Critical thinking may be defined as a way of thinking that helps us analyze, evaluate, solve issues and make decisions. It is not limited to any particular subject matter but includes all aspects of life. Critical thinking involves being able to explain and defend one’s point of view on an issue. By using critical thinking, we learn how to avoid mistakes and find solutions. Critical thinkers use their knowledge, experience, and reasoning skills when they think about something or solve a problem.
By developing your child’s critical thinking skills early on, you are helping him build a foundation that will enable him to solve problems, make sound decisions and stand up for what they believe in. It also gives him the confidence to look at both sides of an issue and make a reasonable judgment.
Nurturing your child’s critical thinking is a lifelong process. You do not want to force critical thinking on your child but rather present the importance and provide a safe environment for the child to develop critical thinking skills. To help you out, you may consider the following strategies.
Strategies to Nurture Critical Thinking Skills in your Child
- Give Opportunities for Play
Ensure that your child has ample opportunities to create, share, experiment, and explore. Playtime is the perfect time to let your child play and get creative. It is also an ideal time for you to guide, instruct and offer valuable advice. If you feel your child is bored with the same play activity, consider introducing a new one. Allow them to play imaginative games or toys that promote imaginative and creative thinking, like a puzzle-building kit or a space rocket kit. Let him use his creativity to build model cars, houses, planes, and other objects using plasticine or cardboard. You may also explore simple games like Simon Says games with your child. The game involves asking questions that require your child to respond in order (“Simon says touch knees”).
- Pause and Wait for Response
When you share books, videos, and other materials with your child, pause and wait for some time to give your child the opportunity to clarify his thinking, encourage him to talk about what he has learned or understands from the subject matter being discussed. Ask questions to promote critical thinking like “What do you think it means?” or “How do you think it happened?” Be wary of negative remarks such as “you can’t do it” or “it’s impossible” during a conversation. Your words have the power to damage a child’s self-esteem, and confidence so refrains from using them. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement. For example, instead of saying, “don’t worry, you’ll get it next time,” says “good job.”
- Do not Solve Problem Right Away For Them
Give your children a chance to solve the problem on their own. If they need some time, help them by giving them all the materials they need but don’t solve the problem right away for them. It may take a little longer, but this will help them form and develop their solution and understanding. If you feel that your child cannot come up with a solution, you may coach him or show him how you would do it. When the child has solved or understood the problem, give him feedback like, ” I think your reasoning must have been right because…” You may also encourage more conversations like “I’m curious about what you think happened.” The point here is to ask open-ended questions that promote critical thinking.
- Help kids Develop Hypotheses
To help your child develop critical thinking skills, you may help him test hypotheses about the subject matter. For example, when he is playing with a toy or doing something new, ask him questions such as “What do you think happens next?” “What do you think it means to have ?” It will promote conversation and help him understand the principles behind the subject matter. Questions like these help your children challenge accepted beliefs and replace old habits with new ones.
- Talk about Emotions
Encourage your child to talk about his emotions- how he feels, why he feels that way, and what might make him feel better. To encourage critical thinking skills, ask your child questions to help him identify the source of the problem “What do you think is making you feel this way?” “What do you think would help?” Often, emotions are caused by irrational thoughts such as “I can’t do it” or ” I don’t fit in.” Help your children understand and challenge their negative thoughts by asking them questions like “Can anyone else do this?” or “Can I try again if I don’t succeed?”.
- Model Critical Thinking
If you want your child to be able to think critically, you must lead by example. As your child watches you, he will learn how to think critically. For example, when watching your favorite television show, talk about how some characters are not acting rationally. Ask your child if he has any suggestions on how they would act instead. It is also a good idea to engage your child in a conversation about your issues. Let him offer advice and opinions; he may make you see things differently.
- Create A Safe Environment for Learning
Kids naturally develop critical thinking skills through play, communication, and observation. However, if you introduce a new idea or concept to your child, you may create an environment conducive to critical thinking. For example, if you are teaching your child to count or read, you may show him the counting sequence first and then ask him to count the same sequence one by one. It should promote better attention. The same idea holds for learning mathematics. It is good to help your child understand the concept first with simple explanations before introducing more complex concepts. If you want your child to learn from mistakes and make positive changes, you must create a safe environment for learning.
- Encourage a Child to Experience Failure
Failure is an essential part of learning- it can make you even stronger. It helps you understand what mistakes to avoid and how to improve your performance. Encourage your child to experience failure for him to learn from it. Take the initiative and give him opportunities to succeed and fail. For example, if you are teaching a new concept, let him try it first by himself without any coaching or criticism. If he fails, talk about what went wrong and how he could improve his performance in the future. You may also give him opportunities to try out other activities until he masters one thing. If you want your child to learn quickly and develop critical thinking skills, you must help him experience failure and learn from it.
Critical thinking is an essential skill that all children should learn. By helping your child develop critical thoughts, you will strengthen his self-esteem and confidence. In addition, learning how to think critically will help him develop a good understanding of the world around him and the options he has for solving problems. So, whether you are helping your child with homework or just talking about something as a family, let these tips help you have an active discussion about issues that concern both of you.
I’m Andrea Gibbs Born, raised, and still living in New York. I’m a work-at-home mom with a background in business development, strategy, and social media marketing. I’m a blog contributor at Montessori Academy to motivate and educate other parents about how they can get their children ahead of the game in school.