Critical Thinking for Kids - how to instill at a young age?


Firstly, What is critical thinking? Critical thinking comprises of a number of different skills that help us learn to make decisions. Enabling one to evaluate information, determining whether it is right or wrong - i.e. considering alternative ways when looking at solutions. As children develop into pre-adolescents, teens, their critical thinking skills will help make important judgements - useful when in situations independent of parents. More importantly, when children are faced with a problem, they need to understand how to begin analysing - furtherly integrating this to evolve their personal selves. Critical thinking helps children set goals, accomplish targets, these children are known as the vast ‘Improvers’ because they become so well equipped with taking past work and using it to self-correct - ready to improve their future version. Believe it or not, but it also enables pupils to absorb new information and is the absolute navigator for children developing creativity.

What is is that we want from our children to thrive in this world? Should every child be taught coding? Attain fluency in multiple languages? Interestingly in our current state of technological advancements, with the more readily available informations at the touch of our fingers - critical thinking skills become ever more pertinent than before. How can we encourage children to think critically from an early age?

Here’s a small guide towards helping to instil critical thinking within your children.


Accelerate reading comprehension skills

Developing this is a critical step to ensure children are firstly enthusiastic towards reading. With high levels of reading, children eventually improve their ability to distinguish between what they do and do not understand within a text. Make time for reading, allocate a time in the evening but not quite just before bed, whereby a text consists of challenge to them (not quite their usual fun bedtime fiction). Often by focussing on a topic area for their reading can enable a focussed level of research, this is a perfect beginning point for critical thinking. It is often easier to use a child’s point of interest as a caveat, ensuring you can capture their highest levels of curiosity. By further leveraging this passion, give your child encouragement towards using different sources in support of their reading. Examples of diverse sources can be carried through books, newspapers, podcasts and so forth. This beginning point enforces children to absorb the varied informations from diverse mediums - through which many opinions are exposed, creating this spider like thinking.


Encouraging the answering of questions

Ensuring your child asks and answers questions about what they have read is a great way to help prepare them to think actively.

It also helps focus their attention on what they are learning about a specific story as they are having to break down the literal meaning of the text before analysing the scenario.

Asking questions shows that they have mastered the ability to understand what they read and interpreted. It also gives you as a parent the ability to identify particular areas of their reading comprehension that they have trouble understanding.

Alongside, you can enable your child to develop hypotheses. Taking a moment to form hypotheses during learning is a critical thinking exercise that helps develop skills. Try asking your child questions such as, "If we do this, what do you think will happen?" or "Let's predict what we think will happen next."


Metacognition

An interesting perspective - ever thought of thinking about thinking? Children to, can also instil having the awareness and knowledge of their own thought processes as much as we do. Children so easily get stuck and frustrated with their own thinking, but if they begin to think about their own thinking, transitioning from the negative ‘I can’t' to the proactive ‘how can I?’. They then land into the metacognition stages of reflection on ones own thoughts. Training children to use it proactively, by becoming over their obstacles turns into a powerful tool. It is renowned to bolster self advocacy skills and instil independent learning advantages within your child.

But how can you as a parent help your child gain awareness of their own thought process? Instead of hearing your child constantly express, 'this Maths test always makes me feel extremely anxious', lets instil the ‘what is it about maths tests that makes them feel that way?’ And ‘what can they do to change how they feel?'

Children that become more actively metacognitive, promote further self-awareness, leaving scope for change - encouraging pro-active thinking.


Applying Connections

How things relate together, instilling the ability to analyse various answers related to the text for potential outcomes.

This stage very much helps towards making inferences, finalising any area’s of conclusions. Here, using the skill of mind mapping can really help your child draw conclusions together.

Chunks of information are so difficult to understand, children are often overloaded by having to piece material together. The tool of mind mapping enables a child to foster metacognition in itself, this proactive tool enables higher-level thinking skills as one is encouraged to synthesise and integrate informations with the concepts extracted.

There is of course an exhaustive list of many other tools/activities which can be carried out to instil this, however these are just a handful to help begin the process of critical thinking!


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