by Rachel Wells
Critical thinking skills are a fundamental life skill, and are at the foundation of education. Without an ability to think critically kids will struggle academically and socially, especially as they get older. When a child has a solid foundation of critical thinking skills they are more easily able to form their own opinions, build better relationships, have the skills needed to resist peer pressure, and are able to come up with creative solutions. Simply put, critical thinking skills equip your child to deal with life’s challenges and obstacles. If kids are not being critical thinkers, then they are not thinking carefully.
Building critical thinking skills in your child happens though everyday conversations, by asking open-ended questions, and by giving your child opportunities to experiment and solve problems on their own. There are things parents and teachers can do to help children form a healthy critical thinking mindset, and develop the desire to look for a deeper understanding for creative problem solving.
Check out some ways below:
Encourage Questions and Explain Everything
Young kids ask “why” a lot – don’t push those questions aside! Those questions are a critical first step in learning to think critically. Taking time to explain things from an early age teaches children how to ask questions, how to analyze information, and how to become adults who are confident in their own ability to answer questions with reason instead of with emotions. If you don’t know the answer to a question, try responding with “that’s a good question, let’s find out the answer together!” and actually take the time to do so.
Provide Opportunities for Play
Actives such as building with blocks, playing board games, or participating in dramatic play with others all help build critical thinking skills. You can ask questions during play such as “If we do this, what do you think will happen?” or “How would you solve this problem?” Remember that kids need challenges to grow – so give your child ample time to attempt a task, and wait and watch before you jump in to solve a problem yourself.
During play and throughout the day ask plenty of open-ended questions. Give your child ample time to make a response so they have time to think through what they want to say, instead of responding with their first gut reaction.
Some great open-ended questions:
What ideas do you have?
What do you think is happening here?
That’s interesting, can you tell me why you think that?
What other ideas could we try?
Can you think of all the possible solutions?
Encourage Thinking in New Ways
Encouraging your child to think outside the box or in new and different ways allows them to practice their creative problem solving skills. Again, try not to step in too soon when your child is trying to solve something – giving them time to navigate their own problems is integral to the development of their critical thinking skills in the long run.
Be a Good Role Model
Kids tend to copy the behaviors of the adults they spend time with – so it’s important to model using critical thinking skills in your own life. Since children learn by observing, it can be hugely beneficial to verbalize your thoughts out loud the next time you are working through a decision making process. Your child will see how you are coming to a logical solution, which will lead them to imitating what they have observed.
Try Some Just-for-Fun Critical Thinking Questions for Kids
Don’t be afraid to have a little fun while helping your child develop their critical thinking skills too! During mealtimes, in the car, or whenever you have a few extra minutes, ask your child one of these fun critical thinking questions.
- What would you do for fun if there were no TVs, tablets, video games, or smartphones?
- Why do you think cartoon characters wear the same clothes every day?
- What makes you different from the kids in your class?
- How would your life be different if you had another brother or sister?
- If you could choose your own name, what name would you choose?
- Do you think Barbie could do all the jobs she does if she were a human?
- What do you think would happen if your best friend was in charge of ROBLOX?
- What would happen if it never rained?
- What are all the ways you could get money to buy a new toy?
- What do you think your teacher does when he/she isn’t at school?
- How could you become a Lego Master Builder?
- Someone gives you a penguin. If you can’t sell it or give it away, what do you do with it?
- What would it be like if people could fly?
- If animals could talk, what questions would you ask them?
- If you were ice cream, what flavor would you be and why?
- What could you invent that would help your family?
- If you could stay up all night, what would you do?
- Can you describe the tastes “salty” and “sweet” without using those words?
- What does it feel like to ride a rollercoaster?
- What would you do if you forgot to put your shoes on before leaving home?
- At what age do you think you stop being a kid?
- If you had springs in your legs, what would you be able to do?