A 21st-century essential, critical thinking is crucial for kids. It’s the foundation of human learning and expansion. When critical thinking is incorporated into their lives early, children are better equipped to reach their developmental milestones. It is often said that in a technology-driven world, critical thinking is a non-negotiable skill that’ll shape our children’s future, helping them enhance their curiosity, flexibility, and openness to acquire knowledge. And we couldn’t agree more.
Regardless of the profession our children choose, critical thinking skills would be essential to make them well-rounded individuals at every stage of their lives. So, to ensure our children succeed in their chosen careers and life in general, we need to confirm that critical thinking becomes an everyday habit. It is vital to arm them with the tools to think for themselves, make decisions, and solve problems.
Wondering how to foster this coveted skill in your young ones so that they are ready for life? We’ve got you covered! While children learn thinking skills at school or other social settings, home is truly where most learning begins. Here are a few ways in which you can support the development of a healthy critical mindset in your child:
1. Develop Their Reading Comprehension Skills
Critical thinking is highly beneficial in training the mind to separate fact from fiction, analyze the information presented to us, and form our own opinions. An elemental skill that helps us develop critical thinking is reading comprehension skills. Reading will equip your child with the necessary vocabulary to express themselves and allow them to dissect, analyze, form reasoned arguments, and, additionally, experience many emotions. It will also help your child gain motivation and find purpose. So, according to your child’s age and level of comprehension, get them started as early as possible. Be it a comic book, a graphic novel, or a short story book, encourage your child to pick it up and go through it. Try not to intimidate them too much by pushing them to read full paragraphs. Ease them into simple ones and show them yourself. Choose fun and interesting stories which will help them keep up the spirit.
So, encourage them to read as much as possible and read out to them when you can. This will ensure that literary practices are part of their daily routine.
2. Give Them Agency
While you may be tempted to guide your child at every step of their life, letting go of this desperate urge to control them for their good is essential. Micromanaging your child would only stifle their efforts to think for themselves or find solutions to their everyday problems and challenges. So, before you jump in and fix things for them, allow them the space and opportunity to find their way out. Yes, you do want your child to succeed and be their go-to person, but that may backfire if you overwhelm them. This is because micromanaging can go against their natural brain development, affecting the development of critical pathways in the brain that supports their thought process (1).
When autonomy is fostered in early childhood, kids can make informed decisions. So, put them to work independently — ask them to organize the shelf, fetch a glass of water, complete their homework without help, or make a choice (at appropriate times). These are simple ways to gently nudge your child to think critically.
3. Practice And Teach Them Empathy
Critical thinking also entails being emotionally intelligent. You must teach your child to be empathetic by listening to them and paying attention to their emotions to further this skill. Listening to empathize is crucial. So, instead of silencing them from voicing their feelings, just try and understand what they feel, even if you don’t make sense of their emotions right away. Take a step back and try to analyze a situation without biases of your own.
Children learn what they see, feel, and even hear. If your child cannot vent out strong emotions, they become emotionally stunted, hindering their logical thinking. So, support and help them regulate their emotions. Practice empathy so that they too pick up on that positive attitude and emulate it in their own lives (2), (3).
4. Encourage Inquisitiveness
Curiosity and inquisitiveness are great teachers and you must encourage them in your child. It’s only when we start asking questions, we start dealing with the real things. Children and adults both can benefit tremendously by asking questions until they have a satisfactory explanation. Unfortunately, many parents as well as teachers get irritated when asked too many questions and try to discourage kids from doing so. This is more detrimental to their growth and future inquisitiveness. Encourage kids to ask questions instead.
5. Keep The Channel Of Communication Open
Regularly communicating with your children allows you to develop a loving bond with them. It forms the bedrock of building a healthy communication pathway between your child and you. Only when your children trust you will they open up and share what they think and feel. It’s a confidence-building measure that allows you to ask them questions and become the person they can reach out to when confused or faced with a dilemma.
Challenging statements or caveats are vital thinking building blocks. Play puzzles, board games, brainteasers, or IQ-check questions where your child discovers the joy of learning in fun ways. To begin with, here are a few questions that you may also ask them during your interactions to understand their views. It can also help them decode or establish a fact that they may not have known before:
- What do you think about this?
- Do you think we could do it differently?
- How can we solve this?
- Can we make a few adjustments?
- What made you say so?
It takes time to develop critical thinking skills. So, stay patient with your child and allow them room to make mistakes too, as it helps them pick themselves up and try harder. Only when they falter, they’ll discover an opportunity to do things differently and expand their understanding. What other ways can you enable your child to exercise their critical thinking muscles? Do share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
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