child may be playing a team sport and needs to figure out how to best help the team win.
These problems are built into academic life as well. Writing prompts are designed to encourage students to carefully consider their responses and can teach them to logically describe their thoughts. Word problems and higher level math classes rely a lot on critical thinking skills.
Practice Critical Thinking at Home
Asking your child open-ended questions is a great way to get their critical thinking skills going. These are questions that aren’t asking them to make a choice (Do you want apple juice or grape juice?) but instead ask them to describe their thoughts and feelings (What do you think we should do to help our neighbors?). Starting a question with “what do you think” is a helpful sign, especially for younger kids, to get them focused on how they need to approach the question.
It’s important to remember that when asking these questions, we as adults give plenty of space to be wrong. Students are often afraid to answer in class out of fear of being wrong, but learning from mistakes and failures is an essential element for critical thinking. When they don’t fear being wrong, kids can take risks in their thinking that may pay off, or lead to more experience.
Critical Thinking Fun and Games
Another way to get a kid to think critically is to tap into their creativity and imagination. Ask your kid to draw or paint out a story. They will need to engage their critical thinking skills to bring their thoughts to “life.” Then they need think critically to explain their scene. Drawing a scene from a book or movie is a great place to start.
Pretend play is also a fun way to engage in critical thinking. Introducing conflict into pretend play is an especially effective way to encourage kids to think critically. If you are playing house with your child and they are the pretend parent, as the pretend child, you may have a “tantrum.” Now they have to choose how to soothe you or make you feel better. Another thing you can try is to pretend heroes and villains and they have to come up with an evil plan or find a way to stop an evil plan. These immersive, pretend problems are excellent practice for real ones later in life.
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The Genie Academy Team1