Children find themselves in the midst of problem solving opportunities each and every day. From the baby who has found himself in a spot he’s not sure how to get out of to the teenager who having issues with friends at school. These problems lend themselves nicely to practicing critical thinking skills.
What are Critical Thinking Skills?
Critical thinking can be described as complex thinking where many skills are used to make a decision. This high-level thinking allows for unspecified answers and multiple responses, along with various interpretations. When thinking critically, information is evaluated to determine what is right and what is wrong, or in some instances, what is best and what should be avoided. It also involves considering alternative solutions and being open-minded. Thinking critically allows children to make good decisions, solve problems, and understand the consequences—good or bad—of their actions.
Why are Critical Thinking Skills Important?
Having the ability to think critically is among the most important skills children and adults can have and empowers them to live a productive life. Critical thinking skills help your child in the following ways:
- Analyzing Information. New information presents itself every day and in many different ways. Some of it is simple, and some is highly complex. Evaluating this information to determine what is important and relevant takes high-level thinking.
- Making Decisions. Life is full of decision-making and making the right decision leads to success in life and in school.
- Creating Ideas. Critical thinking encourages creating creative and new ideas and opinions.
- Solving Problems. Developing critical thinking skills helps children evaluate and solve a wide variety of problems that can occur in life.
- Thinking Logically. Using critical thinking allows children to differentiate between right and wrong, good and bad.
- Thinking Independently. As your child improves their critical thinking skills, they are better able to become independent and more expressive.
How to Foster Critical Thinking Skills
Children are naturally curious and this helps lay the foundation for thinking critically, or creative problem solving. As parents, your reaction to the situation your child is in significantly impacts their critical thinking skills. Sometimes they require your guidance, but many times, it is helpful to allow your child to experiment, and even struggle for a bit. You can help your child improve their critical thinking skills by offering the following opportunities:
- Play. During play children are afforded the chance to test their thinking. For instance, your child may continually drop their spoon from their high chair to see what happens, roll two balls down a hill to see which goes faster or, mix water and dirt to learn what they can create. Providing time and space for plenty of play provides open-ended opportunities in which your child is doing a form of “testing” of how things work. This is crucial to building critical thinking skills.
- Question. As your child asks questions, give them opportunities for critical thinking by returning their question with a question: “What do you think is happening?” “What ideas do you have?” “How could you solve this problem?” “Where could we get information that would help us solve this problem?” Also, respect your child’s responses, whether you feel they are right or wrong by saying things like: “I like the way you think.” “Tell me more about your thinking.”
- Wait. When your child encounters a problem, don’t run to their rescue (unless their safety is involved). Ask them questions that will help lead them in the right direction, but don’t give them too much information.
- Encourage. Make it okay for your child to think differently. By allowing them to do so, you are helping them with their problem solving skills. Some phrases you may use are, “What else do you think we could try?” “Let’s discuss all the ways to solve this problem.”
- Direct. Help your child develop critical thinking by guiding them in the right direction for finding more information. For instance, you might say, “Your grandma knows a lot about that. Let’s talk to her.”
- Model. Your children also learn from watching you solve problems. Demonstrate your own critical thinking skills. Ponder aloud how to efficiently complete household chores, consider the best buy while grocery shopping, or monitor progress towards goals. Also, there isn’t always time for you to allow your child to come up with their own solution to problems. Solve the problem yourself, but if you can, talk through your thinking. Thinking aloud is one of the best ways to instill problem-solving thinking in your child.
Supporting your child as they develop critical thinking skills will ultimately help them use these strategies everyday without your help and will prepare them for success. For more information about fostering high-level thinking skills in your child, don't hesitate to contact us.